Monday, July 29, 2013

Michael Ward's NARNIA CODE

So, I've been watching the dvd devoted to Michael Ward's theory that the seven chronicles of Narnia are meant to subliminally resonate with the seven planets in the Ptolemaic system. I'm pretty dubious about the theory, but I'll keep it in mind if (more likely when) I need to re-read the Narnia books somewhere down the line.

What's more interesting than the claim itself is that it casts Lewis as exactly the kind of writer he himself publicly disparaged: he denounced writers whose works can only be understood with private knowledge about the writer which he or she withholds. I suppose it might be argued that Lewis buried the evidence within the work, but that seems to me special pleading, given that Ward reads CSL's alliterative poem "The Planets" as key to 'breaking the code' -- a work never published with the Narnia books or in any way connected to them by Lewis. Even the circumstantial evidence from Lewis's lecturing on the Ptolemaic system (in his lecture series written up as THE DISCARDED IMAGE) relies on outside biographical evidence of exactly the sort Lewis disdained when criticizing T. S. Eliot.

Be that as it may, this documentary brings together a constellation of Lewis scholars and wd be of interest for that reason alone, to put faces to those familiar names. In addition to Ward himself, who is ubiquitous, there are James Como, Brian Sibley, Alan Jacobs, Jerry Root, Don King, Walter Hooper, and others whose names are unfamiliar to me: Francis Spufford, John Wilson, Malcolm Guite, Eric Metaxas. We also get to see a lot of interesting places, like the Kilns, Magdalene College (though not Lewis's rooms therein), Addison's Walk, the Eagle and Child (inside and out), WWI trenches (hadn't realized any of these survived), the Wade Center, Lewis's grave, etc.

So, how big a deal is Ward's theory? Well, in addition to this documentary [2009?] it's been featured in two books (PLANET NARNIA [2008] and THE NARNIA CODE [2010]), one of which won the Mythopoeic Award. And if this were not enough, I gather from a recent news article that Ward, along with recent Lewis biographer McGrath and Prof. Susan Cooper, who holds Lewis's chair at Cambridge, will be taking part in the ceremonies to mark Lewis's commemoration in Poet's Corner later this year. So, within Lewis scholarship it's been a big deal, or at least that (ever-increasing) part of it devoted to Narnia studies.

Two passages I found myself in disagreement with:

First, Ward claims that Lewis was incapable of slapdash or careless writing as a result of his training in argument by The Great Knock. Hence, if the Narnia books seem sloppy, that surface confusion can't reflect the reality of the work: any flaw lies in the reader (i.e., his or her insufficient knowledge), not the book being read. That seems to me wrong-headed. It also I think mistakes rhetorical gifts (which Lewis had in abundance) for literary ones (which he also had in abundance, and the further he kept the two apart, the better the result). Ward's presupposition that the Narnia books are superlative, and hence we must search until we find the missing element that will make them so, I think begs the question.

Second, Alan Jacobs assertions that
(a) when Lewis returned to Oxford after the war, he found himself much older than his fellow undergraduates (true enough, but only if one excludes all his fellow returning veterans, of whom there were many)
(b) unlike other skeptics and atheists, Lewis had a love of learning (this is simply insulting to all scholars and scientists who are not also theists -- like, say, the Great Knock)
(c) When Lewis tried to teach philosophy he discovered he cdn't because he didn't have a philosophy of his own (so much for the years of developing his position through the 'Great War' with Owen Barfield).

For me the highlights of the piece were threefold.
First, I really enjoyed the three scenes in the re-enactments that featured Tolkien (played by Rbt Hickson, with Anton Rogers as CSL). I've now discovered, rather to my surprise, that these are apparently all taken from an earlier documentary (CSL: BEYOND NARNIA, circa 2005); thanks to Jessica Yates for letting me know. The three re-enactments in question were  (1) that fateful night on Addison's walk (T, L, and an unnamed third [=Dyson]), (2) Dyson's 'bloody elf' episode, and (3) Tolkien calling out Lewis on Narnia.

The middle of these, meant to represent a typical Inklings meeting, is the most interesting: it takes place in the Eagle and Child (whereas the read-aloud sessions really all took place in Lewis's or Tolkien's rooms) and is well-attended, with perhaps eight or nine Inklings present. Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien, and Dyson are identified by name; Warnie can also be identified (partly by the mustache and partly by the fact he walks Lewis home afterwards).* After Barfield begs off reading anything this time, Tolkien admits to having 'added to his manuscript'. As he gets ready to read, he has the following quick exchange with Dyson:

'Dyson': Ah, no, Tollers, not another bloody elf!
'Tolkien': You can cover your ears, if you want"
'Dyson': I may do just that.

Rather than the fraught exchange depicted by some biographers, this re-enactments presents it as good-humored chaff, with the other Inklings chuckling at JRRT's rejoinder. An interesting take on a rather murky episode.

Ironically, the other two highlights are both to be found in the Extras, not in the documentary itself.

(1) reminiscences by three men who actually knew Lewis; a bishop who was a chaplain at Cambridge when Lewis first came, a man whom Lewis gave a tea set to as a wedding present (they show the teacups), and Lewis's literary executor and editor of most of his posthumous works, Walter Hooper.

The bishop is interesting in that he describes Lewis as a v. secretive man, which accords well w. McGrath's recent interpretation (and, as Janice points out, Lewis was secretive for a reason: he had things to hide, first re. Mrs. Moore and later re. Mrs. Gresham). He also mentions one time he disagreed with a point Lewis made and received a withering full-bore oratorical assault that he said was quite bullying -- and, despite which, he knew full well that Lewis was quite wrong in the point he was so emphatically asserting.

The passage with Hooper is interesting both for its length (a full ten minutes) and because Hooper shows Ward the typescript for THE SILVER CHAIR, which I hadn't known survived (and, apparently, in Hooper's possession, rather than in the Bodleian, unless he'd borrowed it for this occasion). He said he now thinks he and others overstated the degree to which Lewis destroyed his own manuscripts, and instead now believes many of them were burned by Major Lewis in the famous bonfire, THE SILVER CHAIR typescript being among the items he (Hooper) carried off that day. Interesting to see the bonfire story has now fully re-surfaced, having been eclipsed for a while in the '80s and '90s.

(2) Ward himself giving his whole theory in one single long (fifteen-minute) exposition. This is the best chance to take it in as a whole and see how it all hangs together, relating each of the seven books to the Ptolemaic body he thinks it corresponds to, and detailing why. Unfortunately the timing was a bit off, so the voice and video were slightly out of sync, but that didn't affect the coherency of his argument. Having listened to the whole, have to say I'm unconvinced (a) that Lewis had such a plan --the Mercury/HORSE AND HIS BOY connections seem particularly weak -- and (b) that it matters if he did.

The theory is ingenious, but I find myself put off by the documentary's focus being on Ward, not Lewis or his works, and also by a statement Ward makes in his book, where he argues that his theory is so compelling that he considers the burden of proof to be on those who disagree with him.** That is, that his theory shd be accepted as true until disproven. That's not the way scholarly research works.

In any case: an interesting documentary, if a bit quirky. I'm surprised it hasn't shown up on The History Channel.

--John R.

