Re-reading Narnia – Misogynistic but Pleasant

It’s 2018 and I’m sick in bed. For a change. 2017 was characterized with health problems and currently, 2018 doesn’t look to be much different. On the bright side, this gives me more time to read (and watch K-dramas).

Being in the mood for Xmassy children’s books to end the year, at the end of 2017 I started re-reading the Narnia books. I hadn’t read them in years and having purchased a second hand quasi-new copy at a very good price, thought this the perfect opportunity to do so.

The-Chronicles-of-Narnia-box-set

If you have only watched the Narnia movies, you have missed a lot. In case you did not know this, there are a total of 7 Narnia books (and only 3 movies). Speaking of the movies, the first movie to come out, and the most famous of the Narnia books, is ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Although most people believe this to be the first book in the Narnia series, it is actually the second, that is, in Narnian chronological order. Let me explain – the American published Narnia books number the series in order of publication. And in that case, yes the ‘Wardrobe’ book would be the first one. C.S Lewis himself however, preferred to look at the books chronologically, meaning that ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ is to be considered the first book, which is how UK publishing houses do it.

Pictures6

I myself own a UK version of the box series (thank the Goddess), in which the books are numbered chronologically, which is how I prefer to read them. This means that the books should be read like this:

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Movie No. 1)
  3. Prince Caspian (Movie No. 2)
  4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Movie No. 3)
  5. The Horse and his Boy
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

While books 2, 3 and 4, which were made into movies, tackle the adventures of the Pevensie children in Narnia, the other books concern other main characters. The Pevensie children feature in these books sometimes as well, but they mostly do this as Kings and Queens of Narnia and they are not the main characters.

I love the books HOWEVER there are some things which bug the hell out of me. For example, no one can deny that almost every book treats the female gender as though it was made of glass. This mentality is not surprising since the author was writing these books in the 1950s, however reading sentences like ‘it is a sad day when women must go to war’ really irritates me. War is ALWAYS terrible, no matter who actually fights in it. Also, why are the boys always given swords and weapons, while the girls have to make do with bows and small daggers, or even face seriously scary foes with no weapons at all??

Pevensies

As author Philip Pullman himself writes, these books are ‘monumentally disparaging of girls and women’. And what about the baddies who always seem to be powerful women who have gotten ‘above themselves’ defying the patriarchal institution of Aslan? I am of course talking about the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Prince Caspian’s wife, another powerful woman, is not even given a name in the series! The only ways she is referred to is as someone’s daughter or someone’s wife! Very disturbing to say the least!

That being said, another thing which irritates me is the whole Aslan – Jesus metaphor, but that’s just me and it is mostly portrayed in the last book… at least in my perspective since I tried to ignore it as much as possible till the end, and considered the whole thing as fantasy.

download

Apart from that, re-reading the series was a blast, and I also discovered echoes of Neil Gaiman, which leads me to believe that the series must have inspired Gaiman to write and develop certain ideas, such as the star-woman concept in ‘Stardust’ for example.

Nice!

Advertisements

Epic-Fantasy Nerd Moment

Ever since I picked up ‘The Sword of Shannara’ around 8/9 years ago, I’ve had this naggy feeling about it. The novel (I admit I hardly managed to finish the first one) was a complete copy (minus the good writing that is) of Tolkien’s ‘LOTR’ and nothing more. Enter the usual metaphorical nerd-grumbling in my head. I researched online and asked about it and everyone seemed to have enjoyed reading it, not to mention staring blankly at me when I criticized it as being a Tolkien-wannabe.

Flash-forwards to a week ago, where suddenly someone I know commented negatively on Terry Brooks and his plagiarism. Miraculously, I could hear a chorus of angels singing ‘Halleluljah’ in soprano and treble. Someone else with a brain!

Then this morning, I stumbled on this – http://www.newstatesman.com/2015/05/neil-gaiman-kazuo-ishiguro-interview-literature-genre-machines-can-toil-they-can-t-imagine  !!

An interview with the MASTER Neil Gaiman who while describing said books said ‘And then you had people like Terry Brooks, who wrote a book called The Sword of Shannara, which was essentially a Lord of the Rings clone by somebody not nearly as good, but it sold very well.’…. YES YES EXACTLY!! THANK YOU!!images (1)

Sorry Mr Brooks, I know I’m not a great book-selling writer, but REALLY… I’m a reader and in this case, that’s what matters, since it is people like me who are the most qualified to actually say whether they enjoyed your work or not.

