Monday, December 27, 2021

Much Activity in the Cat Room (Fr.12/24-21)


What an amazing end of the year it’s been, with so many cats finding new homes in October, November, and now December. I’d no sooner gotten to know Shy VIOLET and sweet PARIS (a tree cat if ever I saw one) than both were in new homes (hurray!) and six new cats arrived (if I’ve got my notes right): CLYDE* and STELLASCORPIO and TAURUS (11 month old little black panthers), BONNY (four month old a little grey tabby) and her partner CASANOVA with his remarkable markings (I’d never seen a Snowshoe before). 

Of these, not only did Clyde get adopted before I’d even seen him, but the same thing happened with Stella. When I arrived for my Friday midday shift at noon to find one of my fellow volunteers  who’d just completed Stella’s adoption. And at the end of the same shift at two o’clock another volunteer came to take care of the adoptions of SCORPIO and TAURUS.

In between I’d let the younger kittens out first (for about an hour), then the older kittens for their turn. I was surprised that the little black panthers were ready to go back into the residences after a half hour or so. So the smaller kittens (Casanova and Bonny) had another turn, which they appreciated. They loved dashing about chasing toys; Casanova in particular likes to drag the toy away. I offered each of the four little cats a walk but got firm refusals all round. I did manage to get the leash on each one for about five minutes or so within the room, thinking it might be a first step towards actual walks to come, kind of like a bike with training wheels. In-between playing with kittens I cleaned and sanitized what I assume had been Stella’s cube.

Lots of people stopping by to look at the cats, who were happy to be on display in the windows.

Now if only our two remaining kittens can find a home over the next week or so what a great finish on the year it’ll be.

—John R.

*my cat Parker, famous (notorious) as 'The Cat Who Bit People', was originally named 'Clyde'; I had renamed him PARKER before finishing the ride home.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

A Voice from the Grave

 So, yesterday I got a message from a friend, Jared Lobdell, who's been dead from three years or so. At first I thought this might be the result of his having set up some automatic notification --something I know happens with Facebook occasionally. But this was an email and there seems to be no particular significance in that particular day. Then too on closer look the message was purposefully vague, almost certainly some spammer's putting together two random email from/to two random people. So, delete unopened. But it has brought back memories of Jared, one of the strangest and most erudite among my Tolkien friends.

--John R,

who will probably be re-reading one of Jared's pieces within the next few weeks  

Friday, December 17, 2021

Cabell's View of American Literature

 So, here's a quote I found in further reading of the Cabell. It comes from a little fable he wrote parodying his experience of being the target of censorship. This view of American literature comes from the 1926 (post-censor challenge) edition of JURGEN.

I was pleased to see that the three figures Cabell singles out include both of my two favorite American authors.

Although it's deeply ironic that Cabell uses the term 'philistine' for point of view he deplores.

--John R.

Jurgen vs. The Philistines: 


'. . . we of Philistia have been pestered by three of these makers of literature. Yes, there was Edgar, whom I starved and hunted until I was tired of it: then I chased him up a back alley one night, and knocked out those annoying brains of his. And there was Walt, whom I chivvied and battered from place to place, and made a paralytic of him: and him, too, I labelled offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent. Then later there was Mark, whom I frightened into disguising himself in a clown's suit, so that nobody might suspect him to be a maker of literature: indeed I frightened him so that he hid away the greater part of what he had made until after he was dead, and I could not get at him . . .  Still, these are the only three detected makers of literature that have ever infested Philistia, thanks be to goodness and my vigilance, but for both of which we might have been no more free from makers of literature than are the other countries.'


'Now, but these three,' cried Jurgen, 'are the glory of Philistia: and of all that Philistia has produced, it is these three alone, whom living you made least of, that to-day are honored wherever art is honored, and where nobody bothers one way or the other about Philistia.'