*in the later similar session, there's a much younger man behind JRRT who I think is meant to be Young Christopher

**PLANET NARNIA, p. 215: "[This] interpretation seems to me to account for so many things that I would even dare to suggest that the burden of proof now rests with those who would dispute it."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Eric Metaxas Calls Tolkien a Jerk

So, I've been watching THE NARNIA CODE, the dvd documentary touting Michael Ward's theory that the seven Narnia books are meant to correlate to the seven planets in the Ptolemaic system. Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of the theory, which is worth a post in itself, I was most struck by a passage following a re-enactment of an Inklings meeting in the Eagle and Child* in which the actor playing Tolkien takes exception to the Narnia story 'Lewis' has just been reading to them and says it "won't do"** because of the mishmash of random elements. At this point, the film cuts away to several 'experts' who criticize Tolkien for not liking Narnia or attempt to explain (or explain away) his response.*** And the most emphatic of these by far is that by one Eric Metaxas:

"Well, first of all, you have to understand that Tolkien is a jerk"

He follows this up with "just kidding", but that has all the effect of a smiley emoticon tacked on at the end of an email designed to start a flame war, especially because he continues

"He [Tolkien] didn't really have the capacity
 to enjoy what Lewis was doing
and wasn't interested in . . .
 . . . it wasn't what made him tick"

I'm not familiar with Metaxas's work (he's identified onscreen as "Author and Broadcaster"), but the name was vaguely familiar. Turns out the reason for this is that when I bought McGrath's new bio of CSL a week or so ago, Metaxas' new work was beside it on the shelf: 7 MEN, which apparently covers seven great Xians Metaxas admires. His selection criteria seem bizarre, ranging from true greats like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Wm Wilberforce, through George Washington (who was not a Xian), to Jackie Robinson (a great man, but not a religious figure) and Chuck Colson (Nixon's goon). He apparently has his own show on talk radio called BreakPoint, which he seems to have inherited from Colson when the latter died.  It's not clear to me from any of this where he gets the gravitas to diss Tolkien.

In any case, while the commentary didn't add anything of value to Tolkien and Lewis's disagreement over Narnia, I enjoyed the three re-enactments featuring Tolkien this documentary included.  I must say while the actor they've got to play Older Tolkien (who's shown as by far the oldest among the Inklings) doesn't particularly look like Tolkien, he's got the eyebrows down perfect.

Next post: Ward's theory, as presented in this documentary.


*yes, I know the Inklings didn't read manuscripts to each other in the pub. The filmmakers probably know that too, or at least I wd hope so, but have conflated the Thursday evening manuscript readings with the Tuesday morning Eagle and Child sessions, prob. as dramatic license.

**The actual lines go like this:
'Tolkien' "No no no Jack it really won't do."
'Lewis': "Why?"
'Tolkien': "Santa Claus? and a talking lion? in the same book? It's like . . . "

Actually, as Janice pointed out, the real problem is in having a character called "Father Christmas" in a world where no one has ever heard the name "Christ" (he being known under another name altogether there).

***they consider every possible explanation except the obvious one: Tolkien was right.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Old Cars in Tacoma

So, Friday, the second day of our anniversary celebrations, we went down to Tacoma (a neat city we hardly ever go to, having visited it perhaps half a dozen times in all the years we've lived out here*) to visit the LeMay car museum. We'd been down to see this once before, back when it was in its original site. That was fascinating and quirky (an old Catholic school now filled with 1700 antique cars--gym, pool, bleachers, et al). Since then they've opened up a new museum right next to the Tacoma Dome with about 300 cars in a big, sterile, purpose-built museum that looks a lot like an airport terminal or generic convention center. Whereas the old place was jam-packed, the cars parked bumper to bumper and in some cases hoisted up into balconies, the new is spacious, with the cars spaced well apart, often allowing you to walk most of the way around them and get a good view from various angles. The new museum also constantly changes its displays: we were told a Steamer was about to return from a loan while one of their electric cars was about to head out.

One of the features shared by both LeMays is that they mix up cars of all eras together. Rather than start with a room full of their earliest cars, then move on to the explosion of automobiles in the teens, to their coming of age in the twenties and thirties, to the excesses of the forties and fifties, and so forth, they might have a Model T next to a Thunderbird. We decided to join a guided tour that last about an hour and a half. That turned out to be a good call, since the guide was enthusiastic and knowledgable,** and while he was talking about one particular car I had time to look around at some of the others nearby that caught my eye.

Some of the take-aways:

--electric cars were associated with women, being easy to start and with a quiet, smooth ride. Some of the ones they had on display actually included flower vases in the passenger compartment. The most popular electric car was the Baker. They didn't have a Tesla on display, alas -- guess they're all out being driven around rather than sitting in museums.

--what makes a car a limousine is having a separate compartment for the driver, cut off by a window or something of the sort from the passenger compartment.

--the museum's pride and joy is their Tucker (one of 48 1/2 in the world). I'd have preferred less about the Tucker and more about their Cord (now that's a beautiful car), their Ford Model N (which I bought a great photo of last time I was there which I still have), etc.

--Packards were truly elegant cars back in the day. But even they were matched by the Pierce Arrows. Seeing a Packard and Pierce Arrow side-by-side really showed just how beautiful cars can be. They also had a Dusseldorf, but didn't mention that car's being featured in the recent GREAT GATSBY movie (which we'd just seen earlier in the week).

--expensive cars cost a fortune, even back then: they had one (a Silver Ghost, I think) that cost ten thousand for the works and another twenty thousand for the coach. A lot of rich folks back in the day had their coaches custom made.

--when I see a car, I sometimes have a flash of song associated with it ("Cadillac doing 'bout ninety-five . . . nothing outrun my V8 Ford" "Gee our old LaSalle ran great")

--the older a car is, the more I like it. I loved the early cars (from the aughts and teens), and also the ones from the twenties and thirties. Those from the forties were okay, while the fifties models look freakish. And most of what comes after that is just cars.

--the limousines were great, but I'd really love to have a Model A or Model T to go tootling around in. I think that's because that's the sort of car my ancestors wd have had, not the top-of-the-line rich folks' cars.

--one of my favorite cars from the earlier visit wasn't to be seen: the Moon Windsor (a picture of which mounted on a magnet has decorated our refrigerator since our previous visit to the old LeMay); assume it's at the old museum or possibly loaned out somewhere.

--they had some v. old motorcycles on display, which were also interesting. We also saw a Pennyfarthing bike that wasn't yet ready; it conjured up thoughts of a steampunk character with a souped-up pennyfarthing (as Janice pointed out, those goggles wd finally be gd for something). I liked learning that they have an old two-door coupe (didn't make a note as to type, but from the 1920s I think) put together from three cars (all of the same model and make, of course) that they're eventually going to put out where kids can climb up on it, sit behind the wheel, and get a sense of what a car like this was like.  Now that's the kid of hands-on display I think wd be great.***

--got to see two Crosleys, and was able to figure out which one was likelier to have been like my father's first car.

Another time it wd have been nice to go through the museum store, but just as we were coming out four schoolbuses pulled up and a flood of Chinese students (foreign exchange) can running in. So rather than buck the tide, thought we'd leave that for another time and headed over to the next stop of the day's itinerary: The Secret Garden teahouse over in Sumner.  We arrived at a busy time for them -- apparently quite a few people in Sumner have the charming tradition of mother-daughter tea parties (with the daughters being early grade school and younger). So we poked around the souvenir shop till they had a table ready; bought some grown-in-America tea from Charleston.**** I'd been told by a tea expert at the Tea Festival a year or two back that tea cdn't be made in America because it was too labor intensive; I guess this was someone trying to make a go of it as a high-end boutique product. After that came tea, and scones, and more tea, and a second round of scones, and us leaving more slowly than we came, full with cramsome tea.

And then home to a quiet evening, watching the extras on the NARNIA CODE dvd (including a ten-minute segment with Walter Hooper) and reading; finally finished up the Harry Lee Poe/James Ray Veneman INKLINGS OF OXFORD [#II.3093]

One more day of anniversary celebrations to go!

--John R

*not counting times we've passed through on our way to the Point Defiance zoo.

**the only time he got rattled was when showing the Flintstones' car to the kids on the tour, none of whom had any idea who the Flintstones are (maybe they didn't connect it w. the Fred-and-Barney cereal commercials?).

***speaking of which, in the lobby of the EMP they had the 'Throne of Swords' people cd sit in and have their picture taken.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Twenty-one Years

So, Thursday was our twenty-first anniversary. Last year we went to England for a long-planned trip to celebrate our twentieth; this year something more local and low-key seemed in keeping. So we went to the EMP ('Experience Music Project'), the ugliest building in Seattle,* taking the Link and then Monorail (the third time I've ridden it, I think; much less unsettling than before)  to see their Tolkien Exhibit.

