Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Neighborhood Meltdown (Follow-up)

So, a month or so back I posted about a shooting here in Bayview. Details at the time were sketchy, though disturbing. Now that a little more time has passed, Janice pointed out to me one follow-up article that I wd otherwise have missed. Even though it's from a few weeks ago, I thought I'd share:

Aside from the usual inaccuracy of detail to which journalism is inevitably prone, given the haste and immediacy w. wh. it must be written -- e.g., there's no "gazebo" in Bayview, so presumably this took place where I'd suspected, down by the arbor/trellis near the first set of mailboxes within sight of the Bayview entrance -- this does add a good amount of information. First, that the person shot of indeed a fellow Bayview resident. Second, that even though he was shot multiple times and rushed to Harborview (where all the most critical flight-for-life cases go), he must be doing much better, since within a matter of three weeks or so he was transferred from the hospital to a jail. Third, it's scary to think that in addition to the AK-47 he was carrying at the time he also had half a dozen back-up guns and 1700 bullets.

1700 bullets?

Why on earth wd anyone need a stockpile of 1700 bullets?

Finally, I find it odd that he's being charged with "Assault", when he's the one that got shot. I'd have expected some such charge as Reckless Endangerment or Attempted Homicide. Strange are the ways of our legal system.

But while I feel bad for the guy who got shot, and for the policeman who shot him, I feel most for the other neighbor, the one whose window got shot out. Not a happy thought.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

NorWesCon, Part II

More specifically, the second panel of the day: RETURN TO MIDDLE EARTH IN 2011 (2 pm), focusing in on Peter Jackson's HOBBIT. Unfortunately the Moderator didn't show up, and this panel really needed one to keep them focused. As it was, we all proved that everyone in the room, panelist and audience alike, were well-stocked-up on internet rumors and perfectly willing to share them. I came away from it an hour later no wiser than before, though in the meantime I'd heard much speculation, been presented with one "inside scoop" that was wildly implausible, and been really, really annoyed by some idiot's frustration that, as she put it, she cdn't have any Silm. movies "until Christopher Tolkien croaks"* -- one panelist mildly demurred that, all things considered, we owed CT quite a lot; I'd have preferred to see her boo'd out of the room. Oh well.
The one interesting idea to take away from the event, I thought, was the observation by one panelist (named Chris Nilsson) that in THE HOBBIT Bilbo is v. good w. words, and often able to talk people out of things or establish friendly relations through speaking w. those he encounters. Don't think I've seen that pt made in quite that way before, so that's an idea to remember.

After that, it was back to dealer's room, where I got to see Bruce again and meet his friend Tori, who seems v. nice; we reminisced about my having edited Bruce's v. first roleplaying design, the excellent GATES OF FIRESTORM PEAK. Much to my surprise, while we were chatting I was hailed by my friend Miranda,** whom I was v. glad to see; hadn't even known she was in town. Caught up on some of her news while doing some browsing; she bought a sort of Edward Gorey tarot and I picked up two books: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU MEET CTHULHU by Rachel Gray (no doubt full of amusingly futile advice) and THE SECRET HISTORY OF FANTASY, ed Peter S. Beagle -- this latter for its introduction*** and afterwords, which tie in nicely w. a project I started on back in 1983 but had to abandon in late '86 and may still someday return to. The same booth also had some Discworld and Doctor Who dvds and a dvd of THE GREEN SLIME, one of the worst science fiction movies ever made (and the obvious source for one of D&D's most iconic monsters). I also ran into Erik, and we chatted about various early science fiction/fantasy authors, this being a shared common interest between us (though he tends more to the science fiction and I more to the fantasy end).

Then it was over to the final panel of the day: IS TABLETOP GAMING DEAD? **** (4pm) w. Jeff Grubb, Sean Reynolds (another ex-TSR/WotC friend), Erik, Jeff Combos, and Jeremy (whose had been at the lunch, but whose last name I didn't catch) -- these last two actually NOT being ex-fellow employees of mine from TSR or WotC days. Having immediately settled the official question ("NO"), they shifted into matters such as 'why do people think it is?', to which Jeff G. suggested it was the number of classic/golden age rpg companies that'd been bought out (WotC, White Wolf) or shut down (West End, Iron Crown, FASA) or faded into insignificance over the past ten or fifteen years, with Paiso being one of the few to rise to major-player stature in recent years. The loss of a lot of independent gaming stores, I suspect, is another element, though this did not come up per se. The best comment of the panel I don't seem to have written down, but it was the assertion (by Jeff G., I think) that rpgs have a distinctive quality that can't be reproduced by any other type of game; therefore those who like it continue to like it; it's a lifelong hobby, not a passing fad.

Afterwards, on my way back to dealers' room I was hailed by Dan'l Kaufman, another ex-WotC friend who I usually see about once a year at GwenCon (where we're going to run across one another now that GwenCon has run its course, don't know -- NorWesCon, perhaps); got to meet several of his friends and learn about their video parody project. Then made my final swing through the book room, resisted temptation, and ending by collecting my LAND OF LEGEND Tolkien goodies and departing around five thirty.

After that came a long-delayed meal, a quiet evening, some reading, some poking about online, and now this. All in all, a pleasant day, seeing a lot of friends I haven't seen in far too long. Maybe next year I'll alternate it with SAKURACON -- if I find a way to avoid spending 3+ hours in the registration line, like last time.

*not only was it stunningly rude, but the self-evident stupidity of the remark entirely escaped her -- as if we'd even HAVE a published SILMARILLION without Christopher. Gah!
**another ex-TSR/ex-WotC, and one of the best editors that department at WotC ever had.
***which praises both Bellairs and Hughart -- both of whom authored works I rank among the all-time ten best fantasy novels.
****e.g., D&D, CALL OF CTHLUHU, &c. -- so-called here to distinguish them from computer games.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

NorWesCon, Part I

So, today was NorWesCon. AND Sakuracon. And all on a weekend when I'm buried in proofreading.

Not having been to NorWesCon in years (I think the last time was to see Ryan Dancey & Cindi Rice on some panels throwing out teasers about the forthcoming D&D 3e -- i.e. in 2001), and having fond memories of their book room (where I picked up one or two original Arkham House Clark Ashton Smiths on previous visits), I decided to take Saturday off and go, and work through the Sunday instead. Janice, having been indoors all week, decided to pass on spending the day in windowless rooms inside a crowded hotel. So she dropped me off and then picked me up at the end of the day.

