‘Watership Down’ and the Crisis of Liberalism

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‘Watership Down’ and the Crisis of Liberalism Empty ‘Watership Down’ and the Crisis of Liberalism

Post by phildidge on Tue Oct 22, 2019 6:37 pm

A classic novel (yes, the one about rabbits) has a political teaching for today.

When a newspaper columnist wants to write about a novel, the rule is that you’re supposed to have a “hook,” an excuse, a timely reason to bring up the book in question. Maybe an anniversary-of-publication, maybe an authorial death, maybe a Nobel Prize. I have none of those for this column, but I think my hook is better: I’m writing about “Watership Down” because I’m reading Richard Adams’s 1972 novel to my daughters, and in that reading I’ve decided that the book has real relevance to the crisis of the liberal order in the Western world.

Comes the reply: You mean the book about the … rabbits?

Yes, I do, and that frequency of that reply is another reason for this column. Adams’s novel was a huge best seller in its day, it’s been the basis for an animated movie and a recent Netflix mini-series, and it’s obviously well-regarded and much-loved. But I find that many educated people who pride themselves on being cultural completists (whether that means the whole of Shakespeare or the entirety of Harry Potter) haven’t read the book, and indeed have a mild allergy to the idea: Perhaps because they assume it’s just too childish, too Beatrix Potter or Brambly Hedge, or perhaps because they’ve seen a snatch of one of the adaptations and can’t quite take seriously rabbits arguing with one another in actorly English accents.

To these doubters I offer varying suggestions. The anthropologically inclined can approach the book as a portrait of a lost hominid subspecies, complete with its own mythology and linguistic tics, and gradually accustom themselves to the references to hind legs, ears and burrows. The religious can just approach it as an extended parable. The ecologically minded can come for the very English style of environmentalism, the lyrical depiction of the natural world, the evocation of nature’s harsh harmonies and the dissonant cruelty of humankind.


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/22/opinion/watership-down-liberalism.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

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Post by gelico on Tue Oct 22, 2019 6:55 pm




oh



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Post by Ben Reilly on Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:28 pm

Watership Down is brilliant, but yeah, a lot of people shy away because the characters are rabbits. Too bad, I find a lot of people are a bit closed-minded when it comes to giving fiction a chance.

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Post by 'Wolfie on Wed Oct 23, 2019 1:23 am

albino

I liked Watership Down, too...

'Read the book, saw the movie..'

I've also read quite a few animal-charactered books over the years --  from Kipling's Rikki Tikii Tavi and the Jungle Book, through the likes of Ring of Bright Water, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Animal Farm, Call of the Wild, White Fang, Black Beauty, to those good ol' childrens classics such as The Wind in the Willows, and May Gibb's Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and the Gumnut Babies..

I have heard a few people over those same years attempting to dismiss books with animals as the central characters as being "childrens books" or "fantasies" -- as if trying to dismiss them as being somehow below them or too immature for them --  and yet when questioned further, most of those philistines never read any novels or serious fiction at all, much rather sticking to lighter-weight magazines and gutter press newspapers, (or these days, gossip blogsites and "reality" television)..

I've even heard some of those same ignorant fools trying to dismiss 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy as a "childrens' book", too --  they have never actually even seen a copy, but merely know that it's full of 'hobbits', elves, dwarfs, wizards, talking trees, orcs...

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Post by Ben Reilly on Wed Oct 23, 2019 1:44 am

Yep. Same thing as fiction that has spaceships. I say, the story isn't about space or the ship, it's about the characters. Do they listen? Of course not.

It's disappointingly predictable.

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Post by nicko on Wed Oct 23, 2019 4:39 am

Rabbits taste nice !
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Post by Eilzel on Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:18 am

Ben Reilly wrote:Yep. Same thing as fiction that has spaceships. I say, the story isn't about space or the ship, it's about the characters. Do they listen? Of course not.

It's disappointingly predictable.

Or indeed my personal favourites: dragons, elves, dwarves and goblins. Some of the best romance/mysteries/heists/thrillers/horrors have come from reading Fantasy. But most just assume it's all evil dark lords capturing fair maidens etc...

To be fair, Animal Farm is a fairly popular 'fable' so I think among more literary minded people there is a major appreciation of that kind of thing - they certainly garner more respect (however unfairly) than sci-fi and fantasy.

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Post by 'Wolfie on Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:33 am

nicko wrote:Rabbits taste nice !
.
‘Watership Down’ and the Crisis of Liberalism 562977434

Rabbits, and guinea pigs, are good little composting machines, too...

Cleaning their bedding out of their hutches every week can 'fastrack' the supply of compost for building up 'raised bed' gardens, or for improving soils in general..

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Post by Original Quill on Wed Oct 23, 2019 4:34 pm

'Wolfie wrote:
nicko wrote:Rabbits taste nice !
.
‘Watership Down’ and the Crisis of Liberalism 562977434

Rabbits, and guinea pigs, are good little composting machines, too...

Cleaning their bedding out of their hutches every week can 'fastrack' the supply of compost for building up 'raised bed' gardens, or for improving soils in general..

Wow...wolf. You're a wealth of information on such technical stuff. That degree in agricultural matters really has paid off.

G'Day

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