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Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman

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  • David Bratman
    re: Sorry, but I don t see any slanders against Pullman in the article, unless he s
    Message 1 of 18 , Dec 1, 2005
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      re: <http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=84bgxkbbzvqrch10g3kbwp5g8kv3ccbn>

      Sorry, but I don't see any slanders against Pullman in the article, unless
      he's misquoted. Maybe he is, because I find much of what he's quoted as
      saying to be incredible, and not in a good sense. I'm not a real big
      Narnia fan - I find the Chronicles often trivial, and occasionally grating
      and twee, and they just don't have the evocative power for me that they do
      for many readers - but they're perfectly solid and enjoyable children's
      fantasies, no more offensive than dozens of others without Christian
      apologetic underpinnings but sharing its "old-fashioned" sex roles and
      clearly-marked good guys and bad guys. I find most of the criticisms
      attributed to Pullman to be utterly bizarre, for reasons adequately
      explained by Nelson in the article. I think it a very fine article,
      especially as it doesn't try to hide that Lewis had apologetic motives in
      writing the Chronicles.

      DB
    • Christine Howlett
      I would say it was all four of them that saved Narnia, since none of them would have finished the journey without the help of the others. Christine ... From:
      Message 2 of 18 , Dec 2, 2005
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        I would say it was all four of them that saved Narnia, since none of them
        would have finished the journey without the help of the others.
        Christine
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Stolzi" <Stolzi@...>
        To: "Mythopoeic Society" <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 4:50 PM
        Subject: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman


        > http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=84bgxkbbzvqrch10g3kbwp5g8kv3ccbn
        >
        > Pretty good, except... is it =Aravis= who saves Narnia from attack ? I'd
        > have said it was Shasta.
        >
        > Diamond Proudbrook
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • alexeik@aol.com
        ... From: Carl F. Hostetter To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 23:52:36 -0500 Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia
        Message 3 of 18 , Dec 2, 2005
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          -----Original Message-----
          From: Carl F. Hostetter <Aelfwine@...>
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 23:52:36 -0500
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman



          <<I for one was most bothered by this statement attributed to Pullman
          (if true; John, can you establish otherwise?):

          "The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament
          itself," the avowedly atheistic Pullman said in a recent interview
          about the movie, "is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in
          the books.">>


          As you point out, Pullman makes no distinction between the different ways love manifests itself (Lewis's "Four Loves"), and it seems to be that he takes "love" to always mean "Eros", or to always potentially mean that.
          This limiting way he uses language extends to other terms, such as in the confusing way he understands "grace".
          Alexei


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        • David Bratman
          So ... when Jesus said, Love your neighbor as yourself, Pullman thinks he means, Practice eros with your neighbor ? Wouldn t that be a violation of a
          Message 4 of 18 , Dec 2, 2005
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            So ... when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," Pullman thinks he means, "Practice eros with your neighbor"? Wouldn't that be a violation of a Commandment or two? What does Pullman think "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" means?

            This seems an insane interpretation of Pullman, and yet ... for any broader meaning of the word "love" it's equally insane to say that there's no trace of it in Narnia. To take it to absolute rock bottom, Edmund loves Turkish Delight, for ghu's sake.

            DB

            --alexeik@... wrote:

            >>"The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament
            >>itself," the avowedly atheistic Pullman said in a recent interview
            >>about the movie, "is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in
            >>the books.">>
            >
            >As you point out, Pullman makes no distinction between the different
            >ways love manifests itself (Lewis's "Four Loves"), and it seems to be
            >that he takes "love" to always mean "Eros", or to always potentially
            >mean that.
          • alexeik@aol.com
            ... From: David Bratman To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 11:07:34 -0800 (GMT-08:00) Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of
            Message 5 of 18 , Dec 7, 2005
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              -----Original Message-----
              From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 11:07:34 -0800 (GMT-08:00)
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman


              <<So ... when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," Pullman thinks he
              means, "Practice eros with your neighbor"? Wouldn't that be a violation of a
              Commandment or two? What does Pullman think "Love the Lord your God with all
              your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" means?

