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The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Re: The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Postby Matthew Whaley » 30 Aug 2010, 00:03

You are right about those extended versions! My two teenage daughters love those movies and have been watching them over and over again to the point where even I can hardly stand to watch them anymore! Which reminds me, I think it's time for me to go back and read those books again, if only to reestablish the way my imagination interprets what Tolkien wrote.
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They have to take you in." -Robert Frost
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Re: The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Postby larry gilman » 31 Aug 2010, 15:02

By the way, where exactly did Lewis make this "undesirable hybrid" remark about style? If we're going to agree or disagree with Lewis, we should know what he actually said, and where he said it, what the context was.

Re. the movies: If people like a movie version of a book, then they like it, and that's taste, and that's just a fact, as far as it goes. But the eternally recurrent argument or excuse that an adaption makes converts for this or that book seems to me irrelevant, non sequitur, an attempt to switch to a completely different discussion. If I argue that a given adaptation is emotionally shallow and aesthetically stock, then that is an artistic criticism. Ticket and book sales have no bearing on it at all. As an individual reader or watcher, my reaction, what I experience and feel, my judgement on the artistic merits, isn't even touched by the question of what millions of other people are buying or not buying.

Bluntly, then, I simply don't care that the LOTR movies have boosted book sales sixfold (which they have -- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/u ... t=0&page=1 ). That is a datum for the marketing department, not for a reader or viewer _as such_. I have nothing to do with it.

"At the end of the day, a film can only include so much." Exactly: and what if that "so much" is not enough? What if the best things about a book, its voice, its spirit, its suggestiveness, its sprawling imaginative wealth, its sense of passing time, happen in a given case to be the sorts of things that don't go into film at all, by the nature of the medium? What if the result is a spiritually truncated, flattened out, hollywoodized, action-packed dumb-down of the original vision? Like an indoor grove of plastic trees in an amusement park -- when the alternative would be to go walk in a real forest? At the end of the day, an amusement park can only include so much. True. Too bad for amusement parks.

Also at the end of the day, people are free to make these movies or not, and go to them or not, and like them or not. So there should be nothing threatening about my growlings and barkings. Free speech for all, and hurrah for that.

Another by the way: Nerd42, I am a left-wing, anti-capitalist American (though from your posts, I guess that we actually have a lot in common). But I would object to adaptations of Lewis that tweaked him to make him ideologically friendlier to my own views. I hate that kind of meddling or touching-up (or misleading selective quotation, a tactic that has sometimes been used to make Lewis look like a Creationist). I'm betting that you actually are against such exploitations too. So let us have the full complexity, the whole sandwich. There is a reason why" Bowdlerize" is a term of derogation . . .
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Re: The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Postby Nerd42 » 01 Sep 2010, 02:18

larry gilman wrote:By the way, where exactly did Lewis make this "undesirable hybrid" remark about style? If we're going to agree or disagree with Lewis, we should know what he actually said, and where he said it, what the context was.
In a forward to a printing of Mere Christianity when talking about why he made certain edits to the text from the talks given on the air.

larry gilman wrote:Ticket and book sales have no bearing on it at all.

Another by the way: Nerd42, I am a left-wing, anti-capitalist American
Err, umm, arrgh, umm hem haw.

What should I say about this??

Different sides of my brain are shouting at me to say completely different things about this position of yours. I can't seem to settle in my mind whether I agree or disagree and logic doesn't permit me to do both, but I think I might try and say them all anyway. So, let me just sort of give you a tour of what the different impulses in my brain are saying with the proviso that I'm giving you the privilege of overhearing an INTERNAL dialogue going on in my head, not what I'd normally put in print, so please don't take what each element says as my whole position. Remember Lewis's position that we are to choose which impulses to follow because different ones are appropriate at different times like keys on a piano? Well here's what the different keys are saying, not the tune being played, because I'm divided at the moment about what tune ought to be played. This is a dialogue, not a fully formed opinion.

