Saturday, 27 August 2011

Warning: Wardrobe May Contain Lion And Traces Of Snow

I've just read a book that reminded me of how I used to feel when I was around 11 and YEARNED with all my heart for life to be less real than it is. It was (or, at the time of writing, will be, as not in fact published till September 15th) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I won't do any of that smug "I've got a proof copy" stuff, or indeed add any spoilers, so if I say it's AS GOOD AS "JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL" you will know what I mean, and if you don't you probably aren't a huge fan of Wardrobe literature.
Wardrobe literature, since you ask (yeah yeah), is anything that lets you believe that somewhere, if you can only find it, there is a door to somewhere amazing, or a box that contains something amazing, or a tiny odd shop that sells something amazing, etc etc, that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the boring old tax-paying workaday hangover road-rage noisy-neighbour Real World is just a waiting room for somewhere much better, where anything is possible. Wardrobe literature introduces the real world and then dismisses it. It doesn't bamboozle you by throwing you headfirst into Middle Earth or Earthsea, like a travel brochure for somewhere exotic you will never visit and don't speak the language anyway. Devotees of wardrobe literature get excited by antique shops and libraries. They feel a prickling of the hairs on the back of their necks when they see, you've guessed it, a large old wardrobe, or a hidden door, or dusty attic steps. They stop telling people how excited these things make them because they worry that it sounds a bit childish, but the feeling never goes. The phrase "based on a true story" makes them sigh heavily and switch off.
I have attached a very sketchy reading list below. If I have glaringly omitted anything, please let me know...

Suggested Wardrobe Literature for adults:

The Solitudes, Little Big - John Crowley
Declare, Last Call - Tim Powers
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susannah Clarke
The Twelfth Enchantment - David Liss
The Magicians - Lev Grossman
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Waking The Moon - Elizabeth Hand
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Rivers Of London - Ben Aaronovitch
Farundell - L R Fredericks
The Glamour - Christopher Priest
The Book Of Skulls - Robert Silverburg
Mockingbird - Sean Stewart
Time And Again - Jack Finney
Prospero's Children - Jan Siegel
Weaveworld - Clive Barker

Suggested Wardrobe Literature for children:

Anything by the extraordinary and unmatchable Diana Wynne Jones
The Dark Is Rising series - Susan Cooper
The Perilous Gard - Marie Pope Osborne
Marianne Dreams, Thursday - Catherine Storr
Castle Of Bone - Penelope Farmer
Elidor , The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen, The Owl Service - Alan Garner
A Traveller In Time - Alison Uttley
The Giant Under The Snow - John Gordon
Mistress Masham's Repose - T H White
The Children Of Green Knowe - Lucy Boston
Stravaganza: City Of Masks - Mary Hoffman
The House Of Arden - E Nesbit
Tom's Midnight Garden - Philippa Pearce
And, it goes without saying, the Narnia books by C S Lewis.