              This seems an insane interpretation of Pullman, and yet ... for any broader
              meaning of the word "love" it's equally insane to say that there's no trace of
              it in Narnia. To take it to absolute rock bottom, Edmund loves Turkish Delight,
              for ghu's sake.>>
              Nowhere in _His Dark Materials_ (or in any of his criticism of Lewis that I've read) does Pullman refer in any way to Christian scripture, or indeed engage in any kind of meaningful argument with Christian belief or doctrine. "The Church" is presented as a rigid and oppressive hierarchy, but bereft of any consistent belief system, other than unquestioning submission to "the Authority". Jesus never appears.
              In general, Pullman seems to equate Christianity with the denial of pleasure and little else. In specific relation to Lewis, my impression is that his main concern is the fate of Susan, which he sees as the main scandal of Narnia. He attributes Lewis's disapproval of Susan not to her having become shallow and vain in her adolescence (as Lewis describes), but to her having undergone sexual awakening. The whole message of Narnia, then, becomes one of denial of sensual pleasure, and thus "life-denying".
              While "Turkish Delight" in LWW does have a connotation of sensual pleasure, the fact that it plays a negative role would only exarcebate Pullman's disapproval. In _The Amber Spyglass_ he creates a counter to it, when his ex-nun character loses her faith after eating marzipan -- rediscovering sensual pleasure, which directly reconnects her to Eros.
              I do think, on the evidence, that this is how Pullman's interpretation of Narnia leads to his charge that it has no "love".
              Alexei


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • David Bratman
              ... I no longer have the original article, but I recall that the Pullman statement I was responding to cited the New Testament as saying the highest value was
              Message 6 of 18 , Dec 7, 2005
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                At 01:57 PM 12/7/2005 -0500, alexeik@... wrote:

                >Nowhere in _His Dark Materials_ (or in any of his criticism of Lewis that
                >I've read) does Pullman refer in any way to Christian scripture, or indeed
                >engage in any kind of meaningful argument with Christian belief or doctrine.

                I no longer have the original article, but I recall that the Pullman
                statement I was responding to cited the New Testament as saying the highest
                value was love and declared that love was totally absent from Narnia.
                Thus, Pullman referring to Christian scripture in the course of his
                criticism of Lewis.


                >In specific relation to Lewis, my impression is that his
                >main concern is the fate of Susan, which he sees as the main scandal of
                >Narnia. He attributes Lewis's disapproval of Susan not to her having become
                >shallow and vain in her adolescence (as Lewis describes), but to her having
                >undergone sexual awakening.

                Which proves that he hasn't read the books, since 1) all of the Pevensies
                are post-pubescent by the time of the "Susan is no longer a friend of
                Narnia" conversation; 2) Susan, and the others, had undergone sexual
                awakening to the extent of courtship in the final chapter of LWW.


                >While "Turkish Delight" in LWW does have a connotation of sensual pleasure,
                >the fact that it plays a negative role would only exarcebate Pullman's
                >disapproval.

                Sure, but that's only the worst example. All the good characters love
                Aslan. Does Pullman think that a) that's sexual; b) if not sexual, bad; c)
                that non-sexual love is not a justified use of the word "love"? If A or B,
                he's a sick little puppy; if C, he's flying in the face of every English
                translation of Jesus that I've ever heard of. That's the question I'm
                trying to ask: is it A, B, or C, and if none of the above, what am I missing?

                DB
              • Stolzi
                David, George Orwell once complained that fascism as a word had reached the status of meaning anything we don t like. It is possible that love now
                Message 7 of 18 , Dec 7, 2005
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                  David,

                  George Orwell once complained that "fascism" as a word had reached the
                  status of meaning "anything we don't like." It is possible that "love"
                  now means "anything we like" and since Pullman doesn't like Narnia, Narnia
                  cannot possibly in his view contain "love."