To be fair, the Tolkien display was only one part of one exhibit (FANTASY: WORLDS OF MYTH AND MAGIC), and that was only one of several shows currently on display. But it was, naturally enough, the highlight of the visit for me. I'd been worried the exhibit might run its course and wrap up before I got a chance to see it. I played a v. minor role early on in the planning of this show (e.g., suggesting specific pages of Tolkien typescript that might make a good display),** and I was curious to see how it had all eventually turned out. Seeing the final exhibit, I realized that my ideas had largely been literary (including a time-line of major fantasy works and authors), whereas the EMP's focus is on movies and tv shows. Hence there were lots of props and costumes from fantasy movies. The same was true of the science fiction and horror exhibits as well, which included a three-pages section of Stoker's original typescript for DRACULA (turned to the famous scene where Mina is forced to drink blood like a kitten) and some of Jim Henson's notes for DARK CRYSTAL  but was mainly devoted to things like the captain's chair from STAR TREK (and tribbles), an Emperor Dalek, Mr. Pointy from BUFFY, the flying saucer model from PLAN NINE, and the like. They'd also come up with a tarot-like set of iconic archetypes for use in 'build your own fantasy world' hands-on electronic displays for kids.

All in all, I thought they did a good job. Among the non-Tolkien material was Le Guin's notebook containing her outline/rough table of contents for A WIZARD OF THE [ISLANDS >] ISLES (later published as A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA), a page of typescript from R. R. Martin,*** Lester del Rey's letter to Terry Brooks about changes he wanted to make in his SHANNARA book (oddly enough, del Rey claims "I've written fantasy for 35 years, edited it for 20, . . . lectured on Tolkien . . . "), along with three original cards from the prototype deck of what became MAGIC: THE GATHERING (Angel, Spider, Black Knight), at least one of which I recognized the art as coming from an old TSR product (the DUNGEON board game, I think). They also had a loop of film going of Martin, Brooks, and one or two other people I didn't know talking about why their works were the way they were (Martin was grousing about John Harrison's rejection of world-building in fantasy).

Another room had art, including a piece by the Brothers Hildebrandt that, while awful, did draw an interesting observation from Janice: back then, villains had good teeth.

The Main Event, of course, was the Tolkien case, the only spot in all three exhibits that had a guard standing next to it to prevent people from taking pictures (he stopped three separate attempts just in the short time we were there). They had roughly a dozen items, which included:

1. a timeline in Tolkien's writing whose four columns kept track of what various members of his vast cast were doing: I think the our columns were Frodo and Sam / Gandalf and other members of the fellowship / Men and Allies / Orcs and Enemies.  This is among the most interesting material that came to Marquette after I'd left, so I'm much less familiar with it than most of the other LotR Mss.

2.  the page from LotR showing a sketch of the Moria gate.

3. a page from Bk II Chapter V of LotR

4. a page from the Bladorthin Typescript of THE HOBBIT (typescript with handwritten additions)

5. a copy of the Ace FELLOWSHIP (a pristine copy, which I don't think has ever been read)

6. an old wood-grain box first edition first printing of the old original three-booklet set of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS

7. a open spread from a 1st edition DandD rulebook (the DMG I think), which actually looked a little small -- wonder if it'd been trimmed or cut down a little.

8. a (smallish) Pauline Baynes map of Narnia

9. one of Baynes' original illos to Narnia (from THE LAST BATTLE)

10. a copy of THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (early enough that it listed it as the first book in the series; late enough that it indicated it was indeed part of a series)

11. the big Pauline Baynes map of Middle-earth, signed by both Baynes and Tolkien. This I think is the original painting by Baynes which Joy Hill told me about, which Tolkien had cut down, cropping off the top and bottom friezes of the Fellowship and bad guys, respectively.

12. a similarly big Barbara Remington map of Middle-earth, which I don't think I'd ever seen before. It had typically grotesque Remington figures crawling up and down the margins of the picture at top and bottom and on either side, but the map itself was beautifully done; much better than Baynes, I thought.

--interestingly enough, some of these were marked as being from the personal collection of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen -- is he a Tolkien fan?**** Others came from Marquette, and still others from the Wade at Wheaton.  Small, but a nice display, and it got a lot of attention as the first thing you saw when you walked in the door right on the right as you came in.***** Being so immersed in Tolkien and all things Inkling as I am, it was interesting to hear folks' comments as they looked over the manuscripts et al. A few were surprised to learn of the Lewis-Tolkien connection; another delighted to see where the dragon's name had been changed from Pryftan to Smaug

Visits to the Science Fiction and then the Horror exhibits followed. Unfortunately the music exhibits that loom so large as a reason for the EMP's very existence are heavily themed towards Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, two talented musicians I'm not much interested in, so we ended with a stop by the museum store, where I bought an (overpriced) HOBBIT t-shirt, and (overpriced) HOBBIT notebook, and an (overpriced) oddity: a movie tie-in artbook that doesn't include any artwork from the movies. Entitled TOLKIEN'S WORLD: A GUIDE TO THE PEOPLES AND PLACES OF MIDDLE-EARTH by Gareth Hanrahan (text) and Peter McKinstry (art). Skimming through it, I have to say it's quite odd. Sometimes the illustrations are closely based on what appears in the films (e.g., Gandalf's staff, the ents' attack on Isengard), other times it'd strikingly aberrant (as in the picture of Bilbo on p. 10-11, whom they bizarrely make look a lot like Janet Reno. And where did Hanrahan get the exact numbers for the size of each of the Five Armies that took part in the epic battle in THE HOBBIT?

Following our lengthy perusal of the exhibits, we took the monorail back and then walked further downtown to a place Janice had heard of, The Grill from Ipanema. This turned out to be a Brazilian-style restaurant where they serve meat like it was dim sum, brought to your table on huge skewers, swords, and the like: eighteen different meats in all (steak, chicken, steak, sausage, steak, ribs, steak, buffalo, steak, lamb, steak, pineapple, and steak-steak-steak) with many different seasonings and different preparations. I had trouble at the start because I asked for well-done and kept getting promised the next one wd be well-done, only to have it medium rare each time. Luckily we had a good waitress who after about fifteen-twenty minutes of this decided to believe me when I said that by 'well done' I meant all-the-way-done with no pink no red and made sure I got plenty of that. We ate ourselves silly, including a great dessert (a kind of tiramisu unspoiled by coffee), then walked back to the light rail more slowly than we'd come.

Today (Friday), day two of our celebrations, we went to the LeMay car museum and had Tea down in Sumner, but that I think I'll save for another post.

--John R.

*even uglier than the Seattle Public Library, though the latter made a good-faith effort to outdo the shapeless melted mess that is the EMP building.

**the main advisor was fellow ex-WotC designer Rob Heinsoo, one of the key designers behind DandD fourth edition. The reason for selecting typescript rather than manuscripts, by the way, was the simple fact that typescript is easier to read, especially if you're trying to make out something in a glass case. Museum directors think of these things, it turns out.

***utterly without typo or revision

****it's now Janice's theory that the whole EMP is Paul Allen's attic, which he funded in order to have a place to Keep His Stuff.

*****N.B.: Janice, whose spacial memory is better than mine, says the manuscripts were in the second room we entered, not the first.

current reading: THE INKLINGS OF OXFORD by Harry Lee Poe, TOWARD THE GLEEM by T. M. Doran, and PLANET NARNIA by Michael Ward

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Cat Report (W. 7/24-13)

WIth Charlie Buckett's adoption and the kittens (Amy and Alisha)' having gone home for a final round of cuddling and socializing, we had just seven cats, making the cat room seem nice and roomy.

Can't say how excited I am about Edna's pending adoption. I brought in an extra of one of her favorite toys and put it in her cage to go home with her. I also think we shd let her take that little pink bed she enjoyed spending so much time in up on the cagetops.

Started off the day today with walking Edna Jane, who was a little skittish but much admired, as usual. Mr. Boogieman once again turned down a walk, emphatically (he doesn't trust me with that leash and collar anywhere around his neck), but Mr. Moreo was happy to take it on. He had another of his epic walks and as usual was reluctant for it all to end; did some mrrr-ing once back in the room. At the end of the morning when he saw I was finishing everything up he suggested that another walk would be a nice note to end on, and I agreed. Alas for poor Moreo: by now we were well into the lunch hour, the store was much busier than before, and there seemed to be dogs everywhere. He tried all sorts of detours, but everyone ended up with a barky dog at the end of it, so he finally went back over towards the cat room and got up on the pet-beds, soothing himself by doing his paws on the little white cat-bed thereon. After that he was willing to go in.

To take the cats in order: EDNA JANE had her walk, then got petted, then went high, then had a good game, then relaxed with a little bag of catnip all her own. Eventually she requested her steps be put in place so she cd come down on her own, curling up in her own cage with the door open. Looked over all intake/out-take reports for the past seven months; it was interesting to skim through all the various stages she's gone through (friendly but shy, sitting atop a cat-stand but only when under a blanket, refusing to come out of her cage at all, discovering the cage-tops, finally accepting walks, and recently welcoming petting and attention. Quite a transformation. I wish I'd known months ago how much of her hiss was a bluff. Looking forward to her happy ending.

MOREO, as noted above, had his walk, as he considered right and proper, then relaxed atop the cages. He and Edna divided things up between them without much fuss; he even let her get quite close when she was deciding to come back down. He does like to use the other cats' dirt-boxes, either because it's his way of indicating he's boss or because he doesn't want the fuss of jumping up to the higher tier of cages where his own accommodations reside. In any case, he's his usual handsome and agreeable self, except when in the midst of petitioning for his right to another walk.

MR. BOOGIEMAN had a quiet day, as usual, spending most of his time in his favorite spot underneath the cat-stands by the door. But he did have some activity; I brought in a box which he investigated with great interest. He also got quote excited by a game, running back and forth across the room in pursuit of a bug-on-a-stick. Rare to see him that active; think it did him good. Did let me pet him a little towards end of morning, but he still doesn't trust a hand reaching towards or over his head, poor fellow. We got a nice game going at one point with bug-on-a-stick, with Edna pouncing on the bug when it went high and Boogieman chasing it around when it was down low. It was a good game, apparently, since Redmond joined in, then Runa as well, and then even Bo (Moreo was being lordly up high, and Samm was in her cage; otherwise everybody joined in).

BO had a nice quiet day, just the way he likes it. Much admired, petted from time to time, keeping out of the way of the other cats. At one point he asked to go into the kittens' double-cube, which he seemed to enjoy greatly: all that space to himself. He was quite put out when I made him leave, eventually. Always gets oo'd and ah'd over by visitors.

RUNA has really made the room her own. She lounged about on cat-stands (those furthest from the door), explored, and deciding that the cabinet offered the most interesting possibilities. She got in among the shelves on her own, eventually (with a little help) winding up on top of the cabinet, where she could keep a good eye on things when not snoozing. Loves attention but fine without it, hanging out on her own. Easy to see how she'll make herself right at home in whatever household she winds up in.

REDMOND has gotten over his initial attack of shyness and came out without any trouble, claiming the cat-stand by the door as his perch. Loves being petted, loves games, loves having his ears done. Be warned: he nips when he gets excited during a game, or even sometimes when he's really into a petting session. Whoever put that extra box in his cage did him a big favor; he's no longer crouching in his dirt-box. Glad he's doing so much better; hope he too soon finds the perfect home.

And that just leaves SAMANTHA, who refused to come out and, when lifted out, immediately dashed back in. Wound up putting her in another cat's (uncleaned) cage with the door shut to have enough time to clean her cage, then let her back in it. Don't know what's got her so spooked; she's a sweet thing, but not at all happy being outside her own little safe place. Have to try what treats, games, and cat-hip might do next week.  

Took a picture of Edna (looking wary) and of Runa (cleaning herself with abandon) which I'll post if I can figure out how. 

--John R.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Cat Report (Friday July 19th)

Today got to see the cats again, filling in for Bonnie. Coming in to a full house makes for quite a change from just two days ago.

Or at least it was technically a full house, but in actual fact the two kittens were home getting some extra loving / socializing; there was a note they'd be back in at four o'clock.

We started the day with a walk for EDNA, who didn't stay out long. But being indulged and given her rights of seniority put her in a friendly mellow mood, and she was on her best behavior all morning, actually coming up to the edge of the cage-tops and asking for attention, accepting petting, enjoying a game, etc. She even came down on her own when she was good and ready. Cher, do you think it's worthwhile our getting a calming collar and putting it on her to see if she might act this mellow around visitors to the cat-room? I don't know how well she'd tolerate a collar, but might be worth a try.

Next up Mr. BOOGIEMAN was offered a walk but was deeply suspicious about this whole collar thing and so decided to pass. Later he did come out and enjoyed his usual spot underneath cat-stand #1. Generally had a quiet but pleasant morning, I think. He drew attention from a lot of visitors, most of it beginning with "Oh my god that's a big cat". He went back into his cage on his own around 12.30, lying on his side up front in his cage and sticking both white paws through the bars, completely relaxed.

Mr MOREO had another epic walk today. He was intrigued by a chirping room (the one at the end of the little hall by the cat-room) but was soon off and about. He clearly had someplace he wanted to go but kept running into dogs in the way, forcing him to make detours. Eventually he got where he was going and thoroughly enjoyed himself. After I made him come in, he went twice into Samantha's cage -- once to use her box, and once just to hang out. She was in there the first time and didn't seem to mind the company. As usual he asked for further walks and was disappointed not to get them, but when he finally went back into his cage he went to sleep at once.

BoNose didn't get a walk, but he did get lots of attention. He got friendlier and friendlier as the morning wore on -- initially seeking out the rondel beneath the cat-stand by the cabinet, then shifting over to inside one of the small ones on the bench, to coming up and mewing asking to be petted when it was time to go back in his cage. The cataract doesn't seem to bother him much; he seems able to see just fine. Much admired by visitors. 

Of the new cats, two stayed in (Redmond and Bucket) and two came out (Runa and Samantha). Dermot impersonator RUNA hesitated at first, then decided to come out and wound up exploring quite a bit. After Edna had gone back inside I put him up to explore the cage-tops, which he enjoyed; he also tried out the cabinet top, the shelves inside the cabinet, and eventually the tops of various cat-stands. He enjoyed himself thoroughly and objected to going back in his cage when the time came. SAMANTHA, our new tailless wonder, stayed in until she suddenly decided to come out, working her way past cats and cat stands along the bench until she reached the spot she wanted: inside the small cat-stand on the bench (the one furthest from the door). There she slumbered till she had to go back in, the last and most reluctant to do so -- she even came up to the front of her cage and purred at me asking for more attention. So she's a sweet little cat can be v. friendly, it just takes her a while to warm up. 

That just left BUCKETT, sleek and grey, who is sweet but very shy. Think she'll be coming out soon, but for now she preferred to stay inside and was wary of being petted. As for REDMOND (who also has a bit of a Dermot-ish look), whoever thought of giving him a box with a blanket deserves congratulations. He stayed in that box the whole time, except when my cleaning the cage around him upset him and he switched over to the litter-box again; I was glad to see he switched back after a while. Very shy but what a beautiful cat. You can tell he's had a hard life by the ears.

Oh, and I shd mention that among today's visitors were Katrina and also Amy, both of whom the cats were glad to see (and vice versa).

And that's it for this morning. Hope we get lots of visitors and maybe an adopter or two over the weekend.

--John R.