I didn't get an early start, but arrived in time for a first poke into the book room, wh. turned out to be almost entirely crafts, w. a few excellent non-craft book/videos/game-related booths among the wilderness. Did find a table with a v. old LotR boardgame from LAND OF LEGEND,* called QUEST OF THE MAGIC RING. I'd seen in their mail-order list years and years ago but never been able to afford back in 1977-78; bought this at once and asked them to put behind the counter for me until later today. Looks as if it were both designed and illustrated by the same person, one W. Hill, whose work I don't otherwise know. One oddity is that while clearly a licensed product and Bakshi-movie tie-in, the box cover is careful to genericize its Tolkien details (e.g., "A Game of Adventure in Mythical Earth", rather than Middle Earth"). Another oddity is that the cover art showing the Fellowship in Moria has one extra hobbit amongst their number -- a presage of Odo, perhaps? Or maybe Gollum was better at disguise than we thought . . . I also got, from the same place, two press releases, one promoting the movie and the other announcing Heritage Model's new LotR line -- some of which I've had since I first started playing D&D, although now in rather battered condition from many years' use. And I also picked up three minis, one of which was clearly Bakshi's Gandalf.

The first panel I went to, at noon, was CRUNCH VS. FLUFF, w. Jeff Grubb, Stan Brown, Bruce Cordell, Erik Mona, Jonathan Tweet, and Jason Bulmahn -- all but last of whom are former co-workers of mine from WotC days. I sat w. Logan Bonner (lead author of the excellent project I'm currently proofreading, as it happens) and enjoyed the discussion. My own view is that just as I enjoy having both a left hand and a right hand, so too I enjoy having both rules and story in a game -- it's not a roleplaying game without the presence of both. In the best games, the two make for a unified experience (e.g., CALL OF CTHLUHU, PENDRAGON); in poorly designed games one or the other dominates. Jonathan made the interesting claim that all the rules in 2nd edition AD&D involved combat and virtually none related to role-playing. The question I'd like to have asked but didn't (since the session was winding down) is how alignment played into this -- since alignment, as a core concept in 1st edition AD&D (still my all-time favorite roleplaying game), drive roleplaying and story without directly affecting combat. In fact it cd be said that the AD&D alignment rules, which can have a huge impact on what happens during the game, are entirely story-focused in their effect.

Afterwards, I got to visit a little w. Bruce, whom I'd not seen in far too long, and caught up on his news a little. Then I joined a group for lunch that included about half of the aforementioned panelists, myself and Logan, and several others I didn't know, but service was so slow that I had to leave before anything arrived (other than some mango tea, which I drank piping hot). Good conversation, though; wish I cd have stayed longer, but Tolkien was calling . . .


*The folks from whom I ordered my copy of THE SILMARILLION, if memory serves

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Filming Begins on Peter Jackson's HOBBIT

So, Janice had shared this with me a few days ago the following promo clip about the start of filming on THE HOBBIT. Now, thanks to another Janice (this time Janice Bogstad), I've seen a link for those of us not on Facebook. So, for any of those semi-Luddites like me who are (a) on line but (b) not on Facebook, yet (c) obsessed w. all things Tolkien, here's the piece:

It's nice to see old familiar scenes (Bag-End, Rivendell) and faces (Jackson himself, McKellan, Alan Lee, Serkis, the final voice-over from Ian Holm), and to have a chance to see new cast members (Martin Freeman, the dwarves). Jackson mentions how walking around in the rebuilt sets gives him the odd feeling of being inside a movie -- and of course he is inside a movie, making a documentary at the very moment he's speaking. It's also odd, from my point of view, that Jackson now looks younger to me than he did a decade and more before due to all the weight he lost: it takes me a moment to recognize him when he re-appears. The Maori blessing-of-the-soundstage seems a bit stagey, but it was interesting to learn that they're apparently going to start filming the best scene in the book on Day One: Bilbo's encounter with Gollum.

We wants it, my precioussss.

It's going to be a long twenty months between now and then . . .


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Art of The Hobbit

So, here's a welcome announcement: Wayne & Christina, authors of J. R. R. TOLKIEN: ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR [1996], will be doing a book devoted entirely to JRRT's illustrations for THE HOBBIT -- more than a hundred of them, all told. I learned about this via the MythSoc list*, but for the full announcement see Wayne & Christina's website:

No release date yet, but it'll be part of the Big Event that will be the seventy-fifth anniversary of THE HOBBIT's first publication next year, which shd segue smoothly into promotion for the upcoming HOBBIT movie(s), the first of which has just started filming and is due out at the end of next year.

In any case, given how good ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR is, this shd be something anyone w. any interest in Tolkien's work at all shd be on the lookout for.


Monday, April 18, 2011

C. S. Lewis's New Book

So, while there are new books about C. S. Lewis all the time, it's a rare event that there's a new book by C. S. Lewis -- that is, 'new' not as 'newly reprinted under a different title' (which are legion) but as in 'never published before' (which are rare and, given the nature of things, increasingly rarer).

Which is why I was surprised to learn of Lewis's translation of Vergil's THE AENEID, which I first heard about a month or so ago, courtesy of Jason Fisher:

For more information, see also his follow-up post:

It's too bad the work is fragmentary, but then like most Tolkien scholars I'm not put off by unfinished works -- and, if it comes to that, THE AENEID itself is unfinished: Vergil only got half-way through the story (twelve books out of a planned twenty-four, intending to match Homer*), and left instructions that what he had written was to be burned because he'd not had time to put the final polish on it. Lewis himself left behind relatively few unfinished works, the most significant of which are THE DARK TOWER and AFTER TEN YEARS.

It's good to be reminded that both Tolkien and Lewis were good classical scholars with a solid background in the Classics (Tolkien himself once refers to THE AENEID as a far greater work than BEOWULF, one of the texts he devoted his career to promoting). I'm not too keen on Vergil myself -- I prefer Homer, esp. the Homer of THE ODYSSEY** -- but I am looking forward to seeing what an author w. as lively a prose style as CSL can make of it. At any rate, it can hardly fail to be better than the C. Day Lewis translation foisted off on us in undergraduate days, which I never did succeed in getting all the way through.

More later, after I've had a chance to see, and read, the book itself.


*whereas centuries later Spenser too died half-way through THE FAERIE QUEENE, completing six books out of a planned twelve; only one wonderful fragment of the lost VIIth book survives as "The Cantos of Mutability"

**when my undergraduate professor learned that I preferred THE ODYSSEY to THE ILIAD, he paused for a moment and then said, "You would". He did not intend it as a complement.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Turtle Men on the Moon!

