Aug 17, 2009

Fantasy 202 Syllabus

Over at A Dribble of Ink, Aidan responds to the New Yorker's somewhat lazy list of Seven Essential Fantasy Reads that you should read once you get past the introductory texts of Tolkien, Narnia, and Potter.

I've included the list below. You can visit their site for their justifications.

  1. The Dragonbone Chair, the first book in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, by Tad Williams.
  2. Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, but particularly Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Sailing to Sarantium, and The Fionavar Tapestry (a trilogy that begins with The Summer Tree).
  3. Wizard’s First Rule, by Terry Goodkind.
  4. Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb.
  5. The Scions of Shannara, by Terry Brooks.
  6. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.
  7. Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson.

Although I would consider the list to be suspect after the inclusion of Twilight in their first list of Fantasy Classics, the list isn't horrible. The inclusion of Rothfuss, Erikson, and Kay suggests that they are at least slightly knowledgable on the topic. Some people however, find the list to be very "safe" and "unoriginal" Fantasy author Mark Charon Newton (Author of Nights of Villjamur) went so far as to comment thusly:

"I said that this was unimaginative, ironically, for such an imaginative genre. I’m not saying individually the selections are bad (apart from one, and I very much like a couple) but that this smacks of nothing more than wiki research. Fantasy is a vast and diverse genre - but you wouldn’t think so from this."

Well, Aidan told Mark to post up or shut up (not in those exact words) but Mark took up the challenge and provided his own list of 7 Fantasies That You Should Read. Here's Mark's list (again visit his site for rationale)

  1. The Scar by China Miéville
  2. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
  3. The Book of the New Sun sequence by Gene Wolfe
  4. The Book Of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges
  5. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
  6. The Fortress Of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  7. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Now, I've heard of every book on the New Yorker's List but only 5 of the 7 titles on Mark's (unfamiliar with The Fortress of Solitude and Invisible Cities). Does that make his list better? Not necessarily. Does it inspire me to look into some books? Yes. The New Yorker's list is nothing new and easily forgotten.

But at the same time, I don't think The New Yorker article was targeting the kinds of people who write or read enough Fantasy that they write books or blogs about it. Based off their introduction, it sounds like they were trying to reach people or parents of children who enjoyed the most mainstream Fantasy and were looking for something more, not people who were looking for the most original or most spectacular in the history of the genre.

Which list do you think is better? What titles would you recommend to Potter graduates looking for more?

1 comment:

  1. For what it's worth, when folks ask me what their (nephew/grandson/third uncle) should read now that he's (not to be sexist, it just seems to always be he) finished reading the Potters and the Tolkien, I suggest Kay and DeLint Gaiman and Brooks, then into the Miéville and Calvino (ie, moving away from names that are easy to spell).

    But the traditions get in the way. Miéville is a descendant of Peake, just as Brooks and Kay are descendants of Tolkien. Harry Potter is as much a literary descendant of the school novels of Enid Blyton or Thomas Hughes.


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