Fantasy, Modernism, Leonard Woolf, Ceylon, Harry Potter: Now It Can Be Told
I don’t link to everything I write. In fact volumetrically speaking I link to hardly anything I write. But I’m going to link to this
It started with something that happened almost 20 years ago. My mom, who’s an English professor, was working on a review of a new edition of Leonard Woolf’s diaries. This is the kind of thing my parents do. Leonard Woolf being the husband of Virginia Woolf, but also a pretty interesting guy in his own right. Because he was Jewish, and poor, he didn’t have a lot of options when he graduated from college, so he enlisted in the British Civil Service (he almost flunked the exam), which sent him to Ceylon to help out with oppressing the indigenous population.
Anyway, my mom was reading his diaries, sitting in a massive faux-leather La-Z-Boy in our old living room, and she told me an anecdote: apparently Leonard Woolf had a colleague in Ceylon who was writing something. Woolf was a literary snob even before he got married to one of the greatest novelists ever, and he looked at the guy’s work, and he remarked with horror — dripping with scorn voice here — that it contained “fairies.”
Flash forward to last year, order generic zithromax when my first fantasy novel came out. I was thinking about fantasy, and why I write it, and what it means, and that anecdote came floating to the surface of the brackish pond that is my memory. And I wondered, who was that poor forgotten guy, on whose manuscript Leonard Woolf dripped scorn?
So I found out.
That’s only partly what the piece is about. It’s also about making connections between fantasy and modernism, which it seems to me people should do more often. The two literary movements that I’ve basically organized my life around started pretty much at the same moment in history. That can’t have been a coincidence.
(I mean, fantasy has been around for millennia, but fantasy in the modern sense, the Lewis-and-Tolkien sense. You know what I mean.)
Anyway, I’m happy with how the piece came out. I’m pretty tired of writing these truncated little 650-word nuglets for Time. It felt good to type knowing that I didn’t have to stop when I came to the end of the little box. When I announced to my mom that she told me the anecdote that started the whole piece off, she looked at me and said: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
It’s true what the Fresh Prince said. Parents just don’t understand.