Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Piranesi

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CosmicBob
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Post by CosmicBob »

Voronwë the Faithful wrote:For what it's worth, CB, I couldn't get into The Ladies of Grace Adieu (the book of short stories). Others like it, but I didn't find it had the same appeal. I am looking forward to the new book, if and when it appears.
I will give them a go and see. But right now I'm decompressing after nearly 800 pages of Jonathan Strange with Braced To Bite, mindless teen vampire fiction that doesn't take itself seriously (unlike Twilight).
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Inanna
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Post by Inanna »

Did you love the book? I did. :D
Um, I mean Jonathan Strange.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

My paper "A Modern Fairy-story: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Seen Through the Prism of Tolkien's Classic Essay" has been accepted for publication in the fall issue of MythLore, and should hopefully be available online in October. So those of you who have not yet read the book still have time to do so. :poke:

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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Primula Baggins »

Congratulations, Voronwë! That's wonderful!

:er:
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Frelga »

That's an interesting approach. Congrats V!
His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

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Inanna
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

Awesome! Can’t wait to read it. Should I also read Tolkien’s essay before that?
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Personally, I think it is one of the most important things that Tolkien wrote, and definitely worth reading. That having been said, while reading it would certainly enhance reading my paper, I don't think it is necessary in order to follow or understand it.

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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

The fall issue of Mythlore has apparently been released (although I haven't seen any actual announcement) and is available at:

http://www.mythsoc.org/mythlore/mythlore-133.htm

If you don't want to purchase the issue, but are still interested in reading my paper, I could provide you with a copy via email if you ask very nicely.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

Asked very nicely in an email. Also presented my credentials to convince you of my worthiness for your work (in case email was not nice enough ;)).

*waits to read it*
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Hmmm, I didn't get your email. But I'll send it to you once I get into my office. Thanks for being interested. :hug:
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

For giving comments on V's essay on "A Modern Fairy-Story", I am putting on my peer-reviewer hat. The hat slips off now and then, because after all, I know the author and the author knows me. But it's still that hat. It just talks sometimes.

***************
The paper evaluates whether Susanna Clarke's amazing book "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" (JS&N) is a fairy-tale or not, as defined by Tolkien in his "On Fairy-stories".

Before I commence, I must confess that I never entirely read Tolkien's lecture. I do own Leaf by Niggle, and I did start the essay, but in those pre-PhD days, I never could read non-fiction. However, not knowing Tolkien's lecture does not detract from Kane's essay - he assumes that readers don't know it, and synthesizes Tolkien's opinion, and in places, produces the required content verbatim to evaluate JS&N. Kane also communicates enough of Tolkien's feelings about the defintion and representation of fairies in "other" literature that the reader feels like she has read Tolkien's essay. Interestingly, Kane also does not assume that his readers have read JS&N. While this assumption is necessary, and a valid one for scholarship, the explanations this requires of the contents of JS&N can get tiring at times.

That said, the paper is an absolute pleasure to read.

And the purpose of the essay, viewing JS&N from the perspective of Tolkien's definition of fairy-story was delivered superbly. Kane lays out the tenets of the fairy-story as defined by JRRT, and then shows how JS&N complies to those tenets. This cannot be done without really thinkig insightfully about JS&N and communicating that insight - which is quite well done in this paper. For example, the bond between fairies and nature, the separation between Faerie and "Christian lands", and the cruel nature of fairies is really well explained (the discussion also reminded me of the book "Lud in the Mist", a fairy-story in its entirety as well. As well as Pratchett's Elves).

The most interesting discussion came in the section, "The Nature of a Fairy-Story". Kane repeats that one JRRT's tenets is that the magic in fairy stories is never humorous. Here is also where I felt the most let down. I agree with Kane that Clarke has a dry wit but never applies it to magic, but I miss reading an elaboration of this thought. After reading the long-winding regurgiations of the Perilious Realm in JS&N, I missed a discussion of her humor here! Maybe its impossible to extract... it is the only place where Kane did not provide an explanation (and I disagree with his footnote that the outcome of the magical gifts given to Stephen Black was humorous.). The section "Not for Children" was fascinating as well. As was the comparison to Harry Potter in that section.

