Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Books from Kalamazoo

So, one of the great things about Kalamazoo is always the book room. The first few years I attended, I tried to make time to look at everything. In subsequent years I slacked off some by realizing that each year there were certain booths -- e.g. Univ. of Chicago Press, David Brown Books, Medieval Institute, Palgrave, et al -- at which I pretty much always find something of interest, whereas there were others (e.g., the various Medieval Catholic presses) which lay outside my fields of interest.

This year brought a smaller haul than usual (by design), but made up for it in the quality of some of the books:

I. THE SAGA OF HROLF KRAKI by Stella Mills (tr.) -- the original hardcover, which I've never seen offered for sale before; water-damaged but perfectly readable. I have the Nodens Books reprint (in fact, it's my favorite release from Nodens Books so far) but it's nice to have the original; not only is Tolkien one of the people it's dedicated to, but this saga is almost certainly his source for the story of Bothvar Bjarki, the likely inspiration for Medwed/Beorn.

II. THE WELL OF THE UNICORN by Fletcher Pratt (hardcover, 1948). I've been meaning to read this for years, not only to see what Pratt sans de Camp sounds like but because there's a Dunsany tie to this one as well (it's set in the same world as one of Lord D's fantasy plays). Having this much more readable copy than my old paperback, plus my lately being on something of an UNKNOWN authors binge,  shd help me finally get around to reading this one.

III. J. R. R. TOLKIEN: THE FOREST AND THE CITY, ed. Helen Conrad-O'Brian & Gerald Hynes. This one bought on the first day of the conf. but cdn't collect until the book room closed at noon on the fourth day, so I went by and visited it each day to make sure it was still there. I found out about this one when Hynes presented a piece himself at Kalamazoo last year (or was it the year before?) and spread news of the then-upcoming Dublin conference from which these are the proceedings. I hadn't realized, though, that they had such a stellar line-up of contributors: Tom Shippey, Verlyn Fleiger, Dimitra Fimi, Drout, et al. Really looking forward to reading this one.

IV. LYBEAUS DESCONUS, ed Salisbury & Weldon [TEAMS Middle English Texts Series]. This is one of those tail-rhyme romances that I've never gotten around to reading before, but recently reading a short excerpt from this one in another book I bought at a previous Kalamazoo (NINE MEDIEVAL ROMANCES OF MAGIC, ed Marijane Osborn) I thought to myself Ah! So that's where Andrew Lang got that bit in PRINCE PRIGIO from! Now I'll have the chance to read the whole thing, in good time. Next time I read a new Arthurian romance I've never read before, this'll be the one.

V. FROM HOBBITS TO HOLLYWOOD: ESSAYS ON PETER JACKSON'S LORD OF THE RINGS, ed. Ernest Mathijs and Murray Pomerance [2006]. This is one of several volumes that came out after Jackson's LotR films that I didn't pick up at the time because they were hugely expensive and, I thought, exclusively focused on the films. Now that I've seen this one and had a chance to look at the Table of Contents I see its essays look as if they have a wider impact beyond the films and considering the books as well. At any rate, it's nice to have this one; wish I'd picked up the other one they had too but someone else got it while I was dithering.

VI. THE PASTEL CITY by M. John Harrison [1971]. I've never read anything by Harrison or Ballard, and after having heard them praised so much by Moorcock in WIZARDRY AND WILD ROMANCE it seemed due diligence to try at least one -- and, since this was sitting on a $2 shelf, it seemed like a good place to take the plunge. We'll see if I live to regret it.

VII. PARA-DOXA: STUDIES IN WORLD LITERARY GENRES, Vol. I No 3 [1995]. A digest-sized literary magazine, this particular issue being devoted to fantasy/horror. I picked it up mainly for a memoir of Leiber by Moorcock, which included an interesting line crediting Wollheim's Ace paperbacks of LotR with playing a major role in the launch of "Modern American heroic fantasy".

VIII. TALES BEFORE TOLKIEN (paperback edition), with the following cover blurb by Moorcock that's absent from the edition I had: "A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. [Douglas] Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre". So it turns out Moorcock and I can agree on more than one thing.

And that's it so far as book I brought home, though I shd probably mention the three I ordered that have not yet arrived: a duplicate copy of CELTIC FROM THE WEST (I'm still reading this one but wanted to pick up a copy for a friend who I think'll find it interesting), the follow-up volume of more essays further exploring the same thesis (which I think is just called CELTIC FROM THE WEST 2), and one of those little British Museum books devoted to a single artifact, this one being The Franks Casket.

All in all, a splendid haul, which (mostly) avoided breaking the bank.

--John R.

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