                  I find this critique particularly ironic coming from Pullman, when a recent
                  article (while intemperate in its attacks upon Pullman) reminded me of the
                  horrific scenes of torture, death and decay which he blithely puts into his
                  text for "children" readers, and not least of the fact that he puts his
                  young lovers together briefly only to tear them apart in the end.

                  Some Love.

                  Diamond Proudbrook
                • alexeik@aol.com
                  ... From: David Bratman To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 11:31:55 -0800 Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia
                  Message 8 of 18 , Dec 8, 2005
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                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
                    To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 11:31:55 -0800
                    Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman


                    <<I no longer have the original article, but I recall that the Pullman
                    statement I was responding to cited the New Testament as saying the highest
                    value was love and declared that love was totally absent from Narnia.
                    Thus, Pullman referring to Christian scripture in the course of his
                    criticism of Lewis.>>

                    Well, but this is only referring to scripture in the most general way. An average non-Christian who has never read the Bible could easily have that same broad impression of the contents of the New Testament. It doesn't necessitate a detailed knowledge of the text or any engagement with it.

                    << All the good characters love
                    Aslan. Does Pullman think that a) that's sexual; b) if not sexual, bad; c)
                    that non-sexual love is not a justified use of the word "love"? If A or B,
                    he's a sick little puppy; if C, he's flying in the face of every English
                    translation of Jesus that I've ever heard of. That's the question I'm
                    trying to ask: is it A, B, or C, and if none of the above, what am I missing?>>

                    As you say, I don't think he's read the books carefully. It looks like he dislikes them too much to have retained any detailed knowledge of them. I also suspect that he interprets the exclusion of Susan as a lack of "love" [in this case, meaning kindness or charity rather than Eros alonet "lack of love" is still fundamentally tied to rejection of Eros] on the part
                    part of Lewis himself, and on that basis sees the whole work as fundamentally lacking in "love". Of course, he seems to believe that Susan is damned, which Lewis explicitly denied.


                    The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
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                  • David Bratman
                    ... Indeed, but he did refer to Christian scripture. ... Quite likely. I ve theorized that this explains a lot of the bizarre criticisms made of Tolkien as
                    Message 9 of 18 , Dec 8, 2005
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                      At 01:54 PM 12/8/2005 -0500, alexeik@... wrote:

                      >Well, but this is only referring to scripture in the most general way. An
                      >average non-Christian who has never read the Bible could easily have that
                      >same broad impression of the contents of the New Testament. It doesn't
                      >necessitate a detailed knowledge of the text or any engagement with it.

                      Indeed, but he did refer to Christian scripture.


                      >As you say, I don't think he's read the books carefully. It looks like he
                      >dislikes them too much to have retained any detailed knowledge of them.

                      Quite likely. I've theorized that this explains a lot of the bizarre
                      criticisms made of Tolkien as well. Edmund Wilson claimed to have read the
                      whole of LOTR aloud but forgot most of the plot and how to spell the
                      characters' names. Michael Moorcock has been offering detailed critiques
                      of LOTR for years, but only recently have I found him admitting that he
                      finds the book "nearly unreadable," which to my mind should disqualify him
                      from any critique save for saying what he finds unreadable about it, an
                      approach he's never taken.


                      >I also suspect that he interprets the exclusion of Susan as a lack of "love"
                      >[in this case, meaning kindness or charity rather than Eros alonet "lack of
                      >love" is still fundamentally tied to rejection of Eros] on the part
                      >part of Lewis himself, and on that basis sees the whole work as
                      >fundamentally lacking in "love".

                      That would be an understandable critique: to weigh the love vs. not-love
                      and find the books balancing out the wrong way. One would disagree, but
                      one could understand how he felt that way. But that's not what he said.
                      He said there's not a trace of love in them. That's what doesn't make any
                      sense.

