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Rereading THS

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Re: re: Rereading THS

Postby Monica » 01 Apr 2006, 14:55

jo wrote:Read back three or four posts Monica ;)


Ack. Well, Mr. Ford deserves two mentions. Thanks, jo.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby jo » 03 Apr 2006, 11:47

I finished it :). Have been reading a few other things the last few days as well so had been rather neglecting it. This read confirmed for me that it is my favourite of the ST, though very different from the other two, I think. I liked most of the characters much more this time around than I had previously done, too.

I especially liked Jane better - I found found her rather bland and boring hitherto. I saw something in her this time which I hadn't noticed last time I read - a sort of nobility, perhaps, although superficially lacquered over with notions of modernity. Mark unfortunately i wasn't able to like any better than last time though and I still felt 'let down' for Jane in a sense. I know that this is entirely what the reader was NOT supposed to think of course but I just can't bring myself to believe in Mark's redemption, half hearted and rather weedy as it was.

Most of the 'evil' characters were as they had been previously; rather empty and hollow, lacking in something. By sacrificing their essential 'selves' to that cause of 'progress' and 'modernity' which Mark and Jane dabbled in and ultimately rejected they become lesser, not greater men. The degree of revulsion they inspire varies according to the level to which they have been initiated into the NICE; the most replusive, Wither and Frost, being genuinely disturbing because of what they have lost.

When I read this book the first time I was fascinated to see the character of Fairy Hardcastle, because I knew that it was a long running joke that Stan was 'fixated' on her. I was disappointed, really. Fairy is grotesque but inconsequential. In every despotic organisation there exists such a person or people - sadists who do the 'dirty work' which the organisation's leaders consider beneath them. Fairy is perhaps unusual (though not unique) because of her gender but she is essentially nothing but a hired thug, attracted by Belbury because of the scope it offers for her perverted pleasures. She is not important enough to be one of the 'inner ring' and presumably, had Belbury survived, would eventually have been devoured by a yet more brutal and sadistic successor.

A couple of points: a friend with whom I discussed this book years ago made the point that the names are rather 'obvious'.... 'Wither', 'Frost', 'Hardcastle', 'Jewel' 'Curry' etc. At the time that didn't bother me but on this reread I did take my friend's point that this was a slightly unnecessary device. I didn't find it all that irritating but nonetheless, there could have been other and better ways to convey the state of the Belbury inhabitants souls ;).
"I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die"

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re: Rereading THS

Postby David » 03 Apr 2006, 12:02

I think there's some exaggeration, which somewhat hurts the book's plausibility, to let the rhetoric of NICE (particularly in Feverstone's speech early in the book) so clearly parallel that of the Nazis. But I don't think it's too implausible to have a young intellectual get caught up in that kind of ideas, anymore than having him become a Fascist or a Communist. An awful lot of real ones did at this time.


Watch the film The Remains of the Day or read the book (a great book) to see the appeal facism had to a lot of people in England in the period between World War I and World War II. It seemed a way to bring order out of chaos, and a lot of people like T. S. Eliot and George Bernard Shaw were actually admirers of it at least in its initial phases. It is a compliment to Lewis that, early on, he saw the dangers of it.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Rosie Cotton » 03 Apr 2006, 13:04

Jo, you totally zoom. I'm still stuck back with Mark totally aghast at the NICE planning the riots. Too bad I have a job and can't read good books for a living ;)
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Hnuff » 03 Apr 2006, 16:24

Dunno, Rosie, whether it's a real book or not, though I wouldn't put it past Lewis to have just made it up!
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Re: re: Rereading THS

Postby Hnuff » 03 Apr 2006, 17:40

A couple of points: a friend with whom I discussed this book years ago made the point that the names are rather 'obvious'.... 'Wither', 'Frost', 'Hardcastle', 'Jewel' 'Curry' etc. At the time that didn't bother me but on this reread I did take my friend's point that this was a slightly unnecessary device. I didn't find it all that irritating but nonetheless, there could have been other and better ways to convey the state of the Belbury inhabitants souls ;).


I'm one of those who rather likes the names--after all, this is a fairy tale for grown-ups, and Lewis is following a fairy tale convention of giving obvious names that pretty clearly label the characters they are attached to! But most of us forget his "It's a fairy tale" warning. I'm beginning to suspect--in a slow, dull way--that many of us (me included) have been approaching THS as if it were a novel in the usual sense of the term, but it's not. It's doing something different, following older conventions. It's just disguised as a novel.