So, one of the things that particularly struck me when looking through Major Warnie Lewis's diary for his fifty-day voyage home from Shanghia via America in 1930 was the reading he did over those fifty days. A detailed overview of this wd take another visit to the Wade to pull off, so for now I'll just note that he read an impressive mix of French drama (Moliere), English poetry (Thomson's The Seasons), Victorian novels (re-reading all six books in Trollope's 'Barsetshire' Chronicles), dipped into a borrowed* copy of Wells' Outline of History,** and made his way through a book on English lit. by Drinkwater (which Warnie faulted for overpraising Wordsworth, whom WHL disparages on account of the French daughter). And also, among the rest, what he described as a "Wellsian" romance about turtle-men on the moon, which he thought an inferior production.

Now this interested me, because while we know several of the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis, and Warnie) were fond of science fiction, there's v. little record of specific titles and works they read beyond, say, A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS. So I did a little digging and think I've now identified both work and author: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON by Edmond Hamilton. I'd initially been thrown off by the assumption that, since all the other things the Major mentions reading were books, this 'turtle-men' story must have been published in book form. Instead, it now seems that he was reading an issue of the new Scientifiction magazine AMAZING STORIES,*** founded just four years before (1926) by Hugo Gernsback. I don't know if this is the first direct proof that the Inklings (or at least one among them, and a core member at that****) read AMAZING STORIES, but it's certainly the first such evidence I've come across. And, as such, I thought worth sharing.

As for the story itself, I've located a good synopsis of it available online, thanks to GoogleBooks, which quotes it from Bleiler & Bleiler's SCIENCE FICTION: THE GERNSBACK YEARS: A COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE GENRE [1998]; see the entry for book #549 on pages 161-162. Here's the link:

I don't think I've ever read a book by Hamilton (who nowadays is better know as Leigh Brackett's husband than in his own right), though I'm sure I must have read some of his comic book work in reprint digests back in the day. I hope to soon remedy that lack, however, as a copy of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON shd now be on its way to me. We'll soon see how it holds up compared with, say, Gernsback's own RALPH 124C1+.

current (re)reading: THE LAST HERO [2001] by Terry Pratchett
current audiobook: THE MOONSTONE (still)

*one question I'm still working on is whether most of the books he read during this trip were his own, as seems to be the case, or were borrowed from a ship's library (unlikely, but I'm not well enough informed about whether a passenger ship of the time wd have a misc. assortment of books for passengers to read or not). None of the books he mentions reading seem to be in the CSL Library Collection of books once belonging to CSL, WHL, their parents, & JDL now at the Wade, at least on a cursory check, but many of them are just the sort of books I wd have expected not to have survived in that collection. He does mention visiting the Shanghai Club just before his departure and returning the books he'd borrowed from its library, and shortly afterwards visits the library of the American Club, but apparently not to borrow any books from for the trip.

**v. sensibly reading the sections devoted to topics he knew a lot about, like the War, the era of Louis XIV, and the British colonial far east, and finding him wanting.

***specifically, AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY, Fall 1929 issue

****technically, of course, Warnie was a pre-Inkling at this time, since the group hadn't started meeting yet.

P.S.: And just this evening (Sunday Apr. 17th), Janice and I saw not one but two turtles in the lake while out for a walk this afternoon. Haven't seen any in the ten years we've been living in "the Lakes" development (of which Bayview is one of ten or so parts, almost all w. amusingly inappropriate names, like "Bayview" which is not on a bay, or "Cypress Cove" which is not on a cove). Hadn't been going that way on walks for quite a while, not since they cut the mimosa down (that having been my favorite tree in the neighborhood); now I've got a good reason to stretch my legs in that direction again.
Note to self: turtles don't like peanuts, even shelled ones. Good to know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Collectable Dinosaur Minis Game

So, one thing I did not include in my write-up of our visit to the Burpee involved their museum store, since it's a side-note.

As I said, the gift shop turned out not to have more than a few general books, to my disappointment (if anybody does come across a good book on the discoveries in Niger, let me know). But I did pick up something called DINOMANIA, which is basically a little pack which you buy that has a random little dinosaur figure in it. Although, as is traditionally the case, they define 'dinosaur' rather loosely (this set even includes a brightly colored trilobite, wh. was actually the one I wanted).

This all took me back to the latter days at WotC/Hasbro. At one point when WotC announced a call for New Ideas for Games I tried in vain to convince somebody, anybody, that a collectable dinosaur minis game wd be a good idea. We were already doing gangbusters with the D&D minis line (wh. was actually doing far better than the rpg itself), which actually included dinosaurs among the monsters (for the Eberron setting). I argued that such a game would have an instant built-in market and the potential to reach new outlets, such as museum stores. And I completely failed to get anybody to express even the mildest interest.

Glad to see somebody else has succeeded, at least in the collectable dinosaur minis part (the person at the counter said they were v. popular with herself and her fellow employees at the museum store); suspect they'd have done even better w. a simple dino-to-dino combat game attached. Ah well; the good thing about missed opportunities is that sometimes someone else down the line takes advantage of them.

--home again from the Midwest

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I'm Not on Facebook . . .

. . . but I have a Facebook page, it turns out. Who knew?

My sister-in-law, in fact, who happened to mention it in passing this evening. Janice checked tonight and it's perfectly true: looks like someone created it using my Wikipedia entry as its basis.

How weird is that?


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Day at Marquette

So, today we got out and about (relatively)* early and drove up to Milwaukee, where Janice went off to meet up with some friends for brunch and I headed into the Marquette Archives for a day's research in my old familiar stomping grounds. In addition to an enjoyable visit with Matt Blessing, the Archivist, I also got to see Susan the Secretary and later ran into Mark Thiel, whose specialty is their Indian Missions collection. After looking over their new books shelf, and jotting down the authors and titles on the ones I hadn't known about before (e.g., Ted Rogers', Lee Oser's, and F. MacDonald Kells' works), I set to work: first the relatively quick job of hunting down a piece in a fanzine for a friend. Success!

Then came the main task I'd set myself for this research trip: going through the notebooks of my friend the late Taum Santoski. Taum kept a series of notebooks from the years 1978 to his death in 1991, in which he made transcriptions from the LotR manuscripts, jotted down notes about his discoveries in the Marquette collection, drafted letters, and made elaborate transcriptions in tengwar which he had then phonetically translated into English characters. There's also a lot of material on Tolkien's invented languages, this being Taum's greatest interest as a Tolkien scholar, and notes for pieces he intended to write. He'd wanted these notebooks to go to Marquette, so as Taum's literary executor I'd deposited them there. But I'd never gone through them other than a brief skim just after he died -- after the traumatic year and a half of his terminal illness, during which time I saw him almost every day, I wasn't ready to face going through them at the time.

