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Re: [mythsoc] now literary merit

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  • Sara Ciborski
    ... From: dianejoy@earthlink.net To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 11:46 AM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] can anyone recommend
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 17, 2005
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      ---- Original Message -----
      From: dianejoy@...
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 11:46 AM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] can anyone recommend books/videos for a 10-yr-old girl?
      Tamora Pierce is not the greatest stylist (which I mentioned), but the
      qhestion of what seems trite and predictible depends upon what the child
      has read before....Pierce is a little easy on her characters, but some kids
      may like that, and have a lower tolerance for suspense than I might have
      had, even as a kid.......... Ultimately, it comes down to the
      individual child.

      Agreed

      When do kids start becoming aware of literary merit in and of itself?
      .....
      My view, for what it's worth, is that being unaware of literary merit is not a good reason to read things with no literary merit (I'm not saying you said this, only moving to a new point). We become aware of it through experiencing it. Children soak in language like a sponge from very early on; well-crafted sentences, oral or--when they can read--written, are their best access to meaning, which is what children (and adults) are after. Or such is my experience with children (and some adults).
      Sara Ciborski


      Original Message:
      -----------------
      From: Sara Ciborski saraciborski@...
      Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 13:47:37 -0500
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] can anyone recommend books/videos for a 10-yr-old
      girl?


      No and no to Tamora Pierce's Alanna books. I read the first one out of
      curiosity (they are about a girl who seeks out and endures a training to
      become a knight by disguising herself as a boy) and was slightly nauseated
      by how predictable and trite it was. Well...I shouldn't be so adamant since
      young female readers may well find the books enjoyable (and they are
      certainly simple enough for a 10-year old). But if you believe, as I do,
      that what young readers read should be well written, then these books will
      not be on any recommended list.
      Sara Ciborski


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    • Mike Foster
      To second Sara with a recommendation for a ten-year-old boy: ... I agree absolutely with Sara. A well-written children s book with literary merit teaches the
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 17, 2005
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        To second Sara with a recommendation for a ten-year-old boy:

        Sara Ciborski wrote:

        >---- Original Message -----
        > From: dianejoy@...
        > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        > Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 11:46 AM
        > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] can anyone recommend books/videos for a 10-yr-old girl?
        > Tamora Pierce is not the greatest stylist (which I mentioned), but the
        > qhestion of what seems trite and predictible depends upon what the child
        > has read before....Pierce is a little easy on her characters, but some kids
        > may like that, and have a lower tolerance for suspense than I might have
        > had, even as a kid.......... Ultimately, it comes down to the
        > individual child.
        >
        > Agreed
        >
        > When do kids start becoming aware of literary merit in and of itself?
        > .....
        > My view, for what it's worth, is that being unaware of literary merit is not a good reason to read things with no literary merit (I'm not saying you said this, only moving to a new point). We become aware of it through experiencing it. Children soak in language like a sponge from very early on; well-crafted sentences, oral or--when they can read--written, are their best access to meaning, which is what children (and adults) are after. Or such is my experience with children (and some adults).
        > Sara Ciborski
        >
        >
        I agree absolutely with Sara.

        A well-written children's book with literary merit teaches the love of
        well-wrought phrases and images. I can still quote the elegaic last
        paragraph of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, first read a
        half-century ago when I was eight or nine, verbatim: "Oxen and
        wainropes" and all.

        I pulled it off the shelf on a cold winter day earlier this year and
        wrote the below for Gilbert, the American Chesterton society's
        magazine. Warning: spoilers.

        Though anyone who doesn't know this story ought to skulk away in silence.

        Cheers,
        Mike

        Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; illustrations by N.C. Wyeth,
        1911 facsimile edition, Scribners, ISBN 0-684-17160-0

        The best books a child reads will often turn out to be the best books
        that the growing-up-to-gone-greying child will re-read time and again as
        years go by.

