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Combo -- retraction and LWW as kid book

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  • Cai Cherie
    First of all, I would like to apologize for having subjected this list to a post written in anger. There was something bout Pullman s statement that there was
    Message 1 of 8 , Dec 5, 2005
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      First of all, I would like to apologize for having subjected this list to a post written in anger. There was something bout Pullman's statement that there was no love in Narnia that triggered my indignation, righteous or otherwise.

      I am very uncomfortable with how, in so many present public debates, folks are willing to deform reality because, for whatever reason, they feel their cause trumps truth. They deny there is any good in whatever it is they oppose. They stampede over nuance and pounce on small failings. They back statements that they know are false but which sound compelling. They produce propaganda.

      Such an approach pulls my chain. Call me old fashioned. Anyway, the chances are Pullman has what he sees as good reason for being so inaccurate in his criticisms of Narnia. As suggested, perhaps he was abused in some way as a child for reasons that were given as religious. Or something else we do not know about. Perhaps he thinks making challenging statements is clever. Perhaps he likes the publicity.

      So there are other possibilities to his being morally insane. By speaking in haste and in anger I did what I dislike -- I overstated the case. Apologies.

      ---------------------------

      A well-written kid's book is not exactly the same beast as a well-written adult or young adult book. I would argue that Lewis's prose in the space trilogy is too prolix in places. By writing for kids the discipline of using simpler, less-latinate based sentence structures, the sparser vocabulary and the inadvisability of explicit point-making, improved Lewis's style. As a child I had no idea that there were any connections between this wonderful, far away land and the church I attended on Sundays. What attracted me to Narnia was its beauty, not just the physical beauty of the place, but the beauty inherent in the story. And Lewis's prose was, for me, the perfect convayer of this beauty.

      As an adult reading Narnia it does not work quite the same way. Kids are all imagination in a way adults aren't. I am not sure I can judge what makes a great kid's book as well as I could when I was a kid. And when I read as an adult I keep my expereince as a kid riding scout for me.

      I wonder what Narnia is like for those who first read the books as adults?

      Cai


      ---------------------------------
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    • Christine Howlett
      I first read Narnia as an adult, and I loved the stories but I didn t perceive the religious content. Then I became a Christian and thought, gee I missed
      Message 2 of 8 , Dec 5, 2005
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        I first read Narnia as an adult, and I loved the stories but I didn't
        perceive the religious content. Then I became a Christian and thought, gee
        I missed something there, and re-read them with a much fuller understanding.
        I have re-read them a few times since, and continue to love them, but I am
        fond of children's literature.
        Christine
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Cai Cherie" <eternityfindsitself@...>
        To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Monday, December 05, 2005 10:28 AM
        Subject: [mythsoc] Combo -- retraction and LWW as kid book


        > First of all, I would like to apologize for having subjected this list to
        > a post written in anger. There was something bout Pullman's statement that
        > there was no love in Narnia that triggered my indignation, righteous or
        > otherwise.
        >
        > I am very uncomfortable with how, in so many present public debates,
        > folks are willing to deform reality because, for whatever reason, they
        > feel their cause trumps truth. They deny there is any good in whatever it
        > is they oppose. They stampede over nuance and pounce on small failings.
        > They back statements that they know are false but which sound compelling.
        > They produce propaganda.
        >
        > Such an approach pulls my chain. Call me old fashioned. Anyway, the
        > chances are Pullman has what he sees as good reason for being so
        > inaccurate in his criticisms of Narnia. As suggested, perhaps he was
        > abused in some way as a child for reasons that were given as religious. Or
        > something else we do not know about. Perhaps he thinks making challenging
        > statements is clever. Perhaps he likes the publicity.
        >
        > So there are other possibilities to his being morally insane. By speaking
        > in haste and in anger I did what I dislike -- I overstated the case.
        > Apologies.
        >
        > ---------------------------
        >
        > A well-written kid's book is not exactly the same beast as a well-written
        > adult or young adult book. I would argue that Lewis's prose in the space
        > trilogy is too prolix in places. By writing for kids the discipline of
        > using simpler, less-latinate based sentence structures, the sparser
        > vocabulary and the inadvisability of explicit point-making, improved
        > Lewis's style. As a child I had no idea that there were any connections
        > between this wonderful, far away land and the church I attended on
        > Sundays. What attracted me to Narnia was its beauty, not just the physical
        > beauty of the place, but the beauty inherent in the story. And Lewis's
        > prose was, for me, the perfect convayer of this beauty.
        >
        > As an adult reading Narnia it does not work quite the same way. Kids are
        > all imagination in a way adults aren't. I am not sure I can judge what
        > makes a great kid's book as well as I could when I was a kid. And when I
        > read as an adult I keep my expereince as a kid riding scout for me.
        >
        > I wonder what Narnia is like for those who first read the books as
        > adults?
        >
        > Cai
        >
        >
        > ---------------------------------
        > Yahoo! Shopping
        > Find Great Deals on Gifts at Yahoo! Shopping
        >
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        >
        >
        >
        >
        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • Marcie Geffner
        This article appeared in yesterday’s “Los Angeles Times.” Is the author’s perspective--that literary criticism of Narnia hasn’t looked far enough
        Message 3 of 8 , Dec 5, 2005
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          This article appeared in yesterday�s �Los Angeles Times.� Is the author�s
          perspective--that literary criticism of Narnia hasn�t looked far enough
          beyond the religious issues--well taken?
          Marcie


          FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2005
          Return to Narnia
          By Laura Miller, Laura Miller is a staff writer for Salon.com and the editor
          of "The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors."
          A remarkable critic, C.S. Lewis was generous and acutely sensitive to the
          way literary works create their own worlds. Other critics have not returned
          the favor, no doubt because Lewis' best-known writings seem to dictate their
          own interpretations. The meaning of his Christian apologetics is obvious,
          and so, most people feel, are the intentions of his popular series of
          children's novels, "The Chronicles of Narnia."

          Lewis argued that the first published volume of the "Chronicles," "The Lion,
          the Witch and the Wardrobe," wasn't an allegory of the Passion of Christ,
          because it wasn't an allegory as he, a medievalist, defined the term. It's
          true that "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is not a symbolic pageant
          like "The Pilgrim's Progress," in which abstract notions appear embodied as
          people or places labeled "Hypocrisy" or "The Slough of Despond." But for
          most modern readers, it's close enough.
          Most readers, that is, except a key constituency: children. Even kids with
          solid Christian educations tend to miss the subtext of "The Lion, the Witch
          and the Wardrobe." Lewis, an Oxford don from a conventionally Protestant
          family, wanted to present Christianity freed of the "stained-glass and
          Sunday school associations" that had alienated him as a teenager. He hoped
          his story would sneak past the "watchful dragons" of skepticism.

          He succeeded, perhaps too well. The coming release of a lavish movie version
          of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has reminded many adults of their
          youthful love for Narnia � a love that often failed to translate into
          Christian faith. For some (like, I confess, myself) the revelation of Lewis'
          secret agenda registered as a terrible betrayal, further proof that even the
          most apparently sympathetic adult is always working an angle.

          That disillusionment hints at an unexplored territory in Narnia. If the
          "Chronicles" were merely religious allegory, there would be nothing to
          betray, and furthermore, the books might not be literature. A literary work,
          after all, admits multiple, sometimes contradictory understandings. Crudely
          put, the children in "The Turn of the Screw" could be haunted, or their
          governess could be mad. Gatsby is a tragic hero, or he is a dupe of the
          American dream. Because Lewis was frank about his desire to indoctrinate his
          readers, the Narnia books seem inhospitable to this kind of attention. More
          so than most books for children, they are seen � incorrectly � as
          pedagogical and therefore not very interesting.

          As a result, anyone prompted by the movie to seek out further reading on
          Narnia will be greeted by a shelf-full of mediocrity. There's no shortage of
          titles � "The Way Into Narnia: A Reader's Guide," by Peter J. Schakel
          (William B. Eerdmans: 206 pp., $14 paper), "Pocket Companion to Narnia: A
          Concise Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis," by Paul F. Ford
          (HarperSanFrancisco: 368 pp., $9.95 paper), "The Heart of the Chronicles of
          Narnia: Knowing God Here by Finding Him There," by Thomas Williams (W
          Publishing: 202 pp., $13.99 paper), and even "C.S. Lewis & Narnia for
          Dummies," by Richard J. Wagner (Wiley: 364 pp., $19.99 paper). Yet while
          Lewis' young fans are fairly diverse, the adults who study him are almost
          exclusively Christians of a mild-mannered, evangelical (although not
          fundamentalist) bent. They regard his writings as a hair less exalted than
          Scripture, and Lewis as a kind of Protestant saint.

