Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis, The Arabian Nights, Steampunk

Book-buying fast update:  I have so far read thirty-one books and have sixty-nine to go before I can buy another book. As I have said before, I read several books concurrently.  The following reviews are on three books I finished this week.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.  

Authors Jerry Root and Mark Neal wrote a book that provides an analysis of C.S. Lewis' works and how the imagination is a crucial element in his writing, particularly his fantasy novels.

On the one hand, stating that the imagination is a crucial element of fantasy is unnecessary, but Root and Neal break down how the imagination functions, how fantasy captures that imagination and, in Lewis' work, how the imagination is ultimately a yearning and journey toward God.

I felt at times that the authors devoted too much time retelling Lewis' stories and then explaining to us what Lewis was saying in those stories.  But they also delved into different categories of imagination and how these different types of imagination are sparked in his various works.  Root and Neals' analysis of the human imagination is the most valuable aspect of their book.

Overall the book is a good introduction to Lewis' writings and would be an enjoyable addition to the library of any fan of Lewis.




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This edition of Scherezade's thousand and one tales (it only includes twenty-one of the more well-known stories) is Sir Richard Burton's famous translation which is quite flowery and formal in its language, which I found at times burdensome to trudge through. 

While many of us (myself included) consider The Arabian Nights as fun adventure tales for the children, the content of this edition is quite adult. It omits none of the sex, racism-especially against African races- or pejorative cultural attitudes towards women that are lacking in kid-friendly adaptations.   

They still contain adventure, Middle Eastern folklore with jinn, magic carpets, rings, wily men and women who meet Allah's judgement, as well as heroes and heroines who, after much hardship and trial win in the end.

The illustrations are what set this particular book apart from other editions.  My Barnes and Noble edition is laced with rich, colorful pictures painted by Czech artists Renata Fucikova and Jindra Capek.  These two artists took meticulous care to render authentic looking Persian paintings that are beautiful and make this book a prize for any personal library. 

 
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And speaking of Barnes and Noble, I was browsing through a local branch when I came across the above book.  "What's Steampunk?" I asked my then fiance, Josh.  He explained the whole movement to me from it's origins in the 19th century to the fantasy style costumery worn by some young (and old) people today.
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For those of you wondering (that would be people my age or older) Steampunk is Victorian science fiction.  With the arrival of the steam engine, 19th century writers' imagination went off in a direction that had their stories soaring to the moon, into the future, and into all kinds of weird and wonderful possibilities in science labs.  But these stories are pre-World Wars.  The women wear petticoats and the men dress for dinner, wear top hats, are gallant and chivalrous. They also happen to be (sometimes mad) scientists.

Strictly speaking, H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, of course Jules Verne, and even Arthur Conan Doyle could be said to be contributors of Steampunk.
 
This book is a collection of  now mostly obscure writers who wrote for late 19th and early 20th century science fiction, fantasy and penny dreadful magazines.  While the writing is not as brilliant as the better known contemporaries listed in the previous paragraph, they are still interesting and I'm sure provoked  their audience's interest with their animal cyborgs, inventions gone awry and other dystopian possibilities that came with the industrial age and the steam engine.

Next week is Halloween and I am reading some new scary stories by the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle (no-nothing to do with Sherlock) and even a Vampire grammar book.  I hope to have a couple of reviews ready in time for the Holiday.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! Now I know the meaning of steampunk. Thanks from an ancient geezer. And, BTW, I love anything by or about Lewis. Thanks for adding to my reading list.

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    1. Hi RT! You're very welcome. I can thank many other bloggers for helping me learn of books to read I might otherwise never have known about.

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  2. You picked up some great books Sharon.

    I have never read ant of The Arabian Nights but I have heard that the unedited version was well worth reading. Thus I would like to.

    In regards to steampunk, the technological science fiction if the era was so very interesting. I have not read any of the new Steampunk books. I do know some folks from our generation who have read them. Some of them look good.

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    1. Hi Brian! I'm still learning about Steampunk. I have not read any modern stories either. These Victorian ones are interesting just because of the time period and culture it represents.

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  3. I enjoy reading anything Lewis or about Lewis! Sometimes I find that readers can take Lewis too literally with his stories and if you do, you tend to miss the subtleties of what he's actually saying. Do you think that this book gives good explanation of those subtleties or underlying issues, or are the explanations reasonably simple? I'll have to check and see if my library has this one.

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    1. Hi Cleopatra. Root and Neal's book focuses on what the imagination meant to Lewis and how he expressed the different types of imagination in his different books, both fantasy as well as non fiction. Much of what they say is retelling or summarizing Lewis' stories but I think they offer some nuggets of insight.

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I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.