'What is art to me [?] . . . I have no concern with art and letters . . . '


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Unsubtle (The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice)

 So, I've been doing a little work on James Branch Cabell lately, which included reading up a bit on The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, the group who tried to get Cabell's book JURGEN banned. The attempt backfired, generating a mountain of publicity in the book's favor and boosting Cabell's career.

All this I had known, but I had not known that the group (boosted, at least early on, by the YMCA) lasted some seventy-five years, and that among its targets were Theodore Dreiser, Margaret Sanger, Mae West, James Joyce, and Edmund Wilson (I suspect in fact that Wilson's interest in Cabell originated from their sharing this in common).

I had also not seen the Society's seal (reproduced above) before. I'll give them credit for one thing: unlike many censors they make no secret of their goals. On the left side of the seal we see a figure (presumably a book seller, printer, or publisher), hands tided behind his back, being arrested by a uniformed police officer. On the right we see a book-burning, as a stern figure tosses more volumes into the flames.


--John R.

--current reading: JURGEN by James Branch Cabell (1919)

--current music: The Kinks (favorite selections)

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Monkees

So, the passing of Mike Nesmith leaves Micky Dolenz (who was lead singer on most of their hits) as the last surviving member of The Monkees, the best of the sixties synthetic groups like Herman's Hermits, The Partridge Family, & The Archies.  In the wake of the British Invasion, record company executives and producers put together faux-Beatles groups whose job was to sound as much like the Beatles of the HARD DAY'S NIGHT/HELP! era as possible. And of all these groups, The Monkees put out the most catchy songs, largely helped by producer Don Kirshner's recruitment of top-notch songwriters (such as Neil Diamond, whose 'I'm a Believer' demo trumps the group's cover version). It was great fun if you were a kid (I was in elementary school and thus part of their target audience). Pity they overstayed their welcome and after their breakup eventually drifted into an endless string of partial-group reunions. As for Nesmith himself, on the one hand I can sympathize with the man whose public life was almost entirely dominated by his self in his twenties, while on the other his surly attitude to his and his partners' achievement wore thin decades ago. 

Still, eight good songs is more than a lot of groups at the time managed. Ironically it's a stronger discography than many a group of the time with more 'authenticity'.

--John R.

Here's a short Monkees' playlist I've been enjoying this week; give them a shot if you enjoy the British invasion era / sixties rock.

The Monkees (theme song)

Last Train to Clarksville

I'm a Believer

Not Your Stepping Stone

Pleasant Valley Sunday

Daydream Believer


     Randy Scouse Git

"In the Tolkien Tradition" follow up

 So, thanks to Mykhalailo Nazarenko, Doug Anderson, and Dale Nelson for sharing the results of their researches into  when 'like Tolkien' blurbs first appeared on early post-Tolkien fantasy novels.

First, Mykhalailo pointed out that the copyright date given in the Ace actually applied not to the Ace paperback (1965) but the original hardcover (1960).

Given Ace's history of pirating books (cf. famously the Ace LotR, that same year of 1965) I shd have been more wary about taking their copyrights page at face volume. Here's what it looks like:

By contrast, the Ace FELLOWSHIP reads


Complete & Unabridged

Cover and title page by Jack Gaughan.

Printed in U. S. A.

One interesting feature of the WEIRDSTONE book is that in addition to the "Tolkien tradition" blurb by Andre Norton* on the front cover, Norton also provided a brief (two-page) introduction which compares Garner to both Lewis and Tolkien as well as classifying fantasy works into two schools: the other worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth and the fantasy incursion into our world that Garner prefers. She is emphatic that WEIRDSTONE is "not a juvenile as this book was first judged".

Even though the mention of Narnia is in passing, this still marks an early linkage between CSL and JRRT as fantasy writers.

For much more information and interesting discussion thereof, cf. the link below to Doug's post: Doug has gone through and identified a list of books published no later than 1969 that fit the criteria of referencing Tolkien as a blurb somewhere on the cover (front or back). Interestingly enough, the earliest entry is still the Garner, even when shifted from 1960 to 1965. 