                      David Bratman
                    • Carl F. Hostetter
                      I think you re both giving Pullman WAY too much credit for any sort of thoughtfulness behind his words at all. I read his statement as a slam at Lewis because
                      Message 10 of 18 , Dec 9, 2005
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                        I think you're both giving Pullman WAY too much credit for any sort
                        of thoughtfulness behind his words at all. I read his statement as a
                        slam at Lewis because Lewis was what would these days be always
                        called a "CONSERVATIVE Christian" (pronounced with a marked lip-curl
                        as a shibboleth for all other right-thinking people) for whom there
                        actually are universal and timeless moral standards of right and
                        wrong, and for whom facing judgement based on ones alignment and
                        comportment in accord with those standards is a certainty.

                        Pullman of course will have none of that for _his_ Jesus (at least,
                        not when it is convenient for him to have any kind of Jesus at all)
                        and so attributes to the Jesus of the New Testament the "liberal"
                        least-common-denominator sort of "love" that he finds least
                        objectionable: the hallmarks of which are unquestioning acceptance of
                        all other behaviors and beliefs, and valuing "niceness" above all
                        other virtues. His is a Jesus that knows nothing of Hell (or of
                        Heaven, really), and who came to win us salvation only from the
                        "oppression" of other men, and only so that we can all just be our
                        mellow selves in our own groovy way, where everything is cool, and
                        nothing harshes our buzz.

                        In other words: by "love" Pullman means "non-judgment" (or again, is
                        his world, "non-Church"), which is what he would have the New
                        Testament to be all about. In other words still: "It's a groovy kinda
                        love..."
                      • Jay Hershberger
                        CF: His is a Jesus that knows nothing of Hell (or of Heaven, really), and who came to win us salvation only from the oppression of other men, and only so
                        Message 11 of 18 , Dec 9, 2005
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                          CF: His is a Jesus that knows nothing of Hell (or of
                          Heaven, really), and who came to win us salvation only from the
                          "oppression" of other men, and only so that we can all just be our
                          mellow selves in our own groovy way, where everything is cool, and
                          nothing harshes our buzz.

                          JH: Yes. Can you imagine the Ante-Nicene Christians giving themselves
                          (and their children) over to the Romans to be consumed by wild animals,
                          burned alive, or torn into pieces for the sake of faith in Pullman's
                          version of Jesus?

                          Cheers,

                          Jay Hershberger
                          Moorhead, MN


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • John D Rateliff
                          ... Not quite. The four children grow up, but there s no hint of sexual awakening at all (aside from a simple statement that lords came from far and wide to
                          Message 12 of 18 , Dec 11, 2005
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                            On Dec 7, 2005, at 11:31 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                            >> In specific relation to Lewis, my impression is that his
                            >> main concern is the fate of Susan, which he sees as the main
                            >> scandal of
                            >> Narnia. He attributes Lewis's disapproval of Susan not to her
                            >> having become
                            >> shallow and vain in her adolescence (as Lewis describes), but to
                            >> her having
                            >> undergone sexual awakening.
                            >
                            > Which proves that he hasn't read the books, since 1) all of the
                            > Pevensies
                            > are post-pubescent by the time of the "Susan is no longer a friend of
                            > Narnia" conversation; 2) Susan, and the others, had undergone sexual
                            > awakening to the extent of courtship in the final chapter of LWW.

                            Not quite. The four children grow up, but there's no hint of sexual
                            awakening at all (aside from a simple statement that lords came from
                            far and wide to court Queen Susan the Gentle, with no indication
                            their attentions met with much success or indeed any response on her
                            part) in LWW. I think you're importing this back into the first book
                            from HHB, where Susan is, so far as I recall, portrayed as much more
                            shallow and rather pleased by the villain prince's suit. And then of
                            course there's the notorious passage from the last book, the wording
                            of which implies that the grown-up world of dating interests her more
                            now than her childhood adventures in Narnia. Poor Susan: condemned to
                            the outer darkness by an author who wants to make a Point.
                            It is a little creepy, though, to think of all four of them
                            having to go through puberty, revert to childhood, and then do it all
                            over again in another world.

