Keely's Reviews > The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Aug 31, 07

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, fantasy, novel, reviewed, america
Read in May, 2004

Though I am wont to blame the inescapability of genetics for various aspects of an Epicurean reading of Absurdism, I tend to pause, for some reason, in ascribing gender differences as stringently. It's difficult to say if this is simply a bias of wishful egalitarian thinking or truly an outgrowth of my understanding, for precisely the reasons that Epicureus is worthy to interrupt my many Suicides. So, when I say that women seem more than men to be capable of breaking the Tolkien Curse laid so thickly upon Modern Fantasy (barely proper), it is with trepidation.

Flatly blaming rude and wretched socialization always seems easier; despite our inability to understand any First Cause. Original Sin infects us all.

There is certainly something bound in the flesh which drives a breed of dwarfish, ill-socialized, fetish-loving escapists to blindly build and habitate an unoriginal world; and for a further gaggle of the nearly less-talented to consume it ravenously. It seems that, in the spirit of contrariness, when women find themselves thrust by love of horses or exceedingly lax tonsorial concerns into the same arena, that they fight a different fight.

Perhaps they approach the incline from a different vantage; arriving not by way of a)Tolkien to b)Conan to c)some unspeakable modern half-wit, but by Malory, McKinley, and Spenser. Of course, one must not forget that the vein of Fantasy still runs, at least in part, through Austen; and that though those alloys be rarer, still inhabit the edges.

Bradley has certainly taken a different tack on her way to the summit (never tor) of fantasy. She evokes Spenser, the Idylls, and all manner of other ridiculous romanticics of the Arthurian Mythos. She also endeavors to pull the characters out of the romantic and toward post-modern psychological conflict. On occasion, she even succeeds.

There is an undeniable depth to the books, accompanied by a rather pleasing graying at the temples of morality which immediately places her at the opposite pole from her male contemporaries. That those poles are really not so far away somewhat lessens the impact, and one is eventually bound to recognize that there really is a reverse pole to the whole of our concept of fantasy marked somewhere in Peake's Titus trilogy.

Actually, that's not true. One could very easily read a fantasy novel a week for life and never have to realize that Bradley is really only a little bit out there; but certainly enough to feel like a breath of the fresher.

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Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen Padgett Bohle This reviewer is reveling in his own pedantry. Strunk and White need to perform an intervention immediately!


Keely Ah, and she begrudges me my fanciful moods. Would milady prefer I instead fall to Gertrude Stein's meaningless dadaism, or perhaps Hemmingway's ungilt utilitarianism?


Robyn could you please rewrite that in english


Keely Je ne vous comprend.


message 5: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J I know...I was thinking of posting something to the same effect - my thoughts exactly!


Erin Ugh! We get it! You went to (or are going to college). But no one wants to read your papers.


Keely Let it never be said that I wrote anything with the notion that people would want to read it.


Erin Mission accomplished.


Keely Now all you need is a banner and a flight suit.


message 10: by Judi/Judith (last edited Nov 18, 2010 03:58PM) (new)

Judi/Judith Riddle As they say on SNL "WHAAAT"! I say, "Me thinks you overthunk it"!!!


message 11: by Luis (new) - rated it 5 stars

Luis Camacho You failed to make a point in any way, but you succeeded in demonstrating the pitfalls faced by those who only wish to stroke their own over-inflated sense of intellectual superiority, but instead end up sounding like obnoxious, first-year college students that are gifted with a great vocabulary, but lack the good sense to apply it only when necessary. You could have made your point with fewer words.


Keely All things in moderation, even moderation itself.


message 13: by Jayaprakash (new)

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy I love the way this review is written and need to immediately grow a long, unruly beard through which to read it aloud to my cats.

I'm not sure about the vein of fantasy running through the works of the very pragmatic Ms. Austen; surely the Bronte siblings are a more plausible vector? After all, their first work was a shared-world fantasy series...


Keely Jayaprakash wrote: "I love the way this review is written and need to immediately grow a long, unruly beard through which to read it aloud to my cats..."

That seems, to me, to be precisely the right tone.

The reference to Austen was inspired by an essay on the somwhat farcical 'Mannerpunk' genre, a sister of fantasy which centers on fantastical personalities and social interactions rather than fantastical objects and powers.

But despite all of my studies into the origins and various roots of fantasy, I'd never heard of the Brontes' 'Glass Town' series. Now you've enflamed the bibliophile in me. I'll have to find a copy.