          Perhaps believers won't mind seeing works of imaginative fiction shackled to
          the task of theological instruction. But surely no sensible person can
          credit the most reverent depictions of Lewis, who was in reality a
          complicated, flawed and occasionally boorish man. For the non-Christian,
          even the best-written of the new books � like Alan Jacob's biography of
          Lewis, "The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis"
          (HarperSanFrancisco: 368 pp., $25.95) � offer limited insight. Like public
          radio hosts during a pledge drive, these authors always return, too soon and
          for too long, to the pitch.

          A couple of anthologies published to coincide with the release of the film
          version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" let in a bit more air.
          "The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy" (Open Court: 304 pp., $17.95
          paper), edited by Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls, and "Revisiting
          Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles" (BenBella
          Books: 310 pp., $14.95 paper), edited by Shanna Caughey, contain essays by
          writers who consider Narnia from pagan, feminist and even animal-rights
          perspectives. Too often, though, these critiques offer little more than
          another flavor of doctrine, looking at Lewis through the filter of his
          opinions about, say, dark-skinned people or vegetarians. Critics who do no
          more than tease out a book's "messages" fall short, for no one but the
          grimmest adult reads a story for its moral. They tell us only how Lewis
          wanted us to live, not how he made us want to live in Narnia.

          Perhaps the most dismaying aspect of the "Chronicles" is a profound
          discomfort with adult women, as Cathy McSporran skillfully details in her
          essay "Daughters of Lilith," which appears in "Revisiting Narnia." The
          "Chronicles" are full of brave and endearing girls, but sexuality throws a
          wrench in the works. The series' most powerful villains are beautiful,
          vainglorious seductresses, and one girl is excluded from the climactic
          reunion of the seventh volume, "The Last Battle," because her head has been
          turned by "nylons and lipstick and invitations."

          McSporran is far from the first to notice this; British children's novelist
          Philip Pullman has made Lewis' purported misogyny a keystone in his public
          denunciation of the "Chronicles." But it's one thing to point out obnoxious
          or regrettable ideas and another to ask what role they play both in the
          books and the hodge-podge of source materials Lewis incorporated into the
          "Chronicles." The evil White Witch in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
          derives from the Bad Mother tradition in fairy tales, while the Green Witch
          in "The Silver Chair" seems to have migrated from the little-people folklore
          that inspired Rip Van Winkle. Or maybe Lewis' discomfort with female
          characters has roots in the British "Boys' Own" stories from which he
          borrows some situations and a rough sense of manners. Is this uneasiness
          somehow essential to the genre in the way that missing parents are to most
          children's adventure stories, and if so, why?

          Lewis' friend J.R.R. Tolkien was disgusted by the junk-drawer miscellany of
          Narnia. Tolkien's Middle-earth was built on a foundation of concocted
          genealogies and languages, which is one reason his work spawned a genre of
          ersatz scholarship that � "Pocket Companion to Narnia" notwithstanding � the
          "Chronicles" could never support. (It also lends Tolkien's work a somewhat
          unearned aura of adulthood. Lewis' fiction � in which evil arises from the
          mundane human propensity for pride and selfishness, without recourse to a
          magical token like the Ring of Power � is arguably more morally
          sophisticated.) Besides talking animals, Narnia is populated by creatures
          from classical and Norse mythology (centaurs, dwarfs) and European folklore
          (werewolves, giants), with echoes of chivalric romance.

          Narnia is, in short, a mess, cobbled together from the stuff Lewis liked,
          with a few of his prejudices thrown in. Its inconsistency, though, is
          superficial. The "Chronicles" have a powerful imaginative unity despite
          their polymorphous origins and rather slapdash composition. (Lewis was not a
          rewriter.) They are linked by a heady amalgam of voice, story and imagery,
          and they cast a spell that has driven children to rummage in wardrobes for
          more than 50 years. As adults, we marvel at the intensity of our childhood
          yearning for Narnia, the kind of unquenchable desire that Lewis cultivated
          in himself and called "joy."

