Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where is Arthur when we need him?

Well, this is definitely not new, but I will still post here about it. I am currently reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White for my book group. This is one of those books that, one way and another, I thought I'd already done. I haven't. I may have read The Sword and the Stone-- in fact I'm sure I did, because it's familiar, and not just from the Disney movie of the same name. But I don't think I went on to the rest of the saga, though of course I did see Camelot, as everyone else of my era did. I just didn't know that the musical/movie was based on the work of White. The book, or actually four books, start out lightly and get progressively darker. I am very curious about where White was in all this. It takes awhile to write a four volume work, and White was writing this as Hitler was steadily overwhelming Western Europe.

I was surprised and delighted to find that the members of my book group were all quite taken with this work. I thought its fantasy element, especially in the beginning, might work against it. But no--they've agreed to stretch it out over a two month period so that we can all finish it.

I was listening to a podcast of a Q and A with Salman Rushdie today. He mentioned how the Orpheus/Euridice myth, which can be summarized in a paragraph, has a kind of nuclear reaction intensity, which is set off in hundreds of volumes of subsequent exposition, and I think the Arthur/Guenivere/Lancelot triangle has a similar explosive capacity. It has not been fully mined by White nor can it be fully exploited by anyone. It is our material, we westerners. I'm wondering what angle a post millennial writer might look at...because the book clearly states that both Arthur and Merlin are supposed to come back.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I will just post my own comment here, which is that I should take a page out of Rushdie's book and say that, though it is Western source material, access belongs to anyone who wants to spend the time understanding it and drawing from it. I guess what I really meant is that, as Westerners, it is our own 'stuff', to use the polite term, and we need to integrate it into our psyches. A culture such as China's might be able to use it in a slightly different outsider's kind way.