Thursday, October 14, 2010


So, last week I got to spend five days going research at Wheaton. While I always enjoy the chance to visit the Wade Collection, I find that I get a lot more done when I'm here for an extended trip (several days in a row) than when I have a sequence of single-day visits, even if they add up to the same number of hours with the material. I think the longer trips enable me to hit some kind of critical mass, just as I get a lot done writing or editing when I concentrate entirely on project rather than try to fit it in with a few hours a night.

This trip was also unusual for me in that while I spent some time (roughly half the visit) with Tolkien-related projects -- specifically, looking some things up in the Clyde Kilby archives, which turn out to be full of gems -- this marked the first time I've worked with the Charles Williams papers. Their archive of Williams letters and manuscripts is vast. I was looking for an item by Williams that was reported lost in 1946 which I'd heard might still survive. Not only does it turn out to survive, but in at least three separate typescripts, which I collated together. Interesting stuff. I was also interested to discover that in his letters Williams' tone is completely different depending on whether he's writing to a man (in which case he's relatively straightforward) or a woman (in which he's flirty, playful, commanding, flattering, intensely personal). I also spent some time on various smaller projects, like the ongoing effort to prove that C. S. Lewis wrote J. R. R. T.'s TIMES obituary, and briefly following up on various small points that arose while working on other things. I did not, alas, have a chance to get any further on THE DARK TOWER or the Major's diaries, the chief focus of last year's visit, which will have to stay in abeyance until next year's visit.*

Another great thing about the visit was not just getting to see the great folks at the Wade but managing a get-together with my friend Darrell Martin, who I hadn't seen in so many years that we cdn't exactly work out when the last time had been; certainly more than a decade and possibly as long ago as the last X-Con I attended (in 1991 in Milwaukee, just before Taum died). And I got to attend a lecture at the Wade by Matthew Dickerson, co-author (w. Jonathan Evans, who wrote a great article on Tolkien's dragons) of a book on Tolkien and ecology that I'd just begun reading. Diana Pavlac will be there next week, but afraid the timing just doesn't work out for that one for me. Still, a great trip full of interesting discoveries.

And now I'm looking forward to a day at Marquette this coming week.


current reading: ENTS ELVES & ERIADOR
current anime: THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA, season two

*about the only disappointment, other than that every research trip turns out to be just a little too short when it comes time to down tools on the final day, was that the Wheaton College bookstore's Tolkien shelf had shrunk to almost nothing. It's usually worth a visit, because they carry a wide array of books by and about the seven authors in the Wade Collection. This time, however, while they had a great selection of books by and about Lewis, as usual, they had only five books by Tolkien. By contrast, they had copies of four different editions of G. K. Chesterton's ORTHODOXY, which I'd say was at least three too many. -- JDR

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