Monday, January 23, 2017

*NOT* by Salman Rushdie

One of the things you learn while reading “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” as it is presented in Lyle W. Dorsett’s “The Essential C.S. Lewis” is how short the book is.
In this presentation, it’s a mere 77 pages.

In standalone paperback editions, it’s up to 208 pages long.

But the story’s word count belies whatever formatting it appears in. Per the Internet, it is 37,492 words. Or 36,362 words. Or 38,421words.

(The Internet, as is its wont, disagrees. Suffice it to say, the book is not long, and variations in number from place to place probably depends on the edition, and whether forewords, etc., are included in the word count.)

Nevertheless, that seems really short.

(The Hobbit, by comparison, clocks in at about 95,000 words [won’t quibble here on word count; just wanted another contemporary “children’s novel” for comparison].)

Then again, he probably had time to write a short novel, if Mark Twain is to be believed.
Why should I fret that the story is so short, given that it’s part of a seven-book series?
Probably because I recognize that at 103,000 words and counting, my Doleful Creatures could probably do with a paring down to sharpen the story.

Now, we don’t know how much cutting Lewis and/or his editors did with his book before it was published. But I suspect, given the economy of the story, that not much was cut.
Or maybe some was moved to a subsequent book?

I’m not going to fuss about it. I’ll just finish reading it for the umpteenth time and marvel in the story, and in its anthropomorphic and spiritual perfection. And in this section, which since I read it the first time has made me loath to kill mice:

I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night, but If you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again. At any rate that was how it felt to these two. Hours and hours seemed to go by in the dead calm, and they hardly noticed that they were getting colder and colder. But at last Lucy noticed two other things. One was that the sky on the East side of the hill was a little less dark than it had been an hour ago. The other was some tiny movement going on in the grass at her feet. At first she took no interest in this. What did it matter? Nothing mattered now! But at last she saw that watever-it-was had begun to move up the upright stones of the Stone Table. And now whatever-they-were were moving about on Aslan’s body. She peered closer. They were little grey things.

“Ugh!” said Susan from the other side of the Table. “How beastly! There are horrid little mice crawling over him. Go away, you little beasts.” And she raised her hands to frighten them away.

“Wait!” said Lucy who had been looking at them more closely still. “Can you see what they’re doing?”

Both girls bent down and stared.

"I do believe!” said Susan. “But how queer. They’re nibbling away at the cords.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Lucy. “I think they’re friendly mice. Poor little things – they don’t realise he’s dead. They think it’ll do some good untying him.”

It was quite definitely lighter by now. Each of the girls noticed for the first time the white face of the other. They could see the mice nibbling away, dozens and dozens, even hundreds, of little field mice. At last, one by one, the ropes were all gnawed through.

The sky in the East was whitish by now and the stars were getting fainter – all except one very big one low down on the Eastern horizon. They felt colder than they had been all night. The mice crept away again.

And just a reminder, it’s NOT by Salman Rushdie.

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