Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Double Smackdowns: Wright on Pullman
& Synaesthete7 on The Susan Thing

John C. Wright on Pullman and His Dark Materials:

Mr. Pullman wrote a good novel and a half. By the time he reaches THE AMBER SPYGLASS, his writing is dangerously close to winning the crown for the stupidest and most shallow ending of anything I've read. To free all the ghosts of the underworld, not to any new life, but merely to oblivion, strikes me as an odd, even sinister, choice for an heroic climax. Having the main bad guy, God Almightly, turn out to be a drooling idiot in a coffin who dies when he is dropped is not merely silly, it is pathetic: the writing of someone so wormeaten by hate that he cannot even present the object of his hatred as worthy of any dramatic tension or conflict with the hero. The lying little girl does not learn how not to lie, and the violent little boy does not learn how not to be violent. The drama of the arch-warlock seeking to overthrow the Throne of Heaven fizzles and comes to nothing. The homosexual angel I will pass by without comment, except to say that angels in Milton cannot have their bones snapped by a boy of no particular strength. The climax (pardon my use of that word) where the underage and unmarried couple couple with each other, and sexual liberation turns out to be the simple source and sum of all good in the same shallow fashion that religion turns out to be the source and sum of all evil... well, this is childish writing. It is childishness without the simplicity, innocence, or sweetness of a child. It is the bitterness and pouting and helpless anger of a child, one who thinks a great deal too much of himself.

Synaesthete7 on "The Problem of Susan" (as in Narnia's Susan), in his worth-reading essay (much longer than this snippet) on the controversial apostasy of a loved character, and why it's not "just about sex," as is widely, simplistically assumed:

As for the distress that the reader naturally feels over being told that Susan is "no longer a friend of Narnia" -- I find it very difficult to believe that Lewis was not fully aware that this revelation would hurt, and indeed most likely felt badly about it himself. But the fact remains that people do become apostate, to their own grief and the grief of those around them, and not necessarily for lofty intellectual reasons either. As a student of Biblical theology, Lewis was likely to be thinking not merely of Judas Iscariot, the most extreme example, but of other New Testament characters such as Demas, Paul's companion who deserted in the middle of a missionary journey "because he loved this present world". He was very likely also wanting to evoke passages such as the one in Hebrews 6, which speaks of those who "have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age," and yet ultimately "fall away" and reject Christ just as Susan rejects Narnia.

The point is, as Christ's own life and ministry showed, that people can see miracles done before their very eyes, and yet still discount them and refuse to believe. Just as Susan was, in time, able to dismiss Narnia as "funny games we used to play when we were children," so the unbelieving people of Jesus's day explained away Christ's miracles as trickery or even attributed them to the power of demons, rather than accept Him as divine and bow to His authority. As Jesus said, "...this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." As long as we have something else on our personal agenda that is higher than God, some beloved thing or philosophy or pastime (it might be quite innocuous in itself -- after all, there's nothing inherently evil about nylons or lipstick or invitations per se) that we value more than the knowledge of Him, it doesn't matter how much evidence is or has been presented to our eyes because we will not see.


Heather said...

I knew that Susan didn't go back to Narnia, but I didn't know she was an apostate, so to speak. Eventually none of the kids were able to go back until the Last Battle, and there I thought all four kids and their family went back. Apparently you are referring to some writing with which I'm unfamiliar. What book is this?
And a homosexual angel? Oy vey.

Elliot said...

In the Last Battle, all the children show up except Susan. They say she got older and refused to believe in Narnia anymore.