Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Pratchett Play

So, today we didn't go to a play. But we probably wd have, given more advanced warning. We only learned that MONSTROUS REGIMENT, based on Terry Pratchett's book of the same name, was playing at the Taproot through seeing a brief ad for it in the Program Book for JEEVES TAKES A BOW on June 3rd. Unfortunately its last day was Sunday June 4th.

Even though we didn't make it to this one, I take it as a good sign that Pratchett's work remains popular several years after his death. I've seen the half-dozen or so film adaptations (some live action, some animated) released so far. I must say that out of the forty-some books Pratchett wrote, most of them as part of his Discworld series, MONSTROUS REGIMENT --the tale of women disguising themselves as men in order to join the army -- strikes me as a somewhat odd choice. I've read almost all of Pratchett, and this belongs to the category of  what I'd consider minor Pratchett: those books I read once when they first came out but never re-read.

Still, minor Pratchett is better than a good many others' best, so I'll keep my eye out for another chance.

--John R.

--currrent reading: YELLOWFACE by Kuang

Saturday, June 3, 2023


So, today Janice and I went with friends Jeff and Kate to see JEEVES TAKES A BOW at the Taproot theatre. I'm a big admirer of P. G. Wodehouse and have read all his Bertie and Jeeves novels, as well as all the short story collections (written over a sixty-year period --something of a record for the same author with the same pair of characters). I've even read the one book that features Jeeves  without Bertie; there's a book with Bertie without Jeeves but I've never been able to find that one.

This play did not adapt any of the Wodehouse books but spun up its own story out of Wodehousian characters and motifs. These bits and pieces make good use of the era's Art Deco setting to form a screwball comedy. I'd prefer to see one of P.G.W.'s masterpieces adapted, but if you like this kind of thing --and I confess I do -- then it's well worth seeing.  

Certainly it captures the spirit of Wodehouse better than does the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which gets the main character wrong (Webber portrays Bertie as surly when he shd be at most a bit querulous --and under considerable provocation, I might add). They did get the other main character, Jeeves, right.

So, while I enjoyed seeing it live, the best performance of the stories I've seen are the Hugh Laurie / Stephen Frye adaptations from the early nineties. 

Or, better yet, I cd re-read the books.

--John R.

--current reading: MONSTER (just finished), YELLOWFACE (just started)

Friday, June 2, 2023

UKL: The Ursula K. Le Guin Journal

 So, now that I'm wrapping up and filing away odds and ends from Kalamazoo, I didn't want to miss sharing the news (new to me, anyway) announcing a new journal devoted to Ursula K. Le Guin. It's called UKL. A call for papers has also gone out for a planned volume of essays devoted to Le Guin's work, but I have less information on that project. Here's some pertinent excerpts taken from their website describing the journal's "Aims & Scope":

We argue that as a major figure in modern literature, an academic journal dedicated to discussing Le Guin’s work is long overdue, and this journal fills that scholarly vacuum

The mission of UKL: The Journal of Ursula K. Le Guin Studies is to create a scholarly forum for exploring various facets of Le Guin’s writing, including her fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, and blog posts . . . 

[UKL will be] a professional, peer-reviewed, annual publication . . . Individuals without previous publishing experience are especially invited to submit. For questions and inquiries about UKL: The Journal of Ursula K. Le Guin Studies, contact the current journal editors at or .

For those who might be interested, either as a reader or potential contributor, here's the link.

--John R.

current reading: MONSTER: A Fan's Dilemma by Claire Dederer (weighty questions, lightweight answers).

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Kalamazoo diversity


So, I’ve now had a chance to listen to the recording of the racism roundtable, and been able to confirm some of my in-person (virtual person, that is) impressions.

The first and foremost flaw, from my point of view, is DiNardo’s assertion (in the discussion following the papers) that, given the current crisis, Tolkien scholars needed to put aside biographical studies and exploration of Tolkien’s thought and instead focus their attention on Tolkien and racism and related issues. 

Tolkien’s invented languages were not mentioned but I can’t see how they’re not part of those marked for marginalization. Instead, she said, we need more RINGS OF POWER and especially MtG: Middle-earth. I concluded that she’s not really interested in LORD OF THE RINGS or THE SILMARILLION, et al, in themselves, as works of art, as in what can be done with them —i.e. as tools to fight racism.

My own belief is that as Tolkien scholars we’re all in this together. I don’t agree with the idea that Tolkien scholarship is a zero-sum game.

—John R.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

More on Kalamazoo diversity panel

So, unless I'm missing something (a very real possibility),  it looks as if the recorded sessions from this year's Medieval Congress are only available to those who registered for the conference. I didn't take any notes from the presentations for this roundtable but will try to listen to it over the next few days, schedule permiting. lf successful I'll post any resultant notes.

In the meantime, here's the list of presenters:

Kristine Swank (presider), Mercury Natis, Robin Reid, Luke Shelton, Toni DiNardo, Lars Johnson, and Mariana Rios Maldonado (respondent).


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

At Kalamazoo

 So,  Kalamazoo was an odd mix this year: a shrunken dealer's room (perhaps a third to half it's size in previous years) and far fewer people about (I heard estimates that this year's attendance was about two-thirds that in recent years). Yet in the meeting rooms there seemed to be a good crowd and no falling off in the quality of the papers and panels.

The first session, which I missed, was devoted to the Rings of Power series.

 That afternoon I attend the CSL session, which wrestled with Lewis's claim that there had never been a Renaissance in England, because the English hadn't needed one, never having had a 'Middle Ages'. The panelists were well-informed and mounted a well-spoken defense of what I suspect was more a case of Lewis being a gadfly than anything else.

Next up, the first Tolkien event I attended was devoted to controversy such as Tolkien and racism, gender issues,  colonialism, and the disturbing enthusiasm of white supremacists for his work. At least three of the speakers called for putting aside other forms of Tolkien scholarship, such as biographical studies, so we cd devote all our energy into meeting this the challenge. I was impressed, but part company when they put a 'MUST' into their thesis. 

Another session dealt with which major saints in the Church most influenced Tolkien, with Aquinas

and the Tomists winning out over Augustus; Bonaventure and Boethius came in for some mention but not, to my surprise, Francis.

I was struck by how far this session was from the Tolkien in Crisis session; it was as if the two groups came from different worlds.

Different again was a misc. panel that examined Tolkien as a translator, Tolkien and PEARL, et al. unfortunately the person who was to deliver the Numenor piece cdn't make it.

Last of all were the two back to back sessions devoted to Christopher Tolkien focusing on CT as a 

an editor of the legendarium. I think these together were my favorites of the whole conference.

There was much more, but this shd give an idea of what the revived Medievalist Congress was like. 

--John R

-- THE BATTLE OF MALDON (current reading: Tolkien's translation).

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT back in print

So, today is the release day for the American hardcover edition of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT (replacing the original two-volume set).  Unlike the original American edition, this is a one-volume book, like the recently re-released British edition.  It's been available in the UK as an e-book all along; now it's available over here as well. 

--John R., v. pleased to have my book reprinted. I put a lot of work into it and I'd like people like me who are interested in such things to have it readily available.

--'He who dies with the most copies of THE HOBBIT wins'