It can be really difficult to critique a work like this. Calvin and Hobbes stands as perhaps the greatest strip ever, along with grandpappy Peanuts anIt can be really difficult to critique a work like this. Calvin and Hobbes stands as perhaps the greatest strip ever, along with grandpappy Peanuts and the bizarrely inimitable Little Nemo. Of course, as a child, I never knew that Calvin was a man who thought heaven was a lottery or that Hobbes was the father of rational political philosophy. However, truly great children's literature should never be inaccessible to adults. If it is, then its popularity amongst children stems merely from its ability to mesmerize their ignorance.
It was not only the philosophy of Calvin and Hobbes, not only the many levels of both meaning and humor, it was the exploration of reality itself; sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. One thing that many grownups seem to forget is that the world is vast and strange and that, often, the only way to come to terms with it is to strike out (in one's own idiomatic style) and have a bit of adventure. There can be no complacency in this world. Not in a world of dinosaurs, spacemen, and cardboard boxes of infinite technological capability.
I suppose I should mention the beautiful and evocative art for a moment, which had a sense of movement, gesture, and impressionistic reality that never failed to jump-start the mind just enough to get it going without limiting the open philosophical questions that we could never quite answer.
I think there must be something to be said for any strip where the most memorable moments were those of inaction and silence. It shows that Watterson expected a lot out of his readers, especially children, and that when we did the work of connecting the dots for him, we were really doing something invaluable for ourselves.
I guess Watterson is off living with his family now, and painting landscapes. I have an idea why he left. Gary Larson, too. I often wish they were still here to help us through these strange and difficult times. Whenever some new horror of inhuman humanity crops up, I want somewhere to go where I can laugh at it, where I can see the big picture, where everything isn't so simple.
In Watterson's comic, it was always the world that was impossibly wide, complex, and unfair. The only simple, rational part--the only important part--was you.
Gary Paulsen writes in only two emotions: fine and vomit-y. Someone may want to tell him that there are other ways to provoke a response in a reader tGary Paulsen writes in only two emotions: fine and vomit-y. Someone may want to tell him that there are other ways to provoke a response in a reader than going right for the gut, so to speak. This book could have done with some fear and suspense, perhaps some gratification, depression, or joy. I do not mind a tragedy, nor do I balk at watching the man beaten down. I am a fan of Chekhov's.
If your idea of suspense is mosquito bites on your nipples, meet your Stephen King....more
This fanciful retelling of "The Land that Time Forgot" would just be a passable (if fun) story if not for Gurney's rather lovely artwork. His imagininThis fanciful retelling of "The Land that Time Forgot" would just be a passable (if fun) story if not for Gurney's rather lovely artwork. His imagining of his new and strange world carries a depth and weight that, to be trite, truly transports you there--but then, that's what he built his career on.
A competent draughtsman who plied his imagining of ancient Egyptian rituals and architectural recreations in the pages of National Geographic, Gurney's style evokes the travelogue of a naturalist (which is, happily enough, his story's frame), so that the sometimes indulgent fantasy or unremarkable characterization mostly comes off as an occasionally unlikely (or overly likely) world.
This isn't to say that his art is always wholly successful--there are rough patches here and there, especially when his sartorial and tonsorial choices cause his characters to resemble late 60's hippies. It reminds me of the way that one can always tell when a period film was made because the costuming is always viewed through the lens of modern fashion, so that 70's Shakespeare is all wide lapels and feathered bangs, which the 80's trades in for mullets and angular silhouettes.
Portrayed as a travelogue of a shipwreck survivor on the island of Dinotopia, Gurney successfully captures the feel of early century sci-fi tales which even today seem only just beyond the realm of possibility. It seems that the only area positively affected by a little scientific naivete is that of the visionary futurist. Of course, it was not as difficult for Gurney to look back and imitate this method than it was for the original Victorian authors to create it, though it is not a very familiar style for modern readers, anyway.
