Sweet Escape

The Natural History of Make-Believe: A Guide to the Principal Works of Britain, Europe, and America, by John Goldthwaite – This book was a Christmas gift from Tavie, but I don’t know if she’s read it. I have to say I had mixed feelings on it, in that I enjoyed the descriptive aspects, but not so much the prescriptive ones. It provided an interesting new take on several works I’ve been familiar with for some time, and supposition as to how one work of fiction influenced another. For instance, Goldthwaite says much on how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was at least partially a response and rebuttal to Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, and how Beatrix Potter demonstrated her familiarity with the Uncle Remus stories. On the other hand, Goldthwaite really seemed to have it in for escapist fantasy, which is often my favorite kind. Part of it is probably that Goldthwaite is a devout Christian and I’m an atheist, but that’s not all there is to it. He criticizes the Oz books for portraying the real world as a “drab place of hunger and destruction,” and the “real residence of gladness” being “somewhere over the rainbow.” He is not all that harsh on Oz, however, since L. Frank Baum never tried to make it anything more than a secular fantasy series. Goldthwaite’s greater ire is reserved for authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who profess that their books promote Christianity while presenting another world as better than our own, and including a lot of pagan themes. For my part, I’ll say that I don’t think it was fantasy that made me want to escape from the world. It was more the other way ’round. And in a way, escapist fantasy helped me deal with the world, although I’m not sure I can explain how. In the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” Fry says that one reason he likes Star Trek is that “when I didn’t have any friends, it made me feel like I did.” I’ve never been particularly into Star Trek, but I feel the same way about some of my own fandoms. I’ll have more to say about these things in future posts, I’m sure. It was definitely a thought-provoking book, even if I disagreed with some of the main themes.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Chronicles of Narnia, Fairy Tales, J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, Oz, Oz Authors, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sweet Escape

  1. Pingback: Susan Goes to Hell: The Final Chronicle | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: The Other Potter in Children’s Literature | VoVatia

  3. Pingback: The Christians and the Pagans Sat Together at the Stone Table | VoVatia

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