Saturday, June 27, 2015
First off, I think it'd a bad idea to remove the person who created our banking system from the currency.
Second, if they had to remove somebody, I'd prefer it were General Grant, from the fifty -- a man famous mainly for killing a lot of his fellow Americans and then going on to preside over a notoriously corrupt and incompetent administration.
Third, if we're going to put a woman on our currency (a good idea in and of itself), I'd vote for Jeannette Rankin:* the first woman elected to the US Congress. A suffragette who served two terms twenty years apart, Rankin was a pacifist who voted against U. S. entry into World War I, for which she got booted out. She finally won re-election twenty years later, just in time to vote against U. S. entry into World War II (the ONLY member of Congress to do so). It's rare for a politician to stand by his or her principles, whatever the political cost.
So, it they were to make the best of a bad idea, I'd say leave Hamilton where he is, boot Grant from his current spot, and put Rankin in his place.
Friday, June 19, 2015
In brief, Martin has just donated a copy of the first edition HOBBIT to the Texas A&M university library. This is not just extremely generous of him but marks a significant milestone for the library, being their five millionth book.
Their millionth book seems to have been essentially random: PROSE AND POETRY OF THE LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES. So too perhaps the two million mark: A VOYAGE TO THE ISLANDS MADERA, BARBADOS, NIEVES, S. CHRSTOPHERS AND JAMAICA (1707-25) by Sir Hans Sloane. But it's v. clear that the three millionth was a careful choice: a first edition of Walt Whitman's THE LEAVES OF GRASS , as was the four millionth: Cervantes's DON QUIXOTE (both volumes).
So, it's a big deal that Tolkien's work should be deemed worthy of being in such company and world-renown classic authors as Whitman and Cervantes, a point made explicitly by Martin in his presentation ("Martin expressed him pleasure at a long overdue acceptance of fantasy 'into the canon of world literature'"). It's almost as if, now that Terry Pratchett is dead, R. R. Martin has become the go-to face of fantasy guy.
Here's the link.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
What's more, I was surprised to find myself being quoted by THE GUARDIAN. Being referenced in an online forum or cited in an academic piece is one thing (and I'm always interested to see how others use my work); to be quoted in a world-class newspaper is oddly disconcerting. At any rate, glad to see the reference to Tolkien's THE LOST ROAD being picked up; it'd be great if that leads someone out there to discover Tolkien's strange and fascinating time-travel stories.
Here's the piece:
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
It was still the same six cats this week, who have pretty well worked out who's boss cat (EMMA), who hides and hopes she doesn't get hissed at (MAISY), who minds his own business (MONTE), who waits patiently for attention (CHESSA), and who's out and about and all over the place (BLOSSOM & BUTTERCUP).
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
I therefore took note when I came across what seems to be a reference to one of those books Lewis gave away, which I thought I'd share here for those interested in such things.
The book in question is by Charles Williams, the first of his theological books (the first to be published, anyway): HE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN (1938). Alice Mary Hadfield, in her biography of Williams, notes that
Hadfield's source for this is identified in a note on p. 245: 'By courtesy of Mr. George Sayer.'
If follows, then, that Sayer must have Lewis's copy of this book, and it seems likely that he was given it by Lewis himself.
As it happens, we have Sayer's own account of that event, in his biography of Lewis (JACK: C. S. LEWIS AND HIS TIMES), in which Sayer describes making as his initial pick George MacDonald's UNSPOKEN SERMONS, which Lewis was apparently too attached to to be able to let go, hence Sayer "hastily withdrew my choice and asked to be allowed to have something else" (JACK p. 249). That 'something else' now looks likely to have been the Charles Williams book -- an odd choice, I shd have thought, for Sayer. As Chuck Berry says, it just goes to show you just can't tell.
P.S.: By the way, Lewis himself left an account of this lunch-meeting in his Preface to ESSAYS PRESENTED TO CHARLES WILLIAMS (p. viii):
Sunday, June 14, 2015
current reading: SAILS OF GLORY rulebook
current viewing: a documentary on Pullman's GOLDEN COMPASS -- surprisingly dull, given the liveliness of the subject matter and the controversy it's caused.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
But when I came to pick a poem to celebrate the day, I decided on one of his lesser-known works which, though deceptively simple, has haunted me since I first read it back in Dr. Kimpel's class during my time at Fayetteville.
from THE WILD SWANS AT COOLE
--at first this seems a straightforward account of a simple man worried about something which does in fact come to pass. But then again, it could just as easily been called "Answered Prayers": he prays to be eased of his burden, and his burden is taken away in a way he had not intended. Free and rejoicing, dead and devoured; he'll never know. And that we're told Providence is to us like the speaker is to his cat and rabbit is a final chilling thought.
