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one book to yadda yadda yadda

Meh, Lord of the Rings won the Big Read. I really like it and all, but it wasn't my favourite to win.

I actually voted for the first "proper" book I ever read, which was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read it the Easter I was five, in my great-aunts thatched holiday cottage in Skerries, and I adored it instantly. I agree with its Big Read advocate, the non-Christian Roni Acona, who said she gets pissed off when people bash it for its Christianity because it's an allegory, and one which I definitely don't think overshadows the book. I mean, most mythologies have a resurrection myth, and just because Lewis is drawing from the Christian version of that idea doesn't make the book propaganda. I'd have more of a problem, on a purely literary level, with Philip Pullman's heavy handed moralising. Actually, Pullman's Lewis-bashing annoys me a lot, not least because Lewis more or less invented the genre in which Pullman is working. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, there's The Last Battle, which is terribly dodgy, but who likes that one? No one, that's who. I certainly never did as a kid. That doesn't take away from the other books.

I had absolutely no idea The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was meant to be a Christian allegory for years, and when I found out, I was just really impressed by the cleverness of it (as I saw it), because it was the first time I'd encountered an allegory, and I though the whole idea was really cool. I'm rather bewildered when people say they felt "betrayed" when they found out it was a Christian allegory after reading it and loving it for years, because I certainly wouldn't feeI - and haven't felt - betrayed by discovering that a book drew from, say, Hindu or Jewish tradition. I'd just think the same thing I thought when I found out about The Lion..., which was "ah, so he's meant to be X, and he's meant to be Y...." The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is just a wonderful, wonderful book. The moment Lucy realises Mr Tumnus is a spy was the first time a book ever shocked me, and the concept of the other-world-through-a-wardrobe is possibly the greatest idea in children's literature.

Also, once when Tolkien was reading out another bit of his then work-in-progress, The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis turned to a friend and muttered, "oh God, not another fucking elf..." For that alone, I would love him.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
snowballjane
Dec. 13th, 2003 03:41 pm (UTC)
I was really glad LOTR won, although I couldn't say I love it more than Pride and Prejudice or Hitchhiker, or indeed lots of other books that weren't there at all. But just because of the sheer amount of snobbery and sneeriness there had been about it from everyone (grr.. Bonnie Greer) all night. Hah!
stellanova
Dec. 13th, 2003 03:44 pm (UTC)
Actually, I thought Clive Anderson was way more sneery - I didn't think Bonnie Greer was too bad (but I usually like her anyway). I think she just wasn't that into it, which is fair enough, and she wasn't snotty about it. I hated the way Clive Anderson kept mocking all the vaguely fantasy ones - all that "it's a bit silly, though, isn't it?" I genuinely dislike people who don't like anything vaguely out-of-the-ordinary in books, film and TV because "it's not realistic". And then he was dissing P&P becuase it didn't have any "grand themes" in it. Gah! I wanted to punch him.
snowballjane
Dec. 13th, 2003 05:11 pm (UTC)
I was expecting the sneery from Clive though, having had lunch with him a few weeks ago ::namedrops::
angiv
Dec. 13th, 2003 05:00 pm (UTC)
I forgot it was on, so I just caught the spiels about LotR and HHGttG, and in that short time Clive Anderson managed to annoy me more than I can express.

I didn't want Lord of the Rings to win. I realise that about half my friends list will disown me if they read this, but I hate that book! I couldn't finish it. I keep meaning to try again, but then I remember all the books I know I want to read, and don't feel like I can spare the time.

Yeah, I wanted Pride and Prejudice to win.

I agree with most of what you say about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved it as a child, and I still read it at least once a year now. I don't have a problem with the religious allegory in that one, although I find the sexism a bit hard to take until I remind myself of the time it was wrtten etc.

The later books are another matter. With you completely on the Last Battle, but that bigotry is almost as bad in A Horse and His Boy, and the sexism in The Silver Chair beggars belief - "Oh Jill's so stupid and whiny and stupid, but it's because she's a girl, and they're all stupid." Gah!

But, my love for Lewis is renewed now that I've read that "fucking elf" comment. Brilliant.
stellanova
Dec. 14th, 2003 05:48 am (UTC)
Yes, I agree with you about the other Lewis books - in fact, along with the stupid Last Battle, those two The Horse and Silver Chair are the only ones I never re-read, for some reason, which is why those aspects didn't occur to me when I was writing the post! I'd like to think I didn't love them that much was my heightened political sensibilities, but it probably wasn't. I did, however, read and re-read The Lion, The Magician's Nephew and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader a million times as a kid, because I adored each of them so much. I can ignore the sexism in all of them, because of the time in which they were written, and because it's not hugely intrusive.
gralyn
Dec. 14th, 2003 02:50 am (UTC)
I really wanted Hitchhikers Guide to win because it probably is my abosolute favourite book. But then again, the only other book in the top 5 that I've read is Harry Potter, and although I like that book, I don't think it's the best book ever.

I tried to read LotR once, and didn't get very far. I don't know anything about His Dark Materials and I really should read Pride and Prejudice. I read my first Jane Austen this summer - Persuasion, your chicklit book - and really liked it. So maybe I will read Pride and Prejudice over Christmas.

I also loved the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrode. I saw it first on telly though. You were talking about children's series a little while ago, and that was one of my favourites. It makes me think of Christmas and long, dark evening in front of the fire. My other favourite was Five Children and It, which I think is being made into a film on the Ilse of White.
And Shadowlands was on last night, which made me like C. S. Lewis very much.
alltheleaves
Dec. 15th, 2003 03:12 am (UTC)
I want to write something really profound about the CS Lewis, allegories and the like but I'll just go with agreeing with what you've written. I had the same experience with finding out about it much later and being surprised, but as a Jew I still love the books, and I love that they can be interpreted on so many levels.
stringy
Dec. 15th, 2003 10:04 pm (UTC)
re: C.S. Lewis and elves
Heehee! I have a new respect for Lewis now :)
mendozy
Dec. 23rd, 2003 02:47 pm (UTC)
Aslan wouldn't like that
I love Lord of the Rings, but I've never understood why it continues to win best book (it one a Waterstones Top 100 thing a few years ago and something else as well). I'm sure its win this time has just a leetle bit to do with good ol' Peter Jackson.

On C.S. Lewis front, who doesn't love Narnia? One of my mostest favourtistest journalists EVER ever ever, Gavin Hills (sadly no longer with us) once wrote an article, I think for The Idler but it dunnay matter, about Narnia. I won't hog the comment space, but I've typed out a bit of it here, if anyone's interested.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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