Friday, July 19, 2013

McGrath (rest of the book)

So, I'm now finished with the audiobook of McGrath's new C. S. Lewis biography, ECCENTRIC GENIUS, RELUCTANT PROPHET -- which I liked well enough that I bought myself a copy (of the book itself) when I found one in Barnes and Noble on Wednesday. I'll probably want to read his second book, which is intended as a companion volume to this one, apparently formed of eight essays on major arguments Lewis made or major elements in his (theological) thought.

As for specifics, McGrath did a good job with the origins of the Inklings and also a pretty good job on the composition of  THE HOBBIT. He spent too much time on the Elizabeth Anscombe episode and isn't quite willing to concede that Lewis lost that debate -- or, rather, he admits Lewis got his head handed to him but argues it was because of flaws in his argument, not that he was wrong. Oh, and that Lewis was too much of a gentleman to press his argument against a lady. Oh, and, also, when Anscombe and somebody else re-ran the debate some twenty years later McGrath says the other guy won.  Sheesh! Give it a rest, people. Time to move on. Lewis was wrong, his argument was egregiously flawed, and he lost.*

To my mind he spends too much time on Narnia as well, but others who are fonder of the Chronicles than I am will probably disagree. Fair enough. At least it doesn't dominate the whole book. Though I find it weird for us to have arrived at a state of things where today, McGrath points out, Lewis is known first for writing Narnia, then secondly for the apologetics, with his having been a medieval scholar ranking a distant third. I can't argue that McGrath is wrong is thus describing things, but I do find the image of CSL to emerge in the last ten to fifteen years as weirdly backwards.

The part of McGrath's book likely to garner the most comment is his treatment of Joy Gresham, who he sees as an out-and-out gold digger -- and yes, he actually uses that term, though in a quote (that he agrees with), as well as calling Lewis her "sugar daddy". In essence, he's reverting to something much nearer the original view of Gresham before Lyle Dorsett's groundbreaking work (AND JOY CAME IN) in 1982 completely turned that all on its head by presenting those events from her point of view. McGrath avoids sentimentality such as that depicted in SHADOWLANDS; I don't know that his reading of events will win over all comers, but it'll certainly reopen the debate and, I think, swing the pendulum back some from Hollywoodism.** If nothing else, I think McGrath is on to something when he points out that Lewis's secrecy over his relationship with Mrs. Gresham, extending over a period of years, closely parallels his secrecy over his relationship with Mrs. Moore.

One place where McGrath falls down badly is in his references to Humphrey Havard (whom the reader of the audiobook consistently and mistakenly calls "Dr. Harvard"), relying upon the thoroughly unreliable accounts in Douglas Gresham's and A. N. Wilson's books on this point. I also think he runs off the rails by taking A GRIEF OBSERVED entirely at face value, as straightforward autobiography. I don't think any of Lewis's three autobiographies (THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS, SURPRISED BY JOY,*** and A GRIEF OBSERVED) are straightforward in the least: each is consciously planned out to deliver a moral message. Neither of which negates the value of the biography as a whole; it just shows that it's not  a definitive work, just a v. good one.

I'm glad I approached this work by way of an audiobook, because it turned out this means I got some extras that wd not have been available via the print verison. First off, the audiobook starts with a long (twenty minute) interview w. McGrath explaining what he thinks makes his biography stand out (e.g., his re-dating of Lewis's conversion). Even better, it ends with two audiofiles of CSL himself reading out bits from his broadcast talks. I'm not familiar enough w. MERE XIANITY to identify just where each of these two extended passages come from,**** but they're definitely worth a listen (the sound quality is distorted at the beginning of the second one, but if you keep listening it improves as it goes along). Along w. the tape of THE FOUR LOVES and four short talks,***** I think this means I now have all surviving recordings by Lewis (at least all that have been made public) -- although unfortunately most only on cassette.

So, my overall evaluation: I'd like more in some places, and less in others, and his viewpoint and mine don't agree on some events, but overall a good book. Probably the book to beat for next year's Mythopoeic Award in Inklings Scholarship.

--John R.

*another to argue that Lewis didn't really lose is Harry Lee Poe, in THE INKLINGS OF OXFORD, page 127. To which all I can reply is, Lewis was of a different opinion: he thought he'd been trounced. And, having been the victor of so many Socratic Club debates, he wd have known what victory felt like, and that this wasn't it.

**to give just one example, McGrath points out that Lewis's account of his 'deathbed' marriage does not match the description of events left behind by the man who performed the service, Fr. Peter Bide.

***known among some of the Inklings as SUPPRESSED BY JACK

****thanks to the magic of the internet, I can now report that they're from the third and eleventh chapters, respectfully, of BEYOND PERSONALITY. The first is eight minutes long and the second just over six minutes -- brief, but long enough to get an idea of what the whole series of broadcasts must have been like.

*****four short talks: a talk on Bunyan, a version of his inaugural lecture, a brief introduction to a broadcast of THE GREAT DIVORCE, and a brief talk on Charles Williams; the version I have is a three-cassette set called C. S. LEWIS SPEAKS HIS MIND (1981)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Return of the Cat Report (W. 7/17-13)

It was a spacious, uncrowded room this morning, with only four cats: Edna, Moreo, Mr. Boogieman, and BoNo. Seems like not that long ago that we had a full house, with little Wilbur (a v. self-possessed little kitten) the first to go and then Bugsy the Walk Monster. For Bunny (the shy), Chloe (the calm), Silver (the stalker), and Dermot (the goofy) to all go together just in three days or so is amazing. 

Of those still with us today, all four got walks. 
--It's only a week since I first got Mr. Boogieman to go out on the leash; this time he actually approached some kids (whereas last week he shied away if he spotted any kids in the offing). Afterwards he came in and took up his usual spot near the door, enjoying the nice breeze and a good lookout spot that's still low and safe. He did play some games.

Edna had a very good walk; today was the most friendly and affectionate I've ever seen her. She let me pet her and do her ears, played games with the bug-on-a-stick, and let me groom her a bit. What a sea-change. Just hope she doesn't backslide when the room fills up again.

BoNo had a pretty good walk, for him, but as usual is v. shy and easily spooked. He was rather interested in the birds, but for some reason insisted on going over near the dog-room. After he came back in he snoozed in various spots, much enjoying being groomed and petted and having his ears done.

Mr. MOREO had an epic walk which even took him all over. What a great cat. He had trouble settling down after going back in the cat-room, wanting at one point to enjoy the breeze under the door but finding that area too crowded for him, between Boogieman and Bo and sometimes a kitten (see below). Luckily Cher came in and gave him a second walk, which I gather he found entirely satisfactory.

About an hour after I got there LInda and her daughter brought in her two fosterlings: the thirteen-week-old adorable kittens AMY and ALISA. Amy is the one w. white paws; Alisa is the growl monster. They explored, and played, and explored and played some more. Amy was sure there was some sort of game to be played with the broom but cdn't quite figure out what it was. One of them, Alisa I think, is a Paper Monster: she got ahold of a roll of paper towels and kicked and bit as only a baby predator can. Neither is cuddly, at least at this stage. At the v. end of my shift I took Amy out briefly on the leash; she spent most of her time fussing over the leash and collar but think that'll quickly pass. 

And now, just since I drafted this, I find the room has filled; look forward to making the acquaintance of Sammie, Runa, Redmond, and Bucket.

Note: one of the donations boxes is full-ish and, more importantly, seems to be broken (easy to open up, so cdn't put it out)

--John R.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Baby Hummingbird film

So, Janice showed me this last night, and I thought I'd share. Enjoy.