All that was long past by the time I was growing up, with the levee system having the river firmly under control (but also channeled to the extent that it no longer enriched the whole floodplain with its periodic floods). The only time I can remember a massive flood in SW Arkansas was from Hurricane Betsy, about the time I was in first grade (circa 1965-66). I didn't see the flooding myself, given that I was in Magnolia at the time, a town which happens not to be on a river, but I remember my father (who was working on his PhD down at Baton Rouge) wanted to check on his mother, who was living somewhere in the Red River region (probably over at Bodcaw), so he drove as far as he could (prob. Lewisville or that area) and then borrowed a rowboat to make the rest of the trip by water.
And now the Red River is flooding again, and on such a massive scale that they evacuated Garland City (where the road between Magnolia and Texarkana crosses the Red River) entirely:
Further downriver, near where my sister lives now, the Red River has been flooding in Shreveport/Bossier City (the west and east banks, respectively:
All this makes me grateful, for the first time, that Magnolia's not on a river. And that my mother, and sister, and nieces are all safe. And to want to check our own earthquake/flood supplies. Just in case.
current reading: some poems by W. B. Yeats
Friday, June 12, 2015
This has become a theme lately, since The Mountain (103.5 FM) went off the air about a year and a half ago. The nearest thing I found to a replacement was 104.5, which had a softer rock than The Mountain (e.g. you might occasionally hear The Grass Roots) as well as some Motown. But that's now changed formats in turn. The Mountain had been my favorite station out here, followed by 96.5 JackFM as two reliable rock stations, both with a good mix of older music with some newer stuff.
Of the other stations, there's still Jack FM, which is good most of the time albeit with a somewhat smaller music library than I'd prefer. But alternative to it are thin on the ground. There's 102.5 (a.k.a. 'all Led Zeppelin, all the time'*). There's 101.5, but it had a format shift of its own a while back and now has more contemporary music (women singing through synthesizers) and less rock. And there's 95.7, which is unabashedly an oldies station.
It's not so bad in the silver car, since it has a cd player and I almost always bring cds along as back-up music in case the radio lets me down (as it too often does this past year or two). But the cassette player in the old white car gave out more than a year ago, meaning I'm sometimes left high and dry and Musicless While Driving.
Time to search the dial again and see what might have popped up out there since the last time I looked. Maybe there's a good Seattle station I'm unaware of.
Or maybe I'll just wind up doing a lot more singing in the car (today it was "Stagger Lee"). But only when the windows are rolled up, for my sake and everybody else's.
just finished: the Crow book. current reading: the Hadfield biography.
*this is an exaggeration. They sometimes play The Who as well, or even The Rolling Stones once in a while. But you get the idea.
P.S. Just for the record, I have no objection to gospel or spirituals or hymns or classical music written for religious occasions: it's Xian Rock I dislike as a parasitic form, closely modeled on rock and roll (or occasionally mid-road country) but repurposed to an agenda. I'd much prefer it develop its own idiom.
Monday, June 8, 2015
Did want to flag one problem that does not interfere with reading the book but does make it tricky to rely upon as a source. Reading through, I noticed some mistakes in this book, mostly to do with dating. For example, the back dust jacket prints an excerpt from the first letter, written by CW upon his arrival at Oxford in the first days of the war. On the dust jacket the letter is dated "March 30 1939", which is wrong. From the letter itself, it's clear Wms wrote it around September 1st through 3rd (his next letter, written a few days later, is dated "6 Sept"). The cause of the error is simple enough: Wms gives the time he wrote it as "3.30", and the editor has mistaken this time of day (three thirty in the afternoon) for the date (March 30th).
Anyone can make a slip, and dust jackets (not being under the author's control) aren't generally fair game. But what are we to make of the statement that the first of Dorothy Sayer's novels Williams read was THE SEVEN TAILORS? Or the information that Ben Jonson lived from 1707 to 1866 (O rare Ben indeed)? Or the introduction's quoting from a letter it says Wms wrote in 1949 (unlikely, unless it was via a spirit medium)? Or the statement that Williams objected to the Hoare-Laval pact when it was announced in December 1945? --again, unlikely, given that (a) Wms died in May 1945 and (b) the Hoare-Laval pact turns out to involve the Abyssinian war and dates from 1935.