Now, almost twenty years later, it seemed high time to look in more detail at Taum's legacy. In addition to his early fanzines and his work helping Christopher Tolkien work out the manuscript sequence for the LotR holdings at Marquette for the HME volumes dealing w. LotR (VI, VII, VIII, & IXa), in which I helped to a lesser extent, I wanted to see if there was any unpublished material that might still hold up all these years later and not have been superseded by subsequent events -- as, for example, his work on Tolkien's artwork has been by Wayne & Christina's book and most, perhaps all, of his linguistic work by the multi-volume PARMA ELDALAMERON publications by the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship team. I know of one essay and one talk (which he delivered from notes rather than a draft, unfortunately) I'm going to be taking a good hard look at. But for now, on this first foray, what I saw in the early notebooks, written while Taum was still a student in Pennsylvania, were the classic first steps of a Tolkien scholar: bibliographies of articles on Tolkien in magazines and journals that he tracked down, correspondence with others involved in the world of Tolkien fanzines (of which Taum created several, most notably CHRONICLES OF THE KING and LENDARIN & DANIAN), notes sorting out various elements of Tolkien's mythology (e.g., the sequence of events for a "Chronology of the War of Wrath"). So far, on this trip at least, I didn't get into the main sequence; that'll have to wait till next year's visit. But it's a start.

Also, while in town, I got to get together with my friends Jim Pietrusz (Arthurian collector extraordinaire) and Jim Lowder (freelance book editor extraordinaire and a fellow ex-TSR) for an enjoyable two hours over at Miss Katie's Diner (formerly a favorite haunt of Chuck Elston, who was the longtime Archivist at Marquette and one of the dedicate-es of MR. BAGGINS) for an extended lunch. Then, after the afternoon session at the Archives, it was rendezvous with Janice and drive back down to Harvard for more family visiting with inlaws.

So, now that it's winding down, I can say that it was a highly successful and most enjoyable trip. I had a great time at the Wade and Marquette and we got to see almost all of Janice's family.*** Plus, I got to see Indian Mounds, African dinosaurs, and walk around parts of the Lake Geneva shoreline (in Fontana & Wms Bay) that were new to me, while Janice got to see Mummies of the World and we both got to enjoy some time with old friends.

And now, for the journey home.

currently thinking about: Distributism -- and not in a good way.

(*)for me**

(**)when on vacation

***aside from her youngest brother's side of the family and one great-neice

P.S.: I forgot to add that I figure in, fleetingly, in Taum's papers -- e.g. in a December 1981 letter to a fellow Tolkien fanzine editor, three month after I'd met Taum, in which he refers to me as "a fellow-Tolkien scholar here . . . I know his first name is John but can't remember his last name".


Monday, April 11, 2011


So, on Monday we did something different: picked up my father-in-law and drove over to Rockford to the Burpee Museum (just on the far side of the Rock River), where we spent the afternoon wandering around looking at their Dinosaurs of Africa exhibit. These were all creatures I'd never heard of before, excavated either in Morocco or Niger. I didn't write down the various names, because I thought I'd buy the book that inevitably accompanies such a visit in the museum bookstore afterwards. Turns out there is no such book, or if there is the museum store didn't have it. Alas.

But that doesn't distract from the exhibit itself , wh. was v. well done. The dinosaurs weren't too crowded, and most of the displays were real skeletons, rather than "casts" (fakes) -- they were even careful to note on the accompanying signs which bones were original and which were replicas to fill the missing whole. The strangest looking creature was a hippo-faced fern-eater w. v. unusual teeth; this moderate-sized brontosaurus-style dinosaur had hollow bones -- which make sense in a pteradon (the display also having a partial fossil of an African pteradon as well) but is rather odd in a large plant-eater. And the only one whose name I can remember (partly because I liked the sound of it, partly because it's on the little flyer I picked up at the hotel through which I learned about the exhibit) is Carcharodontosaurus -- wh. had apparently been discovered circa early in the 1900s but all existing fossils lost in the bombing of Berlin, only to be re-discovered through new fossils quite recently. It's basically an African T-Rex.

The gem of their display, however, was not part of the travelling African Dinosaurs exhibit but one of their permanent displays: Jane, the most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world. Only about eleven when she died (and hence a juvenile, Tyranosauruses living to about thirty), "Jane" is still pretty fearsome looking. And in the basement, in addition to the big plate windows where you cd see workers separating fossils from the matrix, was "Homer", one of a pair of Triceratops fossils, young adults found jumbled together and still in the process of being separated and sorted out and mounted. Also in this room, I think, was a little cayman-like dinosaur said to have survived the Great Extinction by a few million years; I'll have to try to find out what this one is called and find out more about it.

Once we'd seen enough of the dinosaurs (for one visit), we went up to the top floor to look at the Native American exhibit, and then the stuffed birds (esp. owls) &c. next to this. I was amused to see that the explanatory posters talked about the notorious "Ice-Free Corridor" as the "old theory", setting it alongside the "new theory" of coastal migration into the New World. Amused to watch a spider busy w. its web on the outside of a fourth-floor window, going about its business quite unconcerned by the vast drop for a creature its size dangling beneath it.

Finally, once we reached the parking lot I begged Janice's and Mr. Coulter's patience while I walked a few blocks south to see something I'd just learned about in the museum: the existence of Beattie Park, in which were preserved several Indian Mounds. Most of the original Mound Builders complex had been destroyed over the years, but there was a distinct barrow (the classic "Indian Mound" of the sort found all over Arkansas), a long ridge of a linear mound, and the remnants of an effigy mound that they claimed was shaped like a turtle. I cdn't see the turtle-shape, just a somewhat worn-down linear mound with some outliers. Still, glad to see it and walk around what's now simply a pleasant little city park w. a lot of history around it. Here's a link to a brief description of the place ( ): if you click on the link near the bottom of that entry about the Rohrbough report ( ) and page down a bit you can see some drawings of the various mounds as they appeared in better days.

All in all, a most enjoyable and interesting outing!

--John R.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wheaton -- Aftermath

So, one unfinished bit of business from my week at the Wade that I thought was interesting was finding out more about their College Archives & Special Collections.

As I noted in one of my posts this week (,

"In the old college library, before the Wade got its own building, the two used to be housed in the same wing of the same floor, so that a door opened into a shared anteroom/ display area with the Wade Collection on the left and the Special Collections on the right (which led to A. N. Wilson's accidentally conflating the two side-by-side collections into one in a passing referenced in his CSL biography, which got him a lot of grief)."