If you were to adapt all three of the "Space" Trilogy into other art forms, you could make Silent Planet into a straightforward science fiction film, and Perelandra into a sort of operatic pageant--but I'm not sure what you'd do with THS--maybe some kind of grand mythic mural with mixtures of styles like Bosch, Bruegel and even Picasso's Guernica. It's just a weird book, but I love it.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Rosie Cotton » 04 Apr 2006, 03:54

I think we read it that way because it just feels more grungy and familiar than the other two in the Space Trilogy -- at least it felt that way to me, at first reading. I was having fun off on other lovely planets, and then back to Earth...nasssssty scientists and ugly mobs. It's almost too close to reality for me. Maybe I could keep the "fairy tale" view as I continue to read.
... and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Theo » 04 Apr 2006, 08:29

I think there's a little more than meets the eye to the somewhat tongue-in-cheek designation of THS as "a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups". I've been tending to think more of it as a (kind of) epic fantasy transplanted into a 20th-century setting.

In a recent collection of essays on Tolkien which I've annoyingly forgotten the title of, there was a brief but tremendously interesting one on his portraits of evil by Tom Shippey. Shippey (who's always interesting to read) noted that That Hideous Strength in several places echoes characters and themes from what would become Lord of the Rings, particularly its images of evil, but set into a more realistic framework. For example, characters like Frost and Wither, who are no longer quite human or even - one might say - quite alive, resemble the Ringwraiths and other undead in conception. Shippey also points out that the conversation between the NICE goons Sid and Len in chapter 14:III sounds an awful lot like the conversations between orcs we overhear in LotR.
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Re: re: Rereading THS

Postby Hnuff » 04 Apr 2006, 19:17

Shippey (who's always interesting to read) noted that That Hideous Strength in several places echoes characters and themes from what would become Lord of the Rings, particularly its images of evil, but set into a more realistic framework.


Something clicked when I read this, and I thought, "Of course--THS is like The Lord of the Rings if we had experienced the War of the Ring only from the point of view of Hobbiton!" The Hobbitonians only see the local effects of the great War, as it affects their village lives. In THS, all we see of the War in Heaven is what takes place in Edgestow and environs--maybe the real War being fought is something we have no way of perceiving.

Thanks!
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Rosie Cotton » 07 Apr 2006, 06:04

Now that I have gotten to where Jane meets the Director, I am perplexed again by the changes in Ransom. In the last two books, even by the end of Perelandra, he is more or less an ordinary man.... now he is almost like a god himself, or an unfallen man, or a Christ figure. I don't feel like the transformation is really accounted for in the books.
Yes, his body was made young on Perelandra, but wouldn't that start to fade on Earth? Yes, he has gained inside knowledge on the spiritual battle from the eldila, but what gives him the wisdom and authority that he can guide this Company, and that one feels they should honor or curtsey to him? Why is he something more than a man, now?
... and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby jo » 07 Apr 2006, 12:16

I think it is because he has been face to face with God, as it were. Even Moses was not able to do this without being physically changed.
"I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die"

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re: Rereading THS

Postby Rosie Cotton » 09 Apr 2006, 06:01

Hi Jo -- good point about Moses. Though the glory on Moses' face began to fade at some point (1 Cor 3:13), and Ransom doesn't seem to. Maybe because he is continually talking with gods? But then, so was Moses continually speaking with God.
... and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Theo » 09 Apr 2006, 07:38

While THS is my favourite of the three books, I must say I much prefer the character of Ransom in the first two.
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re: Rereading THS

Postby Rosie Cotton » 09 Apr 2006, 08:06

Hi Theo -- me too. The first time I read THS it took me a while to even recognize that the Director was Ransom. Ransom's thoughts and emotions, even during his extraordinary experiences on Perelandra, were human and familiar to us ordinary folks. Now he is an extraordinary person. He doesn't seem anymore like a regular person who is being guided by the gods -- he seems to have recieved a sort of kingship.
... and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
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Re: re: Rereading THS

Postby Marcus_P_Hagen » 09 Apr 2006, 22:33

jo wrote:a friend with whom I discussed this book years ago made the point that the names are rather 'obvious'.... 'Curry'


Too bad Lewis never saw "Red Dwarf", or he'd have know that a good lager can kill a Vindaloo! Would have saved loads of time!
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