Here's Doug's post, incorporating some updates, particularly addenda from Dale Nelson

and here's Dale's summing up.

I have to say, there are far fewer such books that I expected. 

Thanks to Doug and Dale et a for sharing their work with us.

--John R.

*there wd be a research project for someone with a lot of time on his or her hands: compiling a list of all the blurbs Andre Norton wrote.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

An Oxford Fantasy Writers Walking Tour

So, a few days ago I noticed on the Bodleian's site this notice about tours they host focused on famous fantasy writers associated with Oxford: Tolkien, Lewis, Pullman, and Carroll. An interesting selection, and one that made me wonder if, just as at one point we got books on the 'Oxford Christians' (JRRT, CSL, & CW), we might at some point get these four linked together thematically in some way.* They'd have to come up with a new name for such a group, though, since with Philip P it cd hardly be called Xian.  Simply 'Oxford Fantasists' perhaps?

*I wdn't be surprised if someone has done a dissertation on the topic already


Oxford’s Fantasy Worlds

From Middle Earth to Narnia, Wonderland to Lyra’s world (and beyond!), join our qualified tour guides on an entertaining family walk around the streets of Oxford.

Explore the city that helped shape some of the most unforgettable worlds in literature and the incredible literary minds behind them.

This walking tour around Oxford will take approximately 90 minutes.

Here's the link

--John R.

--current reading: TWILIGHT OF THE GODS by Richard Garnett (1888; 1940 reduced edition)

Friday, December 10, 2021

"In the Tolkien Tradition"

So, pulling my books off the shelf yesterday to check something before hitting send on my most recent post, I noticed the blurb slipped just below the author's name on the front cover of this one. For those who can't see the small type, here's what it says:

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen


A fantastic novel in the Tolkien tradition

"A prime favorite of mine."


It's the  ' in the Tolkien tradition' part that's interesting. This book (a 1960 Ace paperback) must have been among the first, if not the first, to try to sell a fantasy novel by claiming on the cover that it was like Tolkien or the next Tolkien or that  if you liked Tolkien, you'll love . . .

I wonder how many books have borne some version of that line over the years. Dozens? A hundred? More?  

But to see if so early -- for a book published in 1954-56 to already be used as a milestone/marker in 1960 strikes me as extraordinary, and once again drives home the point that there's only one Tolkien, and his impact was early, massive, and enduring.

--John R.

--current reading: KA by John Crowley


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Alan Garner Liketh Not Narnia

So, thanks to Doug A. and Janice for drawing my attention the following interview with Alan Garner in a recent issue of The Guardian.

Alan Garner: ‘The Chronicles of Narnia are atrociously written’

The author on the lascivious subtexts of Catullus, mistaking Lord of the Flies for a satanic text and CS Lewis’s ‘totalitarian’ fantasy epics

First Quote: 

The book I could never read again
"I never enjoyed CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the books with horrid fascination. They were, in my opinion, and remain, nasty, manipulative, morbid, misanthropic, hectoring, totalitarian and atrociously written."

Sounds to me like Garner is putting on his Philip Pullman hat here.

I've never been that big a fan of Alan Garner, who I think of primarily as one of the first wave of fantasy writers to follow Tolkien, including Joy Chant and Peter S. Beagle. I read, and liked, THE WEIRDSTONE OF BRISENGAMEN well enough, though I liked what he was trying to do more than the way he'd done it. The follow up book, MOON OF GOMRATH, I thought a falling off but still readable (judgements I stand by on the basis of re-readings). THE OWL SERVICE I disliked quite a lot -- so much so, in fact, that I more or less gave up reading his work at the point, especially since this book had been highly praised by friends who admire AG's work. A good while later I tried either ELIDOR or RED SHIFT, I forget which, and cdn't even get through the first chapter. And then there was some Tolkien-bashing --not much, but enough to put me off his work.

