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Tony Grist

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Narnia [Oct. 26th, 2005|11:17 am]
Tony Grist
The trailer for The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe makes it look just like LOTR.

Same gorgeous New Zealand landscapes.

I used to want to visit New Zealand. I don't any more. It's so fuckin' empty.

Somehow or other I've managed not to read the Narnia books. I don't quite understand how this happened. But I've dipped into them in adulthood and not noticed any stardust. Lewis talks down to kids, he's so goddam preachy...

...And he's very 1950s (see last entry.)

I've read other books by Lewis. I enjoyed The Great Divorce. But, as with other "religious" writers, he leaves me with a taste in my mouth like I've been sucking on a horseshoe- a sour, metallic taste. He doesn't trust his own perceptions and feelings, but dresses up in pretty images the cold, nasty, unfelt doctrines he's been showered with from some Northern Irish pulpit.

He says in his Autobiography that his favourite mythology was the Norse, followed by the Greek, with the Judaeo-Christian coming in a poor third, but because he believed, against his aesthetic instincts, that the Judaeo-Christian mythology was true, he opted to become a believer.

Keats would have set him right on that- "Beauty is truth, truth beauty...."

But Lewis was an establishment man through and through. He went where he perceived the power to be.

Traitor.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2005-10-26 05:10 am (UTC)
How sad - I think that it's much harder to find the magic in the Narnia books if you're reading them for the first time as an adult. We're so much more jaded then when we were children. As a child reading them, I didn't know anything about allegory or subtext - I just knew that it was a thrilling adventure! Four children walk through a wardrobe into another world, getting away from the mundane real world (which is something I often dreamed of as a child)!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 08:46 am (UTC)
I like the idea of walking through a wardrobe into another world...but I'm not so keen on what Lewis's kids find there.

I've been trying to think of a kid's book I found magical in spite of reading it first in adulthood- and suddenly I've got one (or two)- Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill and its sequel Rewards and Fairies.

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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-10-26 05:33 am (UTC)
I haven't read the Narnia books either. Let me see, you and I are the same age. When I was a kid, those books were not a big deal. I read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobsey twins and the Five Little Peppers and How they Grew. I also read a few that probably a lot of people haven't read, because my grandmother's library was pretty well intact (like the Sunny Boy books, and the Motor Boys).

I DO want to visit New Zealand, for the very reason you don't seem inclined.

I've seen two movies about CS Lewis - both titled "Shadowlands". The one with Sir Anthony Hopkin made me cry, so I suppose I've always held a rather romantic view of him.

I won't go see those movies. But I didn't see LOTR either.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 08:56 am (UTC)
There are two movie versions of Shadowlands? I didn't know that. I've seen the Hopkins version- and yes, it's very moving- though I've been told that its versions of Lewis and Joy aren't all that much like the originals. For instance, the real Lewis wasn't a shy, bumbling Englishman, but a loud and bullying Ulsterman....but so it goes.

I read a whole lot as a kid- including a lot of titles I can't remember. Books that at one time or another colonized my imagination include the Jungle Books, the Sword in the Stone, the fantasy novels of E. Nesbit, King Solomon's Mines and its sequels and the Sherlock Holmes stories.
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From: ex_kharin447
2005-10-26 05:37 am (UTC)
Hmm, some children's texts wear very well into later life. I doubt the Narnia books fit into this category. Even as a child I found myself irked by Lewis's snotty comments about teenagers who only thought about lipstick and nylons.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 08:57 am (UTC)
I came away from Lewis's Autobiography not liking the man.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2005-10-26 05:37 am (UTC)
I *loved* the Narnia books. I didn't find out till I was in my 30's that they were Christian allegory. But I must admit that I can't read them as an adult.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:02 am (UTC)
I don't know why I didn't read them as a kid. Tolkien was on my horizon but Lewis wasn't. Odd, that.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-10-26 06:19 am (UTC)
I love that trailer--the music is very exciting!

I've never read all the Narnia books. Lately I've tried, but keeping putting them down--which is a true review.

OTOH, every time the weather turns cold with coming winter, I have to get Tolkien back down from the shelf and lose myself in Middle Earth again.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:03 am (UTC)
Tolkien scorned Lewis (behind his back) for mixing up his mythologies and not really getting inside them. I think he was right.
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From: minnesattva
2005-10-26 06:36 am (UTC)
I read a lot of stuff when I was too young for it. My reading level was quite a bit ahead of my age, and I had no real experiences that didn't come from a book; I didn't understand a lot of what I read, and I retain only vague memories of it. I remember reading the Narnia books (most of them, at least) but I know I didn't get much out of them. I paged through one as a teenager, seeing it in the home of the kids I was babysitting, and it was just Christian symbolism and thus bored me.

