Sunday, March 09, 2008

Through the Wardrobe

I love, love, love the Narnia books. I love Faun Tumnus and the Beavers and Reepicheep (the brave warrior mouse) and the lone lamppost and the stone statues in the witch's castle and the dawn run with Aslan... One of my most treasured books is a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with beautiful illustrations by Michael Hague. Inside it says, "To Sarah, Merry Christmas 1983! Love, Mom and Dad." It makes me think of Christmas mornings, when my brother and I would wait in my room until it was late enough to drag my parents downstairs to see first the stockings then the tree (always in that order -- I was a tad bit obsessive compulsive about family traditions). And Uncle Bill and Aunt Julie, our close-enough-to-be-family neighbors, would come over for bacon and eggs in a breakfast feast worthy of the Beavers. And I'd help my mom set the dining room table with the china for Christmas dinner. And I'd sneak-read bits of whatever books I'd received whenever I thought no one was looking... Anyway, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of those books that makes me smile inside when I see it. I think I've read it at least several dozen times.

So this fall, when an editor from BenBella Books contacted my agent and asked if she had any authors who would like to write an essay for an anthology about the Narnia books, I jumped at the chance. (Or m
ore accurately, I channeled my inner teacher's pet, stretched my hand in the air, and shouted: "Ooh, ooh, me, me, me!")

But what to write about? When adults talk about the Narnia books, there's often much discussion of religious allegory and such. And, of course, the books are clearly religious allegories. But when I was a kid, in all the times I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I never once had the slightest clue that there was even the tiniest bit of symbolism in there. Some kind soul finally pulled me aside (much in the way that parents through the ages have sat down with their kids to give them "The Talk") and repeated the w
ord "Allegory, allegory, allegory!" in increasingly frustrated tones until I finally said, "Oooh, so the whole Stone Table scene..." And then they said "Yes!" and went away muttering under their breath and rolling their eyes.

So when I sat down to write my essay for the BenBella anthology, I decided to embrace my obliviousness. My essay is called "Missing the Point", and in short, it's about why it's okay to be completely clueless.

The essay anthology is called Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. It was edited by Herbie Brennan, and includes essays from the following writers:

Deb Caletti
Diane Duane
Sarah Beth Durst (me!!!)
Brent Hartinger
Susan Juby
Sophie Masson
Kelly McClymer

O.R. Melling
Lisa Papademetriou
Diana Peterfreund
Susan Vaught
Zu Vincent and Kiara Koenig
Ned Vizzini
Elizabeth Wein

And check out the awesome cover:

It comes out this month (March) exclusively at Borders stores, and despite the fact that my essay includes several embarrassing personal anecdotes, I'm really excited about it. Narnia! Aslan! Faun Tumnus! YAY! Seriously, I feel honored to be included.

The very nice folks at BenBella have offered to give me a couple extra copies of Through the Wardrobe to give away on my blog. So in a week or two (once my copies arrive), I'll be hosting a contest here. I hope you'll drop by and enter!

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At 2:14 PM, Blogger Erin said...

That is SO exciting, Sarah! The Narnia books are probably my favorites books EVER. I can't wait to read your story. :)

At 2:22 PM, Blogger gnomesque said...

Ooh, that is exciting! The Narnia books were the first real books I ever read, and I've read them all at least once a year since then.

PS - Hi, I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now, and haven't commented yet, so consider this my delurk.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Erin: Thanks! It was really awesome to have an excuse to reread the whole series. It had been ages since I'd read them all straight through.

Gnomesque: So nice to meet you! Thanks for delurking! I can't remember when I first read the Narnia books, but Lion Witch has always had a place of honor on my shelves.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger E.C. Myers said...

Wow. This is so cool! I named my blog "the lamp-post in the wood", so I'm obviously a big fan of Narnia :) Aside from Lion, my favorite is actually The Magician's Nephew, in the #6 slot, of course. :)

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Eugene: Great blog name! I totally agree with you about the Magician's Nephew placement. It's so much more powerful as #6 than as #1!

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Q said...

I love Narnia so much. I kind of want to live there. If I ever find a way there, anyone want to come with me?

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Enna Isilee said...

Oi! I've been so busy I forgot to be a regular reader!

Fantastic! I'm sure what you wrote is great! Now, if only I could get some money to chip away at that to-buy list...

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Q: Absolutely. Provided it's not the Narnia from the Last Battle, Prince Caspian, or the White Witch's reign. :)

Enna Isilee: Welcome back! I also have a lengthy to-buy list so I completely sympathize.

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Congrats - so this whole post made me pick up the Magician's Nephew when T and I were at the library Tuesday. Are you all telling me I shouldn't reread that one first? Some guidance here people!

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Rick: Since you're rereading, I think it's fine to do it in the current (chronological) order, rather than the old (by publication date) order. If you were reading them for the first time, though, I'd say start with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Magician's Nephew has lots of cool back-story details, like how the lamppost came into existence, which mean more if you know what the lamppost is. It also has some spoilers for Lion Witch (again, not a problem if you already know the story of Lion Witch).

Hope you enjoy the reread!


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