Friday, October 13, 2006

Jane Austen in Woad

I had a long and not terribly encouraging talk with my editor at Rowman & Littlefield last week about a book project involving SF/fantasy and Paganism.

Then I walked to another building on campus, where students from the English Club were selling used books and baked goods. A copy of Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Forest House (1993), the prequel to Mists of Avalon, more or less jumped out at me, and for fifty cents I bought it.

Bradley said it was partly based on Bellini's opera Norma, but really, it's Jane Austen in woad.

Imagine: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single Druid in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Have I changed so much since I was rather caught up in Mists? Should I blame the alleged ghost-writing by Diana Paxson? (Warning: lugubrious music on link.)

The book's allegedly Pagan religion is awfully Protestant. People go around saying things like, "Goddess forgive my sin."



Anonymous rosewood said...

no, it's not you. It's the writing. I've tried to read all of her books. Even the ones she called "pot boilers" have something that catches me. But Mists seems to have been written by a completely different person than everything else that came later.

But more to the point, yes, the horrible pressure of American Protestantism. Omnipresent and Invisible. Even the "sacred marriage" scene in Mists happened in the missionary position. Honestly!

9:37 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

And is that sexual position necessarily a bad thing?

10:47 AM  
Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Would that MZB _were_ Jane Austen in woad! I love Jane Austen's books (though it's clear from your comments here that you're more in agreement with Mark Twain's assessment of her writing, as when he wrote, ""Every time I read _Pride & Prejudice_ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.")

Rereading _Mists_ was somewhat painful to me the last time I tried it. I so loved it when I found it--it was exactly the right book at the right time for me, as I was just becoming Pagan. But, well... lots of Pagans see it as a kind of Pagan utopia, and it's just not. And maybe it's having met too many priestesses as self-absorbed as Vivianne, but I just don't enjoy reading about her any more...

Most of her Darkover books (with the emphatic exception of the free amazon women-warrior books) have weathered better. She's a pulp writer, and it can be painful to see what she does when she tries for Deep Meaning.


6:11 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Cat, actually, I am happy to let Jane Austen be Jane Austen. It's the Christian-God-in-skirts aspect of Forest House Goddess religion that bothers me, although someone--whether Bradley or Paxson--really tried to convey the way that divine possession should feel.

8:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home