Wednesday reading — the past is another country

What I've been reading

Pretty much just rereading a bunch of children's books this week. Also kind of assuming that everyone who might be reading this has read the Narnia books.

I reread both of the Harry Potter schoolbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. I really enjoy the inventiveness in FB, especially the creatures that are purely Rowling's. Having just read a bunch of stuff about the actual history of muggle football I do find it somewhat bemusing that the Quidditch World Cup is meant to be a good 457 years older than its actual-world analogue/inspiration. I thought maybe Quidditch should be played in test matches like the other sport that it's clearly inspired by, but no, international cricket only dates back to 1844. But then the medieval period of the Harry Potter universe diverge from ours in so many ways; I think you pretty much just have to go with it.

I reread The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, because the published reading order is the only acceptable reading order. I think it is completely ridiculous that new editions have been renumbered with the semi-chronological reading order, which doesn't even make sense, since The Magician's Nephew is clearly calling back to TLTWATW and not vice versa, and besides you'd actually have to put that book down near the end and pick up The Horse and His Boy before you were allowed to finish it, and harrumph. The great thing about these editions, though, is that they have all the wonderful Pauline Baynes illustrations, and not just a selection of illustrations "adapted from them" like the ubiquitous paperback editions of my youth. They've also been newly colored, and whoever did it did a nice, period-appropriate job.

Anyway, the book still does a good job of sucking you in, as naturally as if you had in fact found a portal to another world in some of your furniture. I must say, as an adult with more context for what air-raids are, I think the Pevensies are awfully cavalier about them. Also I'm not super-clear on how the system for identifying traitors so they can be sacrificed by the White Witch at the Stone Table up until now is supposed to have worked. But then I'm not exactly a fan of penal substitutionary atonement in non-lion-based theology, either. It's funny how almost entirely the kids are supposed to have forgotten the world of their actual birth shortly before they're sucked back into it, considering what will later be made of Susan's later attempt to forget/deny/move on from Narnia.

I reread Prince Caspian, which was never one of my particular favorites, although I like the camping/survivalist part, and I like Caspian, and goodness knows I love Reepicheep. I guess it annoys me when Aslan dicks everyone around by only appearing to Lucy for no good reason. It's, like, a test. Of something. And also keeps the book from ending too quickly, I guess. Feh.

I reread The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which was and is my absolute favorite Narnia book because Eustace Clarence Scrubb. I adore Eustace, okay. In spite of being someone who, unlike him, had read all the right books, I sneakingly sympathized with him not enjoying himself very much, especially when they had no water and everything was legitimately terrible. I also enjoy how ridiculously over the top awful he is at first, just because it's absolutely hilarious, and I also like his little redemption arc and him being a basically normal person afterwards. Also I think I'm the only person on earth who ships Caspian/Eustace but I'd be so into it. Maybe I will have to write it just to prove that it can be done.

I reread The Silver Chair, which you would think that I would adore given my aforementioned Eustace fandom, but I never really warmed to it. Partly Eustace doesn't really feel like himself to me, which is too bad, because I do like Jill very much. Partly because I think everyone who likes this book tends to love Puddleglum, and I'm personally not hugely enthusiastic about Puddleglum. Partly because this is another book where the entire plot is based on Aslan being super unhelpful for no good reason. (I do have epic shipper feels about the part where Eustace realizes that he's missed Caspian, though. ♥) Also the Lady of he Green Kirtle is wonderfully menacing, but then it feels like they defeat her too easily and too early in the book. It felt off somehow. This was definitely my least reread book as a kid (excluding The Last Battle, since it was never reread).

I reread The Horse and His Boy, which is another one of my absolute favorites. On reread it annoyed me a bit how Aslan was stage-managing absolutely everything that happened, though. Not only does he set everything in motion, he's tweaking and adjusting everyone at practically every turn! Although I'm still pretty into his intervening to let Aravis know what her stepmother's slave's beating felt like. In a kinky way. Um. Also I weirdly adore Lasaraleen. I think it's honestly sweet that in spite of the fact that she and Aravis are basically total opposites, they're good enough friends in their own way that she goes along with it when Aravis asks her for help, even though she thinks Aravis is completely mad to be doing what she's doing. Also I've come around to a lot more girly-things than I was into back when I first read these books.

