Thursday, 28 February 2008

Fantasy friction

Sorry - a better person would have resisted that heading.

There was a good programme about fantasy books tonight on BBC4. Actually, it was OK. There are so few programmes about writing that it felt like such a treat. But the talking head in various settings (Philip Pullman in a church - ha, ha) felt like one of those '100 Greatest' schedule-fillers on Channel 4. And Phil Jupitus? Why?

Of course there was a lot about C S Lewis and how loathsome he was for foisting his odd version of Christianity on unsuspecting children (although to hear people talk you would think he was foisting subliminal Nazi propaganda or hardcore pornography on them).

But of course it was - is - loathsome to trick children into sharing your beliefs, whatever they are. The hideous attitude to girls is offensive. Of course it is. It is indefensible. But all that does not make him a bad writer. A bad person maybe.

Things have moved on. Philip Pullman's Miltonian references are more to our taste now than C S Lewis's biblical ones. He is like the anti-Lewis.

I like Philip Pullman. The world is a much better place for having him around. He is a clever man and not scared to show it. He is a good man, I think, and a much warmer one in person than he ever appears on TV or in print. I prefer his world view to that of C S Lewis and he says little that I disagree with. And Northern Lights is a wonderful book in many, many ways, and has more great ideas in it than most writers come up with in a lifetime and yet...

And yet...

And yet I can still feel the fur coats on my face and the cold of that snowy winter in Narnia. I still can still remember - forty years later - choking back tears when I read the section where Aslan is tortured; when that great mane is cut off. It was the first book to do that - to move me that strongly; testing emotions I did not know I had.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe did not make me a Christian, any more than Sunday school did, but it did affect me deeply. I suspect a lot of people have this relationship with this book - a first love which, in later years, you may feel - in retrospect - was not wholly appropriate. But nevertheless it has a special place in your affections.

1 comment:

  1. I did read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it really bugged me. It felt as if Lewis had amazing ideas, but didn't explore them fully. Maybe he did explore them and I didn't see it ( I didn't read the rest of the series), but it really bugged me. Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights is really good (really, really!), but the religious part is kind of annoying as well. I guess the problem is in the reader, not the writer :)