Our own recent bird adventures have been more mixed and more dramatic. A few days ago (Thursday?) Feanor caught and brought inside a chickadee. I managed to rescue it, I thought, and put it back out on the balcony (despite loud protests from him about 'legitimate prey'), but though it didn't have any visible injuries I either didn't handle it gently enough when picking it up or it simply died of heart failure after the terror and trauma; when I checked on it a little later it was still and dead.  Then early this morning I heard Janice calling me and rushed downstairs in the early a.m. to find that another little bird had gotten in and was being pursued by all three cats. This one was also a chickadee, but it seemed to be unhurt (Janice thinks it may have flown in on its own through the gap in the screen door we leave for Rigby to get in and out from the balcony). We had no idea how to shoo it back out again, as it flew about the dining room, perching from time to time on the curtain rods, but fortunately before we did anything it flew back out on its own, no doubt with stories to tell its fellows.

So, Feanor's bird tally now stands at six, with a chickadee added to the goldfinches we're usually trying to rescue from him. Whereas the seventh, today's, has the happy ending.

--John R.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Lewis List (About)

So, here's the list of my shelves of secondary works re. Lewis -- biographies, criticism, and the like. It's obviously far less complete than that of works actually by Lewis, given that I mainly concentrate on books that cast light on JRRT or the Inklings, but also because the secondary literature on Lewis is now so vast (what, about 200 books?) and much of it lies outside my interests (e.g., books on Narnia, books about his apologetics).

As before, some books that cd well be listed aren't here because they're shelved elsewhere. For example, Adey's book on Lewis's 'Great War' with Barfield (a classic) is shelved with the Barfield, the published version of Pavlac-Glyer's book is with the Tolkien, et al. And also as before, I've read some books I don't have, and I've by no means read all the books on Lewis that I own.

Recommendations welcome re. which out of the vast sea of books on Lewis I really ought to add.


Lewis List (about)

C. S. Lewis and his World by David Barratt [1987]
          lack: C. S. Lewis and the Middle Ages by Robert Boenig [2012]
Revisiting Narnia, ed. Shanna Caughey [2005]
C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table, ed. James T. Como [1979]
C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome by Christopher Derrick [1981]
And God Came In: The Extraordinary Story of Joy Davidman; Her Life and Marriage to C. S. Lewis by Lyle W. Dorsett [1983] [two copies, hc & pb]
Light on C. S. Lewis, ed. Jocelyn Gibb [1965]
A Morning After War: C. S. Lewis and WWI by K. J. Gilchrist [2005]
Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Douglas H. Gresham [1988]
We Remember C. S. Lewis: Essays & Memoirs, ed. David Graham [2001]
C. S. Lewis: A Bodley Head Monograph by Roger Lancelyn Green [1963]
C. S. Lewis, My Godfather: Letters, Photos and Recollections by Laurence Harwood  [2007]
C. S. Lewis: A Biography by Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter Hooper [1974; also revised edition, 1994]
          lack: Through Joy and Beyond: A Pictorial Biography of C. S. Lewis by Walter Hooper [1982?]

C. S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide by Walter Hooper [1996]

The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Alan Jacobs [2005]
C. S. Lewis: Images of His World by Clyde S. Kilby (text) & Douglas Gilbert (photos) [1973]
"Lost but Found: The 'Missing' Poems of C. S. Lewis's Spirits in Bondage" by Don W.  King (Christianity & Literature, 2004)
C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections by John Lawlor [1998]
The Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land by Kathryn Lindskoog [1973]
The C. S. Lewis Hoax by Kathryn Lindskoog [1988] [hc, two copies]
Fakes Frauds & Other Malarkey by Kathryn Lindskoog [1993]
Light in the Shadowlands by Kathryn Lindskoog [1994]
Sleuthing C. S. Lewis: More Light in the Shadowlands by Kathryn Lindskoog [2001]
The Scientifiction Novels of C. S. Lewis: Space and Time in the Ransom Stories by Jared C. Lobdell [2004]
The Riddle of Joy: G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, ed. Michael H. Macdonald and Andrew A. Tadie [1989]
C. S. Lewis: His Literary Achievement by C. N. Manlove [1987]
            lack: C. S. Lewis: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath [2013]
            lack: The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller [2008]
The Company They Keep: Assessing the Mutual Influence of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams Ph.D. thesis, by Diana Lynne Pavlac [1993]
C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church by Joseph Pearce [2003]
The Inklings of Oxford: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Their Friends by Harry Lee Poe             (text) and James Ray Veneman (photos) [2009]
C. S. Lewis Remembered: Collected Reflections of Students, Friends & Colleagues, ed. Harry Lee Poe & Rebecca Whitten Poe [2006]
Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times by George Sayer [1988]
Word and Story in C. S. Lewis, ed. Peter J. Schakel and Charles A. Huttar [1991]
In Search of C. S. Lewis, ed. Stephen Schofield [1983]
Past Watchful Dragons: Fantasy and Faith in the World of C. S. Lewis, ed. Amy H.  Sturgis [Mythopoeic Press, 2007]
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken [1977, 1980]
Conversations with C. S. Lewis: Imaginary Discussions About Life, Christianity and God by Robert Velarde [2008]
A Christian for All Christians: Essays in Honor of C. S. Lewis, ed. Dr. Andrew Walker & Dr. James Patrick [1992]
C. S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics by Chad Walsh [1949]
Chad Walsh reviews C. S. Lewis, ed. Joe R. Christopher [Mythopoeic Press, 1998]
C. S. Lewis: A Biography by A. N. Wilson [1990]
 C. S. Lewis and the Church: Essays in Honour of Walter Hooper, ed. Judith Wolfe and             Brendan N. Wolfe [2011]

Between Heaven & Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S.             Lewis & Aldous Huxley [1982]
Screwtape, a play by James Forsyth [1972?]
Freud's Last Session by Mark St. Germain [2010]
C. S. Lewis's Cambridge: A Walking Tour Guide by Jacqueline Glenny [2003]
The C S Lewis Centenary Trail in Belfast and North Down by 'The C. S. Lewis Centenary Group' [1998]

Bruce Cordell leaves Wizards

So, Bruce Cordell has just announced that he's leaving Wizards to the Coast. It's been an amazing eighteen year run, during which time he's earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest designers (gamespeak for "writer") in the rpg industry. I'm proud to have edited his first project for TSR back in Lake Geneva days: THE GATES OF FIRESTORM PEAK, a supremely creepy dungeon with a strong sidedose of weird. That same mix came together for his next project, RETURN TO THE TOMB OF HORRORS; it's still a regret of mine that, having been the original editor on that project, I wasn't able to finish it because of falling prey to the Christmas purge of '96.* We worked together a little after my coming on board at Wizards of the Coast; when I was running behind on THE REVERSE DUNGEON and had to down tools in order to begin work editing the Third Edition core rulebooks (i.e., co-editing the 3e PLAYER'S HANDBOOK and DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE), he stepped in and wrote the third scenario to fill out the adventure. And I'm still glad to have had the luck to play with him in Monte Cook's Cthulhu campaign back in Lake Geneva, when Monte ran a group of us (Sue, Bruce, Keith, Ray, myself) through Pagan P.'s WALKER IN THE WASTE

So, thanks for all the great games so far, Bruce, and best of luck in your new ventures.

--John R.

*luckily it fell into the capable hands of Steve Winter and Skip Williams, who saw it through to publication after The Great Interregnum ended.

I forgot to include the link to Bruce's own announcement of the momentous event:

The Lewis List (By)

So, having now managed to get my Lewis books (by and about) together, not just on the same floor but in the same room, indeed the same bookcase, this seemed like a good time to take stock and see what I had and what I might be missing. I've broken the resulting list in two parts, by (i.e., works written by CSL himself) and about (books about Lewis and about his works). The first such list shd be reasonably complete, though with all the posthumous re-packaging of Lewis's religious essays I might have missed one or two there. Comments welcome.

