G. M. Baker - Author

Category: Reading

Post on reading, reviews, etc.

Promethean vs. Lapsarian Fantasy

Fantasy literature is often characterized as escapist. I think this misses the point. Fantasy is fundamentally concerned with power, and our relationship to it. The fantastic element in every fantasy is power of some kind, either existing in nature or in the protagonist or the antagonist. It may be power of many different kinds, but it is always power, and with that power comes both danger and possibility.

I suggest that there are two major branches of fantasy, which I will call the lapsarian and the Promethean. They differ in how they deal with the dangers and possibilities of power.

The Charm, Silliness, and Virtue of The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is controversial in both literary and Catholic circles. At the literary level, critics dismiss it while the public loves it, regularly voting it high on various best books lists. Catholic opinion is similarly divided, some seeing it as the great Catholic novel of the 20th century while others dismiss it as boring nonsense. Both judgements miss something. The Lord of the Rings is a big, messy, and sometimes silly book, but it has a streak of genius running through it.

Avatar, Friend, and Shrink – Three Modes of Reader Intimacy

Which point of view produces the greatest intimacy between the reader and the character? Watching this debate between two writing friends led me to ask what they meant by intimacy. I propose (invoking the liberty of blogging) that there are at least three modes of intimacy between reader and character: avatar, friend, and shrink. There may be more, but these will do for now.

My First Novel to be Published in 2021

Really pleased to say that my first novel has been accepted for publication by Chrism Press and will see the light of day toward the end of 2021.

The publication contract with Chrism Press has been cancelled. There is many a slip twixt cup and lip. The Rules of Trade will find its way into the world by another route.

The Rules of Trade (The Peaceweaver, Book One), is an historical novel set in eighth-century Northumbria, just weeks after the great Viking raid on the rich monastery of Lindisfarne, which was the 9-11 of the Anglo Saxon world.

On the Value of Close Reading for Writers

The practice of close reading a text is an interesting one. It implies that normal reading is less close. So what is the point of reading a text more closely than normal? Does it yield a better reading experience? Does it provide a window into the soul, or at least the technique of a writer? And did the writer actually compose with as close an attention to detail as the reader brings to the text when they do a close reading? Was every scintilla of meaning and technique that the close reading uncovers placed there by the writer with deliberate and conscious intent, or does the close reading uncover the tacit process of composition? Or is it in fact an imposition on the text, an invention rather than a discovery?

Baby It’s Scold Outside

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One in December 2018 when Baby It’s Cold Outside was the literary cause célèbre of the moment. Few, I’m sure, remember or care now, but the things I had to say on he function and responsibility of literary criticism still seem relevant, so I am reproducing it here.

The latest target of the scolding classes is a Baby It’s Cold Outside, a pop song from the 30s that is suddenly being “banned” from radio stations on the grounds that it condones rape, and, specifically, that the line “What’s in this drink?” is a reference to a date rape drug. 

The accusation is absurd. As this article explains, the song is actually about the woman trying to talk herself into staying the night in the face of a list of a social taboos against her doing so, and “What’s in this drink?” is a common trope of the pop culture of its time, used to excuse saying something that violates some social norm. You are blaming your words on the booze, in other words, and the joke is that there is usually nothing in the drink. 

© Copyright G. M. Baker 2020-2021