          Lewis' most devoted disciples point to his faith as the principle that
          animates Narnia, that makes us believe. But how to explain the "Chronicles'
          " allure for those who have remained impervious to Christianity, even after
          it was revealed to be the supreme mythos behind the stories we adored? Why
          do we introduce our children to the books when we have no intention of
          raising them in the religion? The ostensible purpose of the "Chronicles of
          Narnia" is to make Christians of us, but when this fails, we still have
          something left over. Describing that something is the proper job of literary
          critics, and it remains undone. �


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        • Marcie Geffner
          This article in today’s Los Angeles Times argues that today’s film-making technology makes the “anthropomorphic animals” more acceptable than CSL would
          Message 4 of 8 , Dec 5, 2005
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            This article in today�s Los Angeles Times argues that today�s film-making
            technology makes the �anthropomorphic animals� more acceptable than CSL
            would have been able to envision, as was also argued over JRRT and Jackson�s
            LotR.
            -- Marcie
            P.S. My apologies if this was previously posted and I missed it.

            A 'Narnia' C.S. Lewis might love
            * The author was highly protective of his work, but modern technology and a
            civilized directorial touch should avoid any risk of his book being
            'blasphemed.'

            By Alan Jacobs, ALAN JACOBS, a professor of English at Wheaton College in
            Illinois, is the author of "The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S.
            Lewis," published in October by HarperSanFrancisco.
            C.S. LEWIS, bookish and scholarly man that he was, rarely went to the
            movies. An evening of Wagnerian opera was more to his taste. But he could
            occasionally be tempted � especially if it was a Disney film.

            In January of 1939, for instance, before the new term drew him back to his
            duties as a tutor at Oxford University, he managed to catch the then
            relatively new movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." A few days later,
            he wrote to a friend about it. "Leaving out the tiresome question of whether
            it is suitable for children (which I don't know and I don't care) I thought
            it almost inconceivably good and bad."
            Bad? Well, "the worst thing of all was the vulgarity of the winking dove at
            the beginning, and the next worst, the faces of the dwarfs."

            Good? "All the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most
            moving." The use of shadows, he said, was "real genius."

            And then a conclusion that tells us something about what he thought of
            American culture. "What might not have come of it if this man" � here he
            meant Walt Disney himself � "had been educated � or even brought up in a
            decent society?"

            Fifteen years later � despite his insistence that it would be "tiresome" to
            figure out what is "suitable for children" � Lewis had written his own
            children's books, the extraordinarily successful "Chronicles of Narnia." The
            seven books described the adventures of a group of children � including
            Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie � in the mythical land of Narnia,
            where Aslan ruled and animals talked.

            Lewis had not even finished the last of the stories when a woman named Jane
            Douglass proposed a cartoon version of "The Lion, the Witch, and the
            Wardrobe" for British TV.

            Lewis was a bit skeptical. Thinking of the great lion Aslan, who is at the
            center of all the Narnian tales, he replied, "I am sure you understand that
            Aslan is a divine figure, and anything remotely approaching the comic (above
            all anything in the Disney line) would be to me simple blasphemy."

            In another letter � a 1959 note that only came to light in recent weeks �
            Lewis reasserted all these points. "I am absolutely opposed � to a TV
            version," he wrote. "Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative
            into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least,
            with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity
            with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be
            to me blasphemy."

            News headlines about the newly found 1959 letter have tended to run along
            predictable lines: "Author Opposed to Narnia Film." But that's not what
            Lewis said, in this letter or the previous one. His concern was twofold.
            Regarding anything photographed, he worried about technology; regarding
            animation, he worried about a vulgar visual style.

            He couldn't imagine a live-action version of his stories that wouldn't have
            put a man in a lion suit, along the lines of the traditional English
            Christmas pantomime. And he couldn't imagine an animated version not defaced
            by cutesiness.

