tree_and_leaf: Purple tinted black and white photo of moody man, caption Church Paramilitant (image from "Ultraviolet") (Church Paramilitant)
I was thinking - mid washing-up - about Voyage to Venus, specifically about the way in which the plot requires Ransom to kill Weston, or at least to kill his body if we assume that Weston's soul really is gone and not capable of being restored.

Why isn't some kind of exorcism a possible solution, and why doesn't it even occur to Ransom that it might be?

I mean, yes, the series is full of plot holes, even if you prefer to pretend that That Hideous Strength didn't happen, or alternatively that the Director isn't actually Ransom at all given that he isn't actually all that much like him, Symbolic Wounds aside*, and could have benefited from a rigorous beta reader. But that one seems particularly odd.

* In the immortal words of Dorothy L Sayers, "I liked Ransom better before he took to lying on sofas like the Heir of Redclyffe", though I think she was actually being a little unfair to Yonge there.
tree_and_leaf: Burne Jones Psyche, caption "till we have faces?" (CS Lewis - till we have faces)
I promised a review of this, but it will be a brief one, as my brain appears to have died.

The opera is an adaptation by Swann and his librettist, Donald Marsh, from the second volume of CS Lewis' science fiction trilogy. As this is mostly set on an archipelago of floating islands, and the two most important characters spend most of the novel naked (and the fact that the villain of the piece doesn't illustrates his villainy), it will be appreciated that it poses certain challenges to the adaptor, and that's before we consider the fact that much of the action consists of a series of theological arguments and fun and games with translation and semantic inadequacy, followed by a prolonged physical combat between hero and villain (both unarmed).

The opera had a somewhat chequered history; it was not particularly successful in its day, at least partly because Swann's music is resolutely unfashionable - I don't know all that much about music in the sixties, but I was more reminded of Korngold or Walton than anything else. We heard a concert version, with linking narrative, which I must admit I found irksome, especially given the rather pantomime intonation of the narrator (John Amis, a friend of Swann's)†. It gave me a new appreciation for the art of the recitative... Swann and Marsh leave the basic structure of the novel unchanged, though they opens on a note of light comedy as "Lewis" and "Dr Harvard" crash about in Ransome's deserted cottage, by contrast to the novel's opening with Lewis, frightened out of his wits and not sure whether Ransom is telling the truth, insane, or perhaps in league with aliens bent on invading earth.* (The effect of the changes, perhaps unintentionally, was to make Lewis mostly competent and in control, and Harvard the comic relief; whereas novel! Lewis cuts a much poorer figure, and Harvard appears much more professional). There's also a new scene introducing Weston, plummeting towards Perelandra and swearing at the unfortunate technicians at home (Weston is not a nice person, even when he's not crossing Bergsonism with gnosticism or being possessed by the Devil) and the chorus recited his CV - at least, I think that's what they were doing; alas, the acoustics in Keble chapel were so muddy that most of the lyrics vanished under the orchestra.

The orchestration is excellent; the vocal line perhaps less so, though I did wake up with one of the act one duets between Ransom and the Lady embedded in my brain, and there is a spine-chilling solo for choirboy towards the end of the piece, "No man may shorten the way".

The most characterful singing came from Leon Berger, who sang Weston; the other soloists were good enough, but didn't stand out, and I wondered if the choirboy had a sore throat.

It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a largely American run affair (Lewis' fans seem to be typically American Evangelicals, which is in many ways odd). The tickets gave the work's title as "Perelandra the Opera. Donald Swan's masterpiece, based on the novel by CS Lewis". I somehow suspect an American wrote that....

A Telegraph columnist doesn't quite review it here.

† Even more unfortunately, during his description of the Green Lady, I had a mental image of Gaila from Reboot Trek, and couldn't shake the association for the rest of the piece. This is really unfortunate.
* As would surely have been the case if this were Doctor Who.
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in cricket gear as Five, caption "Cricket" (cricket)
This fic is... strange. It's sort of Doctor Who - Inklings - Wimsey crossover, but it doesn't work in the universe of my previous essay in that line, and... well, see for yourself. It also contains an appalling number of in-jokes.

Title: Mythic Overtones
Characters: C.S. Lewis, sort of an OC but not exactly, Ten (off-stage).
The scene is Oxford, some time in the fifties.
733 words of U-rated gen. Only warning required is, I think, one for crack, or perhaps crypticness.

