Re: Writing for different ages
- One thing I think interesting in the movie reviews of LWW is how many reviewers compare the LWW movie to the Harry Potter movies or LOTR movies. And call me overly-nuanced, but isn't it a weird comparision except for the fact that all three fall into the fantasy genre and all three take -some- of their fantasy elements from older, discarded Western world views?
Kids can read the Narnia books for themselves by 3rd grade or a bit more. LOTR is more at the reading level of younger teen-agers. Harry Potter, like Pullman's trilogy, falls somewhere in between. In terms of reading levels, if nothing else, The Chronicles are for children, Harry Potter for older children and young adults and LOTR for adults (obviously precosious children devoted to reading will read way above their level, as did, let me hazard, most of us. But I'm talking aboput the average kid.) So when I read a review that faults the LWW movie for not having more depth and heroic nuance -- you know, like LOTR, or longer, more sophisticated plot lines, like Harry Potter, I really wonder how much reading the reviewer has indulged in.
Lewis felt writing a good children's story was incredibly worthwhile. If it strikes your heart as a child, then it is important work, or so I feel he believed. He saw children as important, childhood as important. His own autobiography goes into in how his childhood expereinces formed his sensibility and held the key to the adult he was.
Does it say something about our culture that some adults only value children's lit that meets critical criteria that kids couldn't care less about, but that appeal to adult tastes? I'm not even sure it could be called ethics, I mean taste. Isn't Pullman's view of Narnia abit like that -- as a kid I loved and strongly identified with Lucy and Jill Pole. As an adult I can put on my critical glasses and question Susan's seeming exclusion. As a child I thought it meant that she had gotten silly about things the way my own older, 16 year old sister was silly -- you know -- fussing over what shorts and blouse to wear ... like it mattered. I mean, it was just going to get dirty when you tumbled off the rope swinger and into the ditch filled with wet leaves anyway and what--- she didn't want to go on the rope swinger and pretend she was Tarzan? -- well, like I said , weird, older sisters just get weird.
Lewis understood about things like swinging on a rope and falling into a tumble of leaves. It may not make for a sophisticated, nuanced plot, but it gives a feel for the tactile, very physical things that kids like that is part of what has made the Chronicles last 50 years. Custumns, modes of speech may change
(so, just how much wit does it take to make fun of something just because it denotes a time and class that one finds inimenical. ( Hmmm, what if I deride a book for being about poor people during the 20s -- oh, that wouldn't be considered a proper criticism ? Not for "The Grapes of Wrath?" But then why is it fine to deride something for being middle-class and set in 1940s Britian? Or is it that people should only admit that there is virtue in works that completely subscribe to their own peculiar, non-universal value systems? Isn't that, oh, perhaps a bit narrow-minded, pig-headed and ignorant? I think we need a new phrase -- "fundementalist" would do -- to describe such bigots. I say lump them all together. There is more that unites them, such as an incredible (in more ways than one) belief in their own bloody-minded, infalliable righteousness, than that divides them.) )
but the feeling of being in a good snowball fight or getting on a horse for the first time (and an impatient talking horse at that, who teaches you to ride!) -- that dosn't change. And if the author can get enough of that across, what it feels like to be a kid, that chances are kids will respond to it. They may not respond to certain theological points, but they will respond to the meaning behind if it is always winter but never Christmas.
And it takes a certain genius to write like that. To come up with images that strike right into a child's being. And that sort of genius deserves as much respect as does what it it takes to make a great writer for adults or young adults. Because the child -is- father to the man and lives on in the man, the spark at the wick of existence. And we all need as many trails of glory as this often sad world can supply. So why does anyone want to blow the sparks out or blot away the trails and their attending stories? I do not know.
Cai, O.K., a bit carried away
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