Friday, 15 November 2013

‘Epic Pooh’ – Michael Moorcock

The ‘Epic Pooh’ essay can be found in the ‘Wizardry and Wild Romance’ collection and I’m not a hundred percent sure if said collection is being re-published as part of Gollancz’ new ‘Moorcock’s Multiverse Collection’. Amazon says no but Amazon tends to say a lot of things that are easily disproved; the collection is going for pennies though and is probably worth a punt if you want to see what Moorcock has to say when he’s not writing books.
One of these essays, of course, is ‘Epic Pooh’; an essay that caused a little bit of rowdiness on forums that I have frequented in the past (people love to yell on forums don’t they?) I’d never read it myself so when I saw the book, in the charity shop, I was quite keen to pick it up and see what the fuss was all about. Having polished it off on the commute this morning I’m finding this post a little difficult to write. I find myself agreeing with a lot of what Moorcock says but, at the same time, can’t help wondering if he has missed the point a little bit.

Commuting constraints meant that ‘Epic Pooh’ was a quick read (in terms of me having to get through it) so what I’m giving you guys are quick thoughts and reactions to it; nothing too deep here then…

To sum things up, Moorcock basically attacks the likes of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and a couple of others, saying that their work is a kind of comfortable ‘rural romance’ where middle class ideals and religious propaganda ‘dull’ the actual story. I can kind of see where he’s coming from here, especially (and I’m going off on a slight tangent here) when he talks about Tolkien’s ‘awful verse’. I can’t stand Tolkien’s poetry, does very little if anything for the actual plot, and it’s my fear of encountering Tom Bombadil again (and his insistence on poetry) that stops me reading ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ as much as I would otherwise. Sorry, I’m digressing; Tolkien’s poetry will do that to me…. I’d also agree with him in that I would much rather read a book by Alan Garner than C.S. Lewis. Garner is the better storyteller, in my opinion, and keeps that as the sole focus; no pushing an agenda here. I really need to re-read ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and ‘The Moon of Gomrath’ again… Moorcock does come across as attacking Lewis for his beliefs rather than his storytelling though and that does take the edge off what he is saying (keep it about the books, don’t make it personal). The point does stand though. There is an element of comfort to these works that don’t make them particularly challenging reads, hence the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ argument.

So Moorcock also says that these books somehow betray what Epic Fantasy (or romances) is all about and that’s where I think that his argument at least falters, if not completely falls down. By acknowledging the big difference between the two strands; it becomes clear that while the slight similarity offers room to have a little moan, Moorcock’s vehemence on this score highlights the fact that there isn’t really an effective basis for comparison. So does ‘Epic Pooh’ become a case of Moorcock having a moan about books that he just doesn’t get on with? Not quite, there’s enough analysis here not to make that an issue, but I couldn’t help feeling that Moorcock was framing things to suit his argument and perhaps missing the point of what the focus of his ire was all about. Have any of you guys read ‘Epic Pooh’?

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