        Pulling this book off the shelf wafts you back to the first time you
        left mother and home for Bristol and sailed the seas, seeing through Jim
        Hawkins' eyes, when you were as young and wide-eyed and unworldly as he.
        The wind that sings in the sails of the homeward-bound treasure-heavy
        Hispaniola will have the fresh tang of your youth. And somehow, despite
        all the blood and betrayal, Treasure Island bestows a cozy, homely
        feeling of a long-ago grade-school day when you were sick enough to stay
        home from school but not too sick, huzzah!, to read.

        First serialized in England in 1881 in Young Folks magazine, Stevenson's
        story is best enjoyed with N.C. Wyeth's dynamic and dramatic
        illustrations painted for the 1911 American edition still in print. With
        a palette rich in lamplit yellows, tobacco browns, and only rare
        glimpses of oceanic blue or Union Jack red, Wyeth incarnates scenes
        Stevenson only mentions in a passing sentence: Jim saying goodbye to his
        mother or, later, bagging the minted money of Flint's trove.

        Yet as enriching as Wyeth's art is, Stevenson's story can stand alone.

        It stands on the one leg of Long John Silver, English literature's most
        charming villain. Stevenson's mastery of dialogue and dialect, superb
        throughout, peaks here. Silver's beguiling, unctuous avuncularity does
        not prevent Jim, our first-person witness, from recognizing that the
        Sea-Cook is an "abominable old rogue," treacherous and murderous. But
        Long John's courage, charisma, and cheer redeem him somehow, and when he
        eludes his fate on Execution Dock by escaping with 400 guineas to
        rendezvous with his old Negress at the end, we rejoice. Mercy trumps
        justice. We forgive Silver, and like Jim Hawkins, we will never forget him.

        Ben Gunn, the merrily mad pirate Jim finds marooned on the island, is
        another unforgettable character, with his fantasies about
        "cheese--toasted mostly." The ruddy imperious Squire Trelawney and the
        taciturn stoic Capt. Smollett are also well-limned. The good-hearted Dr.
        Livesey smokes much more than a doctor should, certainly, and his
        "handsome present of tobacco" to the three pirates left marooned is a
        puckish note.

        Note also that one of the five survivors of the adventure, Abraham Gray,
        is initially a Silver co-conspirator who turns from evil to good, taking
        Capt. Smollett's redemptive offer and joining the small but victorious
        company of the faithful. He will live happily ever after.

        The vivid, suspenseful action sequences--the jolly boat's flight, the
        siege of the stockade, Jim's daring face-off with Israel Hands in the
        rigging--still thrill.

        And, like the next three books this column will revisit [Tolkien's The
        Lortd of the Rings], Treasure Island has a map. All good books should
        have maps, except possibly cookbooks.

        In 1927, Chesterton wrote:

        "Treasure Island was written as a boy's book; perhaps it is not
        always read as a boy's book. I sometimes fancy that a real boy could
        read it better if he could read it backwards. The end, which is full of
        skeletons and ancient crime, is in the fullest sense beautiful; it is
        even idealistic. For it is the realisation of an ideal, that which is
        promised in its provocative and beckoning map; a vision not only of
        white skeletons but also green palm trees and sapphire seas."

        For all its pages of piracy and plunder, Treasure Island provides peace.
        A good boy's book is a good man's book, even if, these days, one must
        haul out the old 8x magnifier to study the map.