Such slips with dates wd be relatively harmless, given that most are self-evidently wrong. The problem is that they create a suspicion that the many other references to dates within the volume might have their own share of errors which could only be detected by a good deal of outside work. It's not the obvious errors that stick out (like my own blunder over Langland/Gower in H.o.H., or here the title of Sayers' book) that you have to worry about; it's the invisible ones that seem to make perfect sense unless you know otherwise.
So, there's worthwhile information to be extracted from this book, albeit somewhat unwillingly, but double-check the dates if possible.
current reading: Hadfield's biography of C.W. (a re-reading)
Saturday, June 6, 2015
(1) For example, when Williams expressed a wish to own slaves [p.220], was he serious? Or should this be put down to the extravagant babble he sometimes resorts to to fill the page of yet another letter home?* I wd say the latter, were it not for not one but two poems in his Taliessin series idealizing the master-slave relationship. And certainly Roy Campbell, who memorably visited the Inklings, was ardently pro-slavery long after the point when everyone else abandoned such positions.
*(of which he wrote almost seven hundred during their wartime separation -- and that's even though he and his wife got together in London most weekends)
(2) Speaking of Campbell, we know that Williams was present when Campbell gate-crashed a Tuesday Eagle-and-Child Inklings meeting [Tues. Oct 4th, 1944], yet he makes no mention of it in his letters home [cf. p. 225]. This is odd, because Williams devotes a good deal of space in the letters to mentioning important people he's met and what they had to say about his work. He does avoid topics that he knows are likely to upset his wife, so perhaps she shared some of Lewis's suspicion and dislike of Campbell.** Perhaps he did mention it, and the editor omitted this passage from these selected letters (King mentions having made "a judicious selection" from among the 680 letter total). Still, the omission seems odd; a bit of a mystery there -- a good reminder that even when we have a lot of evidence, we still don't have everything we'd like; things fall through the gaps.
**it's one of the few times I can recall CSL using the word loathe
(3) Towards the end of his time in Oxford, he muses about how few Oxford people he's met during his five years there, aside from the people who are boarding him and his fellow Oxf.Univ.Pr. workers at the (temporary, wartime) office:
"4 at Magdalen (whom I knew before),"
Miss Morrison & Miss [Helen] Gardner
Of these, "Magdalen" is Williams' name throughout these letters for The Inklings, but it's interesting to see that he doesn't think of Lord David Cecil or Gervase Mathew as members of the group. Lampert and Ovenden appear only this one time in the entire correspondence, with brief descriptors of who they are. Morrison and Gardner are the ones who arranged for Williams to give tutorials at the women's colleges, which also seem to have made up the main audience for his lectures.
The intriguing question remains re. the four Inklings whom he knew before the war. We know three of them must be CSL, Tolkien, and Warnie, but who's the fourth? Coghill, Wrenn, and Fox are all possibilities, but I'd say it's overwhelmingly likely to have been Havard.
(4) And finally, the whole business of Williams' thinking he was going to get the Professorship of Poetry [p. 227, 252]. I've seen this referred to before, but I've never seen any sign that it was more of a pipe-dream on Williams' part, like his wistfully hoping to become Poet Laureate [p. 125, 193]. But apparently he thought it was a serious possibility, and that he wouldn't even have to stay in Oxford to hold the post but could commute back and forth from London. It all seems wildly improbable to me. He seems on much more solid ground in his hope that he'd get a Readership (though I'm not familiar enough with the Oxford system to know whether this would make him a Fellow as well), but his reasoning for this was odd:
--when I first read this, I took it as saying that Lewis and Tolkien were "only human" and so might fail in their attempt to secure Williams the post. But going back and rereading it, I see that he's actually saying that, being only human, they won't be able to resist taking any steps which will secure for them the pleasure of his company. Which seems a bit much.
current reading: TO MICHAL FROM SERGE (just finishing), CHARLES WILLIAMS: AN EXPLORATION OF HIS LIFE AND WORK by Hadfield (just started re-reading)
current music, from the haven't-listened-to-in-a-long-long-time: MODERN TIMES by Jefferson Starship, STATE OF CONFUSION by The Kinks