Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Art of Other Worlds

The discussion with Jenna & Mr. Pond

A masterpiece of fiction is an original world and as such is not likely to fit the world of the reader.
  ~Vladimir Nabokov

Last week we discussed darkness, magic, and fairy in fiction. I'm grateful to both Jenna and Mr. Pond for their thoughts, which rested on a sense of love and compassion for the dark ones. A search for the light within. Mr. Pond encourages politeness, and the respect that ought always be shown when strangers meet. Jenna gives respect to the dark, even as she walks quickly through it. I admire them both for seeing things as they are. For refusing the tempting gifts of fairy, for embracing light in a world of shadows, and for judging the darkness kindly.

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."
  ~Oscar Wilde

Part of the reason I began with darkness is that I tend to listen too often to Catholic Radio. There is a lot of good there, but also a trend against mystery that disturbs me. Mystery in fiction is often accused of being darkness, pagan dreams put out to tempt the young. But, as Jenna writes, "most Western fantasists would have to work a lot harder than they do to escape utilizing basic Christian concepts" in part because paganism itself is rich with Christian concepts. Even unintentionally a writer can fill his work with them. Mystery and magic go hand in hand with  the Christian worldview, and running from them we run from Christ. Magic itself doesn't make a work dark, and too many in the Christian world, as well as the writng world, forget this.

"I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day."
  ~Vincent Van Gogh

Good writing, "a masterpiece of fiction" can take us into the soul of the author, the "original world" created, and peopled by the writer's own dreams - dark or light. And it is a blessed artist who can show the world a dawn only he has seen, darkness fading to light, mystery infusing the everyday. Jenna, Mr. Pond, and I are in agreement on the beauty of mystery in the stories we love, if not always the stories themselves. In part because I probably tend to read with less charity and more criticism. When the worlds painted aren't as alive and richly colored as mine I grow dissatisfied. There are flaws I can't forgive, and generally they are flaws of attitude. I can revel in darkness with only the smallest flicker of light, but if an author gives the indication he doesn't recognize a character's personhood I'm gone. Stock characters are all well and good, so long as I can feel their humanity. I can embrace a world unlike my own, so long as it doesn't offend it.

Jenna, Mr. Pond, your charity impresses me, but do you draw a line where quality is concerned?

(I hope this is as clear as I meant it to be, I'm working quickly, on a new computer, as our old one was lost to the slush-puddles of Portland, and I've only just replaced it!)


  1. You were in Portland--what? That's only, like, seven hours from me. :D

    I think I get the question. And I definitely know what you mean about being Out if the world isn't colorful enough to match your own. We probably are drawn to different colors and aspects, but yeah. We'll see where Monday's post goes. :D

    Thanks again for kicking these off!

  2. I wish! I'd totally appear on your doorstep with tea, scones, and books to take over your afternoon.

    I'm glad you get what I'm trying to say! I promise next week will be clearer. I'm really looking forward to your take. Oh, and Yarrow's babka just knit her a little ball that completely matches the scarves Harry & his friends wear in the movies. Seth wants me to post a picture for you to see! It's really cute.