Re: Mieville essay
- --- In mythsoc@y..., Stolzi@a... wrote:
> Lewis sneers, Tolkien is a leaden moralist: China Mieville is at
> (I was just reading in May's BUTTERBUR'S WOODSHED David Bratman'sLOCUS)
> animadversions upon Mieville's ideas as expressed in the March
Interesting article. I can agree with some of the things he says.
Tolkien and Lewis are, indeed, heavy-handed. But though he presents
that as a negative property of their work, I don't see it that way.
Tolkien's heavy-handedness is necessary because he has to establish
the entire mythic tradition from which his stories emerge. His
(intended) audience has not grown up with the various Middle-earthian
bogeymen that a true mythology would have impressed upon its culture.
Tolkien assumes that his readers will only know about his Orcs,
Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits from his own literature. Of course, he
could not have foreseen what would chew up the bookstore shelves in
his wake. But I think some of the criticism levelled at modern
fantasy is justified.
I don't necessarily LIKE non-Tolkienesque fantasy, mind you. I had
my fill of Kafka, for example, in college. Don't ever want to go
down THAT road again.
But the fantasy genre is probably awaiting the next trendsetter.
Harry Potter may be that trendsetter. I finally read the Harry
Potter books last week. J.K. Rowling is a pretty good writer, and I
understand that there are now Potteresque books sitting on the
shelves (or, at least, there HAVE been in recent years).
Rowling is not a great writer. Some of her characterizations are
pretty wooden, and some of her plot elements are telegraphed chapters
in advance. Tolkien had some window dressing, too, but his
characterizations were generally acceptable and most people really
don't know where his stories will take them before they arrive at the
But Rowling puts genuine humor into her stories. She had me laughing
at various places. I don't laugh in a Tolkien book. And most of the
fantasy I've read which has attempted to use humor has failed
miserably. One particularly bad example was a Marion Zimmer Bradley
Darkover novel (I don't recall which, as I had nearly all of them at
one point) where one of the minor characters tried to tell a joke
about people's words freezing up in winter. Just wasn't funny.
Instead of telling jokes, Rowling lets the humor roll freely. She
doesn't rely upon the zany madness of puns and inside digs that
Terry "Discworld" Pratchett does (he hates the word "zany" -- too bad
for him). Rowling's humor is quite different from Pratchett's. She
is not poking fun at anything.
If we can get a few more good authors following in her footsteps,
modern fantasy will open some new doors.
And whatever people make think of the Potter books, Rowling IS
developing a whole new mythology, with her hidden world of wizards.
She is recycling a lot of traditional stuff -- with considerably less
sophistication than Tolkien did -- but she is achieving her goal.
Anyway, like I said. I can agree with some of the criticism in that
article. People shouldn't have apoplexy over the fact that someone
doesn't like Tolkien. :)
He was certainly much kinder than some of the reviews *I* have
received. All those of you who read my essays are apparently 8th
graders with no sense of true literary comprehension. I think it's a
poor reviewer who must attack a reading audience (and how often are
Tolkien's readers called "fanboys", for example?) in order to say
something negative. At least this review doesn't attack the reader.
Even the remark about Lewis implicating the reader leaves us the
dignity of not having mud slung at us.