The totally biased political Free Market Capitalist running dog lackey Mr. Politics in me says, "This guy is a snob. One of those useless critics who never creates anything of real value himself and wants Hollywood to keep on producing crappy left-wing movies that nobody wants to see cause they're boring and then give them academy awards and ignore the really great movies that everyone wants to see, as evidenced by ticket sales, etc. because we all know the free market sorts out what people want from what people don't want better than anything else ever does. Free markets FTW."

Then Mr. Artist who was busy thinking about music somewhere over in my right brain wakes up and says, "Hey, you'd be a hypocrite if you said that, because you yourself pursue non-commercial creative projects that you think are good, not based on anyone else's approval or disapproval. And you have said so on multiple occasions. And you know that's how great artists that you respect see it too, regardless of their politics."

Mr. Politics, trying to save face, starts grumbling something about commercial creativity being in a different realm from non-commercial and that artists ought to give their fans what they want when they're in business and not just pursuing a hobby but nobody listens because Mr. Objective Logic over in the Left Brain (who just about always tends to back up Mr. Politics, but apparently not today) is clearing his throat and glaring at everyone, expecting their undivided attention, which I always try to make all of them give him.

Mr. Objective Logic says, "This guy has a point. Defending the artistic merits of a product based on it's sales is a non-sequitor. I can prove this in two words: Britney Spears."

Most everyone except Mr. Politics agrees, and then Judge Justice bangs his gavel and weighs in saying, "On the other hand, this guy seems to be making a statement about the general inadequacy of film as a medium and then blaming the makers of a particular film for this inadequacy. That isn't fair. You also owe him some respect for saying this:"
larry gilman wrote:But I would object to adaptations of Lewis that tweaked him to make him ideologically friendlier to my own views.


Mr. Objective Logic concurs but Mr. Politics isn't quite done yet. He's been whispering stuff with Mr. Philosophy over in a very dark and scary corner somewhere, provoking Mr. Philosophy to attempt an argument with Mr. Artist, saying, "This guy's point of view reeks of subjectivism. Mr. Theology and I both hold that things really are good or really are bad objectively, not based on how we personally feel about them."

Mr. Artist says, "That's outside the scope of what I think about. Ask Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation."

Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation says, "Um yes, I know I happen to like certain things and other people like different things and um ... man I'm confused. Mr. Objective Logic, can you please help me out please??"

Mr. Objective Logic says, "I think what Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation is trying to say is that while Mr. Philosophy may be right that beauty isn't really in the eye of the beholder but is an objective quality, this doesn't mean that all beauty is of the same kind. There may be different kinds of beauty which different people appreciate differently, none of which are ugly but which are all different."

Mr. Theology says, "That may be so. I just found out from Mr. Faulty Memory that this question is discussed in Mere Christianity Book III, 'Beyond Personality.' and that we all tended to agree with it when we read it last."

And then everybody says, "Hmm, probably right." but nobody seems to be able to state a coherent conclusion on the original question.

Then Mr. Fact Checker rushes in with a stack of fresh searches in hand and breathlessly exclaims, "It's not in Mere Christianity, it's in The Great Divorce!! And Beyond Personality is book IV not book III."

Mr. Faulty Memory is very embarrassed as usual and says, "Oh ... whoops."

Mr. Politics has meanwhile back in his dark, scary corner, been trying to get Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation to say something that might help push the political position which is still very much there and usually doesn't have these kinds of conflicts with the rest. Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation is convinced to echo what Judge Justice pointed out earlier saying, "This guy doesn't seem to like movies, and" (breaking away from what Mr. Politics wanted him to say) "movies ought to be judged by the people who really love movies."

Mr Politics, now feeling that he would have done better to shut Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation up rather than encourage him to speak up, tries to argue, "He probably only likes movies he agrees with." Judge Justice and Mr. Objective Logic both frown and shake their heads at this, not agreeing because there's absolutely no evidence for it. Mr. Conscience doesn't like it either because it sounds unkind and possibly hypocritical.

