Aug 23, 2011 (2 days ago)
With Seussian Pom Poms on their Heads
from Blog and Mablog by email@example.com (Douglas Wilson)
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The Dragon's Tooth releases today, so hotfoot it on down there. You don't want the line forming ahead of you.
There are two things I want to write about here. The first is the world that this new Ashtown series is set in, and the second is the world that we are in.
Cyrus and Antigone Smith live in a rundown roadside motel just west of Lake Michigan with their older brother Daniel. Their mother is nearby in a coma, and they visit her regularly. Their father has been dead for a few years. Now if you define spoilers as bits of information that you would not find out until chapter two or three, this might be a good time to stop reading. But if not, then carry on. It turns out their parents had a tenuous relationship with a really odd secret society, the Order of Brendan.
But this ancient order appears to be dedicated more to exploration and the collection of oddments than anything else. Think of a National Geographic society with paranormal powers, and a list of organization officers going back to the exploro-monk, Brendan. At the same time, their presence has contributed greatly to the twists and turns of our civilization, in ways you will discover soon enough. It turns out that a lot of disconnected and episodic battles in our history were actually parts of one, long running battle. But you can read about all that later. This book is releasing today, and Nate is virtually done with the manuscript of the second book, a manuscript which has the older cousins all agog, not to mention their parents and grandparents.
In the Cupboards trilogy, Nate successfully created scores of worlds, all connected by the motherboard of a wall full of cupboards. The protagonists were in and out of these worlds, not to mention being in and out of our own. In the new world of this new Ashtown series, the fantastic world is in effect an overlay of our own, with constant and ongoing interaction.
And this brings me to the second point, what I would describe as the central theme of all Nate's writing. His is an essentially Chestertonian vision. In a recent interview, he says that his point is to show that the world is "exactly as it seems." Lest we then nod and go back to sleep, the point is that we live in an actual world that is beyond bizzaro. To follow BBC cameramen in search of insects is to descend into the world of Dr. Seuss. If you don't think there really are creatures with Seussian pom-poms on their heads, then you obviously need to get out more. If you have the right kind of eyes, you can see it all, right here on Mulberry Street.
Chesterton put it this way. Our Father is younger than we; we have sinned and grown old. We constantly need to be brought up short. We need to be recalibrated. We need to look at the world with refreshed eyes. So the point of the right kind of fantasy -- which is what these books most certainly are -- is not to tell lies about the world. The point is confront the ever present Doldrum Lie.
The Cupboards series was a triology. This Ashtown series is planned to cover five volumes, and the journey starts today.