Susan Cooper

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Tue Oct 28 15:55:24 EST 2003

On Mon, 27 Oct 2003 21:30:27 -0700, Robyn Starkey wrote:

>>The issues *I* have with the series have to do with Will being an Old One
>>while still appearing to be a teen.  He has serious potential for being a
>>Smug Git all through the rest of his teens.  And while I know I defended the
>>whole human/Old One dichotomy, it makes me uncomfortable, all that "we are
>>better than humans though of course we'd never say so because we don't
>>actually think that but, yes, really we do" vibe they give off.  My adult
>>self would very much like for the humans to be able to stage some kind of
>>revolt and kick all their immortal butts off the planet.
>This is a really interesting issue. I think there is an elitist element - I 
>was going to say racist, but I suspect it is actually more an intellectual 
>superiority thing - in the books. Cooper is clearly oblivious to this, 
>because there she is preaching about racism in Silver on the Tree, when 
>Will's family are all morally superior to the father of the bad boy who has 
>been bullying. I say she's oblivious because there's this message about the 
>Old Ones preventing evil, but never any sense that they should reflect on 
>their methods.

I think Cooper is oblivious to it because it's not intentional--it's a
natural outgrowth of actually being superior in some respects (longer-lived,
immune to most diseases, and so forth).  In fact, it reminds me a little of
vampire-chic, humans reading Anne Rice and identifying with the wolves when
they are in fact sheep.  That is, I think a lot of readers (and I include
myself here) like to latch on to the most powerful characters and identify
with them as they read.  If in reality you would be a Simon Drew instead of
a Will Stanton, it's like a rejection of what makes humanity good.

But I'm annoyed by it only because I am getting more rabidly egalitarian as
I age; I like reading stories in which assumptions are challenged.  That's
not really important to what's going on in this series, so it isn't
addressed.  Though I do agree that it's a little strange in light of that
episode in _Silver on the Tree_ where she *does* explicitly address it.  I
haven't read it in a while, so I only vaguely remember that it had some kind
of symbolic meaning in the text.  If Cooper had gone into the elitism angle,
it would have been an entirely different book--probably still good, but not
what she ultimately explored.

>>I just spent two hours composing a response (for another list) in defense of
>>J.K. Rowling.  It's not like she's even my favorite writer, but I just
>>cannot stand assumptions of superiority and that whole ridiculous absolute
>>standard of literary style.
>Have you noticed how often people who go on about this make simple 
>grammatical errors? Speaking as someone who teaches stylistics, I don't 
>understand this notion of absolutes anyway. Writing style is partly 
>aesthetic, like painting or music - sure, you can make judgements about 
>technique, but it isn't the only element.

Yes, and I would have liked to cram this down his snotty throat, but I
lacked energy.  As Jacob pointed out, he is unfortunately one of the other
kind--has enough knowledge to "know" what's "right" but not enough to
understand the aesthetic component.  I think he may be the sort who is
word-perfect on "the rules" because it gives him power over others.  And
there goes the whole egalitarian need to defend the underdog again...big fat
loser.  (Him, not me.)

I am SO sick today, the only reason I'm even sitting here is that it doesn't
matter where I go or in what position I recline, I am still miserable.  So
far four of the six of us have caught this miserable gastrointestinal thing,
and we're all lying around watching movies and groaning.  Except the Baby,
who is sleeping under this desk now.  I envy her ability to sleep so soundly
on a hard and cramped surface.  I hope we get better before the weekend, or
I will have expended a lot of energy to no purpose.

Melissa Proffitt

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