Also, note that a few items that cd have been included on this list aren't because I have them shelved elsewhere: ESSAYS PRESENTED TO CHARLES WILLIAMS (ed. CSL, 1947) on the Tolkien shelf and ARTHURIAN TORSO (ed. CSL 1948) w. the Ch. Wms books. And of course now that I've identified the gaps I'll work to fill them in bit by bit; just yesterday I ordered a (print-on-demand, alas) copy of SPIRITS IN BONDAGE, which'll be nice to have. It shd also nudge me to reading some of the CSL books I've never gotten around to, like THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS (which I'm currently trying to read, without so far much success). Note that I've read some of the books I don't have (e.g., A GRIEF OBSERVED, LETTERS TO AN AMERICAN LADY), and that I've never read some of the books I have (e.g. the OHEL volume or the diaries).

Here's the first of those lists.


Lewis List (by)

"What Chaucer Really Did to Il Filostrato" [1934] in  Chaucer Criticism, Vol. II: Troilus and Criseyde and The Minor Poems, ed. Richard J. Schoeck [1961]
The Allegory of Love [1936]
            lack: Rehabilitations and other essays [1939]
            lack: The Personal Heresy w. E. M. W. Tillyard [1939]
A Preface to Paradise Lost [1942] hc
English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, excluding drama [1954]
            (sans 'Chronological Table' and Bibli.)
Studies in Words [(1960); rev. ed. 1967]; two copies
An Experiment in Criticism [1961]
            lack: They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses [1962]
The Discarded Image [1964]
Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, ed. Walter Hooper [1966]
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, ed. Walter Hooper [1966]
            lack: Spenser's Images of Life, completed by Alastair Fowler [1967]
            lack: Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper [1969]
On Stories and other essays on literature, ed. Walter Hooper [1982]
            lack: Essay Collection and other short pieces, ed. Lesley Walmsley [2000]
C. S. Lewis's Lost Aeneid: Arms and the Exile, ed. A. T. Reyes [2011]

Boxon (w. Warnie Lewis?), ed. Walter Hooper, 1985
The Pilgrim's Regress [1933]. [two copies, one hc]
The Ransom Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and The Tortured Planet ("Specially abridged by the Author"). Avon paperbacks
Out of the Silent Planet [1938] hc
Perelandra [1943] hc
That Hideous Strength [1945]
The Great Divorce [1945]
The Chronicles of Narnia (pb boxed set):
            The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [1950]
            Prince Caspian [1951]
            The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' [1952]
            The Silver Chair [1953]
            The Horse and His Boy [1954]
            The Magician's Nephew [1955]
            The Last Battle [1956]
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold [1956]
The Dark Tower and other stories, ed. Walter Hooper [1977]
Light: C. S. Lewis's First and Final Short Story, ed. Charlie W. Starr [2012]

            lack: Spirits in Bondage (as 'Clive Hamilton') [1919]
Poems, ed. Walter Hooper [1964]
Narrative Poems, ed. Walter Hooper [1969]. includes Dymer [1926]

The Problem of Pain [1940]
The Screwtape Letters [1942]
Broadcast Talks (Right and Wrong: A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe + What Christians Believe) [1942] hc
Christian Behaviour [1943] hc
Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God [1944] hc
            collected as Mere Christianity [1952]
The Abolition of Man [1943]
Miracles [1947]
            lack: Transposition and other addresses [1949]
            (a.k.a. The Weight of Glory and other addresses)
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life [1956]
Reflections on the Psalms [1958]
The Four Loves [1960]
The World's Last Night and other essays [1960]
            lack: A Grief Observed, as 'N. W. Clerk' [1961]
            lack: They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses [1962]
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer [1964]
God in the Dock: essays on theology and ethics, ed. Walter Hooper [1970]

All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922–1927, ed. Walter Hooper [1991]

Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., w. a memoir, by W. H. Lewis [1966]
            lack: Letters to an American Lady, ed. Clyde S. Kilby [1967]
They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, ed. Walter Hooper [1979]
C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children, ed. Lyle W. Dorsett & Marjorie Lamp Mead [1985]
Letters: C. S. Lewis • Don Giovanni Calabria: A Study in Friendship , tr. & ed. Martin Moynihan [1988]
Letters of C. S. Lewis , rev. and enlarged edition, ed. Walter Hooper [1988]
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed. Walter Hooper:
            Vol. I: Family Letters  1905–1931 [2000]
            Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War  1931–1949 [2004]
            Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy  1950–1963 [2007]

Monday, July 15, 2013

And the Winner Is . . .

Verlyn Flieger!

Or, to be more accurate, Verlyn Flieger's latest book, GREEN SUNS AND FAERIE, just won the Mythopoeic Award last night as the year's best work in Inklings Scholarship.

Competition was stiff: Corey Olsen's new book on THE HOBBIT, Jason Fisher's collection on Tolkien's sources, Rbt Boenig's book on CSL as medievalist, and Jn Bremer's rather eccentric book on CSL's not being a war poet.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and especially to Verlyn.

--John R.

current audiobook: McGrath's CSL biography (still; getting near the end)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Possible Riddle-Source ("Time")

So, most of the riddles that make up Bilbo and Gollum's famous exchange have long since had their source(s) plausibly identified. But one exception to this general rule has been the "Time" riddle. Various possible sources have been suggested, but none quite seemed to give that ah-ha! feel of a compelling match. I did come across another possibility recently (while reading the discussion of THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE in Boenig's book on C. S. L.) that I thought I'd add to the mix. In the description of an allegorical depiction of Old Age, the author (Guillaume de Lorris), writes

Time, who goes away night and day, without rest
and without interruption, who parts from us and
steals away so quickly, seems to us to be always
stopped at one place, but he never stops there at
all. He never ceases passing away, so that no man,
even if you ask learned clerks, can tell you what
time it is that is present, for before he had thought,
three moments would already have passed. Time, 
who cannot stay, but always goes without return-
ing, like water which is always descending, never
returning a drop backward; Time, before whom 
nothing endures, not iron nor anything however
hard, for Time destroys and devours everything;
Time, who changes everything, who makes all grow
and nourishes all, who uses all and causes it to rot;
Time, who made our fathers old, who ages kings
and emperors and will age us all, unless Death
cuts us off; Time, who has it in his power to age 
all mankind . . . 

--THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE, by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, tr. Charles Dahlerg (1983), p. 35-36, about lines 360 to 385?

Here's how Chaucer rendered the passage in his own (Middle English) translation:

The Tyme, that passeth nyght and day,
And restelees travayleth ay,
And steleth from us prively,
That to us seemeth sykerly
That it in one point dwelleth ever,
And certes, it ne resteth never,
But goth so faste, and passeth ay,
That ther nys man that thynke may
What tyme that now present is --
Asketh at these clerkes this;
For er men thynke it redily
Thre tymes ben ypassed by.

The Tyme, that may not sojourne,
But goth and may never retourne,
As water that downe renneth ay,
But never droppe retourne may.
There may nothyng as Tyme endure,
Metal nor erthely creature,
For al thing it fret and shal.
The Tyme, eke, that chaungeth al,
And al doth waxe and fostred be,
And al thyng distroyeth he.
The Tyme that eldeth our auncestours
And eldeth kynges and emperours,
And that us al shal overcomen
Er that Dethe us shal have nomen.
The Tyme that hath al in welde
To elden folk had maad hir elde . . . 

ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE, lines 369-396

Could this be a contributing source for Tolkien's Time riddle? I think it v. likely, given the bits about "iron" and "king" and "devours". And we have a strong connection between Tolkien and Chaucer, in that JRRT spent several years putting together a Chaucer anthology, THE CLARENDON CHAUCER, which wd have made a nice companion volume to the Tolkien/Gordon SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT and Sisam FOURTEENTH CENTURY VERSE AND PROSE (to wh. Tolkien contributed).* But the passage lacks too many elements (stone, town, mountain), I think, to have been the main or only source.

So: not the crown jewel we've been looking for, but an addition, I think, to the pool of time-riddles and time-poems and time-characterizations.

