May 15, 2017

a story for our times



I've said it many times before: if I want to have charming conversations with strangers, I take my copy of Anne of Green Gables out with me. It never fails to elicit warm and happy comments from people. How revered that book is! It seems to give people permission to love life, and to love loving.

I don't understand why a bleak and cynical vision of the story is needed. It's bad enough that our entertainment is full of darkness and misery, to the degree that even our comedies are gritty, and anything soft is sneered at. Why take a source of joy and turn it into solemnity? Why twist optimism into grim courage?
 
We are told that these days are hard and dark ones. Certainly that's true in many places, and for too many people - although it's also true that there is much to celebrate about living in this time (not that you would know it if you watched television or, dare I say it, read contemporary fiction.) Really, if things are so hard and dark, surely the medicine is love, optimism, beauty, happiness, charm?

LM Montgomery herself experienced many difficulties in her life. She chose to respond through her stories with hope and a positive vision ... although a dark thread does go through much of her writing, the short stories in particular, and ultimately hope could not sustain her. But as best she could, she gave us the gift of light out of her own darkness, beauty out of her own grief. It seems so sad to take that away.






I realised recently how melancholy my own stories tend to be. I guess I've been influenced to believe that adulthood requires a more sombre kind of creativity than the enthusiastic embrace of wonder I enjoyed as a younger woman. Even so, I've always tried to keep faith with the idea that storytellers should as much as they can offer hope and uplift hearts, otherwise what's a story for? (I know many people disagree with me.)

When even children's literature must be made gritty, when love must be wrestled out of grief and anxiety in order to be considered "realistic", when gentleness is considered weak or uninteresting, how can we learn to envision a warm and inclusive and caring society for ourselves - one we actually want to live in?


pictures from Sullivan Entertainment's gorgeous and iconic mini-series and sequel of Anne of Green Gables, before they ruined everything by modernising the later story with a hideously bleak perspective, and then completely trashed the whole entire story with a ghastly reboot of the original.

7 comments:

  1. You are right.

    And I want a dress made from fabric that looks like your blog background.

    xoxo

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  2. Oh I know what you mean. I started watching the new series about Anne of Green Gables, and was shocked at how dark it felt. And how traumatized they made her. The new Anne also seemed a bit mean which really put me off.

    I first found the book at a yard sale when I was in my early 20s, and I remember how light it made me feel. I was struggling with anxiety and depression, but the book made me feel much better. I carried a lightness with me through the day. I love how she loves beauty, the simple things. How she sees simple truths that other people miss. I also love the 1985 movie, and the actress who plays Anne.

    Maybe the writers think people need drama and angst to stay interested in something these days. Or maybe they feel they have to make something realistic. But I feel there is a deep truth in the Anne books, in the way she sees the world. Sees through the world.

    And I'm not sure how to write something without angst myself.

    I love to read or watch something and be filled with beauty and hope. Even if there is sadness also. And your writing does that for me.

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    Replies
    1. I came to Anne in my early 20s too, and it was like coming home. I'd never before read a book which seemed to be written just exactly for someone like me. How I adored Anne! How I wished I could write a character so wonderful!

      I do wonder if writers of our age have been trained by our reading that we *must* have angst, conflict, etc, in our stories or they will be no good. I myself was educated to believe all stories are about conflict.

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  3. You beautifully described what is wrong with modern entertainment. Thank you!

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  4. I like that Anne is not entirely full of wholesome goodness, there seems to be certain bleakness to her, I think. isn't that why people like Anne so much? I do like that it doesn't go all dark.

    the first movie was good but the second and the third was kind of wrongly done and they dragged out Anne and Gilbert's love story, it's all kind of stupid I guess, but at least the books can't be ruined.

    have a lovely day.

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  5. i've not seen the older "anne" series yet, let alone the new one. i've read that the new one is a bit darker, and wondered why they would go there. it seems to be an unquestioned thing in media that darker and edgier is always better, more relevant to "modern" viewers. i'd argue it isn't, necessarily. if anything, we could use some examples of an alternate universe---a former time, especially, which was a little more genteel. it's important to call out real problems, and speak to them rather than sweeping them under the rug, so stories that do that have their place. but things like "anne of green gables" (in a version that stays true to the original) might be just as important for us in showing us a possibility of a gentler world. and giving us a bit of a refuge from our own time, and a happy (yet not insipid) place for children's viewing and reading too.

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