To this, David Bratman -- who at one point had an extended research trip to the Wade (in which among other things he made good use of the Charles Wms holdings, esp. the extensive unpublished correspondence) -- commented

"As I remember it, it wasn't a shared display area. Both Special Collections and the Wade were accessed by a back staircase in the library. You went up to the top landing, and there were two identical (and unmarked, I believe) doors. The one on the left was the Wade. The one on the right was Special Collections.

On my first visit to the Wade, I was also taken across the hall to the Special Collections display room too, and there in a case was Muggeridge's typewriter, the one mentioned by Wilson which his critics have so heatedly declared does not exist. Obviously he was taken there too, and was merely not clear that the room across the hall didn't belong to the Wade too.

Wilson has plenty of problems, but some of this critics owe him a retraction."

Seeing the divergence between out recollections, I bethought myself of an easy way to resolve the discrepancy: I asked Marj Mead, who was at the Wade before, during, and after both mine and David's visits in the old library. Turns out we're both right: I'm remembering the collection as it was when I first visited it, and his is from a little later. Later yet the Wade apparently took over both areas. Now that the Wade has its own building, the area is given over to Technical Services and library administrative offices, while the Special Collections have moved over to the Billy Graham Center on the south-east side of campus.

So, hope that clears things up; sorry for the confusion.

In any case, one good effect of it was that it led me to make a side-trip on my way to the dining hall that last lunchtime, during which when leaving I spotted a display of several rows of little tri-folded flyers or leaflets, each describing one of the college's Special Collections. I started picking out a few of the more interesting looking ones, then decided instead to try to get one of each, the better to be able to take away a good idea of their range.

Of the leaflets, the one that immediately caught my eye was CLYDE S. KILBY PAPERS -- oddly enough, while the collection he established based on his own correspondence with C. S. Lewis formed the original core of what is now the Wade collection, Kilby's own papers aren't in the Wade itself, it turns out, but the Graham Center: the final paragraph of his informational leaflet reads

"Material related to the seven British authors is located at the Wade Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. However, Clyde Kilby's papers, published and unpublished, are housed separately in the college's Special Collections in the Billy Graham Center. All material is available to researchers."

In addition to Kilby, which came as something of a surprise, the other authors I'd seen on the Wheaton College Bookstore's "Special Collections" shelves alongside the Wade Center authors -- Muggeridge* and L'Engle and Buechner -- were all represented, along with a wide array of authors and personalities: Calvin Miller (author of THE SINGER trilogy**) I can see, but Red Grange? Oswald Chambers fits in pretty well w. Wheaton's ministry, from what v. little I know about him, but I was surprised to find Margaret Landon here, author of ANNA & THE KING OF SIAM (better known by its musical adaptation, THE KING & I). Her book I've read, albeit years and years ago, but I've never even heard of others: Jacques Ellul, Ken Taylor (creator, it turns out, of THE LIVING BIBLE), Jim Wallis, Coleman Luck, Leanne Payne, and Luci Shaw. Unfortunately it looks like Dennis Hastert's papers are here too -- but then consulting the "Holdings Information" leaflet, I see that C. Everett Koop's are as well, so perhaps that balances that out a bit. Joe McClathey, who taught Tolkien and fantasy at Wheaton for years after Kilby retired, is also represented. The remaining handful ranged from JONATHAN BLANCHARD PAPERS (it's only right that Wheaton shd have a holding dedicated to the college's founder), papers and records relating to the NAE (Nat'l Assoc. of Evangelicals) and the Sojourners, one on their Fourth Folio copy of Shakespeare's HENRY IV (both parts), and finally one describing not a Special Collection but the College Archive -- old college catalogues, a century's worth of yearbooks, thousands of photos, correspondence (official & otherwise), scrapbooks, &c.

So, all in all an interesting sideline, which I thought I'd share.


current reading: WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD by GKC (on Kindle); LETTERS TO A DIMINISHED CHURCH by DLS (actual book).

*and yes, I shd confirm that like David and Wilson I too was shown Muggeridge's typewriter, which wd have made more of an impression on me if at the time I'd had more than a vague impression of who he was.

**and who, amazingly enough, seems not to have an entry on wikipedia.

Friday, April 8, 2011

WHEATON -- Day Five

Friday, April 8th 2011

Today being my last day in the Wade, I first had to get my things together, get breakfast, and get checked out from the hotel in Lisle -- all of which I accomplished in more or less timely fashion (i.e., I wasn't v. late, for me).

Once in the Wade, I did a little more work with Warnie's diaries, going back and looking at his preparations for departure from Hong Kong in 1930. Didn't definitively find the answer I was looking for to the question that'd occurred to me last night, but found that my guess is the more probable of several options. After that, devoted myself to finishing up the Sayers WILKIE COLLINS book -- which was enjoyable enough: if no lost masterpiece, then certainly worth bringing back into print, which I hope some group such as the Sayers society, the Mythopoeic Press, or the Wade itself does at some point.

Also got to see Chris Mitchell briefly, who just swung by to say goodbye, and pay a brief visit to Rachel Mink (co-ordinator for VII) and Marj Mead (assistant director), talking about the piece I did for their forthcoming issue and how it came out and suggesting a follow-up piece; Marj was also able to answer a question about Wade history that confirmed my memory from years ago but added some crucial missing information I'd either forgotten or conflated. So that was both enjoyable and helpful. At lunchtime I took a detour on my way over to the union and took a quick turn through the college Library instead, to take that once-familiar long walk down the length of the building and up the stairs to where the Wade Center was when I first starting coming here, way back in 1983 (if having taken roughly two years after my arrival at Marquette to have been able to afford a trip as far away as Wheaton, what with my not having a car and not being able to afford a hotel room). Saw some flyers about the various Special Collections (not part of the Wade, but a parallel program of the college itself), about which more later.

After that, walked over to the union, where I had soup (two kinds) and tea (two cups) while looking over some of the Special Collections flyers I'd picked up. Then back for one last afternoon's session in the Wade, where after finishing up the Collins I spent the last hour or so of the day looking through some unpublished material, taking notes at a furious rate as the last minutes before closing time ticked by -- as is usual w. my visits to the Wade. All in all, when my research trip ended at four o'clock, I was quite pleased with my progress: one continuing project finished, a new side-project begun and ended, another continuing project progressing nicely, though still w. a long, long way to go, and a serendipitous discovery having led to some interesting if unedifying information I hadn't known before. Plus I'd gotten to see people I like, both in and out of the Wade, met a Tolkien scholar I hadn't known before, & had a pleasant stay in a town I like (always nice, after all the years I spent in college & grad school pursuing those three degrees back-to-back, to be back on a campus for a while).