--John R.
just finished: Joseph Pearce's book on THE HOBBIT
current reading: Edward Rice's biography of Captain Richard Burton

*Lewis's work on THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE, while significant, came too late to have influenced Tolkien

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lembas Tea Latte

So, the following map may not be your cup of tea (so to speak) but I thought it was a hoot. Thanks to Janice for the link:

--John R.
(posting from Starbucks in Enumclaw)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

McGrath (interrum report)

So, I'm now a third of the way through the audiobook of McGrath's new biography of C. S. Lewis, and I must say I'm impressed. Whether it establishes itself as the standard biography (displacing the current trifecta of Green and Hooper, Sayer, and Wilson*) I don't know, but I cd see that happening. It'll certainly be a strong contender for book of the year next time nominations for the Mythopoeic Award come round.

This biography is primarily based on the massive 8,000 page three-volume COLLECTED LETTERS, supplemented as needed by other sources, and also lays stress on Lewis's northern-Ireland background, which the author thinks established the default landscapes in most of Lewis's work. No major revelations or recasting of the familiar narrative so far, but a number of small points tell in McGrath's favor.

First off, he doesn't have a cow over the idea that Lewis actually sometimes did chores at the Kilns. Warnie Lewis considered it monstrous that he, a retired officer, sometimes had to walk the dog, and his brother on occasion even had to take out the trash. McGrath doesn't think that makes Mrs. Moore a monster or Lewis a battered spouse: he thinks it's perfectly normal. Score one for McGrath.

Second, he suggests that Lewis and Paddy Moore might actually have been quite close (there's some evidence that Lewis tried to get assigned to the same military unit as Paddy), an idea some dismiss without even considering seriously.

Third, he suggests that Lewis was the love of Arthur Greeves' life. Greeves confessed his homosexuality to Lewis, who made it clear he did not reciprocate Greeves' feelings; the two agreed to remain friends. That's interesting, and so far as I know, new.

Fourth, Mrs Moore. McGrath's mind doesn't boggle at the idea of CSL falling in love with an older woman. This sets him ahead of those who can't understand a young man falling in love with a much older woman (Janie M.) but have no problem believing that same man cd later fall in love with a much younger woman (Joy G.). Also, McGrath understands that it's not fair to collapse descriptions of Janie M. from a quarter-century later as a sick old women suffering from Alzheimer's with the way she was when Lewis fell in love with her -- an elementary point that's eluded most.

Fifth, he makes it clear that Lewis treated his father badly during the last decade of the latter's life, though McGrath is inclined to give him a break on this (far more than I personally would; I agree w. CSL himself that it's the most shameful episode in his life).

Having gotten to the point in the narrative where CSL has just met Tolkien and the Lewis-Moore family has just bought the Kilns, I'll be v. interested to see if McGrath gets another important point right. The odd idea has grown up that CSL had an affair with Mrs. Moore that lasted a decade or so, but broke it off when he converted to Xianity. There's no evidence for this sudden celibacy at all, other than an assumption that Xian Lewis of the 1930s and 40s wd behave differently than the highly moral but non-Xian Lewis of the 1920s;** instead it seems clear she remained his common-law wife (and he her common-law husband) till her death.

We'll see if he continues as well as he's begun.

--John R.
current reading: BILBO'S JOURNEY by Joseph Pearce [2012]
also: CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON (biography) by Edward Rice [1990]
current audiobook: C. S. LEWIS: ECCENTRIC GENUIS, RELUCTANT PROPHET by McGrath [2012]

*Wilson is on record saying he believes McGrath's to be a better biography than his own -- a rare level of endorsement among biographers, I shd think.

**dubious, given CSL's later attempts to convince the Bishop of Oxford that the Anglican ban on marrying a divorcee shdn't apply to him.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Adjusting the Shelves

So, the past few days I've been moving a lot of book around. The Tolkiens (by and about) are up here in my office, of course, but there's now a backlog of recent books about THE HOBBIT that I need to find places for on my shelves. And there are some Tolkien-related books that reside downstairs in the box room (quizbooks, parodies, and other peripheral material of the sort), along with non-Inklings books by Carpenter and a few by Pearce, works by minor Inklings (e.g. Coghill and Cecil), and associated figures (e.g., the Unwins).

The problem is that the Lewis books are divided between a bookcase in the dining room (by, some about) and those same shelves in the box room (more about), since the top shelf of that bookcase is devoted to Barfield, leaving no room for all the Lewises (by and about) to be shelved together. The Ch. Wms books were similarly divided, and most of Warnie was in the box room as well.  I tried moving the Barfield to my grandfather's old walnut bookcase (also in the dining room), thus dispossessing all the VIIs and currently-checked-out library books. That fixed the Lewis problem, but not v. satisfactorily.

That's when Janice stepped in, seeing the books stacked here and there, and suggested converting one of the two large bookcases up in her office to OB, CSL, et al. So yesterday all the books on those shelves came off (religion, biography, archeology and paleontology, native american (Mayan, Caddo, et al), antarctic disasters, conspiracies and crank theories, et al.), resulting in a sea of books all around the room (soon to be taken off to new homes in the dining room and box room, minus a few culls). And today the new residents moved in. Top shelf is now Barfield. Second and third shelves are CSL (by) followed by CSL (about). Fourth and final shelf is Wms and Warnie.

One result of this sort-out is the discovery of some duplicates and the decision that a few books can be gotten rid of for one reason for another. Accordingly, the following books all up for grabs to good homes:

1. PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS by CSL, ed. Patricia S. Klein. I've had this book for eight years, having picked it up on an impulse. Since I haven't read it in all that time, I'm not likely to anytime in the foreseeable future either. Esp. given that I prefer reading Lewis's books the way he wrote them than a selection of excerpts, as here.

2. C. S. LEWIS: THE AUTHENTIC VOICE by Wm Griffin. I had to order this one to track down a quote in my "Missing Women" piece. Turns out it's just a re-issue of his CSL: A DRAMATIC LIFE under a different title. Since the latter is readily available, shd I decide I want to read it, this one can go.

3. C. S. LEWIS AND NARNIA FOR DUMMIES by Richard Wagner. This one must have seemed a good idea at the time. I not only bought it but read it and marked it up. The best parts are probably the cartoons by Tennant, who clearly knows nothing about CSL, making for an amusing disjunction.

4. A POCKET COMPANION TO NARNIA by Paul F. Ford. This looks like a wonderful little book for anyone doing work on Narnia;  a sort of CSL edition of Rbt Foster's ever-useful GUIDE TO MIDDLE-EARTH. Since I've never made any use of it in the eight years I've had it, and hope never to have to work on Narnia, this really shd go to someone who'll make better use of it.

5. A SEVERE MERCY by Sheldon Vanauken. I don't know why I have two copies of a book I've never taken the time to actually read, but one of them can surely go

6. THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C. S. Lewis. The first Lewis book I ever read, and still one of my favorites. However, we can probably get by if we trim our three copies down to just two (preliminary to deciding which of those two ultimately stays and which goes).

7. A PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST by C. S. L. Again, this is a duplicate: I'm keeping the hardcover and letting the (trade) paperback go.

There would have been an eighth book, Taum Santoski's copy of THE C. S. LEWIS HOAX by Kathryn Lindskoog, but glancing through it I found that I'd forgotten Taum had annotated it in some places, so I'll be hanging on to this one for a while.

One thing such a sort-out does is highlight a few things that I really shd get to fill some gaps: Lewis's book on Spenser, more of his literary essays (alas that REHABILITATIONS and the ESSAY COLLECTION are alike outside my budget), his first book SPIRITS IN BONDAGE (probably in one of the print-on-demand reprints, now that I know they exist), the volume of Joy Gresham letters, and (when opportunity offers) the recent Boenig book on CSL AND THE MIDDLE AGES. Similarly, I have all but two of Warnie's books, and really shd get the ones I'm missing, having enjoyed those I read of his quite a lot.

And now, back to more sorting and re-arranging; first of the displaced books, and then of the Tolkien shelves.

--John R.
current reading: THE FALL OF ARTHUR, Walter Raleigh on Blake.
current audiobook: McGrath's biography of CSL