The imagination that books built

E Nesbit is a tricky writer in her contradiction. Though her politics were radical, she was fairly conservative when it came to women. She uses Modernist techniques and intertextuality in her fiction to draw the reader into the book – empowering the imagination and letting it be real. Yet there is an undertone of lost family worlds and an innate emptiness to the child protagonists who seem to know that the world will be lost to them.
I was reading the Magic City by her (Philip Haldane creates a city out of everyday objects and has an adventure in it to defeat the Destroyer (his nanny)) and it reminded me of Un Lun Dun. I had a conversation with him a while ago about E Nesbit and his admiration for her. Most critics have picked up on the Through the Looking Glass aspect to the novel (it surely runs through Magic City) but I think Nesbit is a stronger reference to the later novel.
Traditions build on themselves and develop and it would be a shame to see the everyday aspect of children’s fantasy disappear into the conflagration between science and religion. Books beget imagination and its own inference of reality. We would be poorer if this were not so.

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