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RE: [mythsoc] New Narnia stories?

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  • David Bratman
    ... I have been amazed at the number of people who think that Christopher Tolkien has been doing just this. Brian Herbert, son of the late Frank Herbert, has
    Message 1 of 11 , Feb 28, 2005
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      At 01:53 PM 2/24/2005 -0800, John Rateliff wrote:

      >But then (a) I'm hardly the target audience and (b) I have strong opinions
      >about estates licensing out one author's characters, or world, for other
      >authors to continue ("V.C. Andrews TM"). I'm agin it.

      I have been amazed at the number of people who think that Christopher
      Tolkien has been doing just this. Brian Herbert, son of the late Frank
      Herbert, has been writing his own Dune continuation books, and these people
      think the posthumous Tolkien books are of the same sort. Obviously they
      haven't looked at them.


      > I do remember that the original thing that set Lindskoog on the warpath
      >against Walter Hooper was that he blocked the publication of an 8th Narnia
      >novel by a friend of hers back in the 70s. If he'd known how long her
      >vendetta would last I wonder if he'd have still done the same or just let
      >her have her way.

      Since Lindskoog's charges have nothing to do with this, and stand or fall
      on their own merits (some have done each), I hope she couldn't have been
      bought off in this manner.


      >> But remember! You can't complain about this. If you do, the sort of people
      >> who defend the Jackson films will come out and whine at you.
      >>
      >Hey, you'd be surprised.

      I think not. I did not say the same individuals, but "the sort of people."

      But though the comment was sarcastic, it had a serious point.

      About Jackson's films, you said, "Tolkien himself came down firmly on the
      side of 'better a glimpse of Noakes' cake than no faerie at all'." If
      that's true, then why not a cheap knockoff latter-day Narnia book than no
      Narnia book at all?

      And you said, "By an overwhelming majority, most people like both the book
      and the films." What if it turns out that most people like both the
      original Narnia books and the knockoffs?

      Comments that others have made in claiming that Jackson's excretions are
      tolerable are even more clearly applicable than these to knock-off Narnia
      books.
    • Rateliff, John
      ... Separate events in separate media; apples & oranges. You re free to disagree with Tolkien but I think he s right. ... See below. ... If you read carefully
      Message 2 of 11 , Mar 2, 2005
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        > From: David Bratman
        > About Jackson's films, you said, "Tolkien himself came down firmly on the
        > side of 'better a glimpse of Noakes' cake than no faerie at all'." If
        > that's true, then why not a cheap knockoff latter-day Narnia book than no
        > Narnia book at all?
        >
        Separate events in separate media; apples & oranges. You're free to disagree with Tolkien but I think he's right.

        > And you said, "By an overwhelming majority, most people like both the book
        > and the films." What if it turns out that most people like both the
        > original Narnia books and the knockoffs?
        >
        See below.

        > Comments that others have made in claiming that Jackson's excretions are
        > tolerable are even more clearly applicable than these to knock-off Narnia
        > books.
        >
        If you read carefully what I wrote, you'll find I don't share your fear of adaptations into other media, whether it's films, music, spoken-word recordings, plays, graphic novels, art, or whatever. My distaste is for authors so unoriginal that, instead of creating their own worlds or characters they have to munch and mumble the bare old bones of other authors. I think it's a mistake to try to write in another author's voice rather than your own. There are exceptional cases where genius has pulled it off, but it's a bad idea as a rule.
        In short: creating a new work, or adapting a work into a wholly new medium (such as Jackson making films based on LotR) does not harm the original work in any way, however well or badly the adaptation is done. Writing new stories by another hand, whether it's pseudo-Conan, pseudo-Herbert, pseudo-Barrie, pseudo-CLS, or whatever, doesn't harm the original author's work either but it's tacky and not to be encouraged.
        For the record, though, in this particular instance I'd be perfectly happy with no Narnia at all (again, I agree with Tolkien*). It's not my ox being gored, but I still think it's a bad idea, motivated by greed rather than artistic inspiration. That said, I'm sure Disney will produce some amusing bits of fluff of no great consequence. They did a good job with their early Milne shorts (which I've been surprised to not find referenced in this discussion before as examples of good adaptations that stand beside the originals in quality).
        Finally, I think there's a consensus (everywhere except on this list) that Jackson's films aren't "excretions" and they're far more than merely tolerable: they're great works as well as successful adaptations. I wish they'd been more faithful, but my irritation (which can at times grow quite sharp) doesn't distract from Jackson's achievement, nor does his achievement detract from Tolkien's in any way.