A nice added bonus at the very end of the week was my getting to attend the organizational meeting of the new Wheaton College Tolkien Society, exactly the sort of group I'd have loved to have joined had such existed at any of the three colleges I attended. I counted fourteen people, which seems a good turn-out, and in Laura the archivist they have someone who shd be a great faculty supervisor. I'll certainly be following their future career w. considerable interest, as Bertie Wooster says, and look forward to joining in if any of their meetings co-incide w. any of my future visits to the Wade.

But all good things come to an end; after a half-hour, I had to leave the meeting to get going on the drive to Rockford so that I cd reach it before dark. To make a story short, the new route I tried worked wonderfully well: less scenic and interesting (and more expensive) than the one I tried the last two times, but much quicker too, so that I got to Rockford in just 1 hr 20 minutes. Nice. Rendez-vous'd with Janice* (YAY) and got to see not just my father-in-law but The Rockford Coulters (the senior generation of which, anyway) and Janice's brother's wife's nephew & his fiance: all people I like and enjoy spending time with.

And so, another research trip to Wheaton comes to a conclusion.


*whose own flight had gone smoothly, other than a delay before departure and a hurry-up once in the air because, or so they were told, a human kidney (presumably for transplant) was on board and needed to be rushed to its destination. Haven't heard that reason for a shift in schedule before.

Wheaton -- Day Four



Day Four: Thursday April 7th

Today went well; having one main project (the DARK TOWER transcription) behind me gave fresh impetus to the other projects I'd wanted to work on during this visit. Accordingly, I read through and made notes on Warnie's diary for 1930 describing his visits to San Francisco ("The first thing which struck me was that the sky scraper is a legitimate and attractive contribution to architecture"; "The gradients in this town are terrifying . . . and to go up one of them in a taxi sets you wondering what kind of brakes the car is fitted with.") and Los Angeles/Hollywood ("It was a glorious morning, like one of those rare, perfect English summer days, and with a clean bracing tang in the air: cleanliness by the way (and the alert fitness of the people) is the first thing that strikes one about Los Angeles: not only are the streets and trees and vehicles clean, but there is a cleanness which amounts to an austere beauty about these tall rectangular buildings: I like the sheer soaring sweep of them."); tomorrow I'll see if I can get through the New York City and Boston entries.

Today's big event was twofold: the arrival of Richard West, who came down for the day, devoting his time to continuing his work with the Lewis Papers (the ten-volume set of Lewis family history compiled by Warnie Lewis in the early 1930s), and the return of Chris Mitchell, the Wade's Director, who'd been away on a trip. The three of us had lunch together in downtown Wheaton (I had soup) and enjoyed much good Tolkien discussion (et al); I learned some interesting things about the various Wade collections and also some upcoming events and we discussed some upcoming projects. After another good afternoon session, during which I finished up the California leg of Warnie's trip, looked briefly at a very bad book AND its v. bad unpublished continuation, and got in a good spell on Sayers' WILKIE, Richard and I ate together in the student union (I had soup. I like soup.) and more good conversation, including recent political events in Madison, and about how various folks I know started WisCon back before I knew them, and of course about cats. Then walked back with him to where he was staying and visited some more while waiting for his taxi to arrive and take him to the airport. To my surprise, the 'taxi' that showed up was a long white stretch limousine -- I suppose it'd been in the area and picked up a ride for the way back to O'Hare.

After that, I stopped by the Naperville Road/Butterfield Road Borders again -- my last visit for this trip -- for another chai and the last online access of the day, then came back for my last night at the hotel, where I poured over maps and planned out tomorrow's route, making careful notes to prevent myself from getting lost, hopefully, as I did last year. Did some pre-packing to speed tomorrow morning's check-out, drank a lot of tea, and finished up the second Fr. Brown collection.

And now for tomorrow, and the last day's work in the Wade for this trip; hoping to make it count.

Birds seen today: the hotel-guarding geese (whether the hotel wanted guarding or not), some melodious blackbirds (wasn't able to tell whether they were grackles or not) stretching their wings in the early morning sun, a mourning dove (haven't seen one of those in quite a while), and one goldfinch who was more yellowy-bright than ours back in Washington, though they're getting there. Nice to know that the empty field surrounding this hotel in all directions helps support a little urban wildlife.

--John R.

P.S.: forgot to mention that this morning I compared my copy of the just-released English edition of Arne Zettersten's book to the Swedish original from two/three years ago, and confirmed that it corresponds closely, chapter-by-chapter, except that the English addition has a brief appendix not in the original summarizing the chapters, the entry for manuscript holdings in the Works Cited section is a little longer in the new version, and the original had color artwork not in mine: eight plates and two endpapers

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wheaton -- Day Three


Day Three: Wednesday April 6th

I was a little late getting in today, having a chore to take care of before showing up at the Wade. It took longer than I expected, but finally wrapped up my work on THE DARK TOWER Ms and started in on Warnie's diaries, separated by a little time for the Collins in-between. I was particularly struck, going over the final chapters of DT, by how many clues Lewis gives us of events in the unwritten part of the novel. I know of two attempts to hypothesis how the story wd have come out, the first by Jared Lobdell and the second by Jonathan Himes, neither of which I found persuasive; I'm tempted to go all Edwin Drood on it myself, since it's a harmless game and emphasises what the evidence shows: that the book was much more carefully planned than is generally thought.

During two separate breaks I thumbed through a Chesterton (WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD) and a Cecil Chesterton (A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES): the first includes GKC's argument against women getting the vote, which is essentially that some women don't want the vote, so the only fair thing to do is not let any of them have the right. Which I consider a distinctly peculiar argument (and, I might point out, the exact opposite of GKC's argument against Prohibition). The second characterizes the outbreak of World War I thusly: "Mr Wilson had been in office but a little over a year when Prussia, using Austria as an instrument and Serbia as an excuse, forced an agressive war on the whole of Europe." [p.262] You'd never know from this passage that it was England who declared war on Germany and not the other way around.

The two highlights of the day were both meals. The first was having lunch with Wade archivist Laura and visiting researcher Kaja, during which we talked of Germany and Rwanda and Marquette and non-denominational churches and many other topics. During this meal I found out the fate of the Perry Mastadon by the simple expedient of asking: it's been moved to the new science building, where it no longer rotates but can be seen from all three floors. So there's that mystery solved.