        Thanks again to John Peterson

        Cheers again with a bottle of rum and a yo yo ma,
        Mike

        >
        > Original Message:
        > -----------------
        > From: Sara Ciborski saraciborski@...
        > Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 13:47:37 -0500
        > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] can anyone recommend books/videos for a 10-yr-old
        > girl?
        >
        >
        > No and no to Tamora Pierce's Alanna books. I read the first one out of
        > curiosity (they are about a girl who seeks out and endures a training to
        > become a knight by disguising herself as a boy) and was slightly nauseated
        > by how predictable and trite it was. Well...I shouldn't be so adamant since
        > young female readers may well find the books enjoyable (and they are
        > certainly simple enough for a 10-year old). But if you believe, as I do,
        > that what young readers read should be well written, then these books will
        > not be on any recommended list.
        > Sara Ciborski
        >
        >
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      • John D Rateliff
        ... By the way, I once read an article by Stevenson in THE IDLER (while I was looking through issues for Sime illustrations) where he said that the map
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 19, 2005
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          On Nov 17, 2005, at 9:55 AM, Mike Foster wrote:

          > And, like the next three books this column will revisit [Tolkien's The
          > Lortd of the Rings], Treasure Island has a map. All good books should
          > have maps, except possibly cookbooks.


          By the way, I once read an article by Stevenson in THE IDLER (while I
          was looking through issues for Sime illustrations) where he said that
          the map preceded the story and helped inspire parts of it -- for
          instance, the ship gets moved to the second cove because, having
          drawn it, he thought it'd be a pity not to visit that side of the
          island in the story. He also said the original map was later lost and
          that the one appearing in the book never quite seemed the real thing
          to him as a result. So like JRRT (Denys Gueroult radio BBC
          interview), Stevenson felt you had to start with the map or you'd
          never be able to make up a map afterwards that would quite fit the
          story.

          > Rather like the Chesterbelloc but much less so, I should think.

          Indeed, Kreeft begins his paragraph by extending the Chesterton-
          Belloc parallel to CSL & JRRT:
          "G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc were so close, in personal
          friendship, in philosophical and religious belief, and in the common
          vocation of fighting a common jihad against the modern world, that
          they were called 'the Chesterbelloc monster'. We could with equal
          reason speak of 'the Tolkie-lewis monster'." (page 12)
          --this, of course, ignores CSL's response to Wain's claim that the
          Inklings shared "a corporate mind" or common goal or indeed any sort
          of agenda, and WHL's amused musings of what JRRT would say if he saw
          Moorman's similar claim (to say nothing of "The Ulsterior Motive",
          which makes clear that while they shared a lot of common ground CSL
          and JRRT were by no means peas in a pod).

          More amusingly bizarre statements I'm finding as I make my way
          through the book:
          --just as Auden said LotR was a good touchstone for literary judgment
          (a statement which, by the way, annoyed Tolkien no end), Kreeft says
          "It is a touchstone for more than literary judgment; it is a
          touchstone for one's whole personality. Those who love Tolkien are
          almost always good people." All bad people dislike Tolkien, he says,
          although he admits that not everyone who dislikes Tolkien is evil.
          --"The Lord of the RIngs heals our culture as well as our souls"
          --no great work of literature can be written from the point of view
          of a bad philosophy (he uses Determinism as an example, apparently
          never having read Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER)
          --Only someone who believes in a supernatural metaphysics can write
          fantasy (which is not only obviously untrue--cf. Morris, Dunsany, and
          Clark Ashton Smith, to name just three at random--but all the more
          amusing because de Camp in LITERARY SWORDSMEN AND SORCERERS held the
          exact opposite and thought Tolkien an oddity because he was both a
          believer and a fantasist).
          --"Angels . . . do not write stories" (because they "begin with
          general principles and know everything else by deduction from them").
          Eh?

          Still, his account of the Platonic Ideals helped me articulate one of
          the problems I've always had with Platonism (like Tolkien, I'm more
          of an Aristotelian), so I'm glad I've made it that far (about a
          quarter of the way through). And who knows what nifties (as Bertie
          Woo. would call them) lie ahead in the remaining three-quarters of
          his book?

          --JDR



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • David Bratman
          ... Sorry, what book was this again? ... It s relieving that he ll admit that at least. Sometimes one s friends are as embarrassing as one s enemies. DB
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 19, 2005
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            At 07:31 PM 11/19/2005 -0800, John D Rateliff wrote:
            >More amusingly bizarre statements I'm finding as I make my way
            >through the book:

            Sorry, what book was this again?

