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Beemer

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LW&W musings [Dec. 3rd, 2005|10:10 pm]
Beemer
We went out to dinner (Red Robin) last night with the Floyds and goobermunch, whose father is well on the way to being all better from a "hypoxic insult" during bypass surgery. So T. needed some downtime with friends. We played Shadows Over Camelot afterwards. Like last time, we ended up without a traitor in our midst. Everybody gave me lots of suspicious looks just because I'm Sir Pragmatic ("screw the dragon, he only eats peasants. We need Excalibur."), but we won. Yey!

It snowed last night. Not a lot, but enough for a half-inch or so to stick in shadowed areas. It's cold tonight -- low of about 12, apparently.

Anyway, just sort of dinked around today. One of the things I did was to re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (I can never decide whether to underline, italicize, or boldface titles when I'm writing about them...) I figured that (like zalena says) since it's coming out on film, it'd be good to read it one more time uninfluenced by the movie.

And I have to say, I'm kind of surprised that they're making a movie based on this book. Maybe it's just that I know the story too well, or that the experience mutates once you realize it's a Christian allegory, but reading it this time, it seemed like there wasn't really any drama in the story. There's no tension.

It's like, the characters just kind of follow their destinies, and everything turns out all right in the end. The never make any decisions; they just do whatever circumstances lead them to do. And the day is saved not because of anyone's choices or nature or anything, but because Aslan (who is, let's not forget, GOD) goes and does The Right Thing, which he knows will fix all the problems. The whole story is running on the rails of fate, and it all just happens automatically as soon as the right elements (which are prophesied, even) come into position.

So I'll be interested to see how they make that into a compelling movie, or whether it'll just be a whole lot of "Ooo, pretty" up on the silver screen.

EDIT: And the feeling of being on autopilot came as a surprise to me, because I am quite fond of the Chronicles of Narnia. So I felt a little bit let-down by this latest read.
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Comments:
From: iamthequarry
2005-12-03 09:32 pm (UTC)
Aslan = "Jesus", not "God".....the whole dying for sins & rebirth thing, y'know...



Also, when typing about or citing novels/films/albums, the proper way is to italicize the title.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-03 10:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, but in nearly all Xtian traditions, Jesus == God (for suitable values of "equals").
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[User Picture]From: ocschwar
2005-12-04 06:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, but does the transitive property apply here?
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2005-12-03 09:48 pm (UTC)
Remember first and foremost that this book is a children's book. It's okay for the story to largely run on autopilot. It's okay for people to follow their natures. This is important because children of the age that would be reading this book still haven't fully formed their ideas of normal and right and wrong (at least in the societal sense). These sort of stories serve to help shape one's moral sense.

For the adults, there's no big choices. And yet, when things go badly and the characters that are good try to do that which is Right in the end, it serves as a lesson even for adults.

I really fear what will be done to later books, especially if this book is faithfully made into the movie.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-03 10:39 pm (UTC)
True enough, but I have a number of other books for that same age group that don't run on autopilot. (The Finn Family Moomintroll series by Tove Jansson, The House With a Clock in Its Walls and other kiddie-gothics by Jonathan Bellairs, the Matthew Looney books by Jerome Beatty Jr., and so on...)

I'm happy to cut juvenile literature plenty of slack for being aimed at its target audience, this just seemed to be more automatic than necessary.

Or maybe it's just "more than I expected", because I remember the Chronicles of Narnia with great fondness. Maybe I let my memory filter too much...
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2005-12-03 11:08 pm (UTC)
I tend to cut stuff for this age group a lot of slack. Even at its best, good childrens' books tend to be indoctrination. Some is just more subtle than the others.

Think about something one age group past this - the Bridge to Terebitha. A lot of very important things are covered in the story. Friendship, loyalty.... death.

Aside from the unexpected twist of death being introduced, the book is almost all autopilot. It's indoctrination after all.

Perhaps the better question is when do you move from books that are indoctrination to books that require you to make value judgements about the characters? Where do we find out that those who are ugly are not always bad? When do you start reading books where the bad guys often have a pleasant face and attitude?

Some people never learn those lessons.
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[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2005-12-03 10:36 pm (UTC)
It's not at all surprising they made a movie of it. The way Hollywood sees this is: Christian fantasy + English schoolkids == Lord of the Rings + Harry Potter == $$$. I swear there's an orc on the poster for the movie, too.
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[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2005-12-03 10:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, totally italicize. Underlining is for typewriters and boldface should not be used for citations either. If the work you're citing is an article or a piece of a larger work, use quotation marks to offset it.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-03 10:42 pm (UTC)
It's just that all the options look a little weird to me any more. Like when you try and spell a word five ways and none of the spellings look right, even though one of them must be.