I don't get to see movies these days. :-) But even if I did, I wouldn't want to see this one. Then, I saw the Lord of the Rings movies only as social events with my much-more-obsessed friends. (At least there's something I can get into there. In my Old English class, someone recognized a line from the poem we were translating as something a king says before a huge battle in the movie, so I went home to watch my roommate's copy of the movie and see that myself. I do like that Tolkien seems my kind of geek, just multiplied by a million.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:08 am (UTC)
I've leafed through copies of the Narnia books my kids left lying around the house. The writing struck me as pretty thin.

Tolkien is a much weightier writer. He's serious about "world-making" and Lewis isn't. Like you, I found the movies dull.
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-10-26 06:39 am (UTC)
My only problem with New Zealand is that the only places I know of there only existed on soundstages and computer graphic suites. But I understand that the movies have made the New Zealand wilderness famous (soon, it will be famously a subdivision, no doubt).

I think it's somewhat funny that, while New Zealand is now world famous for its landscape, all the things people would really like to see don't exist at all.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:13 am (UTC)
I think the New Zealand landscape has an unlived-in quality which is, actually, entirely wrong for Tolkien....
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-10-26 06:44 am (UTC)
And as to Lewis, I agree: metallic taste. There is something about apologetic literature that isn't quite right... you can feel that there is some hand-waving going on somewhere. Lewis just conveniently does it in a fantasy novel; we're excused if we mistake it all for magic.

But I wonder if the movie will create a revival of the books or if it will prove just how much Satan and witchcraft (you know, like Harry Potter) have triumphed over crypto-Christianity.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:14 am (UTC)
It'll be interesting to see what happens. I have a suspicion that Narnia will fall flat with a modern audience, but this could just be wishful thinking.
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[User Picture]From: clindau
2005-10-26 07:01 am (UTC)
The trailer for The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe makes it look just like LOTR.

These days, if a fantasy film doesn't, its artistic license is taken away. *ahem*

That said, I have to admit that I haven't seen any of the Harry Potter movies, or the most recent Star Wars. My frame of reference is very small to be making such a wise-ass comment.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:16 am (UTC)
The Harry Potter movies are fun. Not great film-making or anything like that, but thoroughly entertaining
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From: athenais
2005-10-26 08:24 am (UTC)
Indeed, the most moving thing I've ever read by Lewis was his Surprised by Joy which gave me the most useful working definition of how joy feels from the inside--and which is based on his instinctive love of Norse mythology. I never could understand how he turned so wholeheartedly to Christianity. You just clarified that for me.

Loved the Narnia books as a kid, was genuinely horrified and felt betrayed upon rereading them at university and catching on to his true agenda. Can't read them any more. But when I was young they were splendid fantasy.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:19 am (UTC)
Lewis was brilliantly clever. And he was very good at getting ideas across to the ordinary reader. I read quite a lot of his stuff- mostly non-fiction- back in the day- and was impressed, but he never made me love him.
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From: bodhibird
2005-10-26 08:28 am (UTC)
I seem to be the only person left who both enjoyed Narnia as a child and managed to re-read them with pleasure as an adult. I went through most of them last year and enjoyed them, although they weren't as powerful for me as when I first read them in fourth grade (I think I was about nine).

Ronald Hutton, who has written several books about the history of witchcraft and paganism, has a neat essay in his latest book about the pagan content of the famously Christian writers Lewis and Tolkien. The book is Witches, Druids, and King Arthur.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:24 am (UTC)
I love Ron Hutton's work and swear by the Triumph of the Moon. I'll have to get hold of a copy of this new book.....
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 09:30 am (UTC)
The best children's books appeal equally to adults.

(My favourite novel- of all time- is Alice Through the Looking Glass.)

I don't think the Narnia books are in that class.
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From: amritarosa
2005-10-26 10:14 am (UTC)
The thing that struck me about the trailer was that it looked so _clean_. Where's the grit, I wondered...

I agree Hutton is 'tha shit' :-)
As far as scholarly Pagan writers go,I dig Chas Clifton, too.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 11:37 am (UTC)
Hutton has given Pagans their "true" history- and a fascinating history it turns out to be.

I don't know Clifton. The other pagan "scholar" I really dig is Margot Adler.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2005-10-26 01:59 pm (UTC)
Just think of the children's literature we could have gotten if C.S. Lewis had devoted himself to Norse mythology . . .
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-26 02:34 pm (UTC)
Now there's a thought...

Tolkien was also a devout Christian- but he never let it stop him writing what was in his heart.
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[User Picture]From: four_thorns
2005-10-26 06:44 pm (UTC)
new zealand, from what Animal Planet tells me, also has aggressive ants that are so poisonous they can kill people with one bite.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-27 01:25 am (UTC)
So that's why there aren't any people out there among the crags and rolling plains!
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