            >--just as Auden said LotR was a good touchstone for literary judgment
            >(a statement which, by the way, annoyed Tolkien no end), Kreeft says
            >"It is a touchstone for more than literary judgment; it is a
            >touchstone for one's whole personality. Those who love Tolkien are
            >almost always good people." All bad people dislike Tolkien, he says,
            >although he admits that not everyone who dislikes Tolkien is evil.

            It's relieving that he'll admit that at least. Sometimes one's friends are
            as embarrassing as one's enemies.

            DB
          • WendellWag@aol.com
            In a message dated 11/19/2005 10:32:09 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, sacnoth@earthlink.net writes (quoting Peter Kreeft): --no great work of literature can be
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 19, 2005
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              In a message dated 11/19/2005 10:32:09 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
              sacnoth@... writes (quoting Peter Kreeft):

              --no great work of literature can be written from the point of view
              of a bad philosophy (he uses Determinism as an example, apparently
              never having read Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER)



              A couple of years ago, I picked _The Mysterious Stranger_ for the book we
              read one month in Knossos (our local Mythopoeic Society discussion group).
              When I started the discussion by explaining why I picked the book, I said that I
              thought it was a bad philosophy, but it was the best possible exposition of
              that philosophy. When it next came to be my turn to pick a pick last year, I
              picked Iain Banks's _Consider Phlebas_. I realized I was going to have to
              explain to the group why my two most recent picks were depressing, nihilistic
              books. But then I thought, "What's the point? Heck, what's the point of
              anything?"

              Wendell Wagner


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Mike Foster
              Match off Eliot s Phlebas with Cummings Olaf. Cheers, Mike
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 19, 2005
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                Match off Eliot's Phlebas with Cummings' Olaf.

                Cheers,
                Mike

                WendellWag@... wrote:

                >
                >In a message dated 11/19/2005 10:32:09 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                >sacnoth@... writes (quoting Peter Kreeft):
                >
                >--no great work of literature can be written from the point of view
                >of a bad philosophy (he uses Determinism as an example, apparently
                >never having read Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER)
                >
                >
                >
                >A couple of years ago, I picked _The Mysterious Stranger_ for the book we
                >read one month in Knossos (our local Mythopoeic Society discussion group).
                >When I started the discussion by explaining why I picked the book, I said that I
                >thought it was a bad philosophy, but it was the best possible exposition of
                >that philosophy. When it next came to be my turn to pick a pick last year, I
                >picked Iain Banks's _Consider Phlebas_. I realized I was going to have to
                >explain to the group why my two most recent picks were depressing, nihilistic
                >books. But then I thought, "What's the point? Heck, what's the point of
                >anything?"
                >
                >Wendell Wagner
                >
                >
                >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                >Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
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              • Stolzi
                that was really funny, Wendell! Diamond Proudbrook ... From: To: Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2005 10:56 PM
                Message 7 of 9 , Nov 20, 2005
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                  that was really funny, Wendell!

                  Diamond Proudbrook

                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: <WendellWag@...>
                  To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2005 10:56 PM
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] maps, etc.