                            > Does Pullman think that a) that's sexual; b) if not sexual, bad; c)
                            > that non-sexual love is not a justified use of the word "love"? If
                            > A or B,
                            > he's a sick little puppy; if C, he's flying in the face of every
                            > English
                            > translation of Jesus that I've ever heard of. That's the question I'm
                            > trying to ask: is it A, B, or C, and if none of the above, what am
                            > I missing?

                            None of the above, I'd say. I think it's hard for anyone to be fair
                            when talking about a book he or she personally despises, and that
                            Pullman has fallen into hyperbole.
                            Besides, I think the linkage of love w. sensuality in this thread
                            is pretty much beside the point. I'd say Pullman's main criticism in
                            the article cited, that Narnia celebrates a culture of death (I
                            forget the exact phrasing), ties directly into the major themes of
                            HIS DARK MATERIAL: that any religion which focuses attention away
                            from this life, the here and now where we actually live, in favor of
                            some promised afterlife, is a cheat. The great revelation of the
                            third volume, that the promised afterlife is a prison for souls meant
                            to freely discorporate back into the stuff of which they were made,
                            reminds me so much of Le Guin's revisionary final Earthsea book, THE
                            OTHER WIND, that I think she must have found in Pullman an
                            inspiration of how to recast her own myth.* CSL's shabby treatment of
                            Susan, while offering ready-made ammunition to people who think him a
                            misogynist, is really beside the main point. The "happy ending" to
                            HOUSE OF THE OCTOPUS or THE LAST BATTLE (good news! everybody dies
                            horribly! horray!) is anathema to Pullman's point of view.

                            All in all, I still don't think the fact that Pullman dislikes
                            Narnia with some intensity (just as JRRT did) is of any great
                            significance, any more than Austen's disapproval of Robert Burns,
                            Emerson's snootiness about Edgar Poe, or Shaw's dislike of Shakespeare.

                            --JDR

                            *Mind you, I think she greatly weakens the whole Earthsea series
                            by her revisionism, but that's a different argument.


                            --just finished: THE POWER OF THE RING by Stratford Caldecott;
                            RINGERS (dvd documentary on Tolkien fandom); THE BOOK OF DRAGONS by
                            Ciruelo.
                            --new arrivals: GOD'S SECRETARIES: THE MAKING OF THE KING JAMES
                            BIBLE; TOLKIEN'S MYTHOLOGY FOR ENGLAND: A MIDDLE-EARTH COMPANION by
                            Edmund Wainwright; Lawlor's C.S.LEWIS: MEMORIES AND REFLECTIONS
                            (audiobook).


                            P.S.: The newest Blackstone Audio catalogue, just out, lists as new
                            releases CSL's REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS along with THE WORLD
                            ACCORDING TO NARNIA by Jonathan Rogers, about which I know nothing --
                            the huge publicity push for the Narnia film seems to be causing the
                            release of some material that I suspect we wouldn't otherwise get,
                            like these audiobooks of CSL's minor works. I wish they'd record and
                            release some of his scholarly work, like THE DISCARDED IMAGE, rather
                            than just the fiction and apologetics.
                          • Stolzi
                            ... From: John D Rateliff ... Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there :) Diamond Proudbrook
                            Message 13 of 18 , Dec 11, 2005
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                              ----- Original Message -----
                              From: "John D Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>

                              > All in all, I still don't think the fact that Pullman dislikes
                              > Narnia with some intensity (just as JRRT did) is of any great
                              > significance, any more than Austen's disapproval of Robert Burns,
                              > Emerson's snootiness about Edgar Poe, or Shaw's dislike of Shakespeare.