Part of it, I suspect, is that italics are for emphasis, so I want a different mark-up for titles, because what if I just happened to be speaking very forcefully about a feline, a sorceress, and a piece of furniture? It'd be all confusing!
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2005-12-03 11:04 pm (UTC)
Well, part of it has to do with how your different type faces are used in context. I almost always tend to underline my media citations when doing HTML for two reasons:

  1. em is for emphasis
  2. Underlines are just a step away from the commond display for a href. In some cases, they'll eventually become a href.


Break out the XML purists. Display is for pansies!
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[User Picture]From: eto_theipi
2005-12-03 11:34 pm (UTC)
You'd say
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
. Not at all confusing!
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From: toosuto
2005-12-04 09:58 am (UTC)
Italics are also AP style. For what it is worth.
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[User Picture]From: eto_theipi
2005-12-03 10:39 pm (UTC)

Titles

Strunk & White says to italicize titles, as does the Chicago Manual of Style.

One of the reasons you see underlines is that it's the traditional manuscript indication that something should be italicized when the typesetter actually sets the type. In the dark days when typewriters were dominant, underlining was used for italics because it was all you could do. As a result, many people who were taught citation styles in those days were taught to underline.
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[User Picture]From: eto_theipi
2005-12-03 11:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Titles

Heh. I just looked at my own booklist and realized that I use bold for book names to introduce each entry. In my defense, they're headings, not just titles. A lot of cited titles are also underlined, but that's a side effect of them being links.
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From: hapaxeslegomena
2005-12-03 10:54 pm (UTC)
I started re-reading the whole series in anticpation of the film, and LWW really is the weakest of the lot. I’m still not sure why the big sacrifice had to happen, except for the obvious metatextual reasons. Who knows? Maybe they’ll play up the traitor storyline. And do you suppose Father Christmas will put in an appearance?

Incidentally, The Horse and His Boy is the strongest so far (with only The Silver Chair and The Last Battle left to go)—and it’s mostly just a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper.

My father used to read these to me on rainy afternoons when I was a kid, so yeah—they’re a bit of a disappointment. But what studio could resist Passion of the Lord of the Rings?
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-03 11:10 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm glad to hear that. HHB is one of my more-favorites.

The whole "always winter, never Christmas" thing was very weird from an adult perspective. I mean, does Santa get lost and just keep going from dimension to dimension, even when the locals have never even met a human, let alone heard of some guy born two millenia ago in Bethlehem? Must... deliver... more gifts!
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From: orbitalmechanic
2005-12-04 08:24 am (UTC)
Well, that's kind of a double problem, right: for the kids, it's cold and dark and a little grim but you never have the big huge party; and on the other hand, it's always the season of death and you never have Jesus being born to bring salvation. When I re-read those books recently I thought that was kind of elegant.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2005-12-04 09:39 am (UTC)
Your objection to Father Xmas was Tolkein's big objection to Narnia, which he hated. (Tolkein, btw, was instrumental to Lewis' conversion.) He thought Lewis' pastiche was ridiculous, which in fact it is. But there is also something fantastic about it, and Lewis writes with an authority that most people don't question.

Horse was my favorite for a long time because I was obsessed both with horses and Carlormene. I have a remember of copying out chapters on an old manual typewriter when I was about seven.

I also went through a phase when I liked Voyage best, but that's because I was obsessed with sailing. Also, the dark island is one of the scariest things in all of the series.

I no longer know which is my favorite. My least favorite has always been Battle. The end of Narnia was never satisfying.

But I have to say Silver Chair is my favorite when experiencing doubt or depression. (Much like Moominland Midwinter.) Jill is definitely a flawed moral agent in this book; and Puddleglum is like all the best parts of my father.

I agree with orbitalmechanic in that there is a certain elegance about the books, particularly when read as a series.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-04 09:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, the fact that Phil Anschutz is behind it is actually a significant factor in my internal debate over whether I'll go see the movie (assuming it's worth seeing in the first place).

Although how he can imagine that LWW is "free of violence" is beyond me.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2005-12-04 09:41 am (UTC)
It has children carrying weapons!
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2005-12-04 09:32 am (UTC)
I know this, and yet I think the plan might backfire. Many of Lewis' suggestions about faith in the world of Narnia run at odds with the conservative Xtian agenda. I grew up in a fundamentalist Xtian home, (Narnia was the only fantasy allowed) and picked up some radical notions about faith from Narnia, including sensualism and universalism.