Perhaps the greatest gift of Gurney's as a combined author/illustrator is that he lets you forget what you know and allows you to believe in what he has created....more
All fantasy is symbolic. Magic itself is almost purely a symbolic literary device, lending philosophical meaning to events and objects. Our hero winsAll fantasy is symbolic. Magic itself is almost purely a symbolic literary device, lending philosophical meaning to events and objects. Our hero wins because he is moral and good, yet we as readers know that force or morality or personality is not the deciding factor in mortal combat. So the hero wields a sword, and that sword's magic becomes a symbol of his moral might.
He can defeat ten other men at once because his is a sword of Truth, or Justice, or Faith. His glowing armor represents a righteous power, as does his shining helmet. Even the castles and cities develop moralities and personalities, evident by their tallness or their crumbling walls or sturdy gates. Like the weather in Gothic tales, physical objects adopt emotional and ideological power.
Unfortunately, these symbols can only be as powerful as the ideas behind them. Most fantasy gives us simplistic 'us vs. them' tales concerned primarily with right and wrong. And since the tales operate primarily by symbol, right and wrong are not considered or debated, but clash against one another, black and white, until the one the author prefers dashes the other to the earth.
The ideals of bravery, righteousness, chivalry, love, and virtue survive the nationalistic epic poems that inspired the fantasy genre, ensuring that almost every fantasy world and story resembles the next. Likewise, 'evil' continues as a theme, because it is easier to believe in evil than to believe that anyone might disagree with your own personal opinions.
What is remarkable about Planescape is that it acknowledges this inherently symbolic form of storytelling without falling to biased simplicity. Why stop at good and evil? at righteous and greedy? Why not expand the symbology to include various and sundry views?
Hence we have cities and castles that do not represent dead metaphors like 'good and evil', but rather give us tangible representations of paranoia, cruelty, haughtiness, force of will, madness, lust, ennui, artistic drive, and the sublime. Why should a sword of bitter sorrow bite less deep than one of justice?
Planescape draws from many older traditions of literary symbol, including the more fanciful epics, the metaphysical poets, the self-searching existentialists, modern authors like Calvino who blur idea and reality, and other texts concerned primarily with questioning and exploring our ideas of humanity.
In other settings, one often must play the hero, or sometimes the reluctant hero, because there is no ideological journey for the disenfranchised, the self-serving, the cowardly, or the incompetently well-meaning. Planescape leaves room for many paths, many ways and ideas. It does not destroy the possibility of the monomyth, which plays out in almost all other fantasy novels or settings, but it refuses to allow the monomyth to be an escape or an end in itself.
That may be the most remarkable aspect of the setting: that power and expansion are no longer viable goals, but unlike Paranoia and Call of Cthulhu, neither is death the ultimate endpoint. Rather, one is encouraged to develop something more ultimately satisfying than either extreme: a full and unusual life.
I think the best thing a survivalism book can do is help to redefine your connection to the natural world and your reliance on the human. UnfortunatelI think the best thing a survivalism book can do is help to redefine your connection to the natural world and your reliance on the human. Unfortunately, even reading this book as a child, I found it to be too fantastical to be entirely enjoyable. Though George trades in Paulsen's vomit for pleasant fancy, this book at once made me want to go out and live such a free life and convinced me that such a thing would be impossible.
I read many such books as a child, and also experienced in television and film the way that life was supposed to surprise you with a sudden adventure. So I took long walks. I wandered the woods alone. I called for spirits in the river. I searched the earth for baby falcons to raise. But I never found that magical friend, that spirit, that strange and mystical adventure. Hell, I never even found anyone interesting to talk to.
The sad thing is that I still search, still look and hope, and every time two lifelong friends meet by chance at a brook, I feel betrayed. The fantasy of art has, even in its most minute dimensions, been betrayed by sallow mundanity.
So it seems again I fall to the doom of loving and hating books. Loving the world they represent, but hate failing to find it....more