Jamie Cottle It was your review that made me decide to check out this book from the library .. We shall see


Keely Well, the pressure's on then. I hope I haven't misled you with my intense frivolity.


Jamie Cottle I was not going to read it because of all the women's reviews all stating that they read this in 6th .. 7th .. 8th grade and it changed their lives... Their reviews annoyed me but then I came across yours, when I am finished I will report ;)


Keely Sounds good.


Jamie Cottle I finished this book a couple of weeks ago while on vacation. The only thing that comes to mind is it felt as if I were reading a teenagers diary, with some paganism and anti Christian lit Thrown in. Although it wasn't horrible, u definetely would not want my teenage daughter to read it ( point taken on previous comment regarding the giver).


message 20: by Harold (new) - added it

Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death) Good review as always, Keely.

By the way, I'm sorry if I come off as rude here, but are you aware that there's a fourth Gormenghast book?


Keely Yes, I had heard that, though it isn't written by Peake, so I'm not particularly enthused about it.


message 22: by Micheal (new)

Micheal You write the worst reviews.


message 23: by Ron (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ron Micheal, you have just spoken with more clarity and poignant succinctness than that which you have most righteously ridiculed. That, and your response is completely hilarious as it shines out from the looming shadow of such pretentious bloat. My hat goes off to you, sir.


message 24: by Virag (new) - rated it 1 star

Virag Michael...I just had to take a 10 minute giggle break because of your comment... you could not have been any funnier.


Keely Virag said: "you could not have been any funnier."

Oh, I don't know, I think he could. I mean, 'worst review ever' is the single most common and generic comment you can make--someone says it in every thread, and in longer threads, you'll see it repeated a dozen times.

And as a comment, its not pointed, not witty or clever, it has nothing to do with the thing its posted on--you could copy-paste it word for word onto any other review and no one would notice any difference. It is scorn without teeth, an attack without arms, a blunted dart. It is a pebble laid before a man's boot.

So yes, I think it could have been funnier--indeed, almost any change in it at all would have improved it. Anything which added even one jot or personality, insight, or refutation would have increased its effect immeasurably. There are many possible approaches which would have been better:

The Astronomical: The last time I some something so completely obscured, it was through a pinhole viewer.

The Gastronomical: With that many syllables, I'm surprised you didn't choke!

The Ivory Tower: Did you type the whole thing with your diploma, and if so, did you use a special keyboard, or just roll it more tightly?

The Attenborough: Here we see the English Major in his natural habitat, having woven together a thick pile of words to keep him warm throughout the coming winter.

The Limerick:
There once was a foul man from Lourdes
Who was overly fond of big words.
He would pile them so thick
That he needed a stick,
To beat off the illiterate hordes.


The False Concern: Has your family ever held an intervention over your dictionary problem?

So then, why stick to the single least competent statement a person can make short of actually being illegible?

I mean, I understand that he appears to have reached a sort of banal enlightenment, a level of inanity so advanced that the urge amongst the incapable to praise him as their king must be overwhelming--but I wonder: with such lordly types as him cropping up on every book review, youtube video, political blog, alternate lifestyle forum, Yahoo Answers query, and Reddit post on the internet, how do you choose which one to elevate above the rest? Truly, you suffer from an unparalleled richness of embarrassments.


message 26: by Virag (new) - rated it 1 star

Virag Keely wrote: Oh, I don't know, I think he could. I mean, 'worst review ever' is the single most common and generic comment you can make--someone says it in ev..."

You don't get my point.

Michael's response was hilarious because it contrasted perfectly with your... style of writing. He just slaughtered all your long, time-consuming gibberish with a simple statement. What makes it even funnier is that you wrote an even more ridiculously pretentious reply... as you probably will write yet another soon.

So then, why stick to the single least competent statement a person can make short of actually being ?

I won't worship an idiot for a single funny one-liner, but man, if someone just commented "lol" on any of your reviews, they'd elicit much more laughs than your try-hard jokes would. A comment like that could also show superior intelligence... biggest effect with least effort, you know.


Keely Hey, if people saying 'lol' and 'worst ever' are what you find funny, then pop on down to the Youtube comments section and you can have a ten-minute laugh break every other post. Michael's post is the post of the generic idiot railing against the world that threatens him. Certainly, it's possible he did this on purpose, but there's nothing in his comment that indicates that--it could just be as generic, thoughtless, and stupid as it appears.