I'm also guessing the movie will not be terribly faithful to the books, as we've already seen suggestions of large battle scenes, which are largely ignored in the books. My family would not have allowed me to see the film, in large part because of the "demonic" characters that were downplayed in the book, and are being highlighted in the movie. As Lewis writes in his chapter about the round table, "...other creatures whom I won't describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book..."
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2005-12-04 09:26 am (UTC)
I don't know where to start commenting. I think several buttons have been pushed in the course of thinking about the issues, and reading comments. Wardrobe is definitely deterministic, (in part reflecting Lewis' own beliefs) and yet one of the most important aspects of the story is the ability for an individual, even a child, to act as a moral agent. (Edmund.)

The issue of determinism in children's literature is also interesting, and a little uncomfortable. Much of children's literature is both moralistic and deterministic. Literature has long been used as a tool for aculturation, used as instruction for not only general morality, but societal norms. (This is why people get bunchy about issues like portrayal of women/minorities, especially in things directed towards children.) There is no reason children's literature should be an exception.

But lumping all of children's literature into this category is not only making a hierarchical assumption about the quality of things given to young people, but to ignore some of the amazing, and challenging literature written for young people.

One of the reasons I continue to read children's literature as an adult is because there are constant surprises and enormous rewards in very short, easy-to-read books. Young adult literature tends to be a little jucier in terms of less deterministic plots/characters. In fact the moral ambiguity that enters into literature for slightly older children is generally what marks the seperation between juvenile and young adult.

Beemer, you and I need to have a discussion about what you have and haven't read. I was in the bookstore the other day and found myself seeing a lot of books I thought you might enjoy.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-04 11:51 am (UTC)
I'm not persuaded that Edmund does act as a moral agent, though, at least in this book. (Other books are a different story.) He does rotten things because, at a moment when he's disoriented, he runs into the biggest bad guy there is and she uses mind-control magic on him. And later on he gets punished for it and redeemed, but not because of any of his own choices.

I'm rereading Prince Caspian now, and frankly, it's just flat-out a better book, with none of the deterministic problems of the first.

Now that I think about it, I don't think that running on autopilot is inherently a problem with juvenile literature, but a way in which any story can go wrong. Plenty of books and movies do it. I think that it might be more common in juvenile literature, because of the added weight of its use as an acculturation tool, which probably makes publishers more willing to overlook it as a flaw that needs fixing -- but that's a different issue...
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2005-12-04 11:24 am (UTC)
I've never had a prblem with the Narnia books, and that is almost certainly because I've re-read them on a regular basis, almost yearly. So there isn't a whole lot of time for memory to warp them.

On the bit with the battle, of course the battle is going to take up most of the trailer. It's impressive and cool. What baffles me is that I've seen some complaints that insist that the battle isn't in the book at all. Um... okay?

There is one big thing that is making me excited about this movie. That's Weta Workshop, the folks who made LOTR so very, very pretty. (And they got another Kiwi to direct, which amuses me greatly.)

After the first heartbreak, I loved The Last Battle. Someday I really need to write my short story about what happens to Susan just after the events in the book, because you think about it— she's just lost her whole family. That's got to suck, big time.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-12-04 11:39 am (UTC)
The battle is definitely in the book, though I could see how people could forget it, given that it takes up all of two pages total.

Somebody (orbitalmechanic?) once said that they felt Susan's exclusion from The Last Battle was cruel and unfair, and I think I might agree. In some ways, it's kind of like the author has it out for her.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2005-12-06 04:51 pm (UTC)
Well, if you've read The Screwtape Letters, you find that Lewis is very interested in those who have "fallen away" from faith, and he continually points out that it is frighteningly easy to do so. Therefore you have Susan, who has arguably experienced great things to help her believe, dismissing them because of the fear of not fitting in. (In Prince Caspian, she experiences great doubt, foreshadowing her later disbelief.)

Susan's exclusion is a fairly adult note in a children's book— she's not with them because she doesn't believe and so is not at the critical juncture. This does not mean that she won't reach Aslan's country at a later time, but it does mean she let herself in for a world of hurts by allowing her doubts to rule her.
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[User Picture]From: ocschwar
2005-12-04 07:02 pm (UTC)
One of Heinlein's good quotes is "any question that begins with 'why don't they...' is answered by 'money.'" Here it applies also to the chronicles. The book is not exactly a novel for the reasons you stated, nor is it a good narrative for a movie. But Hollywood and the Clan Lewis want money. And the Evangelicals who are going gaga over this have just swallowed a poison pill.
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