I have to say that Calormen, in spite of being a sort of racist and clichéd mishmash of things, does come across as a more realistic country than Narnia, even if it is most often realistic in kind of terrible ways. I always found it fascinating when I was rereading this book, even though I have to agree that Aravis, Shasta, Bree and Hwin have the right idea heading for Narnia and the north.

I reread The Magician's Nephew, which I think might be the best-written book of the series even though it can never dislodge Dawn Treader from my heart, and I by no means protest against it being placed first in the abominable reading order because I have anything against it. I generally feel like one of Lewis's strengths was writing about kids' thoughts and feelings in a way that I related to when I was one myself, but I wonder if I think he did best with Diggory and Polly because he was going back to the era when he himself was a kid. Or maybe it's that Aslan doesn't come onto the scene until near the end, so the plot is primarily based on Diggory, Polly, Uncle Andrew and Jadis being the people they are. It feels like it holds together better to me. Also I just love the idea of the World between the Worlds, and its cousin, the Neitherlands. (Still really wish I could read the Fillory books.)

What I'm reading now

Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens by James Davidson

What I'm reading next

No, really, I am going to reread The Last Battle sometime. Honestly. I mean, it's definitely a better end times book than Left Behind, so there's that.

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  • Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic
In haste, hope to get back with more about Narnia. But must say, I feel much better about Last Battle since I found out it was Lewis doing Book of Revelation! I'd been thinking he made up all that creepy stuff himself.
Oh yeah, that would be such a confusing and unpleasant reading experience! The first copies of the Narnia books I read were from the library of a church of my childhood that was really big on Revelations, so at least I recognized it, even if I didn't much like it.
I like Eustace! And I would totally read Eustace/Caspian!

Also, I really like Courtesans and Fishcakes, and I may fangirl Davidson a wee bit. He gave a very interesting talk while I was at Penn, that later became his book on 'homosexuality' in Greece -- have you read it?
I have, yes! I am approximately 99% sure it was because you mentioned it at some point. :) And then I happened across a copy Courtesans and Fishcakes at Half Price Books recently and promptly clutched it to my bosom with delight!

I find myself poking at the Caspian/Eustace story I started for kink bingo once, so it's good to know that someone would read it if I actually finish it this time. :D
I've always disliked The Last Battle as well… A Horse and his Boy was one of my favourites, and Voyage was always high up my list.

It's hard for me to put my finger on why I dislike Last Battle so much… possibly because it felt like there was so little story. It was all description of horribleness, then description of weird niceness, and so little plot? I've also never been a fan of depressing stories, and so much of it did feel like a depressing slide of a world I loved into bleak despair. I mean, I know it was end-of-the-world, and that that would feel weird if this was accomplished to a background of bunnies and rainbows, but I'm not quite sure why he felt the book had to be written… the only real reason I can think of is to complete the Christianity arc. And, I realize that the Christianity theology is subtle like a bag of hammers throughout the series… I mean, it was obvious enough that as a 2nd grader, I wrote a book report comparing and contrasting TLTWATW and the death and resurrection of JC… but that seems like a less-than-stellar reason for writing a book, and I think it's clear that he's struggling.

Hmm… that was more words than I thought I had on the subject.
Aww, I bet that was an adorable book report!

I feel like there's a pleasure and lightness to the way he riffs on and plays with the Christian stories in the earlier books—even when they are, yeah, very far from subtle—that the last book was missing, for whatever reason. The unrelenting horribleness definitely puts me off wanting to reread it.
Thank you for clearing up the order thing. One of the reasons I have been putting off reading them was because I wasn't sure if I should take the classic order or the newer order.
Yeah, stick with the classic order! Unless you feel like trying the new one to see what you make of it, but I don't really recommend it.