THE HILLS OF FARAWAY: A Guide to Fantasy by Diana Waggoner

THE HILLS OF FARAWAY: A Guide to Fantasy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Waggoner's fitfully interesting catch-all is stuffed with random lists (of fantasy award winners, books and articles about the genre), with a ""timeline"" ordering such diverse milestones as Dr. Dolittle, Orlando, and Lost Horizon, and, above all, with systems of classification--describing ""eight major trends"" such as mythopoeic, heroic, and horrific fantasy--and endless subclassification: pages of titles are grouped according to whether they belong under ""I, Magic in Operation in the Natural Present--C., Faerie""; ""III, Travel from Our Universe to Another--B., Journeys with Serious Motives and Results""; or whatever. After all of this a 3-D catastrophe curve would not come as a surprise. But despite the chapter heading announcing a ""Theory of Fantasy,"" none of this excessive cataloguing supports, or is supported by, any theoretical system. Instead, more odds and ends--such as the 21 examples of fantasy illustration, accompanied by Waggoner's unincisive commentary. (Commended in one impartial breath are Maurice Sendak, Richard Cuffari, and Trina Schart Hyman.) And her less than visionary assessment of the current state of the art of fantasy considers only political advances (more women, more dark-skinned heroes, exploration of future shock), then cites Monty Python's Flying Circus for creating a."" wholly contemporary fantasy world."" However, she does make a serious attempt to define and analyze the genre (essential, to her, is the uno ambiguous presence of a numinous power--as distinct from sci-fi's natural explanations); her comparison of the whole range of classic and contemporary writers within each of the eight different ""strains"" is reliably on target (practitioners might heed her remarks on didactic and frivolous misuses of the form--citing Madeleine L'Engle and Susan Cooper as sinners of the first sort); and the alphabetical ""Bibliographic Guide"" to the work of some 300 authors, which takes up more than half of the book's 326 pages, contains some intelligent criticism and much handy information. Scattered insights--but unsystematic, despite the trappings of order.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum