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View Diary: Sci-Fi Fantasy Club: Which Ugly SF/Fantasy Ducklings became Literary Swans? (140 comments)

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  •  Mythopoetics (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ender, CorinaR, RiveroftheWest, Brecht

    C.S. Lewis liked to use the word "Mythopoeia", a word which he got from his buddy J.R.R. Tolkien, to describe stories which capture the imagination.

    I wrote a piece a while back about Lewis and his personal favorite writer, George MacDonald, whom Lewis regarded as something of a mentor.  Lewis admitted that in terms of literary quality, MacDonald wasn't that good a writer; but MacDonald's stories had a mythopoeic quality which made them dwell in the mind.

    The same thing has been said about both Lewis and Tolkien: that they weren't really very good writers.  Ah, but the stories they told...!

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 06:17:20 AM PDT

    •  I went and read your diary, & 80% of the comments. (3+ / 0-)

      Too many ideas now, swirling around. Yes, Tolkein, Lewis, and especially McDonald write prose of variable quality. As many in the diary said, I disagree with Lewis: there is a story/prose distinction, but strong prose elevates and empowers any tale.

      The myth/novel distinction is more interesting. Tolkein clearly hit it out of the park, in that he forged a new style of storytelling, and he made his story stick, in the minds of hundreds of millions of readers.

      I think lit crit gets trapped in its own devices. It has developed such a large toolbox, and it wants to measure everything it is trained to grasp. You and I have each said that plot/character/prose is the first trinity, but there are all sorts of angles of investigation. Doesn't have to be conscious. Once you've read a thousand books, and a hundred pieces of criticism, the tools get stuck in your perception.

      So we, who are too well read, end up comparing novels to this ridiculous procrustean ideal, which was not built for them. We measure writers against Tolstoy, or someone adept in a hundred dimensions. Lewis Carroll, Kafka, Kundera, Tolkein - each of them has such a marvelous voice, perfect for their own style of storytelling.

      The test of a great novel need not be, how many of the angles in War and Peace or Anna Karenina does it achieve. A more crucial test is, how strong of a spell does it cast in its own particular language.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 02:08:06 PM PDT

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