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[mythsoc] Beauty and pain (was Serial killer conventions, Gaiman)

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    ... From: Jane Bigelow jbigelow@pcisys.net Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 13:26:17 -0600 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Re: Serial killer
    Message 1 of 1 , May 12, 2003
      Original Message:
      From: Jane Bigelow jbigelow@...
      Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 13:26:17 -0600
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Re: Serial killer conventions, Gaiman


      Why, I wonder, does current literary criticism allow any amount of
      description of violence and pain, but condemn more than the briefest
      description of happiness or beauty? Society as a whole does seem to want a
      break now and then. A few years ago, Jane Austen was the inspiration for
      several films. I don't know if there was any overlap in audience, though.


      An extremely searching question. I've seen some beautiful scenes
      onscreen---sometimes even a certain sunset or pan-shot of a field of
      flowers can make me gasp. Some commercials feature these scenes, which
      *almost* makes me feel grateful for the commercial! Almost. Onscreen,
      such shots take the place of a lengthy description of beauty. (Of course,
      commercials want that beauty identified with the car or the wine!)

      In novels, long descriptions of beauty are challenging, partly because each
      person is going to imagine what is described in a slightly different way.
      (Consider two drawings of a Rivendell scene from Tolkien: say Alan Lee's
      concept vs. Ted Nasmith's. Nasmith's conception is closer to my own.)

      Several factors come into play: evil is thought to be more "interesting"
      than good. I think some of this comes about because we live in a world
      where evil must be explained: it's a mystery we can't fathom. Good is the
      Norm. We expect it from others. (Imagine a world where the *reverse* was
      true? Yikes!) Hence, beauty and pleasure are gifts that we experience
      briefly in story. Pain and dark events are not normal. They hold our
      interest, not necessarily because we're voyeurs, but because we're asking
      "How is the character going to get out of this one?" (I may be totally
      missing the point of your question. I hope not.)

      Maybe it doesn't feel like Story, when good things happen, but it feels
      like Normal Life. (Tolkien makes reference to this in LOTR, in that he
      says that good and pleasurable things are soon told, but bothersome and
      painful events make for a good story. David B. could give us the quote,
      I'm sure.) It's amazing how Tolkien is able to balance beauty and pain so
      well in his books.

      Jane Austen's books feel like "a break," in a way, partly because the
      issues she deals with (marriage and finding one's place in society) are so
      different for us. In her terms, social slights and broken engagements
      could feel as crushing as graphic violence: for her readers, these events
      have economic consequences that they don't have for us. ---djb

      The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

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