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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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Picture of the madness of queen monk
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Hi Y'all --
I;ve been looking through the archived discussion on Mr. Gaiman's other works, and so far I haven't found a discussion re "The Problem of Susan." Did I miss it? Regardless, I would love to read what anyone has to write about it.

Thanks!
g


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
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and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
Posts: 1540 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: March 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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Picture of the madness of queen monk
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quote:
Originally posted by monkg:
Hi Y'all --
I;ve been looking through the archived discussion on Mr. Gaiman's other works, and so far I haven't found a discussion re "The Problem of Susan." Did I miss it? Regardless, I would love to read what anyone has to write about it.

Thanks!
g


----

Well, I guess nobody has anything to say about the story. Which is cool -- I don't mind personally, I just was curious.

I could write to myself what I thought . . . I think it's amazing. I think it's painful and it hurts as much today as when I first heard it almost a year ago. And certainly one of his best stories, maybe ever.

g


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
Posts: 1540 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: March 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I've never heard of the story. Where's it at?


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Posts: 22785 | Location: here | Registered: June 15, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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Picture of the madness of queen monk
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quote:
Originally posted by JP:
I've never heard of the story. Where's it at?

-----

Hi JP!

It's in an anthology titled "Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy" and it's edited by Al Sarrantonio. It has some seriously good authors besides Mr. Gaiman's* story. I had the great good fortune to hear him read it at the MythCon in Michigan last July -- I think Matt Cable was the only other boarder at that Con. It's amazing. Though I think it's necessary to have read CS Lewis's Narnia books to appreciate it (kind of like "Study in Emerald" requires some knowledge of both Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes to enjoy).

thanks for asking!!
g

*I fell weird calling him "Neil" but Mr. Gaiman sounds odd too so I think I'm going to start referring to him as NG.


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
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The Biscuitkeeper
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I need to get a copy of it. I was at Mythcon when Neil read it, but I was still reading Narnia at the time. It kinda ruined The Last Battle for me, but I got by. I haven't read "Susan" since I finished Narnia.

I'll let you know when I get a copy of it. I did enjoy Neil's reading. Smile


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Posts: 10767 | Location: Michigan | Registered: April 27, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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quote:
Originally posted by Matt Cable:
I need to get a copy of it. I was at Mythcon when Neil read it, but I was still reading Narnia at the time. It kinda ruined The Last Battle for me, but I got by. I haven't read "Susan" since I finished Narnia.

I'll let you know when I get a copy of it. I did enjoy Neil's reading. Smile

------

Cool!! I couldn't remember if you were at the reading -- I was thinking so, but my memory is not always reliable . . .

Yeah, if you hadn't finished the Narnia books, the story is spoiler. But his reading was fantastic regardless. And the dark subject matter was handled with such grace and beauty, I thought. (I submitted an abstract re the story and how it relates to the Narnia book for a Lewis Con at Belmont University this fall. Now I just have to write the paper. Eeep!)

g


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
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Firekeeper's Sister
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I liked it. It was sad and beautiful. It was good.

Sorry I have nothing better to say about it just now... guh not in the lit analysis frame of mind just at the moment...


-Natalie
----*-*-*-*----
I have heard the Languages of Apocalypse,
and now I shall embrace the silence.
 
Posts: 2775 | Location: The bottom of a small bowl of imaginary winged serpents | Registered: March 11, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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quote:
Originally posted by VegaRiad:
I liked it. It was sad and beautiful. It was good.

Sorry I have nothing better to say about it just now... guh not in the lit analysis frame of mind just at the moment...

------

What you said is perfectly fine. Thanks!
g


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
Posts: 1540 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: March 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I just read it. Absolutely brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And heartbreaking.

I loved Narnia as a child, but as I got older, its sharp dualism (in the "good v. evil" sense) started to get under my skin. Plus, I felt embarrassed about how sexist, racist, and overtly anti-Islamic it was. But (outside of science fiction) I can usually put the progressivism aside for old literature. Just didn't feel much need to go back and read them again.

Gaiman's made me feel guilty for not really interrogating the problem of Susan before. It is a serious moral failing in me, Lewis, or both of us. Lewis shuts the door to paradise in Susan's face because she grows up and discovers boys? I never thought about the fact that she would have grown up an orphan; would probably had to identify the bodies of her family in the wreckage of the train. Or the fact that all those other people on the train were sacrificed too, possibly just so the favored few could be snatched up and taken to their predestined triumph at the Last Battle.