This paper also included insights regarding JS&N that this ardent fan, at least, had completely missed. I had missed why the pillar of darkness didn't go away - missed its connection to Vinculus' prophecy. The snippets from interviews given by Susanna Clarke (which also I have not read), that delve into how JS&N came into being, Tolkien's influence on it, and Clarke's historical research brought much pleasure.

As I came to the conclusion of the paper, I saw how a fairy-story might be written; i.e., do historical research, and follow the fairy-story tenets as laid down by Tolkien and evaluated by Kane. And the thought came to my mind: *I* could do this. I love doing historical research! And look - now I know what all a fairy-story should have!

This feeling is this paper's contribution. It takes a masterpiece like JS&N, breaks down what is often viewed as a pure artistic process, and as a result, it makes a fantasy/fairy-tale reader like me desire to be a fantasy/fairy-tale writer.

******
Last edited by Inanna on Sun Nov 25, 2018 4:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Inanna
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

If I was actually V's peer-reviewer, my comments would have also included the following suggestions for improvement:

1. The first para - all that history on OFS: put it in a footnote. long-winding and unnecessary
2. Stephen Black is misspelled as "Steven", almost everywhere
3. Pg 139: The bit about Clarke saying "I wanted to use historical background... etc." is repeated twice in that page.
4. "Fantasy", "Recovery" and "Escape" are sub-titles under "Not for Children", but the heading level is the same (this might be Mythlore's fault)
5. The "Conclusion" needs a little more JS&N and a little less OFS. Or just needs to be less dry.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Inanna. I'm glad that you (mostly) enjoyed it, and that at least someone was interested in reading it.

When I originally had the idea for the paper, it was meant as a potential contribution to the festschrift dedicated to celebrating Verlyn Flieger's contributions to Tolkien scholarship. When I first proposed it, my suggestion was to analyze both JS&MN and Harry Potter (both of which I love) through the prism of Tolkien's essay to show why the former was a genuine fairy-story while the latter is not. The editor of the festschrift, John Rateliff, convinced me that it would be better to focus only on one. Unfortunately, I did not have the time or energy to actually research and compose the essay in time for inclusion in the festschrift, and so I let it slip away. However the idea remained in the back of my mind for a while and when I eventually did sit down to write it I decided to go with John's advice. Only the one example that Inanna mentioned remained of the original comparison idea (and even there, I don't actually specifically name Harry Potter, though it is obvious what I am referring to).
Stephen Black is misspelled as "Steven", almost everywhere

I'm not surprised that I missed this, but I am rather shocked that both Janet Croft (the editor of MythLore) and the actual peer reviewer (who did have numerous excellent suggestions) missed it.
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Inanna
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

I didn’t “mostly” enjoy it, I really enjoyed it. Am sorry if my peer-reviewer hat dulled my expression of pleasure in your paper.

Regarding “Steven”: my feelings were the same as yours. Not surprised that you missed it, but surprised that the normal process did too.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Inanna wrote:Am sorry if my peer-reviewer hat dulled my expression of pleasure in your paper.
Not at all. I showed that you were paying strict attention, and I can't ask for anyting more than that!
This paper also included insights regarding JS&N that this ardent fan, at least, had completely missed. I had missed why the pillar of darkness didn't go away - missed its connection to Vinculus' prophecy.
I've spoken to several other ardent fans who read the paper, and none of them had picked up on this either.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Jude »

I just read that Susanna Clarke has a new book out called "Piranesi". I've been wondering when she would write another one.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

Yay!
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

My understanding is that it is coming out September 15, though it is possible that there are copies available early.

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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Inanna »

Just pre-ordered it.

And just bought her short story collection.
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Re: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I assume you are referring to The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. I'll be curious to hear what you think of it. I honestly didn't like it nearly as much as JS&MN, but I know others that love it just as much.

As for Piranesi, the description seems kind of odd to me, but it has gotten some rave reviews, so I am quite looking forward to it.
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