Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I Never Wrote Down to Anyone

I was therefore writing 'for children' only in the sense that I excluded what I thought they would not like or understand; not in the sense of writing what I intended to be below adult attention. I may of course have been deceived, but the principle at least saves one from being patronizing. I never wrote down to anyone; and whether the opinion condemns or acquits my own work, it certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then. The inhibitions which I hoped my stories would overcome in a child's mind may exist in a grown-up's mind too, and may perhaps be overcome by the same means.

The Fantastic or Mythical is a Mode available at all ages for some readers; for others, at none. At all ages, if it is well used by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. But at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of 'commenting on life', can add to it. I am speaking of course, about the thing itself, not my own attempts at it.
C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds, "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said" (1956)

4 Comment(s):

At Wed Mar 09, 06:07:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

I wonder what Lewis would think of children's books that are obviously of little appeal to adults and directed at extremely young children. Books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and such.

At Wed Mar 09, 09:15:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Little appeal to adults? I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar! ;-)

But that's a good question. I think I quoted him talking about the Beatrix Potter books once, where he said that he thought they were essential reading, to develop children's imagination. I wonder if he had that many really young children in his life, and what sorts of books were available in the 40's and 50's for that set. I can only think of Pat The Bunny and Goodnight Moon.

At Wed Mar 09, 06:33:00 PM EST, Blogger MrKimi said...

I was thinking much the same about the books for the very young. However if we allow that he may have overlooked those then his point remains about books for the not-so-very-young. The Narnian books are aimed a little older and any age can enjoy them.

I wonder if writing for the very young might be even harder to do well?

At Thu Mar 10, 01:23:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

Okay, I admit I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar as well. I realised the other day that I haven't spent much time with very young children myself. (At least, not since I was very young myself.) It can be hard to understand just how different infants/toddlers are from children even a few years older.


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