Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Salmon Rushdie on Tolkien (et al)

So, it was interesting to see* a brief piece this past week by the notorious Salman Rushdie** on five fantasy authors who appeal equally to young readers and also adults. His choices are (1) ALICE IN WONDERLAND, (2) PETER PAN (preferring the play over the novelization), (3) THE LORD OF THE RINGS (into which he seems to count THE HOBBIT as well), (4) THE GOLDEN COMPASS, and (5) THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. I've read all but the last (which isn't a fantasy, so far as I can tell from online descriptions), so I'll forebear to comment on that one.

Of the other four, I agree that Carroll, Tolkien, and Pullman deserve a high place on any such list -- though I was bemused by Rushdie's praising the opening of Pullman's book and then getting it wrong (the scene he mentions coming near the end of the third volume, not at the beginning of the first, which suggests he has only the haziest of recollections about the books he's discussing). I part company with him on Barrie, who I think is prized mainly by adults looking backwards sentimentally rather than being particularly popular among young readers. In its place I'd probably put Kenneth Grahame, who in THE GOLDEN AGE absolutely nailed what childhood was like better than Barrie ever could, and wrote a far better fantasy in
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. If I was replacing the Haddon, worthy substitutes might be WATERSHIP DOWN or perhaps THE FACE IN THE FROST.

Here's the link:

As for his question re. Capn Hook, I'd suggest the answer is found in AT-SWIMS-TWO-BIRDS. Although the most disturbing thing I found about Peter Pan when reading the play was the discovery that there's a tradition on stage that the same actor play Mr. Darling, the children's father, and Captain Hook, the villain who tries to kill them. And, just to balance that out, the oddest piece of Peter-Pan trivia I know is that Charlie Chaplin claimed his first stage role was as one of the 'lost boys' in the original production -- a claim that apparently cannot be proven and is viewed with skepticism by some biographers.

At any rate, kudos to Rushdie for singling out Gollum as Tolkien's greatest character.

*thanks to Jessica, who had in turn been sent the link by Anders, to whom also thanks.
**who achieved the rare distinction of writing a book that made a billion people wish him harm, in addition to having once been married to one of the most beautiful women on the planet.

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