Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Live and on stage

Susan Cooper, Gregory Maguire and me, at MIT last month.


Ruth said...

Seeing this reminded me of a question I had that evening, while listening to the three of you speak... You asked the panelists why they thought that fantasy books seemed to be a particular target for social conservatives, noting that there is more of a hullabaloo about books like Harry Potter or The Golden Compass than about realistic fiction. (Though, of course, realistic books with gay characters are a different story.)

If this is true, and it's not just about the notoriety of those books: do you think it might have to do with the threatening nature, for some, of metaphorical thinking? I was just struck by Susan Cooper's comment about fantasy being a way of going through an imaginary world to find truths about this one. To me, that sounds like what story-- metaphor-- does in a more general sense... and perhaps fantasy is in some way just an exaggerated version of story...

In conrast, certain kinds of social conservatives have always seemed to me to be profoundly literal-minded... I wonder, then, whether there is something about fantasy literature, for those sorts of critics, which is entirely foreign, and therefore threatening?


rockinlibrarian said...

I always wondered the same thing. I think there is a sort of literal-mindedness that makes some people have trouble with fantasy, the mindset that anything that is not Factual cannot be True. That's why, of the religious conservatives who don't like fantasy, they also fight so vehemently for a purely literal interpretation of the Bible-- unable to accept that the Book of Genesis contains Deep Truths about the relationship between God and Creation whether or not the Universe was really created in 7 days. And there are atheists who are just as literal-minded who think all imaginative work is frivolous childs-play, lies told to children that ought to be outgrown! I agree that it is probably literal-mindedness behind everything anti-fantasy.

Okay, not EVERYTHING anti-fantasy. I'm sure lots of people don't like fantasy just because it doesn't appeal to them, just like I don't like romance novels and angsty teen realistic fiction!

Roger Sutton said...

Could be, but I wonder if it's more the investment in one Book. If you believe all truth is found in the Bible (or Koran), then you're bound to look with suspicion at all others, particularly when they concern themselves with capital-letter Good and Evil. You can read, oh, Betsy-Tacy, and Biblical truth remains untouched. Not so for Cooper or Rowling.

Anonymous said...

I think Roger's largely right about this, but also, to be fair, that most of the metaphors that meet objections from conservatives are generally liberal metaphors.

To look at it from the other perspective, I have some some dyed-in-the-wool secular liberal book-loving friends who bridle at the Narnia books because they feel that the Christian themes are being snuck in at them.

So maybe metaphor seems threatening to some because it sends ideas at you under different names, when your defenses are down.

Roger Sutton said...

"There the mountain stood, as big as Al Gore."

"The pie tasted as good as universal health care."

"Sally's new pencil skirt was trendy, sassy, and extremely pro-choice."

JLH said...

Thanks, Roger, for the treat. My only quibble is that at the end both Gregory and Susan had five favorite fantasy books, and you didn't let us know what they all were. Can you jot a note on these, pretty please?

Roger Sutton said...

I need to dig up a program to find those, JLH, and will.

Anonymous said...