Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Book Review: The Magician's Book A Skeptic's Adventure in Narnia

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventure in Narnia by Laura Miller 

Publisher: Back Bay Books

Year: 2008

Category: Non-fiction Literary Criticism

Growing up I really loved the Narnia books that feature the Pevensie children (I thought the Silver Chair was gloomy and even as a child I had big problems with the fact that dark people were always the bad guys (something Miller discusses at length)) and so when I saw Ana at Things Means A Lot's review a few years ago I really wanted to read it. And then it sat on my shelf. I finally picked it up last year. I wanted to enjoy it, I really did. I mean it talks about books I love and I do love books about books, but I just couldn't. I had to big objections to some aspects of the book.

Firstly, Miller has a superior tone where she seems to think that she knows the TRUTH. It is hard to point to any specific instance of this but to me it was the overall tone of the writing at times. She is also very condescending towards certain people. Quotes such as the one below makes me think that Miller can only see these people as losers who have nothing better to do, rather than very complex individuals who LIKE their lives.

"Of course, neither Narnia nor Middle-earth are real countries, even if some of Tolkien's most fanatical readers seem to know more about the history of his invented world than they do about the one they actually inhabit" (199).

Secondly, I am to much of an English teacher to be able to like a non-fiction book where the chapters lack thesis statements and where they end up going off on rabbit tales and never finding their way back. I found it very difficult to follow along with what her point of several chapters were. I don't know if it was the fact that points seem to carry over from different chapters or what, but I often felt confused as to what the point was she was trying to make.

Thirdly, although it is important to talk about Tolkien and Lewis in relation to each other, I expect the author to make a point about his relationship. She also launches into a long discussion of how Lewis and Tolkien are like Coleridge and Wordsworth but again this turns  into a rabbit trail about Coleridge. What is the point?!

This isn't to say that this book was a complete waste of time, there were some interesting points, and I learned some things about C. S. Lewis that I did not know before. However, on the whole, this was not a book for me.


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Yep, it wasn't for me either. I mostly liked the writing but wasn't crazy about Miller's attitude toward CS Lewis -- like she had discovered a truth about him that nobody else knows. Blech.

Zee said...

YES! That was probably what was bothering me about her tone. I know something no one else has ever understood. Blech indeed.