Saturday, September 19, 2009

Equinox Bad Book Blogging

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Equinox 2009! This is the moment when day and night balance. Then the beloved sun moves south to warm the other half of the world. I know they're waiting for it there!

As for me, I would be dreading the long dark, but having a backyard shrine to light will, I hope, blunt the seasonal depression.

Today's sermon: What Not to Put in a Book, What Not to Paint Black, and What You Should Do about It.

Whew! If you saw that posted in front of the local Baptist church, you'd no doubt skip the Sunday sermon!

Mr. Johnson brought home for me an advance review copy of a new novel called The Child Thief, by an author who goes by one name, Brom.

The book jacket makes clear the topic at hand. This is a horrific re-telling of Peter Pan, in which our ever-youthful hero uses duplicity to lure unwanted and/or in trouble kids out of the ghetto and off to Avalon, where they're put to work fighting ... something. I haven't gotten yet to what it is they're fighting.

What I have gotten to is a book that's repellent to me as a Pagan and as a school teacher.

First of all, I will say that the novel would be perfect for my students, except for the language and certain bits of subject matter. I don't know who edited The Child Thief, but let me just say that a novel containing all seven of George Carlin's dirty words, plus some, is not going to go into my classroom. I want to keep my job. I know it's the hip, cool thing to paint ghetto kids as foul-mouthed victims of planned violence, but the big money goes to books that can be touted in schools. I suppose this one will make the cut in suburban districts, where literary standards are more lenient. But those districts push Anne Rice, deservedly. I'm not terribly familiar with her work, but what I have read of it doesn't contain the "f" bomb and most certainly the "mf" bomb. The latter sinks the book for my use in class.

I know, I know. This is tantamount to banning a book. But soft, fair reader! If a student brings a copy of The Child Thief from home, fine and dandy. I just can't hand it around. Sorry, Brom, but you've lost some sales in Camden, New Jersey. That's what you get for demanding verisimilitude in your tough, sad, ghetto kids.

On to the subject matter. It's despicable. I've read over 100 pages, and Avalon is painted as a realm of evil, ruled by snarling beasts, flesh eaters, and bad faeries. There's a particularly repulsive scene describing sexual abuse of the six-year-old Peter. Queen Modred has just appeared, and she's foreshadowed as being manipulative and dangerous. Pixies and tiny faeries bite, sting, and urinate in peoples' mouths.

As for poor Peter Pan, he's a 1400 eternal youth, tortured in grand Lestat fashion by the mission he's been given to protect Avalon.

All ten of you who read this site regularly know that I believe in Peter Pan as an immortal youth, and in his Wild Boys, also immortal youths given the gift of eternal childhood as a reward for difficult earthly lives. Nothing could be more repellent to me than a work of fiction in which Peter -- no matter how conflicted -- is a conniving child-killer. Bad Brom. Very very bad. Your next novel should depict John the Baptist as a conflicted nutcase who drowns half his followers in the process of saving their souls.

The Child Thief is an insult to the ancient Celtic heritage and to its ancient bards, whose knowledge of Avalon and Sidhe we should rather trust. I also believe J. M. Barrie would roll in his grave to think that one off-handed line in his work would lead to a dismantlement of his charming faerie and that faerie's charming mission.

I've tried and tried, and no doubt will try again, to read The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It's just paced too slow for me. Maybe I'll be more patient in time. There's nothing slow-paced about The Child Thief. It hums along from one moment of horror to the next.

I'm sure we Pagans can survive yet another novel in which our beloved deities and their milieu get slathered with foul-smelling mud. Heck, Chick tracts have been doing that for decades. It's just sad to see, is all I'm saying. Peter Pan deserves better treatment. You heard it here.

So. What to do about The Child Thief. Don't buy it point of sale. If you want to read it and shake your head sadly at the picture it paints of all you hold dear, at least wait until you can get a cheap copy second hand. I don't normally bash authors, knowing what it's like to depend upon royalty checks. It's just that this particular author has dealt Celtic Paganism a low blow. He should therefore not expect, nor earn, Pagan patronage.

I've never been to Avalon, but somehow I don't believe that it's a place where six-year-olds are held down, sexually stimulated, and then devoured alive. If I get to Avalon and see such things, I'll be sorely disappointed in my choice of bored gods.


THE Michael said...

I suppose some people think horror stories have to be coached in bad taste. I certainly would not consider what goes on it the book you described as "entertainment". Perhaps it's target audience is no classier than the author.

Sarita said...

How about this -- rather than buying a cheap copy, just borrow it from the library. Then not only does the library get to say they've circulated one more book, but you don't have to waste any money on the book. It's a win-win situation then.

A Wild Celtic Rose said...

Oh do give the Mist of Avalon a chance...

I truly enjoyed it when I read it.

TNT did a mini-series a while back.

Of course, there's no way to adequately translate an 810 page book to a mini-series, but I am one of the people who think they did a good job with it and am not ashamed to say so(locally, "high and mighty" Pagan "scholars" enjoyed panning the series when it came out)

I honestly felt that it did a good job talking about the goddess in her many guises, balance and telling the Arthurian legend from a decidedly feminine and pagan point of view...

I often show it to non-Pagan friends (interested in respectful dialog) as a jumping off point for talking about Pagan religion

Kathy said...

Thanks for the heads up. I don't buy books anymore because I have no room and no money but I do live at the library and frequently do a search for things Pagan or Celtic. I will avoid it like the plague.

I've been thinking of giving The Mists of Avalon another chance but I agree that it's very slow-paced. Maybe this winter when I'm hunkered down under the blankets while it's snowing outside.


doesn't sound like something i would enjoy..Im still waiting for part 2 of the name of the wind..and ive badgered the author patrick rothfuss so much he told me to piss off..ha..that would be a good book for your class

Anonymous said...

Strangely, my captcha was stryl pan.
Does Peter have siblings?
I havn't been to Avalon in ages, but it was nothing like what you described in Brom's Bad Book.
Some of the restaurants were pretty good, but there was a tempest down south and my brother-in-law got incredibly seasick on the way back.


harmonyfb said...

For appropriate books concerning Pagan themes, I highly recommend the series that begins with 'The Lightning Thief' by Rick Riordan. It's about a son of Poseidon who goes to a camp for heroes - Camp Half-Blood, and goes on quests. While it has some weaknesses, what it does have are teenagers worshipping the Hellenic gods, making offerings to them, and receiving real (though not always direct) aid from them in return. There are monsters to fight, and puzzles to solve, and they don't always win - or survive. But the Gods are always treated as real beings, present in our world, and every world.

It might help take the bad taste out of your mouth.

Erik said...

Anne, have you read the Peter Pan "prequel" trilogy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson? They would be great for your classroom; my daughter and I both enjoyed them quite a bit. (Be careful, though - there are also some PP chapter books by them that appear to suck, from glancing through them in the store. The books in the trilogy are much thicker.)

I also definitely second the "Percy Jackson" (Lightning Thief et. al.) recommendation - it's a fun series, and a film of the first volume is being released in February.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Mists is a great book at a certain point in one's reading life.

If you are past that point--and I suspect that you are--then it is just 400 pages of people gossiping about "Who do you think is the baby's real father?".

Souris Optique said...

Have you read "Wise Child," "Juniper," and "Colman" by Monica Furlong? Definitely the best pagan YA fiction ever, for my money.

I read "Wise Child" as a kid, and it was definitely a formative influence.

Paula said...

Did the book continue to be awful?