The second was getting together for dinner with my friends the Baurs,* during which we talked about politics and yarn and Germany and Tolkien and World War II (from the point-of-view of someone who witnessed it first-hand, and only avoided being drafted to serve in it by a year) and nuns and current events; Dr. Baur paid me the complement, as he put it, of saying that I was even more cynical than he on one point (relating to one of our former Secretaries of State). We talked so long that eventually we noticed the staff unobtrusively closing up the restaurant around us, whereupon we departed.

Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel, which I managed pretty well despite driving in the dark. Not being able to read road signs after sunset is more of a bother than you might expect when I'm staying in unfamiliar territory -- which is why my driving under such conditions is more like card-counting than standard navigation: counting the number of streets between turns, scouting out routes during daytime so as to string together likely landmarks, and the like.

In-between leaving the Wade and meeting up with the Baurs I'd stopped off at the nearest Borders, which I'd spotted two nights before, and bought two maps (St. Louis and Missouri) to add to the collection for a future trip we're planning, as well as relaxing for a bit and enjoying a cup of chai.


current audiobook: THE MOONSTONE

current reading: WILKIE COLLINS (by Sayers), FINGAL (by 'Ossian'), THE TURN OF THE SCREW (by James), "The Eye of Apollo" (by GCK), LETTERS TO A DIMINISHED CHURCH (by DLS), WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD (by GKC)


*the Western Springs Baurs, not the Kirkland Baurs

Postscript: I'm happy to report that once Sayers gets past her testy prologue and into the actual discussion "Creed or Chaos" improves quite a bit -- she's better at discussing dogma than in railing against people who don't prize it the way she does.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wheaton -- Day Two

Day Two: Tuesday April 5th

Today I continued with work on THE DARK TOWER manuscript, getting near but not achieving the end. Tomorrow I shd be able to wrap up work on this and move on to the next project. I also got to meet the other researcher currently in the Wade, who's working on an interesting project involving Tolkien. Only did a bit on the Wilkie Collins, given the push to try to get through DT in time to still leave plenty of time for other things.

Speaking of Sayers, yesterday (4/4) I bought the first book of the trip, DLS's LETTERS TO A DIMINISHED CHURCH, in the Wheaton College Bookstore. Hadn't read much of Sayers' essays before, aside from her piece on Dante in EPCW, which I hadn't particularly cared for (though I apparently liked it more than CSL, who was dismissive of it in one of his letters, fortunately not to Sayers). However, Janice had spoken highly of a piece by Sayers she'd read a year or two back, so I wanted to give her another try. And what with all my recent Bible reading, this looked like a good place to start. I began with her essay "Creed or Chaos", which had caught my eye as I was skimming through it on the shelf. Have to say, I'm tempted to say that her defense of 'Creed' makes me think what she considers 'Chaos' is a much better option for Xiandom. She divides all Xians into three groups:

(1)"heathens, whose notions of Xianity are a dreadful jumble of rags and tags of Bible anecdotes and clotted mythological nonsense"

(2) "ignorant Xians, who combine a mild, gentle-Jesus sentimentality with vaguely humanistic ethics -- most of these are Arian heretics"


(3) "the more-or-less instructed churchgoers, who know all the arguments about [i.e., against] divorce and auricular confession and communion of two kinds," but are ill-equipped to defend dogma against "a Marxian atheist or a Wellsian agnostic"

--Of these, Sayers herself strongly identifies with the last group, but being well-able and more than willing to give battle on behalf of dogma. I wd probably fall into the second category, though I certainly wdn't describe myself in those terms, having realized I was an Arian the first time I came across the term (though it's only a 'heresy' if you recognize the authority that so labelled it, which I don't).

We'll see if she makes me change my mind about the importance she puts upon "authority" and "believ[ing] rightly" before I'm through.

I also made my usual trip to the Wheaton College Bkstr, which I try to do every time I'm in Wheaton (one or two visit I either didn't make it or found them closed for the day). It was interesting to peruse and compare their holdings of their Wade Center/Special Collections authors, who have a special section of the bookstore devoted to them.

As expected, they're exceptionally well-stocked w. C. S. Lewis -- ten shelves, with a wide variety of books both by and about.

By contrast, two shelves of JRRT held only three different titles: six copies of FR (paperback) a used copy of TT (trade paperback) and four copies of Fr Xmas -- a sad day when you can't even buy a complete set of LotR off the shelf.

Geo. MacD fared better w. three shelves; likewise GKC w. two and a half (the other half being given over Madeleine L'Engle), while DSL had to content herself w. only one. Which still left her better off than Ch. Wms, who had to share his single shelf w. Malcolm Muggeridge (!), or OB, who was represented by a single book on a shelf mostly devoted to Frederick Buechner -- but then that one book was the one I'd championed for years and eventually wrote the Preface for when it finally was published, EAGER SPRING.*

So seven Wade Center authors and three from Wheaton College's Special Collections, which though Wade-ish in its orientation is a distinct entity. In the old college library, before the Wade got its own building, the two used to be housed in the same wing on the same floor, so that a door opened into a shared anteroom/display area with the Wade Collection on the left and the Special Collections on the right (which led to A. N. Wilson's accidently conflating the two side-by-side collections into one in a passing reference in his CSL biography that got him a lot of grief).

More later



*I shd also mention that the Wade Center itself has some books for sale -- duplicate copies of books in the collection, ranging from recent releases to some rare items. And of course back-issues of their journal VII, and misc. items like postcards with Tolkien/Lewis/Sayers/&c photos or artwork on them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wheaton -- Day One

Wheaton, Day One

So, today (M.4/3) I started back in to working on THE DARK TOWER, picking up where I left off two visits ago, in Sept. 2009. I'd hoped to read the new essay about that work's composition by Jonathan Himes said to be in the new MYTHLORE, but my copy hadn't arrived before I left, nor has the Wade's yet come in. ((I'm also looking forward to the new volume of VII, to which I'm a contributor; shd be out soon.)) In any case, working closely w. the manuscript like this, I'm struck more than ever by how heavily influenced by David Lindsay's A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS the whole Stingerman concept is. I also think I've located the probable source for CSL's "Jerkies", but since it's a work I only know about second-hand I'll hold off on that one till I've had a chance to read the original for myself and do a comparison.

Also began reading Dorothy L. Sayer's Wilkie Collins in intervals when my eyes start to give out from too much staring at cross-outs in a photocopy of a rough draft Mss (DT) of a handwriting I don't usually work with (CSL's). I'd thought this was unpublished, but just before arriving learned that a small press limited edition had come out back in 1977. Not something I'd want to spend over a hundred dollars to read (the cheapest edition for sale online being $115; they go from there), but a nice break from the main business at hand.

