Monday, December 12, 2005

Cover your Aslan

Fun reading this morning in the New Yorker (December 12, 2005): film critic Anthony Lane dishes on "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe": It was only a matter of time before a major studio got its talons into C.S. Lewis. The only thing delaying any attempt to film his Narnia novels was the lack of technology; until recently, for example, there was no computer-imaging program powerful enough to re-create a wholly convincing wardrobe.
. . .
And so to the conceit that, for decades, has stirred both the souls of the faithful and the loins of professional Freudians: first Lucy, then Edmund, then all four children feel their way uncertainly through the folds of a deep, furry passage and into another world. I read all seven Narnia books as a kid, not because I liked them (I preferred science fiction, surprise surprise, although when it came to fantasy, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series had my vote as best runner-up to Tolkien), but because I had pre-pubescent obsessive compulsive disorder and I had to finish any series I started. I remember enjoying only one of the books -- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Can't remember a single thing about it, though. I tried rereading Alexander's books recently, and found them to be thin gruel compared to Tolkien. Anthony Lane comes to the same conclusion regarding C.S. Lewis: When, as a grownup, I finally opened "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," it struck me as woefully thin soil, with none of the gnarled roots of lore and language on which Tolkien thrived. Well, we can't all be Tolkien, even if we're C.S. Lewis (or Lloyd Alexander). My favorite fantasies written in the last 20-or-so years, not counting Terry Pratchett's work: David Gemmell's Legend and Glen Cook's The Black Company, both of which taught me a lot about writing. They would both make splendid movies, too. Neither of those novels ripped off the Tolkien universe. I am soooo sick of elves and dwarves. D.

12 Comments:

Blogger Jona said...

I'm presently going through boxes trying to find my old books so the kids can read them - but like you, I can't recall much about them!

12/12/2005 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

One of the joys of having a young son is inflicting all your childhood favourites upon him. Mine, now 9, has had the Narnia books, some Alan Garner (The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, but not yet either Elidor or the really spooky The Owl Service), Joan Aiken (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and a dozen sequels) and is now on Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons sequence (another twelve books).

I know what Anthony Lane means about Narnia being thin compared to LOTR, but then one was written for children and the other wasn't.

Where next, I wonder? Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold etc)? Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials)? Probably not Lloyd Alexander; I never really got on with Prydain myself.

It'll be a few years before he is ready for Lord Alexander's Cipher; or, the Bridekirk Behemoth, but then it will be a while before LACotBB is ready for him.

12/12/2005 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Hi folks. Stephen, I'd forgotten about Pullman. I enjoyed the first two, but I bogged down in the third.

He enjoys Rowling (blah) and that dragon book written by the teenager -- I'm blanking on the name.

Thanks for the recommendations! The Owl Service -- spooky is good. I'll have to look for that one.

12/12/2005 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Kate R said...

Eragorn's the teen book. Leaves me cold.

My kids have read enough fantasy to get a big kick out of Craig Shaw Gardner's series, starting with a Malady of Magic--though I'm getting kind of sick of the books. They're clearly written for the humor of 12-year-old boys.

The boys also like Dark Storm Rising series. Seems pretty good to me...and the Edge Chronicles are good, but grim after a time.

OOOOOoooOOOOOOOOoooo current favorite for us all, and I've probably already ranted about it but so what...Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. It's great, but I think we like so much in part because we've head the books read aloud by Simon Jones, the guy who played the original Arthur Dent in HHGTTG (another series my kids love and that I'm now sick of)

Here's a trivia bit I bet you didn't know: Douglas Adams wrote Arthur Dent thinking of Simon Jones. .

12/12/2005 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous fiveandfour said...

There are a few things I read as a kid (including the Narnia series) that I don't remember a thing about; I just have lingering feelings of good will for them. There was a book called The Watcher in the Woods which scared the bejeezus out of my 8-year old self, and also A Wrinkle in Time plus others by Madeline L'Engle. I've been wondering about which of these have stood the test of time and thus would be good to get my daughter started on, but the only way to know is to re-read them and that's the thing I haven't done.

There are a lot of new books out that she likes in the same way that I liked those, and she loves getting me to read them - so there's also a small part of me that's loathe to take away that pleasure she gets from discovering something on her own that she can share with me. It makes her more enthusiastic about reading when she feels she's discovered something that adults don't know about and she's letting me in on a secret that few parents are privy to.

12/12/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Lyn Cash said...

I was so glad when my son picked up Tolkien to read. Don't think he ever got into Lewis, but I discovered a friend's 11-yr-old with a stack of Narnia and the like when I spent the night at their place a couple of summers ago. The bed was 3 feet too short and about 2 feet too narrow, and there were books stuffed under pillows, between the bed and the wall, you name it - lol.

Must be the season for sci-fi/fantasy. I just blogged about Philip K. Dick on mine. (grin)

Have a good day. As always, enjoyed your blog.

12/12/2005 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Invisible Lizard said...

Oh, this takes me back. I loved the Prydain books as a kid. I used to have all of them in one heavily dog-eared volume that I read many times. I wonder whatever happened to that book? Lost in one move or another, I suppose.

Never could get into the Narnia books, though. Just didn't sit well with me. A talking lion? Please.

12/12/2005 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

I never read Tolkien as a youth, and when I tried LOTR a few years ago, I found it boring. "A wonderful travelogue" was my impression when I gave up at the half-way mark.

I also tried recently to get into Narnia, but it's not my cuppa tea. Again, maybe if I'd read it in my youth...

At the age of eight, though, I'd read The Forever War, and loved it, even though I didn't get a lot of it.

12/12/2005 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Growing up in Germany does make a difference in childhood reading habits. For me it was Karl May, Barbara Bartos-Höppner (great hist fic books with a mostly Russian setting), Astrid Lindgren and Rosemary Sutcliff. I don't know whether the Narnia books had been translated in the late 60ies/early 70ies, but if, I missed them, and later I had grown out of the age to enjoy that sort of books (as I realised when I recently read Pullman). LOTR is a different world altogether. :-)

Also, I got my hands at "grown up" books as we called them, pretty early. Illiad at the age of 8, anyone? I was young enough to think hexametres were just as normal a way to write as prose - no one had yet managed to tell me it's something "difficult". *grin* Loved the novels of Theodor Storm, too, and Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. And the girly horse books. ;-)

12/12/2005 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

It's sad to notice that back in the 70ies almost all books by Rosemary Sutcliff were avaliable in German, but when I looked for something for my nephew two years ago, I could only find The Eagle of the Ninth in German. And most of the Bartos-Höppner books are out of print, too. Instead you can get books to the stupid TV soap Good Times, Bad Times. Great. :-(

12/12/2005 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dean said...

It just goes to show that you never can tell. I loved the Narnia series as a child. I loved the Prydain series, too, but on rereading them a few years ago, they are indeed thin. They're aimed at 9 year olds, though, so I don't hold that thinness against them.

Narnia is another matter. I don't know why I got as heavily into them as I did (actually, I have some clues) but I found them rich and detailed imaginings. Still do.

I don't think it fair to compare them to LOTR, which was a monumental work of years written for an adult audience.

BTW: even if you're not into Narnia, the movie is worth seeing if only for Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the White Witch.

12/12/2005 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks for your comments. I'm taking notes for my next run to a real book store ;o)

12/13/2005 08:07:00 AM  

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