The Dark Is Rising (Susan Cooper) 5*

“And you were a very young eleven,” Mrs Stanton said, chewing reflectively.

“Huh!” said Mary.  “And I suppose Will isn’t?”

For a moment everyone looked at Will.  He blinked in alarm at the ring of contemplating faces, and scowled down into his plate so that nothing of him was visible except a thick slanting curtain of brown hair.  It was most disturbing to be looked at by so many people all at once, or at any rate by more people than one could look at in return.  He felt almost as if he were being attacked.  And he was suddenly convinced that it could in some way be dangerous to have so many people thinking about him, all at the same time.  As if someone unfriendly might hear…

“Will,” Gwen said at length, “is rather an old eleven.”

This book makes me homesick for bustling farm life in England, a village and family that have never been mine.  It’s  the 1970s, so music comes from the kitchen radio and no one’s into Hello Kitty or iPhones or Burberry plaid. With no more than a sudden silence, The Dark toggles between Will’s cozy little life and a perfectly overlapping world where time slips to and fro and the very roads throb with power.   My favorite part is when Will’s family goes carolling for Christmas, and time swings open mid-solo.

The conflicts in this epic struggle between light and dark are mysteriously small.  Like Harry Potter, Will is simply Chosen.  I should be offended at this miraculous inevitability, but I’m not.  It’s…tantric storytelling?  Anyway, I’m happy to just follow behind Will as he uncovers the old magic of the land.

P.S. Walden Media teamed up with Fox to produce a movie version last year.  From the plot summary, it looks as wretched as a movie where Walden Media teams up with Fox.  Will’s 14, American, and has a secret twin. Srsly.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the greenwitch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.


11 responses to “The Dark Is Rising (Susan Cooper) 5*

  1. What do you have against secret twins?

  2. The movie is promising to be a really bad one…like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was (oh wait, did you like that movie?)

    • I avoided seeing the Narnia movie, and I’m going to stay the hell away from the Dark Is Rising movie. It just sounds all, all wrong.
      Walden Media is a Christian studio, so it’s interesting that they’re co-opting The Dark Is Rising, because the book is decidedly non-Christian. In an actual theological discussion in the book, Will shuffles around uncomfortably trying to speak truthfully without offending his honest church rector.

  3. I wonder if most people wonder if they are at least Truman Burbank after so many birthdays pass with no letter from Hogwarts.
    My problem is that I’ve always had things to point at as evidence of being Chosen, and I actually got kind of down when I first started doubting it. I think my hope has been renewed by having a PhD studentship fall in my lap and re-establishing my community context over the interwaves, as previously discussed. It’s the straight-line view. It’s like I got some double-log-log paper that sorted out those bumps in the middle, and I’m back on course. I have the sense that I’ll find out in my 40s if I was in fact Chosen, but in the meantime, I feel like such an auxiliary character, like everyone has a movie and I’m on the fifth page of everyone’s credits- the crazy aunt, the far-off daughter, the eccentric workmate, the wacky friend. I’m no one’s costar and I can’t think of a movie where I’m the protagonist. I’m like, “man, I AM such a character actor,” like everything I do makes a much better anecdote for someone else than a plot for myself.
    What does this mean?!?

    • I’m Chosen for a B-12 deficiency.

      • Perhaps your natural form is anthology.
        Mine is the novel, which is tricky, because there are all sorts of ways for novels to bog down.
        Not that we are getting to middle age, but here’s an interesting bit of Anne Morrow Lindbergh that I hold close, because it is indeed a relief to know that cannibal touristing is not for me.
        Saying no to Harvard Law School was a lot of fun, much more fun than having an opportunity to say yes to Harvard undergrad would have been.

        Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed at this stage in life as one sheds in beach-living; one’s pride, one’s false ambitions, one’s mask, one’s armor. Was that armor not put on to protect one from the competitive world? If one ceases to compete, does one need it? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!
        It is true that the adventures of youth are less open to us. Most of us cannot, at this point, start a new career or raise a new family. Many of the physical, material and worldly ambitions are less attainable than they were twenty years ago. But is this not often a relief? “I no longer worry about being the belle of Newport,” a beautiful woman, who had become a talented artist, once said to me. And I always liked that Virginia Woolf hero who meets middle age admitting: “Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires…I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy. Rome is the limit of my traveling…I shall never see savages in Tahiti spearing fish by the light of a blazing cresset or a lion spring in the jungle or a naked man eating raw flesh…”

  4. Pingback: Ellpie Awards 2008 | Living by Fiction

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