        *that said, it doesn't bother me that other people like them; more power to them for finding enjoyment in something that didn't do much for me. I have better things to do than play F.R. Leavis. Literary quality is either self-evident or unprovable: there's really no middle ground.


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • David Bratman
        ... It s not good enough to say apples & oranges , John: you must say what s different about them. Why is a different book by a different author confusable
        Message 3 of 11 , Mar 8, 2005
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          At 09:22 AM 3/2/2005 -0800, John Rateliff wrote:
          >
          >> From: David Bratman
          >> About Jackson's films, you said, "Tolkien himself came down firmly on the
          >> side of 'better a glimpse of Noakes' cake than no faerie at all'." If
          >> that's true, then why not a cheap knockoff latter-day Narnia book than no
          >> Narnia book at all?
          >>
          >Separate events in separate media; apples & oranges.

          It's not good enough to say "apples & oranges", John: you must say what's
          different about them. Why is a different book by a different author
          confusable with the original, while a film retelling of the original story
          is not? We already have had ample evidence presented that people confuse
          the film with the book.

          >If you read carefully what I wrote, you'll find I don't share your fear of
          >adaptations into other media, whether it's films, music, spoken-word
          >recordings, plays, graphic novels, art, or whatever. My distaste is for
          >authors so unoriginal that, instead of creating their own worlds or
          >characters they have to munch and mumble the bare old bones of other
          >authors. I think it's a mistake to try to write in another author's voice
          >rather than your own.

          Adaptation into another medium is exactly that: "trying to write in another
          author's voice." It's not always a mistake, if sufficient originality and
          imagination are brought to the task. Jackson tried both to be very
          different and utterly faithful, and fell between two stools.



          > In short: creating a new work, or adapting a work into a wholly new
          >medium (such as Jackson making films based on LotR) does not harm the
          >original work in any way, however well or badly the adaptation is done.
          >Writing new stories by another hand, whether it's pseudo-Conan,
          >pseudo-Herbert, pseudo-Barrie, pseudo-CLS, or whatever, doesn't harm the
          >original author's work either but it's tacky and not to be encouraged.

          We've already been over the "harm of the original work" question, and amply
          proven that it does harm readerly understanding of the original work, but
          if you don't think the new Narnia will harm the original Narnia it's a moot
          point. But if the only harm that the new Narnia will do is that it's
          "tacky", why this fierce resistance to the idea that Jackson's grotesque
          simplifications of Tolkien are tacky?


          >[Disney] did a good job with
          >their early Milne shorts (which I've been surprised to not find referenced
          >in this discussion before as examples of good adaptations that stand beside
          >the originals in quality).

          I stand in mute astonishment at this equation.


          > Finally, I think there's a consensus (everywhere except on this list)
          >that Jackson's films aren't "excretions" and they're far more than merely
          >tolerable: they're great works as well as successful adaptations.

          Actually, there's a strong consensus among serious Tolkien scholars
          everywhere that the films are, in their capacity as adaptations, severe and
          unnecessary distortions. You are the primary, and a very singular,
          exception to this consensus.

          That the average punter out there sees a story about Frodo and Aragorn and
          the Ring and figures it's pretty much the same as Tolkien's story about
          Frodo and Aragorn and the Ring only shows how little the average punter
          knows about Tolkien. Anyone who thinks that's an elitist comment is
          invited to submit a detailed refutation to the proposition, "Scholars know
          more about the books they study than the average casual reader does."

          I salute Jackson's management and accomplishment of an enormous film-making
          enterprise. In this he has been more successful than any other film
          director in history. But that is the only sense in which I would call his
          films "great works." As a fantasy story on its own, separate from
          Tolkien's, it is unremarkable and merely average. It has none of Tolkien's
          greatness, and to claim that it does have that greatness is merely to
          confess one's ignorance of where Tolkien's greatness lies.