After that I concluded Garner was not the author for me. There were books a plenty by other authors I wanted to read, and Garner seemed to have readers enough.

Fast forward a lot of years and I'm reading TREACLE WALKER, which reminded me of what a novelization of one of Gaiman's comic scripts must have been like. I'm sorry to see his Lewis-bashing, not because I disagree with some of his criticisms but because it came across as a less successful author growsing about a more succesful one.

Second Quote (the ominous one):

The writer who changed my mind

Aeschylus. Reading his Oresteia aged 17 made me aware more than any other text of the power of language, and its examination of matricide came at an opportune moment.

--wait, what? 

--John R.

current reading: KA.


Looking at this another way, you could say that Narnia is a cult and Susan is the only one who got out.

A Marshall France Checklist


I just finished re-reading Jonathan Carroll's THE LAND OF LAUGHS (1980)--a book  it's hard to discuss or even describe without giving away too much of the plot. 

At its simplest it's the story about two people who want to write a biography of reclusive children's author Marshall France. 

If I had to describe it, I'd say this is what we might have gotten if Shirley Jackson had been inspired by Flann O'Brien into retelling the Bill Waterson story.

In the course of this reading (my third time through) I drew up a listing of Marshall France's books and thought the following might prove useful for anyone interested in Carroll's story:

1. The Pool of Stars (1945)

2. Peach Shadows

3. The Green Dog's Sorrow

4. The Land of Laughs  [last published book]

5. The Night Runs into Anna [only partially published]

6. The Galen Journals [unfinished]

Also, just as a bonus and because it becomes tangentally relevant, here are the named movies of Stephen Abbey, in no particular order:

1. Trains Through Germany

2. Cafe de la Paix (1942)

3. (Cancer House)  [title unknown]

4. (Old Sam Vandenburg)  [title unknown]

5. The Beginners

6. A Fire in Virginia

7. Mr. & Mrs Time

All in all, despite a surprisingly unsympathetic main character, a Masterpiece. Highly recommended.

--John R. 

current reading: E. H. Visiak (MEDUSA, 1929)

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Happy Ending for Simba and Zoe

So, at Thanksgiving over the holiday meal I mentioned to my friend Steve M. how there were two really great cats in the Purrfect Pals cat-room at Renton who'd been there a while,* looking for a new home together. I knew Steve had had a pair of cats (Archie and Edith) who had passed away some years back.  I hadn't known he was thinking of getting new cats, having been cat-less for long enough.  Accordingly he stopped by the cat-room the next day (Friday Nov. 26th), when I was there giving them their turns being walked, that way being out in the store where he could get to pet them and to meet them both. The meeting went well, and he decided to fill out and send in the Preadoption form. That was followed by an interview with the Adoption Counselor. The end result was that his two new cats went home with him on Sunday (the 28th). And from what he says they're settling right in --picking favorite spots to sleep or just hang out, demonstrating where and when they want to be petted (including belly rolls), letting him know their preferred schedule (apparently 6 pm is when they expect supper, apparently something they learned at some now-lost home of their younger days), and so forth. I'm glad that the bonded pair of sandy lion-colored cats, brother SIMBA and sister ZOE, have now found a home; I'm glad friend Steve now has a proper contingent of cats sharing his home.

--John R.

*it's hard for adult cats to compete with adorable kittens



Friday, November 19, 2021

The Cat Report (Fr. Dec 19th 2021)

 So, after a highly successful kitten event and some follow-up adoptions, today we're left with three cats and four kittens in the Cat Room:  Our veteran resident brother-sister team SIMBA and ZOE, new mama cat ROSIE, the pair of little black kittens JET and JAGUAR (who I think are also bonded) and two other kittens MARBLE and BLACK BEAR.

