As with the best fantasy, there are religious overtones to DON’T CALL THE WOLF. Like its famous sisters and brothers, LORD OF THE RINGS, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, CHRONICLES OF THOMAS UNBELIEVER, THE TIME QUINTET, HARRY POTTER and countless others, there are brilliant moments of faith winning out over evil – sometimes the victory or defeat is overt, sometimes covert. There are both kinds in DON’T CALL THE WOLF. This book – and the others it shares our bookshelves with are books that are both rooted in and carry meaning.
That got me to thinking about the longevity of such meaningful stories story – particular stories. The NARNIA books were published between 1950-1956 (“a classic”); Tolkien’s LOTR between 1937-1949 (“best-selling”); the THOMAS COVENANT books (the first trilogy) between 1977-1979 (“an important contribution”); and the TIME QUINTET between 1969-1982 (“continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers”); and HARRY POTTER between 1997-2007 (“BBC…Harry Potter series on its list of the 100 most influential novels), and Gene Wolfe’s BOOK OF THE NEW SUN series between 1981-1983 (“a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis.”)
By contrast other fantasy worlds have flashed into existence and vanished with only a minor whimper – THE TWILIGHT SAGA (2005-2008), after sweeping everything off the shelves in front of it have faded into the deep ocean of YA lit… “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity...Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend”, replaced by…well a whole new series of books. HIS DARK MATERIALS (1995-2000) on most Top 100 books lists (though not #1), written by Lewis Disliker, Philip Pullman, who considered Lewis’ writing in the Narnia books to be “‘bullying, hectoring and dishonest in all kinds of ways’, and the Narnia books as actually ‘wicked’. He says: ‘I find them very dodgy and unpleasant – dodgy in the dishonest rhetoric way – and unpleasant because they seem to embody a world view that takes for granted things like racism, misogyny and a profound cultural conservatism that is utterly unexamined.’” (Which is spoken by a person born, raised, and bred in the 20th and 21st Centuries, filled chock full of the corrected politics and views of a post-World War, post-wealth, post-just about everything that Lewis grew up with…world. Lewis was an officer in WWI, and “On his 19th birthday he arrived at the front line in the Somme Valley in France, where he experienced trench warfare…” By all accounts, the brutality of Humanity at its starkest.
Pullmin had time to pick up all the “correct” ways of talking, writing, and viewing the world. How incredibly lucky for him. I have no doubt, based on interviews with him, and had he been born in 1898 and dying in 1963, he would believe that it would be likely that he would have developed the sensibilities of the 21st Century all on his own…
Based on what I’ve read of Pullmun, he is a brilliant self-advertising writer, picking a fight with someone who was dead and unable to respond to any accusation the young man threw out. By attacking without consequence or any necessity for justification or by rigorous example, as well as a privileged upbringing as the child of a supposed war hero (which soured immensely when other facts were discovered). His opinion promotes his own work because he’s managed to attach his name to a long-standing popular writer and will now forever be linked to Lewis; NOT because his work is better, more profound, or ground-breaking, but because he’s loudly said nasty things about someone who was dead before the ink of his own computer printout was dry.
Pullmun’s books “take readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.” Whew. Deep.
Rowling’s books are “about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity”.
Pulmin’s books are “Very grand indeed.”
L’Engle’s books allow that “Readers will feel a sense of power as they travel with these three children, challenging concepts of time, space, and the power of good over evil.”
Pullman himself is hailed (and self-hailed) as “one of the most acclaimed writers working today.”
Longevity is important. Substance is important. While the others have current religious (I dare not say Christian) underpinnings, sympathetic reviewers note that PP’s work is even an “anti-Narnia” (of course, then that defeats the purpose of creating a world free of standard religious interference by comparing it to the world that the religious interfered with).
Lewis, Tolkien, L’Engle, and Gene Wolfe (of whom Neil Gaiman (with a couple of awards attached to his name, (https://www.neilgaiman.com/About_Neil/Awards_and_Honors) said: “He's the finest living male American writer of SF and F...possibly the finest living American writer” are remembered.
The reviews above say much about the substance of the novels. As for longevity, all of them are “recent history” as in, 20th and 21st Century. The books have been on best seller lists for the number of years since initial publication of the work the author is best known for? They run like this:
Tolkien(LOTR): 83 years
Lewis (CON: 70 years
L’Engle (TQ): 51 years
Donaldson (COTCU): 43 years
Wolfe (BOTNS): 37 years
Pullmen (HDM): 25 years
Rowling (HP): 23 years
Ross (DCTW): 9 months
Perhaps in another 45 years we’ll see how well Pullman’s books have stood the test of time. I suppose it might even be possible that there will be no one around to whom it matters…I won’t be around, either, so I guess I’ll never know. I’m sure Pullman will be around, if for no other reason than to accept another award.
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