            But what Lewis could not have anticipated 46 years ago was a set of
            technologies that would dramatically improve the anthropomorphization of
            Aslan; in fact, Disney's computer-generated Aslan will, no doubt, eliminate
            the least hint of "cute." The effects wizards at the WETA Workshop and WETA
            Digital showed in their work on "The Lord of the Rings" that they were more
            than up for such challenges.

            So, assuming the technology allows for a dignified Aslan � nothing "remotely
            approaching the comic" � and has treated the other characters and events in
            an appropriate style, would Lewis have any reason to complain about the film
            version of his story?

            No, with his stated fears addressed, Lewis would be free to worry about
            something more crucial: Whether the film preserved the integrity of his
            story. Having died 42 years ago, he's not available for consultation. But
            his stepson, Douglas Gresham, co-produced the film and has been spending the
            last several months reassuring Lewis' Christian fans that the film will
            faithfully mirror the book. At the heart of it will be Aslan's sacrifice to
            save poor Edmund and end the long cold winter of the White Witch. If viewers
            fail to get the message of redemption, it won't be the fault of the
            filmmakers.

            And if the movie's not a work of genius, it's unlikely to be overly vulgar.
            After all, its director, Andrew Adamson, was raised in a relatively "decent
            society": New Zealand.



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          • WendellWag@aol.com
            In a message dated 12/5/2005 3:14:07 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, mgeff@earthlink.net writes: Bad? Well, the worst thing of all was the vulgarity of the
            Message 5 of 8 , Dec 5, 2005
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              In a message dated 12/5/2005 3:14:07 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
              mgeff@... writes:

              Bad? Well, "the worst thing of all was the vulgarity of the winking dove at
              the beginning, and the next worst, the faces of the dwarfs."

              Good? "All the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most
              moving." The use of shadows, he said, was "real genius."

              And then a conclusion that tells us something about what he thought of
              American culture. "What might not have come of it if this man" — here he
              meant Walt Disney himself — "had been educated — or even brought up in a
              decent society?"



              Well, I'm an American, and I hate what Disney has done to all the fairy
              tales, etc. that they have turned into films. (And I'm sure I already hated it
              in my early thirties, when I had never been out of the U.S. except for a
              couple one-day trips to Canada.) I hate the cutesiness that they insist on adding
              to all the stories that they turn into animated films. Fairy tales should
              not be cute. Thinking about it just now, I've decided that adding cutesiness
              to a story is bad for the same reason that adding irony to a story is bad.
              It's a way for the adapter to wink at his audience and say, "Well, of course I
              know that this is crap, but it's all right as long as we pretend that it's
              good for the idiots who like this stuff, while we can smirk at each other
              because we know what crap it is." Even those Disney cartoons with some great
              aspects are flawed because of this cutesiness. I think _Beauty and the Beast_
              is the best of the Disney cartoons, but I dislike the cutesiness of Chip (the
              little chipped cup character). Heroines or heroes of Disney films are
              usually given one or two cute little sidekicks, and I find them the most annoying
              parts of Disney films.

              Wendell Wagner


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Bonnie Callahan
              The spot illo at the top of the review took about 50 lb. offa Lewis jowls. Hardly recognized the guy. Interesting article, tho. Another addy to my archival
              Message 6 of 8 , Dec 5, 2005
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                The spot illo at the top of the review took about 50 lb. offa Lewis' jowls.
                Hardly recognized the guy. Interesting article, tho. Another addy to my
                archival file!

                Bonnie

                Marcie Geffner wrote:

