Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chivalrous mice and other matters

Jeff de Boer, The Seven Samurai Mice
2005, copper, brass, mixed media, 4.5" x 3.5" x 2"
Back in 2007, I wrote a post about de Boer called
In the Realm of the Mouse Warrior.

From 4:45 a.m. until 9:15 p.m. yesterday, my life was given over to attending a gigantic and nigh-endless wrestling tournament. I am a wee bit . . . exhausted, without ever so much as tangling with an opponent. And I have a dire need to work on some essay commissions. So maybe today I'll give you some thoughts from a book I'm reading, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis. Here are some interesting snips from Walter Hooper's introduction.

This is a charming note:
C. S. Lewis can't have been more than five or six years old when he wrote, in a notebook he much later passed on to me, a story called 'To Mars and Back' and another little romance about chivalrous mice and rabbits riding out in full armour to kill cats.  --Walter Hooper
Here is a well-known quote from one famous name to another:
Just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth. We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by become a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. --J. R. R. Tolkien to Lewis, quoted by Hooper
And here is another of the same, in the reverse direction:
Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to write some ourselves. --Hooper quotes Lewis to Tolkien, not long before he wrote Out of the Silent Planet
Lewis and drafts of writing:
Except for his academic works, Lewis never wrote more than a single draft of his novels, which indeed suggests that the stories were worked out in his head before he put pen to paper. --Walter Hooper
Here's a riposte to those who have attacked adult readers for reading books written for children or young adults:
When I was ten, I read fairy stories in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. WhenI became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.  --Hooper quotes Lewis, from "Three Ways of Writing for Children"

7 comments:

  1. People who would choose what they read based upon their concerns about what other people might think are . . . well, you complete the sentence. I was going to say "foolish," but that may be too harsh. Is "insecure" a better word?

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  2. Wonderful quotes!

    I loved reading 'fairy tales' right into my mid teens, and now in my senior years I am reading them again - such as Russian fairy tales illustrated by the great Bilibin! Even the Harry Potter books some years ago.

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  3. R. T.,

    I hope there are a few adults ashamed of their reading, at least if it belongs in brown paper wrappings or is unadulterated trash!

    Does seem a bit absurd for an adult to feel shame for choices, otherwise. What's interesting to me is the whole question of why adults are drawn to children's books and young adult fiction so strongly at the moment. Is it the adults? Or is it something about fiction?

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  4. Marja-Leena,

    I like him as well. His illustrations are lovely, and I also like his drawings for theatre costumes and the few bookplates that I've seen.

    I read the Potter books to my youngest...

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  5. Perhaps we long for lost days of innocence. I am nostalgic for what can never be again. That goes with the encroaching birthday, and I think about all the water under all those bridges. I ought to find some Bobsey Twins books and have a bit of time travel. But I might be disappointed. Perhaps memories are better than reality.

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  6. That is the danger of going back... Sometimes memory is better because we are now the wrong age for certain things we once enjoyed, or else they were not strong enough to endure the work of time. Although I have never been disappointed by going back to either fairy tales or the Alice books, early loves of mine.

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  7. Fantastic read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little study on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.