King Ævil's Reviews > Sylvie and Bruno

Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll
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Apr 07, 2011

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bookshelves: library-books, childrens, 2011

It is no surprise that the Sylvie and Bruno stories aren't among Lewis Carroll's most famous, but I wasn't disappointed by them. Their balance between reality and fantasy is weighted much more heavily toward reality than are the Alice books, but fortunately that doesn't stifle Carroll's flair for silliness as much as you might expect.

Mister Sir, the narrator, reminds me just a tiny bit of Carlos Castaneda in The Teachings of Don Juan in that he drifts back and forth among several alternate and overlapping states of reality: plain reality, a more or less pure dream state (where the action in Outland takes place), and a curious overlapping of reality and the fairy world (in which he interacts with the title characters).

I'd been forewarned of their religious content, and considering Carroll's reputation as a religious conservative, I braced myself for a fantasy story heavily laced with evangelism. However, the discussions the narrator has with the other principals read more like a theological discussion than like proselytizing. Carroll even takes a dig at Old Testament morality in this passage, a favorite of mine:

"In the Old Testament, no doubt, rewards and punishments are constantly appealed to as motives for action. That teaching is best for children, and the Israelites seem to have been, mentally, utter children. We guide our children thus, at first; but we appeal, as soon as possible to their innate sense of Right and Wrong: and, when that stage is safely past, we appeal to the highest motive of all, the desire for likeness to, and union with, the Supreme Good."

In the preface to Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, the author admits to having taken considerable heat for the theological discussions in the previous volume; his criticism of the implicit selfishness in modern sermons, against which he contrasts more sophisticated, "adult" morality in the quoted passage above, caused several of his readers to complain. He also stands by what he wrote, however, and refuses to apologize for it. I applaud his refusal to back down before the kind of perpetually offended moralizers with which our modern society is also plagued.

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Reading Progress

April 7, 2011 – Shelved
April 7, 2011 – Shelved as: library-books
April 10, 2011 – Shelved as: childrens
Started Reading
April 14, 2011 – Finished Reading
April 16, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011

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