                              Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there :)

                              Diamond Proudbrook
                            • John D Rateliff
                              ... Yes, so did Mark Twain. Their loss. Similarly, neither CSL nor Dunsany could stand, or understand, T. S. Eliot s poetry. Such knocks reflect badly on the
                              Message 14 of 18 , Dec 11, 2005
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                                > Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there

                                Yes, so did Mark Twain. Their loss. Similarly, neither CSL nor
                                Dunsany could stand, or understand, T. S. Eliot's poetry. Such knocks
                                reflect badly on the folks making them but do no real harm to their
                                target.

                                Speaking of nasty swipes at authors, the best part of the RINGERS
                                documentary was a little animated skit done in Monty-Pythonesque
                                (Terry Gilliam) style, where cardboard figures of Edmund Wilson,
                                Philip Toynbee, and Harold Bloom ran down LotR (and those who admired
                                it), with the voiceovers using actual quotes from their essays, only
                                to have the three smug critics discomforted and reduced to quivering
                                silence by winged cut-outs of CSL and WH Auden arriving on the scene
                                with (laudatory) quotes of their own. That, and the scene with David
                                Carradine where he talked about having tried to get a role in the
                                LotR film back in the 70s then, upon learning to his horror that they
                                were planning to make an animated film, trying to talk Bakshi out of
                                the idea.

                                Finally, here's a Narnian reference I couldn't make head or tails of.
                                It's from the Sept. 16th issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, page 88, a
                                review of the new cd "Takk" by the group Sigur Ros: "At times Takk
                                almost rocks--as much as tiny ice-crystal elves from the magical land
                                of Narnia can rock." Huh? Does that actually mean anything at all, or
                                is the reviewer just being "clever"?

                                --JDR



                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              • Jonathan Michael Reiter
                                Atomtetsuwan2002 here. That reference sounds like the reviewer is trying and failing to sound terrribly clever. I doubt said reviewer even read the books...
                                Message 15 of 18 , Dec 12, 2005
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                                  Atomtetsuwan2002 here. That reference sounds like the reviewer is trying and failing to sound terrribly clever.
                                  I doubt said reviewer even read the books...
                                  Atomtetsuwan2002
                                  at2k2
                                  ----- Original Message -----
                                  From: John D Rateliff
                                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                                  Sent: Sunday, December 11, 2005 11:25 PM
                                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Pullman against Narnians


                                  > Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there

                                  Yes, so did Mark Twain. Their loss. Similarly, neither CSL nor
                                  Dunsany could stand, or understand, T. S. Eliot's poetry. Such knocks
                                  reflect badly on the folks making them but do no real harm to their
                                  target.

                                  Speaking of nasty swipes at authors, the best part of the RINGERS
                                  documentary was a little animated skit done in Monty-Pythonesque
                                  (Terry Gilliam) style, where cardboard figures of Edmund Wilson,
                                  Philip Toynbee, and Harold Bloom ran down LotR (and those who admired
                                  it), with the voiceovers using actual quotes from their essays, only
                                  to have the three smug critics discomforted and reduced to quivering
                                  silence by winged cut-outs of CSL and WH Auden arriving on the scene
                                  with (laudatory) quotes of their own. That, and the scene with David
                                  Carradine where he talked about having tried to get a role in the
                                  LotR film back in the 70s then, upon learning to his horror that they
                                  were planning to make an animated film, trying to talk Bakshi out of
                                  the idea.

                                  Finally, here's a Narnian reference I couldn't make head or tails of.
                                  It's from the Sept. 16th issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, page 88, a
                                  review of the new cd "Takk" by the group Sigur Ros: "At times Takk
                                  almost rocks--as much as tiny ice-crystal elves from the magical land
                                  of Narnia can rock." Huh? Does that actually mean anything at all, or
                                  is the reviewer just being "clever"?

                                  --JDR



                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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