                > This article appeared in yesterday’s “Los Angeles Times.” Is the author’s
                > perspective--that literary criticism of Narnia hasn’t looked far enough
                > beyond the religious issues--well taken?
                > Marcie
                >
                >
                > FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2005
                > Return to Narnia
                > By Laura Miller, Laura Miller is a staff writer for Salon.com and the editor
                > of "The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors."
                > A remarkable critic, C.S. Lewis was generous and acutely sensitive to the
                > way literary works create their own worlds. Other critics have not returned
                > the favor, no doubt because Lewis' best-known writings seem to dictate their
                > own interpretations. The meaning of his Christian apologetics is obvious,
                > and so, most people feel, are the intentions of his popular series of
                > children's novels, "The Chronicles of Narnia."
                >
                > Lewis argued that the first published volume of the "Chronicles," "The Lion,
                > the Witch and the Wardrobe," wasn't an allegory of the Passion of Christ,
                > because it wasn't an allegory as he, a medievalist, defined the term. It's
                > true that "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is not a symbolic pageant
                > like "The Pilgrim's Progress," in which abstract notions appear embodied as
                > people or places labeled "Hypocrisy" or "The Slough of Despond." But for
                > most modern readers, it's close enough.
                > Most readers, that is, except a key constituency: children. Even kids with
                > solid Christian educations tend to miss the subtext of "The Lion, the Witch
                > and the Wardrobe." Lewis, an Oxford don from a conventionally Protestant
                > family, wanted to present Christianity freed of the "stained-glass and
                > Sunday school associations" that had alienated him as a teenager. He hoped
                > his story would sneak past the "watchful dragons" of skepticism.
                >
                > He succeeded, perhaps too well. The coming release of a lavish movie version
                > of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has reminded many adults of their
                > youthful love for Narnia — a love that often failed to translate into
                > Christian faith. For some (like, I confess, myself) the revelation of Lewis'
                > secret agenda registered as a terrible betrayal, further proof that even the
                > most apparently sympathetic adult is always working an angle.
                >
                > That disillusionment hints at an unexplored territory in Narnia. If the
                > "Chronicles" were merely religious allegory, there would be nothing to
                > betray, and furthermore, the books might not be literature. A literary work,
                > after all, admits multiple, sometimes contradictory understandings. Crudely
                > put, the children in "The Turn of the Screw" could be haunted, or their
                > governess could be mad. Gatsby is a tragic hero, or he is a dupe of the
                > American dream. Because Lewis was frank about his desire to indoctrinate his
                > readers, the Narnia books seem inhospitable to this kind of attention. More
                > so than most books for children, they are seen — incorrectly — as
                > pedagogical and therefore not very interesting.
                >
                > As a result, anyone prompted by the movie to seek out further reading on
                > Narnia will be greeted by a shelf-full of mediocrity. There's no shortage of
                > titles — "The Way Into Narnia: A Reader's Guide," by Peter J. Schakel
                > (William B. Eerdmans: 206 pp., $14 paper), "Pocket Companion to Narnia: A
                > Concise Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis," by Paul F. Ford
                > (HarperSanFrancisco: 368 pp., $9.95 paper), "The Heart of the Chronicles of
                > Narnia: Knowing God Here by Finding Him There," by Thomas Williams (W
                > Publishing: 202 pp., $13.99 paper), and even "C.S. Lewis & Narnia for
                > Dummies," by Richard J. Wagner (Wiley: 364 pp., $19.99 paper). Yet while
                > Lewis' young fans are fairly diverse, the adults who study him are almost
                > exclusively Christians of a mild-mannered, evangelical (although not
                > fundamentalist) bent. They regard his writings as a hair less exalted than
                > Scripture, and Lewis as a kind of Protestant saint.
                >
                > Perhaps believers won't mind seeing works of imaginative fiction shackled to
                > the task of theological instruction. But surely no sensible person can
                > credit the most reverent depictions of Lewis, who was in reality a
                > complicated, flawed and occasionally boorish man. For the non-Christian,
                > even the best-written of the new books — like Alan Jacob's biography of
                > Lewis, "The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis"
                > (HarperSanFrancisco: 368 pp., $25.95) — offer limited insight. Like public
                > radio hosts during a pledge drive, these authors always return, too soon and
                > for too long, to the pitch.
                >
                > A couple of anthologies published to coincide with the release of the film
                > version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" let in a bit more air.
                > "The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy" (Open Court: 304 pp., $17.95
                > paper), edited by Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls, and "Revisiting
                > Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles" (BenBella
                > Books: 310 pp., $14.95 paper), edited by Shanna Caughey, contain essays by
                > writers who consider Narnia from pagan, feminist and even animal-rights
                > perspectives. Too often, though, these critiques offer little more than
                > another flavor of doctrine, looking at Lewis through the filter of his
                > opinions about, say, dark-skinned people or vegetarians. Critics who do no
                > more than tease out a book's "messages" fall short, for no one but the
                > grimmest adult reads a story for its moral. They tell us only how Lewis
                > wanted us to live, not how he made us want to live in Narnia.
                >
                > Perhaps the most dismaying aspect of the "Chronicles" is a profound
                > discomfort with adult women, as Cathy McSporran skillfully details in her
                > essay "Daughters of Lilith," which appears in "Revisiting Narnia." The
                > "Chronicles" are full of brave and endearing girls, but sexuality throws a
                > wrench in the works. The series' most powerful villains are beautiful,
                > vainglorious seductresses, and one girl is excluded from the climactic
                > reunion of the seventh volume, "The Last Battle," because her head has been
                > turned by "nylons and lipstick and invitations."
                >
                > McSporran is far from the first to notice this; British children's novelist
                > Philip Pullman has made Lewis' purported misogyny a keystone in his public
                > denunciation of the "Chronicles." But it's one thing to point out obnoxious
                > or regrettable ideas and another to ask what role they play both in the
                > books and the hodge-podge of source materials Lewis incorporated into the
                > "Chronicles." The evil White Witch in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
                > derives from the Bad Mother tradition in fairy tales, while the Green Witch
                > in "The Silver Chair" seems to have migrated from the little-people folklore
                > that inspired Rip Van Winkle. Or maybe Lewis' discomfort with female
                > characters has roots in the British "Boys' Own" stories from which he
                > borrows some situations and a rough sense of manners. Is this uneasiness
                > somehow essential to the genre in the way that missing parents are to most
                > children's adventure stories, and if so, why?
                >
                > Lewis' friend J.R.R. Tolkien was disgusted by the junk-drawer miscellany of
                > Narnia. Tolkien's Middle-earth was built on a foundation of concocted
                > genealogies and languages, which is one reason his work spawned a genre of
                > ersatz scholarship that — "Pocket Companion to Narnia" notwithstanding — the
                > "Chronicles" could never support. (It also lends Tolkien's work a somewhat
                > unearned aura of adulthood. Lewis' fiction — in which evil arises from the
                > mundane human propensity for pride and selfishness, without recourse to a
                > magical token like the Ring of Power — is arguably more morally
                > sophisticated.) Besides talking animals, Narnia is populated by creatures
                > from classical and Norse mythology (centaurs, dwarfs) and European folklore
                > (werewolves, giants), with echoes of chivalric romance.
                >
                > Narnia is, in short, a mess, cobbled together from the stuff Lewis liked,
                > with a few of his prejudices thrown in. Its inconsistency, though, is
                > superficial. The "Chronicles" have a powerful imaginative unity despite
                > their polymorphous origins and rather slapdash composition. (Lewis was not a
                > rewriter.) They are linked by a heady amalgam of voice, story and imagery,
                > and they cast a spell that has driven children to rummage in wardrobes for
                > more than 50 years. As adults, we marvel at the intensity of our childhood
                > yearning for Narnia, the kind of unquenchable desire that Lewis cultivated
                > in himself and called "joy."
                >
                > Lewis' most devoted disciples point to his faith as the principle that
                > animates Narnia, that makes us believe. But how to explain the "Chronicles'
                > " allure for those who have remained impervious to Christianity, even after
                > it was revealed to be the supreme mythos behind the stories we adored? Why
                > do we introduce our children to the books when we have no intention of
                > raising them in the religion? The ostensible purpose of the "Chronicles of
                > Narnia" is to make Christians of us, but when this fails, we still have
                > something left over. Describing that something is the proper job of literary
                > critics, and it remains undone. •
                >
                >
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                >
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >
              • Lezlie
                ... this wonderful, far away land and the church I attended on Sundays. What attracted me to Narnia was its beauty, not just the physical beauty of the place,
                Message 7 of 8 , Dec 8, 2005
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                  >
                  > As a child I had no idea that there were any connections between
                  this wonderful, far away land and the church I attended on Sundays.
                  What attracted me to Narnia was its beauty, not just the physical
                  beauty of the place, but the beauty inherent in the story. And Lewis's
                  prose was, for me, the perfect convayer of this beauty.