          >they've built up their own community and started their own branch of Tolkien
          >scholarship that in time will probably turn out to be just as valid as the
          >one that grew out of fanzines.

          As Carl said earlier, this will be Jackson scholarship, not Tolkien
          scholarship. Jackson scholarship is a legitimate pursuit: my only
          complaint with it is when it floods over into and interferes with Tolkien
          scholarship, which it already is doing. It is this sort of thing I refer
          to when I write of "harm to the original."

          David Bratman
        • jamcconney@aol.com
          In a message dated 3/8/2005 1:16:42 P.M. Central Standard Time, dbratman@earthlink.net writes: Adaptation into another medium is exactly that: trying to write
          Message 4 of 11 , Mar 8, 2005
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            In a message dated 3/8/2005 1:16:42 P.M. Central Standard Time,
            dbratman@... writes:

            Adaptation into another medium is exactly that: "trying to write in another
            author's voice."


            Not really. I once taught a course called "Literature in Film" in which we
            had a grand old time watching movie adaptations of everything from 'Hamlet' to
            'Silence of the Lambs' (no Tolkien on film worth speaking about back then).
            The final project for the students was to find a piece of literature (short
            story, poem, scene from a novel, something that hadn't been adapted before) and
            write it as a screenplay.

            As you might expect, some got the idea at once that they could use only
            dialogue and visual images to tell the story and did some really quite good
            things. Others never managed it, picked up chunks of description and presented it
            as dialogue, never really made clear what was supposed to be happening on the
            screen, etc. One and all nodded and said YES! when one student said,
            "Wow--that was HARD."

            What I'm saying, rather long-windedly, is that print and film are two
            different arts, two different disciplines. The adapter should try to be faithful to
            the original author's vision, but can never speak in the same voice.

            Unless maybe we don't all mean the same thing when we say 'voice'--even in a
            group that seems to have a lot of academic types, there are many subtle
            differences in such words....

            Anne


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          • David Bratman
            ... the ... Well, here s John Rateliff s definition of writing in another author s voice : authors so unoriginal that, instead of creating their own worlds
            Message 5 of 11 , Mar 8, 2005
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              At 02:49 PM 3/8/2005 -0500, Anne wrote:
              >Not really. I once taught a course called "Literature in Film" in which we
              >had a grand old time watching movie adaptations of everything from 'Hamlet'
              >to
              >'Silence of the Lambs' (no Tolkien on film worth speaking about back then).
              >The final project for the students was to find a piece of literature (short
              >story, poem, scene from a novel, something that hadn't been adapted before)
              >and
              >write it as a screenplay.
              >
              >As you might expect, some got the idea at once that they could use only
              >dialogue and visual images to tell the story and did some really quite good
              >things. Others never managed it, picked up chunks of description and
              >presented it
              >as dialogue, never really made clear what was supposed to be happening on
              the
              >screen, etc. One and all nodded and said YES! when one student said,
              >"Wow--that was HARD."
              >
              >What I'm saying, rather long-windedly, is that print and film are two
              >different arts, two different disciplines. The adapter should try to be
              >faithful to
              >the original author's vision, but can never speak in the same voice.
              >
              >Unless maybe we don't all mean the same thing when we say 'voice'--even in a
              >group that seems to have a lot of academic types, there are many subtle
              >differences in such words....

              Well, here's John Rateliff's definition of "writing in another author's voice":

              "authors so unoriginal that, instead of creating their own worlds or
              characters they have to munch and mumble the bare old bones of other authors."

              And that is what a screenplay adapter does. QED.

              If it is unfair to use that characterization of a screenplay adapter, it is
              equally unfair to use it of the "pseudo-Conan, pseudo-Herbert,
              pseudo-Barrie, pseudo-CLS" book authors of whom he does use it. (And who
              exactly are the pseudo-Barries he has in mind? Barrie was a dramatist, and
              the most prominent pseudo-Barrie works are on film.) Maybe these pseudos
              are bad writers. But badness has nothing to do with medium. Other book
              pseudos are good writers. (Much pseudo-Lovecraft surpasses the original,
              for instance.) And many screenplay writers are very bad indeed.


              David Bratman
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