So ... Can I say you are right? Can I say you are wrong? Nobody wants to speak up on that, except Mr. Politics doesn't like it, but can't really defend any coherent reasoning so I'm thinking he loses this round.

(later edit) Wow. That was fun to write! I should maybe try writing a series in which these characters appear and debate different questions that I can't make up my own mind on, like Socratic dialogues. Mr. Politics really isn't such a troublemaker most of the time. He doesn't get along with Mr. Artist very well but he does get on quite well with the rest most of the time - I'm not usually such a conflicted individual. 99.8% of the time I come out with a strong opinion or else I shut up but your comments managed to get into the 0.2% range that demanded a long essay with no conclusion.

(later later edit) Mr. Irony wants me to add screaming noises from something being tortured in the next room.
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Re: The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Postby Stanley Anderson » 02 Sep 2010, 05:12

from a lost letter of Screwtape:

My dear Wormwood,
Yes, yes, as you say, "all the other devils are doing it -- why can't I get involved in a mass possession too?"

But come on, if they were all cast into a herd of swine and then jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?

Your Affectionate Uncle,
Screwtape

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Diabolic letter box

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 Sep 2010, 05:14

It's always great to discover yet another letter to Wormwood from his uncle. The Screwtape Letters was my introduction to the works of C.S. Lewis. And I still enjoy going back to re-read it. Thank you Stanley.

I wonder what Uncle Screwtape would have to say about that new film The Last Exorcism?
so it goes...
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Re: The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Postby archenland_knight » 03 Sep 2010, 18:39

Nerd42: Your post was hilarious. I could picture the little people running around in your head. I'm not sure if you are old enough to remember a sitcom called "Herman's Head", but your post reminded me of it.

Stanley: Also very funny.
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
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Re: The Screwtape Letters, by Focus on the Family

Postby larry gilman » 08 Sep 2010, 23:15

Different sides of my brain are shouting at me to say completely different things about this position of yours. I can't seem to settle in my mind whether I agree or disagree and logic doesn't permit me to do both, but I think I might try and say them all anyway.


I’ve got an unresolved set of layers going too. There are no final resolutions to these sorts of questions. My previous article expresses fierce certainty because when swimming upstream against a flood of received wisdom, one has no chance at all unless one becomes fierce and streamlined and pointy-nosed -- but my thoughts are, in fact, still work-in-progress. The feeling I've got is definite enough, though, and it’s just this: at least 10 years ago I got fed up with the cheated, cheapened sensation I’ve received from almost all (not all, not all) book-to-movie projects over my lifetime. I’ve gone eagerly to see such things again and again since the 1970s and eventually, after a long string of dreary, suspiciously similar let-downs, decided that parade-spoiling “purism” was the way to go, despite the razzing I would predictably receive from friend, foe, and total stranger alike. I just got sick of what I was seeing and how I was feeling about what I was seeing. So if there’s any snobbery involved, it’s grown naturally in my gut, and is not being sent down from my left-wing-elitist brain centers. Which, by the way, if they exist at all, do a remarkably bad job of preventing me from being an avid fan of many popular things, from pizza to Star Trek to comic books to -- of course -- C. S. Lewis. (Maybe I lost my Cultural Elite honorary membership when I walked out of the unbearably pretentious and unpleasant “The Thief, The Cook, His Wife, and Her Lover” a third of the way through, and dove joyously into the nearest bar.)

The totally biased political Free Market Capitalist running dog lackey Mr. Politics in me says, "This guy is a snob. One of those useless critics who never creates anything of real value himself and wants Hollywood to keep on producing crappy left-wing movies that nobody wants to see cause they're boring and then give them academy awards and ignore the really great movies that everyone wants to see, as evidenced by ticket sales, etc. because we all know the free market sorts out what people want from what people don't want better than anything else ever does. Free markets FTW."


