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CS Lewis vs. LF Baum

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  • David S. Bratman
    I find it regretable when critics decide to boost one of my favorite authors by using him or her as a stick to beat another one of my favorite authors with,
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 27, 2000
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      I find it regretable when critics decide to boost one of my favorite
      authors by using him or her as a stick to beat another one of my favorite
      authors with, but the resulting articles can be interesting to read.

      Many of us, I suspect, will feel that way about a new article on Salon
      using Narnia as a stick to beat Oz. It's by Laura Miller, and the
      address is:

      http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2000/12/28/baum/index.html

      Here's one particularly hair-raising paragraph using Narnia as a stick to
      beat everything else about Lewis with:

      "We'll probably never see an annotated "The Lion, the Witch and the
      Wardrobe" because the Christian elements in Lewis' work repel interesting
      critics and scholars -- some of whom are still embarrassed about how much
      they liked his books as kids. (Lewis scholarship exists, but it's a
      hagiographic wasteland roamed by worshipful, third-rate Christian
      academics who see his work as something close to divine revelation.)
      Former fans often (mistakenly) dismiss his children's books as simple
      religious allegories, and the well-earned reputation that Christians have
      for smug proselytizing has tarnished much of Lewis' writing by
      association."

      Yikes!

      - David Bratman
    • Stolzi@aol.com
      But then again, I found these two paragraphs excellent in their appraisal of Lewis (whatever she thinks about his fans and students!): It s a shame because
      Message 2 of 7 , Dec 28, 2000
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        But then again, I found these two paragraphs excellent in their appraisal of
        Lewis (whatever she thinks about his fans and students!):

        'It's a shame because "The Chronicles of Narnia" is a fascinating attempt to
        compress an almost druidic reverence for wild nature, Arthurian romance,
        Germanic folklore, the courtly poetry of Renaissance England and the
        fantastic beasts of Greek and Norse mythology into an entirely reimagined
        version of what's tritely called "the greatest story ever told." Even if you
        don't agree that it's the greatest story, it's still one of the great ones,
        and Lewis -- a leading literary scholar of his generation and a writer of
        uncommon eloquence -- not only set himself a mighty task but pulled it off.
        This is British children's fantasy -- a far cry from the modest American
        talent who leads with a promise to dispense with all "disagreeable incident."

        'Just as the British think that children are important enough to merit the
        work of their best writers, British children's writers think children are
        important enough to be treated as moral beings. That means that sometimes
        things get scary. The four children -- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy -- in
        "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" have not just their own distinct
        personalities but their own private tests; though they too wind up as kings
        and queens of a magical land after saving it from an evil witch, they have to
        fight, hard, for their crowns. Lewis' depiction of what it means to be
        tempted by evil, as Edmund is by the White Witch when she plays on his
        vanity, and of the behavior -- from petty cruelty to grave betrayal -- that
        results, made a tremendous impression on me as a child. It communicated that,
        faced with often deceptive and even self-destructive emotions and impulses, I
        had choices to make in my life, choices that mattered. '
      • David S. Bratman
        ... This is the line that most irritated me. There is nothing wrong with having some books that dispense with disagreeable incident, as long as they re not
        Message 3 of 7 , Dec 28, 2000
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          > "This is British children's fantasy -- a far cry from the modest American
          > talent who leads with a promise to dispense with all "disagreeable incident."

          This is the line that most irritated me. There is nothing wrong with
          having some books that dispense with disagreeable incident, as long as
          they're not all like that. Life can be fun and agreeable at times, and
          even when it's not, why not read some occasionally? To criticize Baum
          for this statement is awfully reminiscent of those who criticize all
          fantasy for being escapist.

          Besides, he didn't mean it quite that way - for all of the reviewer's
          protests, there are moments of danger and doubt in Baum. He just wanted
          to ensure he didn't scare his child-readers' wigs off. As a former child
          who found the supposedly cutesy early Disney films terrifying (watch them
          again sometime if you don't believe me), I think Baum had a worthy point
          here.