How are the exciting adventures of the Doctor progressing? )
tree_and_leaf: Photo of CS Lewis, caption "You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." (cs lewis)
Title: And After Darkness, Light.
Fandom: The Chronicles of Narnia; immediately pre- and then post The Last Battle. Susan, Lucy, Aslan (sort of), OCs
Words: 7222
Warnings: Spoilers for The Last Battle, obviously. Character death as per canon (off stage); some fairly graphic violence (in the context of a dream, but still). The author thinks she has got everyone a plausible age, given that Lewis’ chronology is vague and he never really specifies how old anyone is (TLB has to be set after the nationalisation of the railways, in 1948, given Eustace's reference to 'British Railways'; LW&W could, as [profile] adaes pointed out, be set any where between 1939 and 1944; VOTD seems to be post war, but other than that, everything's up for grabs), so I have gone with what suited me best. Lots of theology, which is par for the course in this sort of fic.
Disclaimer: No infringement of copyright intended; not for profit; I don’t think I need to point out that I’m not C.S. Lewis. I’m not Julian of Norwich, either, though the Voice in the Dark is temporarily on loan from her. I doubt she’d mind, particularly as mediaeval people just wouldn’t get ‘intellectual property’ as a concept.

There is no wrath in God: Julian of Norwich.

She dreamed, that night and for several nights after, of lions that pursued her endlessly through barren hills. )
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
I actually don't know whether or not this is a whole poem, as I know it only from being quoted in Cyprian Smith's book on Eckhart; however, it seems complete in itself.

On whom Thy Name has set its seal,
From him all movement is unfurled:
He is the centre of the wheel,
He is the axis of the world.

Its beauty sways him yet cannot win him.
Transparent motion and poise and glance
Reveal the sanctuary within him
Through the patterned trellises of dance.

Martin Lings.

- Lings appears to have had an extraordinary life; he was a pupil and friend of CS Lewis, lived in Egypt and became a Sufi, was a Shakespeare scholar, and keeper of oriental printed books and manuscripts at the BM (later seconded to the BL).
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
Harper Collins have published a whole swathe of juvenilia. Specifically, Lewis' fantasy writings on the land of Boxen (and I had no idea he was still playing about with it in 1928, when he'd been a fellow of Magdalen College for three years).

Will be fascinating to look at, especially as one never normally thinks of Lewis as a world-builder, exactly.

Random sidenote: If wikipedia is to believed, then while Betjeman disliked Lewis, who was his tutor (I knew this; probably has something to do with the fact that Lewis thought he was idle and rather silly), Kenneth Tynan, who he also taught, retained a lifelong admiration for him, which piece of trivia rather surprised me. It just goes to show one should never make assumptions about how people will get on based on their beliefs.
tree_and_leaf: David Tennant in Edwardian suit, Oxford MA gown and mortar board. (academic doctor)
Those of you who have read C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra may remember that Our Hero, in talking to the unfallen aliens he comes across, has tremendous difficulty translating 'evil' into Martian, because they, being innocent, have no word for it, and he eventually settles on 'bent.'

Obviously there are possible slang analogues. Looking at the usage references in the OED, it seems possible but unlikely that Lewis might have known the sense 'corrupt, crooked' (the latter being, of course, also a possible semantic source), as the pre-second world war reference seems to be American; the earliest British reference, from 1948, uses the term in inverted commas and glosses it, which suggests it wasn't current. However, there is an older slang sense, which includes 'spoiled' and 'mad'; unhelpfully, the OED lumps 'queer' in under this, but the oldest reference listed for that is AN Wilson in 1957, so I think it's unlikely that that's what Lewis is thinking of. On the other hand, apparently British army slang in the first world war used 'bent' to mean 'spoiled, ruined'; the compilers of a dictionary of slang note that you could use it of people or of tea(!) This looks like quite a good candidate for Lewis' adoption of the term - unfortunately, it's not clear to me from the dictionary references whether or not it had moral overtones. The next reference, incidentally, is an American dictionary of slang from 1942, when it is defined as meaning mad, followed by Isaac Asimov in 1957: He's gone crazy... He was always a little bent. Now he's broken. So that sounds to me as if the 'spoiled' man of the dictionary might be more a candidate for the neuranesthesia ward than the cell (of course, unfortunately, the categories were not that clear cut in practice...).