It also undermines the good/evil split. The Witch and the Lion reach detente, and seal the deal quite happily. They leave the battle field quite satisfied. Sated. Creepily, creepily sated.

Poor Susan.
 
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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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quote:
Originally posted by Maat:
I just read it. Absolutely brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And heartbreaking.

I loved Narnia as a child, but as I got older, its sharp dualism (in the "good v. evil" sense) started to get under my skin. Plus, I felt embarrassed about how sexist, racist, and overtly anti-Islamic it was. But (outside of science fiction) I can usually put the progressivism aside for old literature. Just didn't feel much need to go back and read them again.

Gaiman's made me feel guilty for not really interrogating the problem of Susan before. It is a serious moral failing in me, Lewis, or both of us. Lewis shuts the door to paradise in Susan's face because she grows up and discovers boys? I never thought about the fact that she would have grown up an orphan; would probably had to identify the bodies of her family in the wreckage of the train. Or the fact that all those other people on the train were sacrificed too, possibly just so the favored few could be snatched up and taken to their predestined triumph at the Last Battle.

It also undermines the good/evil split. The Witch and the Lion reach detente, and seal the deal quite happily. They leave the battle field quite satisfied. Sated. Creepily, creepily sated.

Poor Susan.


I just presented a paper on this at the C. S. Lewis Con at Belmont University. (Susan is actually at least 18 when this happens, btw.) If you have any interest in continuing to discuss this, please PM me. I'd love to talk about this amazing story. And if you don't want to, that's totally totally cool. Smile I'm just glad to know someone else likes the story as well.


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
Posts: 1540 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: March 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This story is actually one of my three favorite stories by Neil...the others being "Murder Mysteries" and "The Flints Of Memory Lane."
 
Posts: 64 | Location: Portland, Oregon USA | Registered: March 06, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Just to be different....

I actually didn't like it. I dunno, it just seemed empty to me. The blatent sexuality and violence might have struck a harsh contrast to Lewis' work, but I didn't really get what Gaiman was trying to say with it. His work in the Sandman is a much more loving tribute to Lewis, who he describes as his favorite author. In defense of a dead man, Lewis' is a favorite target for those who hate Christian writers (not saying Gaiman is attacking him, I'm refering to people like Pullmen), some of the points that these people make might be valid but it all definatly seems to have an agenda behind. It is all amusing to me that while CS Lewis is often attacked for being a Christian Allogorist (personal I think this is a misuse of Allegory), JRR Tolkien's work Lord of the Rings' Christian Themes are often ignored and the work is considered to be seculier. But I digress, the Problem with Susan, refering to the lipstick issue from Last Battle, may seem bigoted, but if you re-read the book you might get a different interputation. Just because I'm lazy I'm going to quote someone from a message board, just because they sum it up rather nicely


"I should like to encourage readers to examine the material regarding Susan again. I too have read Mr. Pulman's books and have great respect for his craft and imagination, if not his unfortunate choice to put on blinders regarding Susan, merely because he is intolerant of Christianity.

I spent the last week re-reading the CoN, and took note in particular of the character of each of the children. Susan is conspicuously conservative and practical. This proves useful on a number of occasions (e.g. they put on the fur coats at her prompting rather than going strait away into the wintery adventure in LWW). However, it is her reluctance to face the adventure before her that is the problem. This is the classic fairy tale formula peeking in; the adventure is always the one that you never expected, and is just a little over your head, but ONLY if you have the faith to undertake it, will you be the one to get the golden egg, the magic sword, the fairy castle etc. As astutely noted by James and Ellie, the problem of Susan is not that she is damned to hell, but that she has strayed from the path of faith. It bears a more subtle reading than the multiculturalist lens of victimization would allow.

