Book Talk

For all the other stuff, we should really be blogging about books and story! Why they are so important, particularly at certain ages, how much value and joy they impart, and the kind of impression great fantasy fiction made on Phoenix Ark’s now rather grumpy founder. I can still remember the amazing excitement of Lord of the Rings, bunking off school, to consume a book that vitally bridges a gulf between  a younger reading world, and an entire universe of adult books, as mysterious as the real world, or worlds, we have to face. Perhaps it’s something perculiar to fantasy, but the moment that had me hooked forever was Frodo’s race to Rivendale, after the attack at Weathertop, chased by the terrible, extraordinary Nazgul, the Nine Riders. On my website I’ve asked my younger readers to contribute their favourite moments from literature; not books, but scenes that especially affected them, and to say why, and it’s as interesting for adults. Especially moments in ‘children’s fiction’ that have stayed with you forever, and perhaps affected a life view, your politics, or beliefs. I’m not sure why, but another moment from Lord of the Rings is when Gandalf cracks the seal to Moria, reading the runes above the door – ‘Speak, friend, and enter’. Of course he uses the Elfin word for ‘friend’, and then leads the ringbearer into a world that is perhaps symbolic of the darkest unconscious, once a great and powerful citadel, now overtaken by orcs and evil. That the finest fantasies are about doorways both between worlds, and inside the self, is one of themes I’ve tried to follow in all my books. Yet discussing story is a different thing to the vital role it has, as you are going on the journey, living it with the characters. Literally like talking about two different worlds, I think, one self conscious, and reflective, the other directly engaged with another, very immediate part of your whole self. The real storyteller knows those things instinctively, at various levels, and avoids what’s didactic, to explore the tension between the creative imagination, where anything might happen, and what we call reality, and actual experience, so constantly exploring the very nature of belief and reality. On the other hand, for any grandiose pontificating about books, just go for the ones that are good!

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