And here we come to where I actually started: I think I've found a source for Lewis' use for the term 'bent' as (an attempt at) a moral category, and it's a good mediaeval one, namely the theology of Augustine and, following him, Bernard of Clairvaux (and ultimately based on taking 'conversion' very literally). Augustine, in the Enarratio in Psalmum notes that the human will/ heart is 'bent' or 'distorted' compared with God's will: distorta tu es, ille rectus es (PL 36, 503-4); Bernard talks of the will as being bent or curved down (curvam) to earth without grace.

... This has nothing to do with what I was supposed to be reading about today, but my eye was caught by an article by Terry Sherwood in the Harvard Theological Review 71 on Donne's conversion imagery in "Good Friday. Riding Westwards" where he suggests that Donne's soul, 'bent westward' by work and pleasure, away from God, is inspired by Donne's familiarity with the Augustinian tradition (which Donne, being Donne, turns into an image of the soul bearing its back to God for purgatorial punishment); he also wants to link it to "Batter my heart" and "that I may rise and stand, o'er throw me and bend,", though I am less convinced by that.

Interesting, though; note, of course, that in "Out of the Silent Planet" there is a theological significance that Ransome can only name evil in terms of deformation - as Augustine and Bernard were trying to show, evil is the absence or perversion of good, not a power in its own right.
tree_and_leaf: Head shot of a weasel in evening light. (Our Lady of the Weasels)

I have always been curious about the Donald Swann "Perelandra" oratorio - looks like I will finally get to hear what it's like (and so will anyone else in Oxford in June 2009).
tree_and_leaf: Text icon: sarcastic interpretations of commonly used phrases in scholarship. (terms commonly used in academia)
Powerpoint is annoying me; I can't work out why it won't let me add a JPEG slide (it may be that the file's too large, I suppose; even if I dump the jpeg in Firefoz and try to cut and paste from that, all that it pastes is the directory path to the file).

Also: do any of you more presentation minded people out there know if there are any projectors/ beamers on the market that can't be hooked up to Macs to run PP presentations- or what cable do you need to do so? (My contact at Freiburg claims that I won't be able to use my own mac to run the presentation; I find this hard to believe, and would rather not have to deal with the inevitable problems with special characters if I ported it to a PC, but I am not entirely sure of my ground on PCs)

Arguably my real problem, though, is that I have just been bitten by the plot bunny for a (depressing) Narnia AU, in which the Pevensies are German, in more or less the same time frame, or possibly either slightly earlier, or more towards the end of the war†. Edmund would be angry with his older siblings because they had begun to question the stuff they have had shoved down their throats in the HJ, and with Lucy because she is too young to really understand what is going on, but inclined to take the side of the others; the parents, who are of course off-stage, would be uncomfortable with the regime, though not in any particularly active way. (This bit is inspired by the Scholl family, where the parents - good Catholics - were passively anti-Nazi, but the older children were initially enthusiastic members of the HJ, before slowly spotting the massive moral problems).... and I certainly shouldn't be thinking about this when I should either be getting on with the paper or making dinner.

† No, I don't know what my obsession with Really Depressing AUs is, either. Morbid streak a mile wide, apparently.
tree_and_leaf: Spock looking horrifed; caption "Illogical!" (illogical)
I did, indeed, write the Caspian-writes-science-fiction fic (though thanks to Edmund's canonical enthusiasm for detective fiction, Raymond Chandler ended up being an influence). It ended up being rather more serious than I intended, though in a wry sort of way.

Title: Fly me to the Moon
Author: [ profile] tree_and_leaf
Fandom: Narnia (bookverse, but not actually incompatible with the movies)
Spoilers: Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Set post VODT; (also, if you've read The Magician's Nephew, you'll see that Caspian has an overly optimistic view of a certain character from Narnia's past)
Ratings/ warnings: PG; may be triggering for people who are afraid of astrophysics, cockroaches, nuclear war or trying to construct proper plots.
Characters: Caspian, Ramandu's daughter and, in flashback, Edmund, Eustace and Lucy.
Words: 2473
Summary: In which Caspian attempts to become Narnia's first author of hard-boiled detective fiction and science fiction (at the same time), and broods.
Disclaimer: I think it's moderately obvious that I'm not C.S. Lewis. Contains reference to Raymond Chandler (who would have recognised Caspian's strategy for moving the plot on). The science fiction element probably owes something very, very vague to Out of the Silent Planet.