I stare, fascinated but (almost) speechless, at this being Mr. Politics. Is it possible that anybody, even an imaginary, fragmentary somebody, even (shudder) an economist, really imagines that they live in a world where free markets (a) exist and (b) produce or even approximate a universal meritocracy in art or anything else? Just to take one point of contact with reality, for what, then, would the marketing industry exist? Marketing permeates our entire culture. We are soaked in artful persuasions from cradle to crematorium. Our minds are not in fact free, given, above-the-fray, independent agents shaping the "market" for movies or anything else, but a commodity explicitly bought, sold, and manipulated on the market all day, every day (collectively and on average, but still quite effectively). Is it snobbish or elitist to acknowledge these simple facts? Regardless, in bare logic, if people love something in droves, it doesn’t prove a thing about that something except that they love it. They might love it for excellent reasons or for awful reasons or for no reasons. Like Mr. Objective Logic says,

" . . . Defending the artistic merits of a product based on it's sales is a non-sequitor. I can prove this in two words: Britney Spears."

Q.E.D.

Most everyone except Mr. Politics agrees, and then Judge Justice bangs his gavel and weighs in saying, "On the other hand, this guy seems to be making a statement about the general inadequacy of film as a medium and then blaming the makers of a particular film for this inadequacy.”


Ah, but Judge Justice must read Left-Wing Anti-Capitalist (me) closely enough to divine the actual argument being made. I've never said that print is simply better than film. I’ve been saying that it does things film can’t do, and that in a great many books, those things matter a lot, and in those cases a film “made from” a book by simply filming the sequence of events described therein is almost always a ghastly prancing parody or shell of the book. The thing works the other way, too: film and print are two very different art forms, with very different intrinsic powers, so a great work in one will very often turn into something mediocre or awful when transliterated into the other. This does not amount to a claim that one medium or the other is simply “inadequate.” Novelizations of movies suck as frequently and as badly, in my experience, as “movie versions” of books. Star Wars, for an example, was a great movie and a crappy book.

So what I’m actually doing is making a statement about the general (not absolute) inadequacy of radically distinct media (e.g., film, print) as vehicles for each other, then holding up a class of films and other adaptations (e.g., Screwtape --> Twitter, Tolkien --> big screen) as exemplary of this inadequacy.

Mr. Objective Logic says, "I think what Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation is trying to say is that while Mr. Philosophy may be right that beauty isn't really in the eye of the beholder but is an objective quality, this doesn't mean that all beauty is of the same kind. There may be different kinds of beauty which different people appreciate differently, none of which are ugly but which are all different."


Pretty much my view. The mind-rotting phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” gets most of its apparent obviousness, I think, from its implicit equation of “beauty” with sexual attractiveness.

Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation is convinced to echo what Judge Justice pointed out earlier saying, "This guy doesn't seem to like movies, and" (breaking away from what Mr. Politics wanted him to say) "movies ought to be judged by the people who really love movies."


But if “really love movies” had to mean “loves _all_ movies,” then the only admissible movie critic would be a person who never panned movies. Which is to say, the only admissible movie critic would not be a movie critic. Contradiction. So I cannot be ruled out as a movie critic because I dislike some movies, or even lots of movies. In fact, I do like many movies -- and dislike many movies. In any case, I have no grudge against movies as such.

Mr Politics, now feeling that he would have done better to shut Mr. Aesthetic Appreciation up rather than encourage him to speak up, tries to argue, "He probably only likes movies he agrees with." . . . sounds unkind and possibly hypocritical.


Anyway, how can one agree or disagree with a movie -- a storytelling movie, at least (not a documentary)? How could one agree or disagree with Key Largo or Fanny and Alexander?

My thesis in short form:

Transliteration from one art form to another usually produces a work inferior to the original when the two arts in question are very different and the original work's virtue depends greatly on the powers of its home art.
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