                  That was pretty much how I read it as a child. Since I grew up a
                  Unitarian, "chruch" didn't have a lot of religiousity involved anyway.
                  I loved the fantasy, the imagination and the gentilness of the books.
                  Lezlie




                  >
                  > As an adult reading Narnia it does not work quite the same way.
                  Kids are all imagination in a way adults aren't. I am not sure I can
                  judge what makes a great kid's book as well as I could when I was a
                  kid. And when I read as an adult I keep my expereince as a kid riding
                  scout for me.
                  >
                  > I wonder what Narnia is like for those who first read the books as
                  adults?
                  >
                  > Cai
                  >
                • Lezlie
                  Fascinating critique-- can t say that I agree with some of the comparisons with LOTR. IMHO-- the two authors were about very different moral messages (if
                  Message 8 of 8 , Dec 8, 2005
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                    Fascinating critique-- can't say that I agree with some of the
                    comparisons with LOTR. IMHO-- the two authors were "about" very
                    different moral "messages" (if that idea can be applied to Tolkien in
                    the same way as to Lewis). (Dubious at best, IMHO.)

                    I liked (and, still like) Narnia because of a certain purity of
                    *story*, itself, that I never found in Lewis' adult works. Lewis'
                    penchant for pontification always got in the way of "That Hideous
                    Strength" (and, the rest) for me. Narnia opened a door in my mind
                    concerning seeing the art of story in the same way that Beagle.
                    L'Engle, and, later, Tolkien did. The overtly "Christian" aspects
                    completely escaped me until "The Last Battle".

                    The misogyny of the previous generations (British, male, or no) is so
                    well documented and critiqued that it's not even interesting any
                    longer as an insight. I read the exclusion of Susan from the "Last
                    Battle" to be about her embracing the "adult world" and therefore, no
                    longer having the innocent wisdom of children that Narnia - and belief
                    in Narnia - requires. ("They will be as little children.") Because
                    of the obvious allusions to Revelations, it was also the least
                    interesting of all the books to me as a child, or indeed, now as an
                    adult. As I said, earlier, I grew up a Unitarian, so religiosity and
                    allegory had and has little interest for me. ("Pilgrim's Progress"
                    bored me to tears.)

                    It was only as an adult coming into my own power as a woman, that I
                    began to see the running theme of both real and implied misogyny in
                    fantasy and science fiction. (I'm not the current youthful generation
                    wherein the interactions between men and women are based, from the
                    get-go, on a certain egalitarianism.) Something that is hardly the
                    domain of F & SF prior to the current age, but rather, a basic
                    assumption of the time and place, like "sky is blue" and "roses have
                    thorns". Therefore, it would be odd not to find a certain level of
                    misogyny (and, racism as well) in a genre dominated by educated male
                    writers and publishers of a certain class and sensibility. The women
                    writers of previous ages were hardly immune (re: Mary Shelly...) to
                    the assumptions and attitudes of their time and place.

                    That children – alone – have the innocent and imagination to enter a
                    "different world" through a magical porthole is a literary device that
                    is (now) used frequently enough in literature for children that I
                    accepted Susan's exclusion then as a way of preserving Narnia for
                    *children* and excluding the mysterious, critical, dull and serious,
                    and sometimes frightening world of adults. I have the notion that
                    other girl-children of my generation also accepted it in that light.
                    Lezlie




                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Marcie Geffner" <mgeff@e...> wrote:
                    >
                    > This article appeared in yesterday's "Los Angeles Times." Is the
                    author's
                    > perspective--that literary criticism of Narnia hasn't looked far enough
                    > beyond the religious issues--well taken?
                    > Marcie
                    >
                    >
                    > FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2005
                    > Return to Narnia
                    > By Laura Miller, Laura Miller is a staff writer for Salon.com and
                    the editor
                    > of "The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors."
                    > A remarkable critic, C.S. Lewis was generous and acutely sensitive
                    to the
                    > way literary works create their own worlds. Other critics have not
                    returned
                    > the favor, no doubt because Lewis' best-known writings seem to
                    dictate their
                    > own interpretations. The meaning of his Christian apologetics is
                    obvious,
                    > and so, most people feel, are the intentions of his popular series
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