Friday, March 1, 2013

Valparaiso, day one

Yesterday: goodbye to cats. ride to airport (thanks, Stan). acrophobiac on airplane. Chicago. snow on the ground. cold.

Today: up, rendezvous with another conference attendee, drive to Valparaiso. check into hotel. register for conference. strict admonition not to lose tiny little banquet ticket.  Meet up with friends: David Bratman, conference organizer Brad Eden. Visit library with DB to check out their Tolkien, Wms, Lewis, and Dunsany shclves. Good primary collection for JRRT, good secondary collection for CSL. They have four books by Dunsany, wh. is good. two are duplicate copies of FIVE PLAYS, while the other two are books-for-libraries reprints (like the first Dunsanys I read) of two of Dunsany's three best books: THE LAST BOOK OF WONDER and A DREAMER'S TALES (if only they had THE BOOK OF WONDER they'd be all set).

Hence over to the chapel, where the LotR Symphony will be performed tomorrow, and then over to the Tolkien Exhibit, drawn from Brad Eden's personal collection, where we reunited with Janice and Yoko while perusing the exhibit.  Many Tolkien posters showing a wide range of artists and styles. Some autographed books belonging to various members of the Tolkien family. David and I between us worked out two lines of a three line inscription in one of them, wh. I think was doing pretty good considering that was (a) in Tolkien's handwriting, (b) in a language I don't know, and (c) highly abbreviated.

Leaving the exhibit, our group of south-moving Tolkien scholars (Janice, Yoko, David, myself) ran into a group of north-moving Tolkien scholars (Verlyn Flieger, Vaughn Howland, Doug Anderson). Didn't Dr. Seuss write a story about something like that? Except in our case we were so delighted to see each other that we stopped and congregated in collegial fashion. Got to visit briefly with Jn Houghton, where we commiserated with each other over a project we've both put a lot of work into that's stalled interminably by forces outside our control.

All in good time, we mosied over to the campus cafe for a snack to hold us till after the evening's event. Then to the evening event itself: Eileen Moore performing a number of in-character songs from the point of view of a lot of Tolkien's female characters: Eowyn, Galadriel, and Luthien of course, but also Lobelia and Rosie and Melian, as well as more obscure or unexpected ones like Gollum's (yiddish) grandmother, Aredhel, Shelob.

Before, during, and after the event saw more familiar faces, mostly from Kalamazoo: Deborah Sabo, Eileen Moore, Anna Smol, Merlin DeTardo. Plans for dinner started simple but became so complicated that we decided that if we were too tired to follow the directions to the restaurant where we were to all meet up maybe we'd better give it a pass, so Janice and I called it an early night, got a quick meal at the Culvers across from our hotel, and settled in for some down time, during which I read through and revised my paper (which I'm delivering Sunday), I think improving it. I'm particularly pleased by one small addition I made near the end (more on this later).  After which Janice read through it, improving it a good deal more.

And now it's past midnight, past one o'clock, and time to call it a night. With more time with friends and more Tolkien goodness to come.

--John R.

current reading: JOHANNES CABAL AND THE FEAR INSTITUTE (Jonathan Howard, 2011) and DON'T DREAM (Donald Wandrei, 1997)

UPDATE (3/3)
The best evidence of how tired I was when I posted this was that I left out the big event of the day: Doug Anderson's talk about illustrations for THE HOBBIT, a slide show of art such as he included in THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT. I've heard versions of this talk before, in 2002 (at GenCon and again in Seattle), 2012 (Commerce, Texas), and again now: it's different each time, and I see things in familiar pieces I hadn't noticed before. One of the notable new inclusions is the 'mosaic' cover of the Latin Hobbit, and some pieces from a 1950s/1960s reprint of An Unexpected Party. If you ever get the chance to see Doug put on this show, don't pass it up if you're at all interested in Tolkien, or fantasy art, or the many ways different artists may illustrate the same scenes.

--JDR (from Rockford)

UPDATE #2 (3/5-13)
And as a good example of how Doug is always adding to and updating this presentation, recently an enhanced electronic version of THE HOBBIT was released that included a few new audiofiles of Tolkien reading from or, in one case, singing a song from THE HOBBIT. Doug not only played the audio file of Tolkien singing the thumping-pole song, but he even had identified the traditional melody JRRT was re-using: Katy Beardy, wh. turns out to be a Scottish variant of the tune to 'London Bridge Is Falling Down".  Also included was the possibility that, when Tolkien first invented the tengwar (wh. Doug dates to circa 1931) it might not have been initially an 'elvish' script -- wh. might explain why his Dwarves use it (in Thorin's letter, and on the treasure-urns in Smaug's lair). Some of the newer illustrations he showed were quite good, but I'm glad WEIRD TALES artists Virgil Findley didn't do a full set of illustrations (the one he did do isn't bad, and reminded me of the Folio Society's art by Eric Frazier, but a bookful of such art wd have been both dark and busy). As for Frazetta's Gollum, let's just say that while Frazetta/Conan might have been an ideal match, Frazetta/Tolkien isn't, and let it go at that. But as a might-have-been, it's fascinating.


Ardamir said...

John, what did the inscription say, and in what book was it?

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Ardamir
I didn't transcribe the inscription; the book was on Old English, and according to its owner (Brad Eden) had a number of annotations inside the text (which of course I cd not see, it being inside a glass case for the exhibit).
Sorry to disappoint.