Friday, July 20, 2007


by Ken Houghton

Avoiding the spoilers of Laura Miller's Salon review of That Book (WARNING: Link is to SPOILER page):
  1. Your mileage may vary, but is Rowling really a poorer prose stylist than C. S. Lewis? Especially if you are willing to make the argument that "[Rowling's auctorial] voice, tone and imagination are rooted in social comedy and observation, not in the metaphysical and transcendent...."* (which is what Byatt couldn't Get Over, as Michael Berube noted [PDF]).
  2. "people expect something epic, momentous, archetypal. So it's no surprise that the closer Rowling gets to that confrontation, the more heavily she relies on borrowings from writers with a natural gift for that sort of thing: Tolkien, Lewis, even Philip Pullman." I might yield (or at least can understand) the first two, but Philip Pullman? The man who admits—nay, declares—that His Dark Materials is based on Milton. You know, the Milton taught in the British school system? An author—along with the Shakespeare or Spenser or Hooker or Apuleius or countless others—to whose work Rowling likely was exposed directly, and therefore would hardly require secondary sourcing. (JRRT is, of course, a Secondary Source.)
  3. The rest of the paragraph cited above lists archetypes, but makes them appear as if JRRT or Lewis invented them. Only in Laura Miller's mind is that so.**
  4. After three paragraphs of that, "None of this is meant as a detraction -- the writers Rowling borrows from in turn gleaned parts of their fiction from even older works." No, really? You mean works that you, Laura Miller, read but ones that Joanne Katherine Rowling assuredly has never heard of?
  5. "That 'shiver of awe' Byatt wrote about happens when you feel the boundaries between the inner and outer worlds dissolve, if only for a moment. Given that this isn't the register that Rowling usually works in, it's impressive how well she pulls it off when she has to.

    Yes, folks, the above is the last sentence of that "not-a-detraction" paragraph.

All in all, this looks like an "I'm smarter than the author" review that presents no evidence of same.

*And most especially if you later note:
You could even say that Lewis and Tolkien didn't write novels at all (they called their fiction "fairy tales" or "romance," citing much earlier literary forms).

There's not much Lewis-defense room left.

**It also includes descriptions of events in Book Seven, so it is not quoted here, nor are antecedents cited. As will become apparent momentarily, they are not difficult to list.

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