The fact that you have chosen to interpret it as clever says more about you than it does about him. As the old adage says: never attribute to malice what is more easily explained by stupidity. I mean, I know you want him to be clever, you want him to have brilliantly torn me down, because you read my review and it upset you and so you trotted down to the comments to do some cheerleading, but you could have picked a better horse than that.

"if someone just commented "lol" on any of your reviews, they'd elicit much more laughs than your try-hard jokes would"

Yeah, and a video of a guy being hit in the groin with a baseball will be seen by more people than read David Eggers--quantity is not the same as quality, nor am I interested in courting the laughs of people who have to pretend that generic crap is clever in an attempt to justify themselves.


message 28: by Paul (new)

Paul Yeah, and a video of a guy being hit in the groin with a baseball will be seen by more people than read David Eggers--quantity is not the same as quality,.. Sorry to get off-topic, but what do you think about Eggers? I haven't read anything by him except his forward to Infinite Jest, but I know he's often grouped with the late post-modernists , and seeing your reviews of DeLillo and McCarthy, I was wondering whether you would keep him in the same taxonomical branch.


Keely I've only read some of his short stuff, so I couldn't really remark on his work, in general.


message 30: by Shellie (new)

Shellie I love people who try to write with only big words to make themselves feel big. I work with neurosurgeons and cardiologists and they don't talk like that...


Keely Shellie said: "I love people who try to write with only big words to make themselves feel big."

Actually, I did it because I thought it would be entertaining and a bit ridiculous. I like playing with words and structure--there is a kind of poetry in all language, even in criticism. And sure, there's certainly a place for straightforward, subtle writing, but grand and vivid and playful prose can be just as interesting, in a different way.

It's interesting to me that so many people seem threatened by it, and start accusing me of malicious intentions, like wanting to 'feel big'. Writing this didn't make me feel big, it made me laugh. I guess it makes some people feel small when they look at a big word, but that doesn't mean it was my intention.

"I work with neurosurgeons and cardiologists and they don't talk like that... "

Not about books perhaps, but their jargon can be just as inscrutable to the average person when they get onto a topic they know well. After all, there is a reason we developed large, specialized words in the first place: density of information. You can encapsulate large, complex ideas in only a few syllables--which I find to be a rather wondrous aspect of human communication.


message 32: by Harold (new) - added it

Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death) Keely wrote: "Shellie said: "I love people who try to write with only big words to make themselves feel big."

Actually, I did it because I thought it would be entertaining and a bit ridiculous. I like playing w..."


I apologize for that "veraciously" comment I made. It's now been deleted. I interpreted her comment as against the people who insulted your review as opposed to an insult directed at yourself.


Keely Ah, sure. No worries.


Crystol Now I understand why I found this book depressing and excessively difficult to finish. Wait a minute. That's not true. Scratch that. I just like your review and comments. They make me LOL. Semicolon right parenthesis


Keely Heh, glad you had some fun. Thanks for the comment.


Jessi Rich Entertaining as always =)


Keely Heh, thanks.


message 38: by Alissa (new)

Alissa All of you have been very entertaining. I'm not in for reading the book but I managed many a smile reading the whole thread. And, nice review, btw, or at least I liked the jesting mood of the words (the meaning looked secondary).


message 39: by Shayan (new)

Shayan Keeley, Maybe I don't agree with some of your ideas on some books of authors but all in all I really praise your style writing, your humour, some of your views, and many of your reviews or let's call them well-wrought articles!


message 40: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David I can't believe you're giving this 3 stars but yet you're giving Game of Thrones 1 star; that doesn't make any since. In my opinion Mists of Avalon is deserving of nothing more than 0 stars. The ridiculously pretentious religious philosophizing had me gagging. You seem to often preach in your reviews about what art is and isn't so I'm surprised you didn't address the fact that there is nothing artistic about revolving a novel around a theme and then stuffing that theme down the readers throat. If an author has a message that they want to get across to readers then they should subtly convey that message by letting the story speak for itself instead of basically holding up a big giant sign that says "HEY HERE'S AN INTERESTING THEME! THIS THEME MAKES MY NOVEL ARTISTIC! Liking this book is the equivalent to saying plot doesn't matter. Bad art is completely dominated by the subject as can be in the domination and favoritism of theme over plot. In great art the subject is completely adsorbed in the style. I know you don't need the lecture but I'm just surprised that you're giving this such a high rating.


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