          There is also, as DL noted, an implicit condemnation of all American
          fantasy. I think the reviewer has been seduced by the British side of
          the Force to the extent that she can not entirely appreciate the
          distinctive qualities of characteristically American fantasy writing,
          something which Baum (following hints from Hawthorne and Irving, in
          particular) essentially invented, and which you can see such a different
          writer as Tim Powers practicing today. A quick hit of Brian Attebery's
          "The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature," particularly the chapter
          on Baum, which fairly analyzes both his strengths and weaknesses, will
          explain this.

          The reviewer praises Lewis's prose, which in Narnia I find variable, and
          dismisses Baum's. It's hard not to suspect that she's looking down at
          his fondness for puns.

          David Bratman
        • Stolzi@aol.com
          In a message dated 12/28/2000 11:21:21 PM Central Standard Time, ... Shouldn t that be looking down =on=, David? (speaking of prose) As for the prose of
          Message 4 of 7 , Dec 29, 2000
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            In a message dated 12/28/2000 11:21:21 PM Central Standard Time,
            dbratman@... writes:

            > It's hard not to suspect that she's looking down at
            > his fondness for puns.

            Shouldn't that be "looking down =on=," David? (speaking of prose)

            As for the prose of Narnia, I think you have a point. Lewis =said= that
            children's stories should be adapted for reading aloud, but there are long
            double-jointed clauses and parentheses in many sentences in the CHRONICLES
            which would, I think, be difficult to put across.

            Last night was thinking about this article and felt that the impeachment of
            American fantasy as more light-minded than British was unfair - does this
            woman think that HARRY POTTER, or WILLY WONKA, have profound moral and
            stylistic depths? Yah, right.

            Mary S
          • Stolzi@aol.com
            This Salon article is featured on one of AOL s subscriber pages - a miscellany called LIFE, The Lighter Side of News. Go figure. This time the picture came up
            Message 5 of 7 , Dec 30, 2000
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              This Salon article is featured on one of AOL's subscriber pages - a
              miscellany called LIFE, The Lighter Side of News. Go figure.

              This time the picture came up on the Salon page and it is the D***dest thing,
              I don't even know what it's supposed to signify.

              <A HREF="http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2000/12/28/baum/index.html">
              http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2000/12/28/baum/index.html</A>

              Mary S
            • Matthew Winslow
              ... I would think it is Aslan punching out the Cowardly Lion, since as we know, Narnia is so superior to Oz. Just ask the article s author. -- Matthew
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 2, 2001
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                Stolzi@... [Stolzi@...] wrote:
                > This Salon article is featured on one of AOL's subscriber pages - a
                > miscellany called LIFE, The Lighter Side of News. Go figure.
                >
                > This time the picture came up on the Salon page and it is the D***dest thing,
                > I don't even know what it's supposed to signify.
                >

                I would think it is Aslan punching out the Cowardly Lion, since as we know,
                Narnia is so superior to Oz. Just ask the article's author. <g>

                --
                Matthew Winslow mwinslow@... http://x-real.firinn.org/
                "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and
                clothes."
                --Desiderius Erasmus
                Currently reading: Faith and Wealth by Justo Gonzalez
              • WendellWag@aol.com
                For me, the interesting thing about the _Salon_ article is that it s just one more piece of evidence that there are people there who think that fantasy is just
                Message 7 of 7 , Jan 2, 2001
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                  For me, the interesting thing about the _Salon_ article is that it's just one
                  more piece of evidence that there are people there who think that fantasy is
                  just as important as mainstream fiction. There are certainly mistakes and
                  odd opinions in the article, but at least they are willing to discuss fantasy
                  (even children's fantasy) on the same level as other fiction. Remember,
                  _Salon_ is the magazine where they have a bunch of Tolkien fans.

                  Wendell Wagner
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