Other reading, outside the research, includes two Fr. Brown books I brought with me for light reading, each with ten stories -- one of these I find I bought back in 1984 for 25 cents, probably at Spectrum, a seedy little bookstore I used to haunt nr the corner of 21st & Wells in Milwaukee; bought a lot of the Adult Fantasy Series books there (the owner, I discovered, had been a friend of Hannes Bok). Chesterton is one of those people I've tried to like but never been able to manage; having read the big Penguin collection of all the Fr. Brown stories years ago, thought I'd give them another try in smaller doses. Besides, wanted to join in a Wheaton College Book Discussion Group meeting at the Wade during lunchtime on Tuesday, if poss. -- though do have to say that given that their last book was Doyle's HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and their next book is THE NINE TAILORS, I did not get the luck of the draw.

On the plus side, one of the stories I read was the only Fr. Brown story I'd liked last time I read them, wh. still stands out as far better than the rest this time through as well (I think it's called "The Sign of the Broken Sword"). Most, however, are v. bad indeed: an example of an idea (Fr. Brown himself) that's far better than the actual execution -- which indeed cd stand as a summary for pretty much the whole of Chesterton's career, unless there are some gems out there I've missed.

Other reading: finished Bk I of FINGAL, which I managed to get through by reading it aloud and ignoring all the footnotes. Also read a little Sayers (more on this later) and some of THE TURN OF THE SCREW, which I'm revisiting after many years, on the Kindle.

Finally, had an enjoyable evening talking Tolkien & colonial history (give or take, ranging from The French & Indian War thr. the Revolution to the War of 1812, w. some side glances to '1491' and Jamestown and the Bay Colony) w. Darrell Martin, who is exceptionally well-informed on both topics.

Though I do have one question I've yet to get an answer to:


Wheaton College is famous for its mastadon skeleton, which has always been prominently mounted in a great bay window of the science building. No longer. Don't know if it's been taken down for refurbishing or simply moved elsewhere, but I v. much feel its absence every time I walk by that empty window.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wheaton -- Day Zero

So, yesterday I learned that an essay of mine (the piece I delivered at last year's Kalamazoo) has been accepted for a collection. Obviously, I'm v. pleased. More on this later.

And I shd take a moment to note that I've now been doing this blog for just over four years, during which time I've made about six hundred posts. So while still and always a work in progress, I'm glad I gave it a go. Thanks all the comments. Onward!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Well, That Was Alarming

So, Wednesday morning when Janice left for work she noticed that the posts blocking cars from using the fire exit to our complex next to our townhouse were down. Curious about this, she poked around a bit online once she had a break at work, and discovered that this was because of the police shooting near the main entrance earlier that morning, with the result that the west entrance was blocked off with crime-scene police tape, &c.

Shooting? Here?

Thanks to the link to the local news story she sent me, we were able to puzzle out a little more, but not much. To make the story short, late the night before (about ten pm), police responded to reports that someone heard shooting in the area. They arrived but weren't able to pinpoint where and what was going on. After a while they located a man with a rifle, who pointed it at them, so they shot him. He was rushed to HarborView (the Seattle hospital where all the really dire cases, flight-for-life stuff, go), where he was listed in critical condition. The two police are on administrative leave (standard procedure after a shooting), while the investigation of the incident has been turned over to the Renton Police, who apparently have a reciprocal agreement with the Kent Police to avoid conflicts of interest in people investigation their fellow officers.

And, three days, later, that's still about all we know, other than that the guy who got shot (variously reported as 61 or 63) is expected to live. We still don't know if he was a resident of Bayview like ourselves, or someone who wandered over from a neighboring complex, or simply passing through. I assume there'll be something in the local papers when he's eventually charged, but it's surprising how easy it is to find out what's going on in Libya (thanks to al-jazeera) and how hard it is to find out what just happened two blocks away at a spot I pass everyday.

--John R.

P.S.: And, as long as I'm covering very local events, I shd report that the creek beaver has taken down a smallish tree only a few paces from our front door, as I noticed yesterday morning. I suppose it makes sense, given that his terrain is long and narrow, that he'll be foraging up and down the creek for suitable trees to eat bark from and to expand or re-inforce his. Hope he sticks to the creek and avoids all the traffic on 64th street (a boulevard, two lanes each way) or the parking lots for the complexes and warehouses on the other side. Also hope he's able to survive and thrive without taking too many of the trees -- there are many, many little alder shoots but I'd hate for some of the taller and older trees, like the beeches or willows, to go, even in a good cause. I guess we'll see.

--John R.

Friday, April 1, 2011


So, today the mail brought my copy of the latest novel with the Middle-earth-is-real meme, Michael Ridpath's WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE [2010]. Many thanks to friend Jessica, who sent it from the UK (the US edition not being due out for another few months) as part of our book exchange -- which back before the days of and and was just about the only way to get books published in England but not over here (short of picking them up yrself when on a research trip). Unlike MIRKWOOD, which is a fantasy, or LOOKING FOR THE KING, which is set in the 1940s, this looks to be cast in the form of a detective story, a modern day mystery novel.

--I was about to say that I'd never read a novel set in Iceland before, when I remembered that just last month I was reading JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, quite a bit of wh. describes overland journey in Iceland, with plenty of local color (from a Frenchman who never visited Iceland). And of course I've read a fair number of sagas set in Iceland, of wh. by far the most vivid was NJAL'S SAGA (also known as 'The Saga of Burnt Njal'*)

Oddly enough, just last Sunday our local fantasy reading group, Mithlond, watched a documentary set in Iceland rather than reading a book for his month: HULDERFOLK 102, which is all about the (still-current) belief in the Fair Folk in modern-day Iceland. Highly recommended, if only for the stunning scenery and the revelation of how few of the Icelanders (one of the most ethnically isolated populations in the world) looked stereotypically "Icelandic".

Anyway, I'm coincidentally primed to read a book set in Iceland, and in this century; looks like just the thing to take along for reading on the plane on my upcoming visit to Wheaton.

More later, once I've had a chance to read the thing.

--John R.

current reading: THE STRICKEN DEER (a life of Cowper) by Lord David Cecil
current audiobook: THE MOONSTONE by Wilkie Collins

*from this alternate title, you can tell it's not going to have a happy ending. But then you can also tell that before you even start to read it, because it's a saga: 'happy endings' is not what they do.