An irregular journal of academic book reviews of teenage, adult, gay, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, horror, thriller, crime, mystery, spy, romance & erotic fiction. (Novels, short stories & poetry welcome.) Also reviewing self development, New Age, Eastern religion & philosophy non-fiction.
Guaranteed reading with intelligence
Guaranteed reading with intelligence
Monday, 6 May 2013
A Guide To Fantasy Literature by Philip Martin
5 out of 5 stars
your parents read you Grimm’s Fairy Tales when you were a child? Or
perhaps they read you A. A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh? Or did you
yourself read Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, or J. M. Barrie’s Peter
Pan, or some other imaginative adventure? If so then you have a start
in the ever expanding world of fantasy literature. Philip Martin’s A
Guide To Fantasy Literature will appeal to anyone who has an imagination,
who can put aside their “disbelief” (as William Wordsworth wrote in his Preface
to Lyric Ballads) and allow a story to take them wherever it will.
has peppered his book with quite lengthy quotes from the novels and this serves
to very much wet the appetite of those who have not read much fantasy.
“That is interesting, and what happens next?” we ask ourselves.
general reader is also guided to see what to look for in a fantasy book, or
indeed any book. We are encouraged, for example, to ask: what is the
character’s motivation, and do they change through the book? Thinking
about these questions may at first seem a bit deep, but they are things we ask
ourselves about the people we know in ordinary life. Thinking about books
in this way can help us to see fantasy tales as more than simply adventure
stories, to enjoy them even more because they say things about ‘real’ life.
those who have read a lot of this genre there will be many moments of
pleasurable recognition as old favorites are recalled to mind. The
seasoned reader may also come away from A Guide To Fantasy Literature
liking the novels they have read even more, as Martin has a great knack of
bringing out the more subtle details and messages hidden by the authors in
well as readers, this book will very much appeal to those who want to write
fantasy stories. The first edition of this book was indeed published
under the title The Writers Guide To Fantasy Literature. Martin
examines the nuts and bolts of the genre and his enthusiasm for the subject
makes us think, “I wonder if I could write fantasy?” Many of us do in
fact have manuscripts hidden in the back of cupboards and this is just the book
to encourage us to get them out and get to work on them again. It is
important to note, though, that this is not a ‘how-to’ book, with writing
exercises designed to get you writing. The new title is more appropriate
as this book really will appeal to a wide variety of readers, but none the less
would-be authors will take a special interest.
reading on the subject has been very wide and indeed covers everything from the
little tales of Beatrix Potter to the writings of Jungian psychology analyst
Joseph Campbell. He quotes books as old as Homer’s Odyssey to as
contemporary as Harry Potter.
also contains many quotes from the relevant literary criticism. This may
sound off putting, however, you certainly do not have to be a university
graduate to understand and enjoy the book. Martin has selected very clear
quotations and his own text simply and clearly brings out the meaning in a way
that is very easy to understand. Reading the book is more like listening
to a widely-read, fan speak, and indeed the Introduction makes clear
that Martin is just that. He has read fantasy novels since he was an
excited boy. Many fans of Lord Of The Rings, for example, know
that its author, Tolkien, was a member of a writing club called The Inklings,
along with the other famous authors C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams, but not
so many know that one of the origins of the character Gandalf was a postcard
bought during an Alpine trek in the author’s youth, in 1911, which depicted
“the ‘spirit of the mountain’: an old man with flowing beard, broad-brimmed
hat, and long cloak, sitting on a rock under a pine.” (Chapter 2)
has also included quotes from interviews which he himself carried out with
several authors. This material is new and unique. For example in
Chapter 4 there is a quote from Martin’s interview of Peter Beagle where that
author explains: “I will literally walk around the room talking dialogue and
description to myself. I’m going for rhythm …” We get an
interesting, new insight into exactly how that author writes.
those who want to read more on the subject of fantasy literature Martin has
included a bibliography which is annotated; that is, he gives you a very brief
summary of what is in each book.
much in brief the main topics covered by the book are:
these tales just empty, fanciful entertainments, or do they have a meaning
applicable to the ‘real’ world?
history of fantasy from myth and epic narrative to modern classics like Lloyd
Alexander’s Prydain series.
exactly is fantasy and does it differ from science fiction?
do authors get their fantastic ideas?
five ‘types’ of fantasy: high fantasy, adventure fantasy, fairy-tale fiction,
magic realism, and dark fantasy.
techniques and elements such as meter, repetition and magic.
importance of location and geographic description, particularly in making the
‘unreal’ seem real.
of characterization and the representation of real human struggle, with the aim
of placing ‘real’ people in very ‘unusual’ circumstances.
centrality of plot and why we keep turning the page.
A Guide To Fantasy Literature will appeal to a very wide audience
ranging from the general reader who has not read much of the genre to
university students doing a course in imaginative literature. The book is
not at all dull and is written by someone who clearly loves the subject and
whose enthusiasm is catching. Martin is very knowledgeable, but does not
write in an overly scholarly style. His text is clear, simple and