Why Is There No Jewish Narnia?

by AslansLily at Alsan’s Country

In the latest issue of the Jewish Review of Books, Michael Weingrad asks just this question. He notes that although C. S. Lewis was a Christian, his wife was a converted Jew and one of his stepsons is now an observant Jew.

So why don’t Jews write more fantasy literature? And a different, deeper but related question: why are there no works of modern fantasy that are profoundly Jewish in the way that, say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is Christian? Why no Jewish Lewises, and why no Jewish Narnias?

Weingrad proceeds to speculate on these questions. He says “the conventional trappings of fantasy, with their feudal atmosphere and rootedness in rural Europe, are not especially welcoming to Jews, who were too often at the wrong end of the medieval sword.” He says Jews, pressed by the historical weight of the Holocaust, are more interested in “history, rather than otherworldliness,” and modernity. Weingard does note two recent exceptions: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians (2010) and Hagar Yanai’s The Water Between the Worlds [translation] (2010).

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The curious case of Alice

By Joe Williams at St. Louis Today

Alice Pleasance Liddell was 3 years old in 1855 when her family met a shy deacon named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in Oxford, England. She was 10 when she urged Dodgson to make a book out of the stories he invented for the three Liddell girls on rowing trips. She was 11 when a mysterious rift ended their friendship. And she was 13 when “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published under the pen name Lewis Carroll and became an international sensation.

The Alice in Carroll’s nonsensical story is 7 years old, born on the same date as Liddell (May 4), and precisely 7½ in the sequel, “Though the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.”

Yet many of the devotees who have adapted the Alice character for other media insist on treating the girl as a curious adolescent and treating her trip down the rabbit hole as a parable of initiation.

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Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel INCARCERON Comes to Fox 2000

by David Corbin

Fox 2000 has emerged victorious from the bidding scrum over the rights to Incarceron, the latest British sci-fi/fantasy young adult novel to belatedly find itself on the New York Times bestsellers list. Granted, Catherine Fisher’s novel was on the children’s books list but that did not deter Fox 2000 from flying its people out to London to settle the deal with Fisher’s representatives. According to Variety, initiating the whole process was Allan Mandelbaum of Seed Productions, Hugh Jackman’s studio.

Seed is still looking for the property that will allow it to grow independently of Jackman’s box office success and Incarceron just might do the trick. Taking place in the future, Incarceron refers to a bizarro version of Truman Burbank’s Seahaven.

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Under the skin of a Celtic myth

By Carole E. Barrowman at the Star Tribune

St. Paul’s Hidden Falls, “where people sometimes shed their clothes along with their inhibitions,” may seem a far cry from Seal Harbor, Ireland, but in Erin Hart’s deeply romantic and lyrical novel, “False Mermaid” (on sale Tuesday), the third in her acclaimed series featuring pathologist Nora Gavin, the two are as linked as a selkie to her skin. The myth of the selkie is as common in Celtic cultures as fine whiskey, coarse wool, fiddle music, the gift of the gab, and a deep melancholy that shades a Celt’s soul. According to the ancient myth, the selkie is an enchanted seal with the ability to shed her skin and take human form. The person, usually a man, who possesses the selkie’s skin possesses the woman. Only when the selkie reclaims her skin, can she regain “her true self.”

In Hart’s novel, the selkie myth serves not only as an elegant plot device, weaving the 19th-century story of the disappearance of a fisherman’s wife in County Donegal with the 20th-century murder of Nora’s sister, Tríona, in St. Paul, but the myth also becomes a symbol for the besieged selves and complex identities that lie beneath Hart’s characters’ skins.

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The joy of an unfinished series

by Jo Walton at Tor

A long time ago I wrote a post on series that go downhill, and whether it’s worth starting a series when everyone tells you that it isn’t worth carrying on. Just now, Kluelos commented on that old post asking about unfinished series, saying:

If you’re one of us forlorn David Gerrold fans, you know the agony of waiting forever for sequels, so that’s the opposite point, I guess. Is it better to endure a long wait, maybe never see the next book (I will never speak to James Clavell again, because he died before writing “Hag”), than to have the next book even if it is worse than disappointing? I dunno.

I have an immediate answer to the question too, it’s definitely better to endure a long wait and have a quality sequel, or no sequel, than have a bad sequel. A bad sequel can spoil the books that came before. A good sequel after a long wait enhances the previous books. No sequel, whether because the author died or lost interest in the series isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t spoil anything. “We’ll always have Paris.”

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Stay Tombed: Is Monster Lit Worth Unearthing?

by Selena Chambers at Bookslut

I am a girl who loves her monsters, and also loves her nineteenth-century lit. So when Quirk books announced their mashup of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in early 2009, I, like the rest of the Internet, was ecstatic. Besides hilarity, the new Monster Lit seemed to promise two things: that it would get people to read classic literature who otherwise would not, and that the monsters would shed something new about the work, and vice versa. But after reading almost every title to come out of the new “genre,” it seems all Monster Lit really marks is the swan song of the literary tropes the aughties have been inundated with: zombies, vampires, and Austenmania. It also seems to celebrate the quick dollar. My first impression of PPZ — which was 80% Jane Austen, 20% zombies — was that publishers had found a fast and cheap way to make a profit by finding a gimmick viral enough to penetrate the Interwebs.

When you start considering these original works, Monster Lit begins to emerge as a part of genre tradition. As more books emerged that were not strictly cut-and-paste, I decided to give Monster Lit a more sincere go, to try and get a sense of what the trend could or could not contribute to literature as a whole.

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I was really excited about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies when I first saw it, but now that there are so many more, it does seem like a way to make money. But the article points out all of the other adaptations based on Austin novels (Bridget Jones’ Diary, for instance). So it makes you think. And I like the way that Narnia was looked at from a Jewish historical perspective. And I think Alice is adapted in so many different ways because it’s so well loved, and it can be read on so many different levels.

Do you have a book series that was never finished or not finished the way you would have liked? What do you think of Incarceron becoming a movie?