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Milton, Blake, Williams, Blaylock

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  • David Lenander
    Re: Ben s response to Joe, I do think that a number of Williams good characters are indeed unusually convincing and revelatory--it s the main way that his
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2006
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      Re: Ben's response to Joe,

      I do think that a number of Williams' good characters are indeed
      unusually convincing and revelatory--it's the main way that his fiction
      differs, for instance from James Blaylock's, where, in a book like _The
      Paper Grail_ we have marvelously convincing and Williams-esque evil
      characters, but no good characters that are really as comparable.

      My recollection of _Paradise Lost_ is very much at variance with yours,
      however. I HATED the first 3 books when I first read them--I missed
      that Satan was a comic figure. I did not find him sympathetic as a
      hero or tragic figure at all. You're right about God the Father in the
      book, and Messiah isn't that much better. But the poem is really about
      Adam and Eve, and to a lesser extent, I believe, about Raphael and some
      of the other good angels. (Singer/songwriter Hugh Blumenfeld captures
      something profound about the poem and the characters in his song,
      "Raphael.") I'm not sure if it counts towards "describing God
      satisfactorily," but Milton does a magnificent job with Jesus in
      _Paradise Regained_. As far as Satan as comic figure, I don't like him
      well enough to appreciate him even as a character, even though I can
      see how he comes from a long tradition in Medieval mystery plays--by
      the end of PL, he's more disgusting than anything else. I can marvel at
      him but I can't laugh at or pity him.

      It always astonishes me to see people quote Blake saying that "Milton
      was of the Devil's party," without mentioning that it's Blake's
      character, the Devil, who says that in "The Marriage of Heaven and
      Hell." While we might find Blake's idiosyncratic and revisionist views
      of traditional cosmologies apparently more in sympathy with his devil
      than traditional god-the-father figures like Nobodaddy or Urizen, at
      least in early works like the Songs and Marriage, he's working in
      contraries, opposing statements representing extremes that have to be
      somehow resolved or reconciled towards what M.H. Abrams called
      "organized innocence," or at least something a lot more complex than
      either his own devil in Marriage or Satan in Milton's PL. Of course in
      Blake's later works, like "Milton," everything is a lot more complex.
      Or maybe just more complicated.

      I can't really try to save Shelley from his stupid reading of PL,
      though. Although, in context as a reply to Thomas Love Peacock, it
      implies a reading of TLP's pastiche of Dryden that misses as much of
      Peacock's tone as Shelley seems to miss in Milton's. I've noticed for
      years that, for instance, the editors of the Norton anthologies of
      criticism obviously fail to really read Peacock carefully, and
      therefore don't really appreciate the dialogue of Peacock and
      Shelley--I wonder if I've failed to really consider the possibility
      that Shelley is also writing some weird sort of pastiche. It's hard to
      entertain the possibility because the rhetoric is so wonderful and
      inspiring in "A Defense of Poetry," but the two men were good friends
      and took walking tours of England and Wales like proto-Inklings. And
      what kind of friendship could allow Peacock's devastating portrayal of
      Shelley in _Nightmare Abbey_? Or did Shelley laugh with delight? I
      guess that Tolkien wasn't especially delighted with Lewis's philologist
      in his _Out of the Silent Planet_.

      On Jan 14, 2006, at 12:26 PM, mythsoc@yahoogroups.com wrote:

      > How true all that is! Undoubtedly Williams's good chracters are very
      > convincing. The only other author I know of who is successful in this
      > line is Tolkien in the LORD of the RINGS. Indeed, I think his
      > descripton of Lothlorien is more satisfying to the human heart than
      > the whole of Milton's PARADISE LOST, Book IV. One might also note that
      > Milton, though enormously sucessful in rendering a credible heroic and
      > tragic Satan ( so much so that Blake said "Milton was of the Devil's
      > party without knowing it), he is completlely unconvincing in his
      > presentation of God who, to speak frankly, is a rather pompous bore.
      > But then who could describe God satisfactorily?

      David Lenander
      2095 Hamline Ave. N.
      Roseville, MN 55113
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