Monday, 11 July 2011
Kim Kardashian, Apes and Whales, and Cassandra Claire's Mortal Instruments
Fake tan, hair spray, perfume, make up. This is how glamour is achieved in real life, but in stories, it's better. In stories glamour equals magic. The celebrities on the red carpet use their version of glamour to minimise the ordinary, maximise the extraordinary. They make run of the mill features beautiful, and turn beautiful faces otherworldly. It's a kind of real life magic. In contrast, in The Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Claire, magical beings use glamour to make themselves seem ordinary, to make themselves seem exactly like the rest of us. Art imitating life, but in an opposite kind of a way.
A while ago I wrote a post about the appeal - in children's literature - of portals (rabbit holes, wardrobes and suchlike) leading to magical worlds. Now we come across a second kind of magical world, the kind that exists all around us and we just can't see it. I've just read Claire's 'City of Bones' and 'City of Ashes.' In these a 17 year old girl learns that the world is full of witches, werewolves, vampires and elves, walking alongside us in magical disguise.
The theme of this blog, recently anyway, has been looking at ideas in books and trying to understand why they work. The idea of glamour is fascinating, but I think a more important part of the story is the idea of different, intelligent species walking among us. What's the draw? I think it comes from the same desire for the real world to be BETTER, more interesting, more romantic that also drives the appeal of glamour.
I liked the stories, though not so much as it's raving fans, because to me there's tons of magic to be learnt about the intelligence of creatures we really do share planet earth with.
And we shouldn't forget that we know far more about the minds of our furry relatives than we do about whales and dolphins. The biggest brain ever to have existed belongs to the sperm whale, and we know practically nothing about what it uses all that grey matter for, what philosophies fizz through it. I've written an entire novel of guessing...
The other pull of these stories is the plotting, but by the end of the 2nd it had begun to drag. There's lots of it that I seemed to half recognise from Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings and who knows where else. And the characters don't seem to move forwards as much as round in circles. It's very much a series, too, with not much ending to mark the movement from one book to the next. It seems fairly arbitrary.
But if you're prepared to read all three, and you like the idea of hidden magic all around you, I recommend it. I also recommend finding out what whales and gorillas think, but that's likely to be a bit more tricky...
If you like the stories more than me, why not review one of them in 30 words and enter it in my 'review-on-a-post-it' contest (see the button at the top of the sidebar).