(urth) the problem with gaiman, mieville, and pullman
cmreed at link.com
Mon Dec 6 11:23:52 PST 2004
Dan'l Danehy-Oakes wrote:
>>Someone mentioned earlier that it has become a fashion lately
>>to attack Lewis's work.
>That would be me. I've seen it all over the place but especially in
>the "Gaiman generation."
>>Despite my own problems with Lewis's particular worldview, I have read
>>essay by Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, and Phillip Pullman which were
>>written basically to "debunk" Lewiss and for Mieville Tolkien as well.
>I would very much like a pointer to Gaiman's essay, as up to now I
>have only his fictions to base this on. (Not only "The Problem of
>Susan," but also the _Sandman_ arc "A Game of You," which has
>some details that have always seemed to me to be idle passing
>swipes at the Narnia books.)
It had been quite a while since I last read A GAME OF YOU, but I
couldn't recall any "swipes" at the Narnia books, so I took the
opportunity to re-read it, and still couldn't find anything I would call
classify as being derogatory toward Narnia. Do you recall anything
specific that made you think so?
There are some obvious Narnia references (as well as plenty Oz and
Middle-Earth references), with the most obvious being the sequence
toward the end where Barbie's dream world comes to an end. This is very
much an echo of Narnia's end in THE LAST BATTLE, but I couldn't detect
any Narnia references in the writing that would not be considered an homage.
I did a little googling on the web, and came across a speech that Gaiman
gave at Mythcon 35 (the Mythopoeic Society's big shindig) in 2004, in
which he says some very complimentary things regarding C. S. Lewis. I
hope I'm not violating any copyright by quoting the entire Narnia passage:
I was six years old when I saw an episode of The Lion, The Witch and the
Wardrobe in black and white on television at my grandmother's house in
Portsmouth. I remember the beavers, and the first appearance of Aslan,
an actor in an unconvincing lion costume, standing on his hind legs,
from which I deduce that this was probably episode two or three. I went
home to Sussex and saved my meagre pocket money until I was able to buy
a copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe of my own. I read it, and
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the other book I could find, over and
over, and when my seventh birthday arrived I had dropped enough hints
that my birthday present was a boxed set of the complete Narnia books.
And I remember what I did on my seventh birthday -- I lay on my bed and
I read the books all through, from the first to the last.
For the next four or five years I continued to read them. I would read
other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them only
because there wasn't an infinite number of Narnia books to read.
For good or ill the religious allegory, such as it was, went entirely
over my head, and it was not until I was about twelve that I found
myself realising that there were Certain Parallels. Most people get it
at the Stone Table; I got it when it suddenly occurred to me that the
story of the events that occurred to Saint Paul on the road to Damascus
was the dragoning of Eustace Scrubb all over again. I was personally
offended: I felt that an author, whom I had trusted, had had a hidden
agenda. I had nothing against religion, or religion in fiction -- I had
bought (in the school bookshop) and loved The Screwtape Letters, and was
already dedicated to G.K. Chesterton. My upset was, I think, that it
made less of Narnia for me, it made it less interesting a thing, less
interesting a place. Still, the lessons of Narnia sank deep. Aslan
telling the Tash worshippers that the prayers he had given to Tash were
actually prayers to Him was something I believed then, and ultimately
The Pauline Baynes map of Narnia poster stayed up on my bedroom wall
through my teenage years.
I didn't return to Narnia until I was a parent, first in 1988, then in
1999, each time reading all the books aloud to my children. I found that
the things that I loved, I still loved -- sometimes loved more -- while
the things that I had thought odd as a child (the awkwardness of the
structure of Prince Caspian, and my dislike for most of The Last Battle,
for example) had intensified; there were also some new things that made
me really uncomfortable -- for example the role of women in the Narnia
books, culminating in the disposition of Susan. But what I found more
interesting was how much of the Narnia books had crept inside me: as I
would write there would be moment after moment of realising that I'd
borrowed phrases, rhythms, the way that words were put together; for
example, that I had a hedgehog and a hare, in The Books of Magic,
speaking and agreeing with each other much as the Dufflepuds do.
C.S. Lewis was the first person to make me want to be a writer. He made
me aware of the writer, that there was someone standing behind the
words, that there was someone telling the story. I fell in love with the
way he used parentheses -- the auctorial asides that were both wise and
chatty, and I rejoiced in using such brackets in my own essays and
compositions through the rest of my childhood.
I think, perhaps, the genius of Lewis was that he made a world that was
more real to me than the one I lived in; and if authors got to write the
tales of Narnia, then I wanted to be an author.
The rest of the speech is worth reading (mainly about Tolkien and
Chesterton), so if you want to read the entire speech, here's the link:
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