Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Dark is Rising...

In the form of a movie...

Dark days ahead for fans of Susan Cooper, I fear...



Yes indeed... if you read this blog... you're into kidlit, and if you're into kidlit... I probably don't have to tell you that Susan Cooper's AMAZING series, The Dark is Rising, has been made into a movie. Out this week! The movie is called called "The Seeker" and I'm not going to blog about it here. Because it is probably really terrible, and it'll get plenty o press without my tiny blog.

BUT...

It does have me thinking about Cooper, and what makes her so good.

Here's the thing about Susan Cooper. She has this great skill in writing books that are a little bit magic. And books with a little bit of magic are my favorite kind of magic books.

I'm not one for high fantasy, wizards and dragons and spells far away from my life. What I like is magic that makes you believe in magic. Either because it begins in the "real" world, our world of regular stuff... or because the characters in the invented magic-land are so human you can't help believing in them.

If a wizard is going to live and breathe, he has to sneeze and stumble. If someone lives in this century and has powers, they likely also have a cell phone. Ommisions of such details are the biggest flaws in a lot of magic books.

If an author wants to write about dragons, I think that author should know what dragons eat, but also where they poop. Magic doesnt let you off the hook. Your world still has to be complete.

The Cooper books do a pretty fabulous job of blending both ways of making magic real. This series threads two families together. One family is a family of regular everyday British folks, who just happen to be friends with an old professor who turns out to be--- (I won't spoil it!) And the other family is an ancient and powerful magical family--- (won't kill that one either!) The families (and in some cases the books in the series) are distinct from one another, but they blend and clash into each other to great effect. The children from both families meet in THIS world, and the LONG AGO world.

And of course there are grails and powers and good and evil colliding in dramatic ways... but there are also everyday meals and whiny kid brothers and cars and parents.

And all of this is executed in a dreamlike way. The magic builds slowly, convinces you of its likelihood. Cooper does not rely on a willing suspension of disbeleif. Rather she creates, cajoles, convinces you of her magic...

I remember reading Over Sea Under Stone as a kid, and wanting to visit England. I wanted to go to Cornwall and look for this world that I was sure existed. There, in 20th century England. As it had in 6th century England. Both of them magical in their different ways...

And for me, that's the sign of good magic writing. Not just that I want to go there, but that I truly think I can... that the world is real. That MY world is magical.

3 comments:

Carl said...

Have you ever read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner? Or Elidor? these books start out in the real world and draw into the magical one?

amandafrench said...

Ooh, I loved Susan Cooper. I didn't even know there was a movie; now I want to see it! I totally agree about the Anglophikia; a lot of the kids books I read created that yen in me -- also, I think the reason Susan Cooper is great is that she melds total realism with total fantasy. You really believed that Will was a chosen one and an ordinary kid at the same time. At least I did.

Laurel said...

I'll have to check them out, Carl. Thank you!