What he had really wanted to know was the little details. Lots of little details, and the others hadn’t thought to tell him any of that. So he’d resorted to making them up. )
tree_and_leaf: Tardis silhoutted agains night sky, with blinking light. (Tardis)
Thanks to [ profile] parrot_knight, I've just read an excellent Narnia-Torchwood crossover, Threads that are golden don't break easily by [ profile] paperclipbitch. This is one of the great things about fandom, because this is not a concept I would ever have thought could work, and yet it does (despite a few surface liberties with the timelines and the probable location of the Pevensies' schools). Spoilers for all the Narnia books, film! Susan, and the most ingenious and satisfying take on the problem of Susan I've ever seen. Also, Captain Jack.

“I told you not to turn that tree into a piece of furniture,” Harkness snaps. “Oh, nothing will happen, you said. The last time you went to Narnia you nearly caused all of Cardiff to fall into a crack between the dimensions.”
tree_and_leaf: M. Renoir is shocked - shocked! (Shocked!)
After a somewhat unplanned weekend out of range of the internet, I have discovered that my email account is on the blink and I can't get at anything :( Will postpone trying to sort it till tomorrow, in the hope it will sort itself...

In the meantime, I wrote a Narnia drabble. It's not what I set out to write, but there you are; it's the first Narnian thing I've written. It's also as shippy as I generally get, which is to say not really by normal fandom standards....

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, sort of Caspian/ Lucy, U )
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
I enjoyed it quite a lot, although

Cut for spoilers and rambling reactions, though I bet you've seen the film already )

In summary: Ben Barnes is hot, Edmund is fantastic, and eagles are shockingly overused in modern fantasy films.
tree_and_leaf: Ten slumped against the TARDIS, tie askew, smiling slightly (Tenth Doctor)
I can't believe that icanhaztardis, or whatever it's called, doesn't allow non-member commenting. How paranoid is that?

Not that I had anything vital to say - I was just rather baffled by the person on a thread comparing Narnia and Doctor Who, who suggested that Mickey= Eustace.

Yeah, that was my reaction, too. They may both start out as annoying wet blankets and end up rather awesome - but they're annoying in diametrically oppposed ways. Actually, I can't think of any Dcotor Who characters who resemble either reformed or unreformed Eustace - except perhaps Adric?
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
OK, I'm preaching to the choir here, but I really am struggling to believe this article about a depressingly stupid court case.

I really would like to shake this woman. The paragraph which really made my head hit the desk was this one.

Mallory said she has been contacted by other Christian parents who were concerned about the content of the books. On her complaint form, she suggested they be replaced by C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series or Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind: the Kids” series.
She admitted that she has not read the book series partially because “they’re really very long and I have four kids.”
“I’ve put a lot of work into what I’ve studied and read. I think it would be hypocritical for me to read all the books, honestly. I don’t agree with what’s in them. I don’t have to read an entire pornographic magazine to know it’s obscene,” Mallory said.

OK: now even if I were, say, a really hardline member of the Inquisition and approved of burning books or banning them from schools (which, just to clarify anyone who's in doubt, I'm not ;-) ), I would be far keener on conveying Tim LaHaye to the nearest bonfire than Harry Potter. I would bet my AHRC funding that "Left Behind" contains far more heresy and unchristian sentiment than Harry Potter. In fact, I can't think of any anti-Christian passages in Harry Potter. And if the issue is that there are no school prayers or other overt expressions of Christian religious practice - er, I think I must have missed those bits in the Chronicles...

I haven't got a Lewis icon (remiss of me!) but I'm sure that JRR Tolkien, even though he didn't think all that much of Narnia, would like to express his sympathy at his friend being dragged into such dirty and stupid company.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
Two curious parallels that have struck me in the Narnia film, one puzzling, the other a bit 'Say what?'

here )
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
I may well be the last person on LJ who lists Lewis as an interest to see the film, but I finally got round to it yesterday...

Spoilerish review here )


tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)

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