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A Guide to Fantasy Literature: Thoughts on Stories of Wonder & Enchantment Paperback – Jul 2009

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A wide-ranging look at the magic of fantasy stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia series, and why they are so popular.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A must for literary collections or those fascinated with the fantasy genre as a whole 10 Oct. 2009
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Fantasy is perhaps one of the oldest genres of literature. "A Guide to Fantasy Literature: Thoughts on Stories of Wonder & Enchantment" is a scholarly analysis of the fantasy genre as a whole. Outlining the various sub-genres within the genre, discussing the similarities between more modern fantasies such as Harry Potter and more epic fantasies such as Lord of the Rings. The characters, settings, and such are under scrutiny in this intriguing and fascinating discussion of modern fantasy. "A Guide to Fantasy Literature" is a must for literary collections or those fascinated with the fantasy genre as a whole.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Guiding The Imagination 18 Dec. 2012
By Raymond Mathiesen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Did your parents read you Grimm's Fairy Tales when you were a child? Or perhaps they read you A. A. Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh? Or did you yourself read Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, or J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or some other imaginative adventure? If so then you have a start in the ever expanding world of fantasy literature. Philip Martin's A Guide To Fantasy Literature will appeal to anyone who has an imagination, who can put aside their "disbelief" (as William Wordsworth wrote in his Preface to Lyric Ballads) and allow a story to take them wherever it will.

Martin has peppered his book with quite lengthy quotes from the novels and this serves to very much wet the appetite of those who have not read much fantasy. "That is interesting, and what happens next?" we ask ourselves.

The general reader is also guided to see what to look for in a fantasy book, or indeed any book. We are encouraged, for example, to ask: what is the character's motivation, and do they change through the book? Thinking about these questions may at first seem a bit deep, but they are things we ask ourselves about the people we know in ordinary life. Thinking about books in this way can help us to see fantasy tales as more than simply adventure stories, to enjoy them even more because they say things about `real' life.

For those who have read a lot of this genre there will be many moments of pleasurable recognition as old favourites are recalled to mind. The seasoned reader may also come away from A Guide To Fantasy Literature liking the novels they have read even more, as Martin has a great knack of bringing out the more subtle details and messages hidden by the authors in their stories.

As well as readers, this book will very much appeal to those who want to write fantasy stories. The first edition of this book was indeed published under the title The Writers Guide To Fantasy Literature. Martin examines the nuts and bolts of the genre and his enthusiasm for the subject makes us think, "I wonder if I could write fantasy?" Many of us do in fact have manuscripts hidden in the back of cupboards and this is just the book to encourage us to get them out and get to work on them again. It is important to note, though, that this is not a `how-to' book, with writing exercises designed to get you writing. The new title is more appropriate as this book really will appeal to a wide variety of readers, but none the less would-be authors will take a special interest.

Martin's reading on the subject has been very wide and indeed covers everything from the little tales of Beatrix Potter to the writings of Jungian psychology analyst Joseph Campbell. He quotes books as old as Homer's Odyssey to as contemporary as Harry Potter.

The Guide also contains many quotes from the relevant literary criticism. This may sound off putting, however, you certainly do not have to be a university graduate to understand and enjoy the book. Martin has selected very clear quotations and his own text simply and clearly brings out the meaning in a way that is very easy to understand. Reading the book is more like listening to a widely-read, fan talking, and indeed the Introduction makes clear that Martin is just that. He has read fantasy novels since he was an excited boy. Many fans of Lord Of The Rings, for example, know that its author, Tolkien, was a member of a writing club called The Inklings, along with the other famous authors C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams, but not so many know that one of the origins of the character Gandalf was a postcard bought during an Alpine trek in the author's youth, in 1911, which depicted "the `spirit of the mountain': an old man with flowing beard, broad-brimmed hat, and long cloak, sitting on a rock under a pine." (Chapter 2)

Martin has also included quotes from interviews which he himself carried out with several authors. This material is new and unique. For example in Chapter 4 there is a quote from Martin's interview of Peter Beagle where that author explains: "I will literally walk around the room talking dialogue and description to myself. I'm going for rhythm ..." We get an interesting, new insight into exactly how that author writes.

For those who want to read more on the subject of fantasy literature Martin has included a bibliography which is annotated; that is, he gives you a very brief summary of what is in each book.

Very much in brief the main topics covered by the book are:

Are these tales just empty, fanciful entertainments, or do they have a meaning applicable to the `real' world?

The history of fantasy from myth and epic narrative to modern classics like Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series.

What exactly is fantasy and does it differ from science fiction?

How do authors get their fantastic ideas?

The five `types' of fantasy: high fantasy, adventure fantasy, fairy-tale fiction, magic realism, and dark fantasy.

Particular techniques and elements such as meter, repetition and magic.

The importance of location and geographic description, particularly in making the `unreal' seem real.

Techniques of characterization and the representation of real human struggle, with the aim of placing `real' people in very `unusual' circumstances.

The centrality of plot and why we keep turning the page.

Martin's A Guide To Fantasy Literature will appeal to a very wide audience ranging from the general reader who has not read much of the genre to university students doing a course in imaginative literature. The book is not at all dull and is written by someone who clearly loves the subject and whose enthusiasm is catching. Martin is very knowledgeable, but does not write in an overly scholarly style. His text is clear, simple and approachable.
A great introduction to Fantasy Literature. 21 Dec. 2011
By Goat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With "A Guide to Fantasy Literature", author, editor, and folklorist Philip Martin has gently restructured his earlier book on the subject, "The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature." The earlier treatment is still valuable and worth looking for. This revised edition centers the study of fantasy literature in broader scope for both the long-time dedicated fantasy literature reader, and as well as for the wise reader of non-fantasy who maybe interested in a smart, but not scholarly introduction. Another well done and highly recommend effort by Mr. Martin.
Good resourse, good reading 31 Jan. 2013
By Debbie Winn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Philip Martin has written a very good book explaining the elements of Fantasy Literature. He breaks down the elements in seven chapters that are informative whether you are looking to better understand why fantasy books have become so popular in the last decade (Harry Potter, anyone?), or if you are thinking about writing something yourself.

One of the things I liked best about this book was Mr. Martin's use of resources - including a lot of authors and their works. He has obviously researched the subject well, and it shows. I'll be taking notes of the bibliography at the end, and he brought to my attention several books I haven't read, but should, in the fantasy genre.
Easy read 15 Sept. 2012
By Lorena - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a really easy book to approach. It gives a good introduction to the genre avoiding long dissertations. I didn't find anything specially intended for writers, it's address to general public.
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