Thursday 4 June 2015

Subcreation and world-building in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Having read the notes in addition to the novel, it is clear that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (by Susanna Clarke) is one of the most real fictional subcreations I have ever encountered.

It is very difficult not to believe it really happened, because the world is so detailed, so consistent, so convincing. As I walked around Newcastle today, I kept thinking of the time when the Raven King ruled from here - I even saw a raven!

I was trying to the think of comparisons in the post-Tolkien literature.

The nearest fantasy I could come are the Alan Garner Weirdstone of Brisingamen/ Moon of Gomrath duo in which the magical events are sewn-into a lot of local and family history, folklore and neo-paganism. The ring of truth and believable - but the detail is much less than in JS&MN.

The other example is the Glass Family stories by JS Salinger, which are also difficult not to believe, and similar in their detailed and deep and partly factual back-story (albeit in a different style) to JS&MN.

('Difficult not to believe', that is, with the exception of the last Glass story published - Hapworth 16 1924, which is simply atrocious).

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