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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Revising some previous.

I was a bit off the mark in my post about Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series yesterday. What's really driving those books seems to be an interest in structures of mythic meaning interweaving with modern life, and while the forms of adventure narrative are there, the stories come across more like rhapsodically descriptive poetry than like storytelling.

For example (spoiler warning) IIRC in The Dark is Rising Will receives an antlered carnival mask for a Christmas gift. It comes from a brother who's stationed overseas, and the mask has a backstory about how it was a gift from a mysterious guy with mysterious knowledge about Will. Later in the story there's a flood as the evil forces of The Dark mount their final attack; Will spots the mask being carried downstream in the floodwater. Soon he travels to a park where Herne the Hunter lives; Will hopes to rouse Herne, who has the power to drive the Dark away. A human figure lurks nearby... the mask sweeps by on the current, the figure grabs and dons the mask... behold! The figure with the mask is Herne the Hunter, and he saves the day. A carnival mask and an English legend are broguht together, with a little help from family ties, Christmas traditions and the Thames flooding.

Note that Will didn't have to do anything to bring about the sequence of events. He receives the mask, and he observes the later events, but he's rarely an Active Protagonist. Cooper doesn't really construct narratives around heroic deeds or cunning problem solving; she constructs them around the interplay of modern life and the web of mythology and imagination that gives resonance to life, at least for Cooper. It's kind of like a Pirates of the Caribbean style ride, where threats loom but the point isn't the challenge of surviving the threats; there is no real challenge. The point is to enjoy the spectacle of the imaginative construction someone has prepared for you.

This drives some people nuts, and in interviews the screenwriter of the Dark is Rising film huffed and puffed about the importance of rejiggering the story to make Will an Active Protagonist. Ah, me.

* * *

Just to be fair to my new town:

someone thinks it's on the right track.


kjcolewelle said...

I think Robert Holdstock is onto something similar, where the mythic imagination isn't some sort of escapist cop out, nor something as trite and prosaic as donning the accoutrements of shamans of yesteryear, but is an exertion that fills a gap between the staleness of the material and the apperception that there is more than one's mind in the greater world, to which you hope you may grope, and bring about its independent substantiation. That's barely an approximation but when Holdstock gets it right - well, the hairs stand up on your arms, and you want to wave your hands in the air and climb the nearest tree. But I guess there isn't much to an exertion of the imagination, not in a Hollywood sense, which is why we get all these empty robots shooting each other up, instead.

Aaron White said...

Oh hai! Of Holdstock's work I've only read Mythago Wood; the first time I hated it for not being Gormenghast; the second time I was a little more grown up and responded to its consideration of British lore. I recieved a copy of Lavondyss recently from my fiance's mother, and look forward to reading it.

Thanks for getting me to look up "apperception." Now I have a name for what I've been fixating on lately.