Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Confessions of an escapist reader

You know you have a hit a new low when you are feeling nostalgic for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because of the lack of self-doubt the characters express during their adventures.

Do any of those children ever monoligically express terrifying angst at the burden of ruling an unknown country? No. Do they ever wonder if, perhaps, some other people might be quite a lot better at the job? No. Do they ever think to themselves, actually, I quite miss the steamed puddings of home, and I wonder if our parents are missing us? Not a bit of it. A pair of beavers (not the kind Kaz Cooke is irritated at, I hasten to add for any Narnia novices) and a lion tell them to do some stuff. So they do. Except Edmund. A scary lady tells him to do stuff. So he does.

I would like to say that I most certainly do not advocate this position for real-life human beings. I think children asking 'why' is most certainly a positive thing (along the lines of ''if Tyrone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?' kind of thing). And I think adolescent introverstion and questioning of authority entirely tickety-boo in every way. Although that does not mean I am looking forward to the advent of it in our home in a few years time.

However, if I have to read another fantasy novel (in my precious escapist moments) in which the angst levels of the characters make the young people in The Outsiders seem like an entirely jolly hockey-sticks, Five-go-to-the-sweetshop kind of crew, well - I may just lose my mind. Especially when carried out over fifty-seven very thick volumes. Yes, yes, ethical questions about the use of magical powers over other people are important. I know I worry about my mind-control powers every single day. Not to speak of whether or not to blast co-workers into little ashy heaps whenever they question my will, but it's all starting to get a bit tired.

Ursula le Guin does it very well indeed. Although I can tell that I am now an old adult and not a young adult because I have started thinking to myself when the young people set off on their adventures 'why don't they just stay home where it's nice and people love them?' instead of thinking 'woo-hoo, let the fun and disasters begin'.

I think I'll go back to reading Mary Barton. Disasters aplenty there, for sure. But a bit less Hamlet-style whining 'why me?' as well. I can get plenty of that in real life (mostly from me) thank you very much.


julie said...

What are you reading? (Are you teasing or doing the not saying anything if you can't say anything nice thing?)


Penthe said...

Yes. Avoiding speaking ill of someone who doesn't deserve ill to be spoken of them. It's not the author's fault I'm over angst this week.

Arevanye said...

So are you saying Ursula Le Guin is too angsty? Or the opposite. Guh, I'm braindead with worrying about my magical powers.

Penthe said...

If you are braindead you have caught it from me. This worrying about magical powers is clearly contagious.

Le Guin - angst is good quality angst, well handled. Others, not so much...

Arevanye said...

I do love Le Guin's YA books, I'm glad to hear you feel the same way.

My 10 year old turns 11 next month - hmmm....birthday giftage idea occurs to me.