In one sense, I'm a little surprised that the deconstructionist reader is not in fact more intrigued by Susan, as she is in many ways much more complex than say, Peter. While adventurous in action, he does not show exceptional imaginiation. He doesn't take a stand until he sees, at which point his dutiousness is pretty much redoubtable. Susan on the other hand is the one only one that grapples with faith. She is complex because she stands in the shadowlands, seeing in both directions, and must struggle with discernment. A careful reading, putting neither more nor less into it than is in the text, shows that she is not damned, but merely left to struggle. She is not with the rest in Narnia, only because she is not on the train that wrecked. In this instance, she prioritized worldly matters higher than spiritual ones.

The very interesting problem, is in what she is to do following the sudden death of all her family, and the only other people who could shed light on the issue (Prof. Kirk and Polly). However, two important clues come to mind. We are not privy to just what Aslan says to her and Peter in Caspian, but is probably is similar to what is said to Lucy and Edmund, to whit, "you must learn to seek me in your world by another name." Furthermore, it is clearly mentioned more than once, in the chronicles, that "once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia." See Luke 15:1-7, and Romans 8:38-39.

If we are to seek out subtext, it seems much more likely, that having been a queen of Narnia for literally years, Susan could not mistake it for pretend or stories, much less, the experience of Aslan, face to face. I think that it is far more reasonable to assume that her choice not to participate in the circle of the Friends of Narnia has much more to do with the reluctance to face the possibility of pain, very like the way that some people pretend that the death of a friend is not as bad as all that. Her characteristic reluctance takes her to the supposed safety of not being reminded of the most beautiful experience of her life. In choosing to be practical about the loss of Narnia, she can pursue safer pleasures of a sort that won't disappoint (even if they don't fulfill either).

I would encourage readers to look past the reckless simplicity of Lewis' form which caught me as a child, and focus instead on the substance, which is what brought me back as an adult."


But that's CS Lewis' work and its all kinda besides the point. Gaimen story didn't work for me, maybe because it did at points seem like spitting on the grave on someone who is often mislabeled as a bigot. But again I could be misinterpting it, but on my initial reading it seemed mean spirited, in places at least. Anyway, partial just playing devil's advocate. Why do you kids think he was saying with the piece?
 
Posts: 3 | Registered: December 20, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by monkg:
I just presented a paper on this at the C. S. Lewis Con at Belmont University. (Susan is actually at least 18 when this happens, btw.) If you have any interest in continuing to discuss this, please PM me. I'd love to talk about this amazing story. And if you don't want to, that's totally totally cool. Smile I'm just glad to know someone else likes the story as well.

Why in a PM, munkDawg? I wanna know what you and others have to say about it. I've never read all the Narnia books, and never read Susan, but I have some understanding of the issue and am interested to read what others have to say.


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Squint as you approach lest his moxie blind you.
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There was a Lewis Con at Belmont, and nobody told me!??!?!?!? Aggggghhhhhh.... Eek

Anyway bought that Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy book for my dad for Christmas, so I'll be reading the essay soon.


______________

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" . . . . "Absolutely! If we just put little wheels on the bottoms of our shoes we can just rolllll around..."
 
Posts: 261 | Location: USA | Registered: January 02, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This is one of his short stories I got the most excited about and I also think it's brilliant. Especially for the way he breaks out of the safe path and shocks the reader. I think I like him even better when he's upset about something.

It probably worked so well for me because I didn't read the Narnia books and all I knew about it was the movie. It was quite a shock to find out how it ends when it seemed like an innocent, brightly colored, uplifting story for kids where you know things will end up well. After this I don't think I want to read the books either.

Yes, you can say that Susan is left to struggle because she lost the path of faith, but that's simply saying that one cannot be happy unless they choose a path of faith and this is religious propaganda that I'm not happy with. To leave Susan alone in this world with the knowledge of how her family died and even feeling guilty about it, is indeed punishment, however you choose to explain it.

And I also found it in an anthology of horror stories from 2004 together with another Gaiman story (I don't remember the title, sorry). It was at Borders about a month ago, I don't know if it's recent or they just happened to dig it out just then.

Anybody has any thoughts about what Mary Poppins is doing in the story? I have no good theory on her myself, I'm just curious.
 
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Squint as you approach lest his moxie blind you.
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Right. Just read it. Um...I like the premise. The execution was slightly disappointing, and he sort of lost me with the Aslan-Witch sex scene.

I'm sure there are deep literary and spiritual questions that Neil's seeking to answer, but I just think he did a poor job here. Sorry, still love ya! Razz

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Uskglass,


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Originally posted by chimeer:
And I also found it in an anthology of horror stories from 2004 together with another Gaiman story (I don't remember the title, sorry).

Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror 16, other story is Forbidden Brides...[etc]
 
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I guess nobody's still interested in this, but I felt the need to babble. Smile

I really liked the story; I hadn't read Lewis in a while, but I remember turning away from the Narnia books for some of the reasons this story seemed to address.

I suppose it was relatively graphic for Gaiman (I've only finished Smoke and Mirrors, so I'm talking out of my hat here), but I thought making the Lion and the Witch both so corporeal helped undermine Lewis' rather sanguine condemnation of Susan. Suggesting that the gods of Narnia may have their own concerns makes Susan's separation from Narnia more a choice than a failure on her part.

I didn't really have a "X quotation clearly means Y explanation," but I thought all the little parts about how the adult Susan hates the way she smells, avoids touching the dead mouse, and seems cut off from all the men she had been physically involved with made Lewis' censure of her sexuality even more sad. (I'm reading the "nylons and lipstick" stuff as a critique of both her materialism and sexuality).

I sort of thought the Mary Poppins part was there to suggest that story was what the Professor Susan had wanted to find in her "Quest for Meanings in Children's Fiction." The Mary Poppins in the story the professor had "always wanted to read" can't even be ordered around by the Trinity; though her powers remain domestic (keeping the sheet of the Holy Ghost its whitest), she seems removed from the violent and sexually-frightening Lion & Witch. She seems like the kind of goddess a Susan who is still tortured by her own body would invent"”satisfying some traditional, female roles but ultimately untouchable.

Gaiman's story seems ambivalent about its own "quest." It suggests the problems that Lewis' work raised (identifying the bodies, Susan's likely guilt about "luxeries"), but at the same time pokes light fun at Greta's post-it note-covered book. Still, I thought it seemed primarily sympathetic to both women. Greta seems tied to both the cake-baking world of her non-book reading family, and a search for some kind of alternative; when she received Susan's dream, it seemed like some kind of passing on of female storytelling that didn't exist for them otherwise. (This put me in mind of the end of "Snow, Glass, Apples").

Whew, that was long-winded. Sorry. Smile Maybe my own rusty knowledge of Lewis creaked through that explanation, but that's what I took from the story.
 
Posts: 44 | Registered: February 16, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Elah Adonijai
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I thought this story was interesting. The whole Aslan/Witch sex-scene really, really disturbed me (I'm with you, Uskglass). I know part of this is because I am a Christan.

Here's my question. After re-reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (and seeing the movie) I'm remembering the quote where Aslan says, "Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia." Any thoughts on the significance of this, if any?

Granted, I don't have The Last Battle in front of me, and it's been close to a year since I read The Problem of Susan, so maybe you all can help me make the connection, if there is one?


____________________________________________________________________
"Patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer i beg to submit that it is the first." - Ambrose Bierce
----------------------
A Good Scoundrel isn't Hard to Find
 
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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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I think two things are important to remember: first, nowhere in NG's story are the specific names Aslan or the White Witch used. The professor is called Professor Hastings; she is not identified with the last name of Pevensie. But as Mr. Gaiman told the attendees at the Mythopoeic Society's annual conference in July 2004, on the sea coast southeast of London, Pevensy Bay is right next to Hastings Bay; we are allowed to see a connection.

Secondly, I don't think there's any evidence that C. S. Lewis is equating the nylons and lipsticks with sexuality. Susan is at the very least 18 years old at the time of "The Last Battle." She is actually probably closer to 20, if you carefully examine the chronology of the books. That's a little late for a young woman to be discovering sex and hormones. And CSL has already written of Susan as a grown woman in "A Horse and His Boy" -- a woman on the verge of entering an engagement to be married. So I don't think the whole argument of her being condemned because she discovers sex can hold.

Oh -- and one more thing. Susan's ultimate rejection is foreshadowed in "Prince Caspian" where she refuses to see Aslan and later admits that she did see him, she just didn't want to be bothered. She recants and is sorry in PC. But it is *her* choice to not see Aslan, not some sort of punishment meted out to her by a vengeful God.

(I could go on and on! Sorry.)

grace


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
Posts: 1540 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: March 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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