Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Literary Wonderlands by Laura Miller (Editor)

  • THE BOOK
    • Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created edited by Laura Miller
    • Published November 1, 2016
    • Other works by editor include co-founding Salon.com, writing about books and culture for Slate.com and the book The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia

  • THE PREMISE
    • It's right there in the title!
    • There's a list of 98 ("nearly 100" says the book jacket!) stories:
      • The Epic of Gilgamesh (Anonymous)
      • The Odyssey (Homer)
      • Metamorphoses (Ovid)
      • Beowulf (Anonymous)
      • The Thousand and One Nights (Anonymous)
      • The Mabinogion (Anonymous)
      • The Prose Edda (Snorri Sturluson)
      • The Divine Comedy (Dante Aligheri)
      • Le Morte d'Arthur (Thomas Malory)
      • Orlando Furioso (Ludovico Ariosto)
      • Utopia (Thomas More)
      • The Faerie Queen (Edmund Spenser)
      • Journey to the West (Wu Cheng En)
      • The City of the Sun (Tommaso Campanella)
      • Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)
      • The Tempest (William Shakespeare)
      • A Voyage to the Moon (Cyrano de Bergerac)
      • The Description of a New World, called The Blazing World (Margaret Cavendish)
      • Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift)
      • The Journey of Niels Klim to the World Underground (Ludvig Holberg)
      • The Water Babies (Charles Kingsley)
      • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
      • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)
      • Erewhon (Samuel Butler)
      • The Ring of the Nibelung (Richard Wagner)
      • Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson)
      • Flatland (Edwin Abbott)
      • Looking Backward (Edward Bellamy)
      • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Mark Twain)
      • The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)
      • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
      • Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (J.M. Barrie)
      • The Lost World (Arthur Conan Doyle)
      • At the Earth's Core (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
      • Herland (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
      • Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (Cecilia May Gibbs)
      • We (Yevgeny Zamyatin)
      • The Castle (Franz Kafka)
      • The Cthulhu Mythos (H.P. Lovecraft)
      • Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
      • Conan the Barbarian (Robert E. Howard)
      • Alamut (Vladimir Bartol)
      • Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (Jorge Luis Borges)
      • Islandia (Austin Tappan Wright)
      • The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery
      • The Moomins and the Great Flood (Tove Jansson)
      • Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake)
      • Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
      • The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
      • I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)
      • Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
      • The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
      • Pedro Paramo (Juan Rulfo)
      • Solaris (Stanislaw Lem)
      • A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
      • Pale Fire (Vladimir Nabokov)
      • Planet of the Apes (Pierre Boulle)
      • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
      • A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)
      • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)
      • The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle)
      • Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
      • Ringworld (Larry Niven)
      • Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino)
      • The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
      • Dhalgren (Samuel R. Delany)
      • W or the Memory of Childhood (Georges Perec)
      • Egalia's Daughters (Gerd Mjoen Brantenberg)
      • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (Angela Carter)
      • Kindred (Octavia E. Butler)
      • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
      • The Dark Tower series (Stephen King)
      • The Discworld series (Terry Pratchett)
      • Neuromancer (William Gibson)
      • The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
      • The Culture series (Iain M. Banks)
      • Obabkoak (Bernardo Atxaga)
      • The Sandman (Neil Gaiman)
      • Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)
      • The Giver (Lois Lowry)
      • His Dark Materials series (Philip Pullman)
      • A Song of Ice and Fire series (George R.R. Martin)
      • Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)
      • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone (J.K. Rowling)
      • The Bas-Lag cycle (China Mieville)
      • The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde)
      • Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)
      • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clark)
      • Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)
      • Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
      • Wizard of the Crow (Ngugi Wa Thiong'O)
      • The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Michael Chabon)
      • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
      • 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
      • The Man with the Compound Eyes (Wu Ming-Yi)
      • The Imperial Radch trilogy (Ann Leckie)
      • Lagoon (Nnedi Okorafor)
      • Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (Salman Rushdie)
    • Each book features a picture of the author, a painting or drawing for earlier authors and a photograph for the modern group, and a picture of the work's book cover (or a photo of the early sources: a piece of papyrus or a stone tablet).
    • There's generally a 2 to 4 page essay on the title along with several illustrations from various artwork or movie stills.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I marked the ones I read with blue. A mere 34. There are a few more I hope to tackle eventually: The Giver, Cloud Atlas and the Discworld books. 
    • The essays, written by various contributors, were interesting. The influences on the work and the works they influenced are briefly discussed too.
    • When I think of "literary wonderlands" I generally think of places that aren't Earth but this book has several Earth-bound tales:
      • They might be an imagined future Earth such as Nineteen Eighty-Four or Infinite Jest or an alternate history Earth such as The Eyre Affair (set in the 1980s, it assumes the Crimean War of the 1850s hasn't yet ended) or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (takes place during the Napoleonic Wars but with magicians). But they are still familiarly Earth.
      • It comes back to the concept of worldbuilding. Narnia, Alice's Wonderland, Lilliput, and Westeros are examples of worlds that need to be created from the ground up. But in Never Let Me Go, for instance, students attend an (albeit odd) English boarding school and the story unfolds from there (clones!). There's no worldbuilding, really, to make it a literary wonderland!
      • Here are some examples taken from the reviews on Good Reads that people thought the book should include:
        • A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)
        • Darkover series (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
        • Dune (Frank Herbert)
        • Landover series (Terry Brooks)
        • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemison)
        • A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller Jr)
        • Foundation (Isaac Asimov)
        • The Chronicles of Prydain (Lloyd Alexander)
        • Arabat (Clive Barker)
        • The Inheritance Cycle (Christopher Paolini)
        • The Neverending Story (Michael Ende)
        • The Magicians series (Lev Grossman)
      • Perhaps there will be a follow up book: More Literary Wonderlands!
    • One reviewer was livid over the fact that there were so few women included overall but I think that is a product of civilization, not sexism by the editor and contributors of the book.
      • There are 14 women on a list of 100 titles covering history, the majority coming in the second half of the list.
    • I grew up when education was mainly Eurocentric and American --- no Asian, African or South American books for us --- so some of the titles were unknown to me with the exception of The Thousand and One Nights (Aladdin, Sinbad, genies, etc...).
    • Recommended for those who would like a general overview of the history of fantasy and speculative fiction. More of a coffee table book than an in-depth study.
    • ★ ★ ★

1 comment:

  1. Five, plus one on the omitted list. I do hope the books about movie reviews include highlighting of titles you have seen. Four books by "Anonymous." Were they really anonymous, or just unknown? Seems odd to include an incomplete series like A Song of Ice and Fire.

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