Anyone who wants to read the whole interview – it is really brilliant, though quite long 😀

Yesterday I cried… a lot…

images (2)

Yesterday I arrived home, I put on the water-heater in the bathroom, I switched my laptop on, and while it was loading, went to see which book I would read during the evening, since I had just finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ for the second time. I knew it had to be good to follow up Rothfuss, so I picked Pratchett and Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’, which I hadn’t looked at in a while.

My pc had come around by then, and I went to take a quick peek at my email as well as Facebook, before starting my household chores. It was then that I saw it… TERRY PRATCHETT HAD DIED AT 66

Sydney Opera House - Sir Terry Pratchett  Imagination  not Intelligence  Made us Human

I know, I know, he had Alzheimer, and all Terry-lovers knew we had to loose him someday. But ‘someday’ and ‘dead at 66’ are worlds apart. Not only is 66 not that old by today’s standards… THIS IS TERRY PRATCHETT!! He died while I was working at some boring meeting two hours previously, and I did not know anything about it! The earth did not tremble, the sun did not shatter, my heart did not scream in rage!! I just could not believe it! How could the literary genius of our time be dead, and only a few be so concerned as to even comment on Facebook?

pterry_unsigned

How can the rest of the world not be in a brainless comatose stupor like me??

I cried while I prepared my work-lunch for today. I sobbed while I laid out my work clothes ready for usage at 6am. I shrieked silently and continuously while I showered. I trembled and shook while I wrote my aunt’s birthday card. I keened while I stared disconsolately at my Terry Pratchett books in the living room. I wailed when I looked outside and realized that the spirit of that great writer, my inspiration, the source of all comic and parodic genius, had left the planet. I blubbered as I gazed at the pc screen and realized that for most people this was no big deal. I bawled and hugged myself as I crouched in a fetal position under the bedclothes.

18-discworld

Then, I blew my nose, shut up, and thought a bit. NO he was not dead. His books were still there. Part of him lived and would live forever. There would be no more books. He will never sign anything for me. I will never meet him. That is the truth. But the truth is also that he made his great mark upon the world, he inspired millions of people. Made them laugh. Made them cry. Made them be alive.

d4467ed10aa86659289a26a2706319a0

Maybe now that he’s dead, he will finally get the recognition he deserves. Most literary geniuses only seem to get it once they are gone anyways, for some weird reason. I guess TV channels will just gobble up the Discworld stories, and I really welcome that. I just hope that they don’t rape them, like the last Indiana Jones movie was raped. I hope they continue having that awesome flavor and fantastic weirdness present in previously rendered films like ‘Hog Father’ and ‘Going Postal’.

We’ll see.

images (3)

Book Review – Coraline – Neil Gaiman

First let’s make this clear – this is a review of the book NOT the animated movie, although I loved the movie too (and it could still be construed as such).

images

That being said, I think what touched me most about this book is that it is truly a book for children. The plot line is quite deep, the psychology behind it is disturbing and twisted, and most of the story itself is so metaphorical as to be almost frightening, and yet, it is set so as to not only enter into the world of children, but also make every child who reads it feel totally at home there.

download

It captures everyday moments of every child’s life – the unlikeable ‘recipes’ served at dinner, the boredom of rainy days, the loneliness of children with no other brothers or sisters, the sense of loss when one’s parents seem distant and busy with their own lives, the way children’s opinions are glossed over and ignored when it comes to practical matters like choosing clothes for school.

Coraline

Most importantly, it offers two different perspectives of parent-hood. On the one hand, we have Coraline’s normal family – her two working parents who both work at home and have their own studies there, who sometimes have no time for Coraline and who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child, and therefore do not understand her, yet who love her and would sacrifice themselves for her.

pic-coraline-23261495-750-600

On the other – there are the Other parents – especially, the Other mother. She is a perfectly frightening representation of those clutching needy mothers, who need something to love so much, that they literally stifle their children, bottling them up in a bubble of fake smiles and repression – until finally the childrens’ individuality is squeezed into nothingness… which is what they become.

images (1)

This metaphor of the needy cold mother, who selfishly does not really care about who Coraline is or what she actually wants, is the prevalent ‘monster’ in the story, and is all the more terrifying in that there are so many real monsters like her out in our world.

coraline_othermom

Coraline’s natural communication with the animals around her is so normally-portrayed as to be totally believable, and not relegated to the label of ‘magical’ or ‘supernatural’ at all. Cats talk, mice dance, rats can be spies – it is presented as a fact, and so it is.

images (2)

This short book reminded me of the premise of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, where family issues are combatted by children through metaphorical intervention. Totally brilliant.

Coraline_poster