The Problem of Susan
How do you Think it Feels
Last week, this week and next week there are stories in the reading that are not included in the edition that I have and there could well be more! Last week I managed to track down an audio version of the story but this week I didn't realise it until just now so haven't read it.
The fact that there are different stories in different editions for different countries puzzles me a little. In fact, it is something that puzzles me in relation to books as a whole, not just this short story collections. The main reason it does so is because I often read the acknowledgements and there will be a nod to the US editor and the UK or Australian or wherever editor and I have to wonder what happens if the editors in the two different countries make different suggestions as to how they think a book can be improved and one doesn't like what the other suggests. Do they agree to disagree? Does the author have to choose which suggestions to take and then tell the other editor, sorry, this is just the way it is? What if there are different changes to be made in the copy edits for the two countries! Anyway, completely off track start to the post this week!
The first entry this week is called Locks and is a reflection on telling a young child a familiar story - Goldilocks and the Three Bears and on the lessons that we can learn from such a tale! Like a couple of the other stories in the collection this one is based on real life. More than either of the other two that we have read so far, I can hear Neil Gaiman talking to me, as though he is sitting across the table from me. I can hear the inflections, the smile in his voice as he relates this episode of telling his then two year old daughter the tale that is so familiar to so many of us growing up. "Again, again, again."
I also laughed at the lines near the end where he says:
These days my sympathy's with Father Bear.The Problem of Susan was my problem story this week. Neil Gaiman is certainly not the only author to take a swipe at the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. From memory Philip Pullman has had his fair share of things to say about the books and the fact that they are an allegorical representation of Christianity. I guess the thing that I find a bit distasteful about this story is not so much the fact that he is critical of the Chronicles of Narnia, because lets face it Gaiman knows more about storytelling than I will ever know, but rather the obvious glee he gets from doing so and from taking the imagery and spoiling it in ways that would be completely unsuitable and unimaginable for the target audience of the book. I guess it just feels disrespectful of others beliefs. Christianity doesn't work for some, but there are a great many who it does work for and who might well be offended by the contents of this story.
Before I leave the house I lock the door,
and check each bed and chair on my return.
At first I didn't realise that the Susan that the problem refers to is Susan from The Chronicles of Narnia, the Susan who gets left behind when the other members of her family enter the "new Narnia" because "she's too fond of lipsticks and nylons and invitations to parties".
I guess your reaction to this story may well depend a lot on your own religious beliefs and where you are at in life. I am a Susan! I was bought up in a religious (Christian) environment, but chose to walk away from the church for a number of reasons, not least of which being that the church failed to act on it's duty of care to two vulnerable young girls. I am perfectly fine with that a lot of the time and for the most part have absolutely no interest in going back to that life with the associated guilt and expectations and necessity to become something other than I am now. However, every now and again enough of the religious indoctrination that I had makes me wonder what if. What if it is true and what if my decision to be a Susan does lead me to missing out on "new Narnia" and then I don't think about it for years again and all is well!
Earlier in this book there were a couple of poems that didn't work that well for me and so I was prepared to make a blanket judgement to say that none of the poems were really going to do so. Instructions was the second poem in this week's reading, and I liked both of them, so obviously that isn't really the case.
This poem is a set of instructions about what to do if you find yourself in a fairy tale and their are nods to all sorts of fairy tales and mythology. I loved the references to earlier stories that we have read. For example,
"In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve months sit around the fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales"
seems to be a direct reference to the story October in the Chair which we read in the first week of the readalong.
How do you Think it Feels is the story that isn't in my edition of the book. I will make more of an effort to find that story that is missing from next week's reading.
Head over to Stainless Steel Dropping to read Carl's thoughts about this week's reading and to find links to other participants.