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Saturday, 07 October 2017

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Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

Wow. I have to read this again -- it was long ago and I remember finding it interesting, but did not have such a strong reaction as you did.

As I open the book I find the first statement in the prologue already problematic: "All children's books are about ideals. Adult fiction sets out to portray and explain the world as it really is; books for children present it as it should be." Oh really? I would say rather that the tension between these two poles is present in all fiction; in fact, that's what makes it fiction. We wouldn't need an art that simply portrays "the world as it really is" -- what would be the point? And a literature purely consisting of ideals could only appeal to citizens of Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Anyway, a great curmudgeonly review, and a good digressive point about Beatrix Potter. The "new" story with Blake's illustrations has no appeal for me, and I'm sure that's why.

Helen

Hello Lory!

Yes that is a very problematic statement and I agree with your point completely. I mean, I hope I haven't been too negative in my review because I thought that there were lots of valuable insights, and also some interesting connexions. But I did occasionally get very cross with it!

When did you read it? I think the changing times might well account for our differing reactions to it.

I'm reading The Forgotten Beasts of Eld at the moment and enjoying it very much!

Caroline

Very interesting. It sounds a bit like he didn’t really love the books he analyzed and that his opinions were too strong. I’ve read biographies where the same happened. The author didn’t really like the person he write about and the result was wonky. While not a biography, it still sounds like something similar happened here. Too bad. Such an interesting topic.

Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

I think I read it shortly after college, so around 20 years ago? Times have definitely changed since then, and so have I...

I'm so glad you're enjoying the Forgotten Beasts. Seems that one has stood the test of time at least.

Helen

Hello Caroline!

Now I'm beginning to fear I've done a total hatchet job on this poor man's book! I have skipped over the good bits to focus on the bits I disagreed with, because I thought that was more interesting to write about. But there are indeed lots of parts of the book that make it worth reading.

I think that in the 1980s, showing that you appreciated the texts you were analysing was not important, literary criticism strove to be 'more objective'. Were he writing it now, he'd probably let his affection for many of the texts shine through more, because that is more common these days. Or perhaps he just assumed - and this is fair enough - that anyone bothering to read the book would, like him, already be aware of the charms of the texts he was discussing. Or perhaps he - as I have done with this post - thought that the problematic points were more interesting to write about than the positives?

Also, and this didn't come out in my discussion of the book, he does set out to focus on the peculiarities of the writers, because initially at least he felt that they were all weird (I paraphrase) and that this weirdness was the root of their works' greatness. So he wasn't really looking for the writers' nicer aspects. Still, I felt that it led to imbalanced portraits and some odd conclusions, especially about the women.

I absolutely agree with you that there are some biographies whose writers clearly disliked their subjects, I've read some too! I always wondered why they bothered, it must be hellish to spend several years in the (usually archival) presence of someone you loathe.

Helen

Lory, I'm sure I'd have had a more positive reaction to it 20 years ago too. And to be fair, I should think that his better analyses have been taken up and become mainstream, so I'm not appreciating their originality now as much as I should do.

I've enjoyed the Forgotten Beasts but I think I'd have loved it more 20 years ago too! To me, compared to the other books of hers I've read, it definitely is an early work, but still definitely a keeper. Have you read Ombria in Shadow? My favourite so far...

Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

I've read a bunch of McKillip's books but I have a hard time remembering which ones -- it's been a while. I will check out Ombria in Shadow for sure.

Helen

Lucky you! I only 'discovered' her this summer and now I'm completely addicted. :)

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