                  >
                  > In a message dated 11/19/2005 10:32:09 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                  > sacnoth@... writes (quoting Peter Kreeft):
                  >
                  > --no great work of literature can be written from the point of view
                  > of a bad philosophy (he uses Determinism as an example, apparently
                  > never having read Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER)
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > A couple of years ago, I picked _The Mysterious Stranger_ for the book we
                  > read one month in Knossos (our local Mythopoeic Society discussion
                  > group).
                  > When I started the discussion by explaining why I picked the book, I said
                  > that I
                  > thought it was a bad philosophy, but it was the best possible exposition
                  > of
                  > that philosophy. When it next came to be my turn to pick a pick last
                  > year, I
                  > picked Iain Banks's _Consider Phlebas_. I realized I was going to have
                  > to
                  > explain to the group why my two most recent picks were depressing,
                  > nihilistic
                  > books. But then I thought, "What's the point? Heck, what's the point of
                  > anything?"
                  >
                  > Wendell Wagner
                  >
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                  > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                • John D Rateliff
                  ... Sorry; I should have repeated that information from the earlier post. It s Peter Kreeft s newish book on Tolkien, THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOLKIEN: THE WORLDVIEW
                  Message 8 of 9 , Nov 20, 2005
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                    On Nov 19, 2005, at 8:41 PM, David Bratman wrote:
                    > At 07:31 PM 11/19/2005 -0800, John D Rateliff wrote:
                    >> More amusingly bizarre statements I'm finding as I make my way
                    >> through the book:
                    > Sorry, what book was this again?

                    Sorry; I should have repeated that information from the earlier post.
                    It's Peter Kreeft's newish book on Tolkien, THE PHILOSOPHY OF
                    TOLKIEN: THE WORLDVIEW BEHIND THE LORD OF THE RINGS (Ignatius Press,
                    2005).

                    The next two sections actually turned out to be somewhat better; he
                    does a pretty good job on destiny and freewill in the Theology
                    chapter (though he doesn't seem to know a thing about polytheism) and
                    also with the Angeology chapter. I'm particularly please to pick up
                    "theologoumenon" as a useful new term (a possible theological
                    opinion, neither orthodox nor heretical)--this is the category
                    Charles Williams thought most of his ideas fit into, though
                    personally I think CW crosses the line into heresy. But Kreeft did
                    not disappoint with a few more oddball assertions. First, when he
                    ranks CSL alongside the authors of the Four Gospels and Dostoyevski
                    as the ONLY authors who have ever portrayed Jesus convincingly
                    (wildly, bizarrely hyperbolic, I thought it). The second was his
                    apparently serious assertion that Tolkien was either an Elf, or
                    descended from an Elf, or else he could not have portrayed them so
                    convincingly. I've re-read that passage several times, and if there's
                    any hint that he doesn't mean exactly what he says I don't see it.
                    Not quite in this category, but an example of sloppy logic, is
                    his discussion of guardian angels where he says first that Gandalf is
                    the most important angel in LotR (no argument there, since he's
                    excluding the fallen angels here). Next, he says, is Elbereth, who I
                    don't think of exactly as a "guardian angel" but could grant him the
                    point for her being able to manifest aid to those who call on her
                    however far away (he also asserts that she's the most powerful angel
                    in LotR, which is technically correct, but he never mentions that
                    Silm reveals Manwe is more powerful still). Then he discusses
                    Galadriel, because like Elbereth she reminds him of Mary -- which is
                    the point where I thought his argument totally broke down, since
                    Galadriel's NOT an angel but an elf nor does she resemble Mary in any
                    way except superficially (iconography). By the way, he fully approves
                    of Peter Jackson bringing the elves to Helm's Deep as "a legitimate
                    extension of the friendship between Legolas and Gimli"--to which
                    Janice asked, why not also a company of dwarves, then?
                    Next up: Cosmology and Anthropology.

                    --JDR




                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Lezlie
                    ... Oh, I don t know, I have a good cookbook from the Basque region of spain that has a good map of where various regional wines & dishes come from. Pretty
                    Message 9 of 9 , Nov 22, 2005
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                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@e...> wrote:
                      >
                      > On Nov 17, 2005, at 9:55 AM, Mike Foster wrote:
                      >
                      > > And, like the next three books this column will revisit [Tolkien's The
                      > > Lortd of the Rings], Treasure Island has a map. All good books should
                      > > have maps, except possibly cookbooks.

                      Oh, I don't know, I have a good cookbook from the Basque region of
                      spain that has a good map of where various regional wines & dishes
                      come from. Pretty thing & somewhat useful. But, then, I Cook. Rather
                      well, acutally. Lezlie
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