SIMBA and ZOE didn't get to go out of their cages as much as the last two weeks, to their displeasure, though they did enjoy the time they had, prowling around the rooms. Both had good walks, about twenty minutes each. Interesting to watch how differently they act. Simba walks up to people and presents himself for petting. Zoe ignores people and focuses on seeing what there is to see. Both attracted a lot of attention and a fair amount to petting; good will ambassadors for the cat room.

Leisl commented that Zoe has started giving Simba the occasional swipe or hiss. I've seen this too, and think it's just too much time together in the same old place. If we're worried about this then we cd swap out their double-high space for the little black kitten's top row for a few days and see if just a small change like that helps them out.

Mama cat ROSIE is quite shy but also starved for affection. I picked her up first thing, taking cat-bed and all out of the cage and into my lap on the bench. She didn't stay long, but I repeated the won't-accept-a-no invitation near the end of shift and she was much more willing. In between I had given her a little cachet sprayed with catnip, which interested her greatly. I also knelt down in front of her cage and 'held' her by reaching in and resting a hand and arm on either side of her. And she let me massage the inside of an ear. She may have purred. In any case, think the contact helps reinforce the message to her that we're not cat-eating ogres. Suspect it won't be long before she'll be out and exploring.

The two little black panthers, JET & JAGUAR, were full of energy as kittens shd be. When their time out came they made the most of it. They tore around the room, playing with each other, exploring, and generally delighting by-passers. One of these two (the one without the collar) is a natural-born predator: he kept taking whatever toy he was playing with in his mouth and dragging it off to his 'lair' in the back of the room. The other (the one with the yellow collar) loved chasing the little red dot, which was all the funnier because he hadn't figured out how to handle corners when trying to turn, going skidding off like a Keystone Cop. They also love to purr, especially when they think they're about to get something they want, like let out of their cage.

That just left the other two kittens, BLACK BEAR and MARBLE, who explored until they felt comfortable with their surroundings. They seem smaller than the other pair, mainly staying in the back room, but showed plenty of enthusiasm when it was game time. They were willing to be picked up and held, so long as it wasn't for too long.

All in all, a great set of cats.

--John R.


I wrote up last week's cat report but never got it posted; I belatedly include it here.

So, beautiful Caddie’s adoption meant that our two cream-colored cats had the run of the place, which they clearly enjoyed.

They each got long walks, with a short follow-up walk towards the end of my shift. Both got plenty of attention from cat-lovers in the store.

Simba briefly explored the training room. Zoey made it all the way from just outside the training room to the grooming salon, that whole side of the store.

I learned that Zoey does not like belly rubs.
I bought some live grass for the room as a gift for the cats, but neither showed much interest.

He likes the string game. She prefers the laser pointer.
He likes the outer room best. She likes the inner room more.

She made a point of visiting the communal box rather than her own.

To repeat: no belly rubs, please.

health issues: 
—found a bit of throw-up in the bottom of their cage; clearly it had been there for a while.
—their ears cd use some cleaning.

P.S.: I wonder what twenty-two kittens (and one no doubt v. busy mama cat) looks like. Maybe I’ll be able to drop by at some point during the Kitten Event to see.

—John R.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Filksinging DUNE

 So, DUNE.

Having read the book (once) and seen the old movie with Sting in it (once, when it first came out), I'm not exactly a major fan of Herbert but still thought I shd watch the new film. I'm glad I did. I thought they did a really good job of adapting the book and keeping a complex narrative clear. I was also impressed that it had its own texture and timing --it didn't seem derivative of other science fiction films out there (e.g. the Star Wars and Star Trek films). Best of all, with one exception it didn't have drag-on-and-on special effects scenes.**

Of course, seeing this reminded of the old song by sometimes inspired* filksinger Tom Smith from his 1991 album WHO LET HIM IN HERE?, which uses the melody of the old Crystal Gayle song "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue", the lyrics of which go like this:

The spice melange

It's so cinnamon sweet.

I put it on most every thing I eat.

It's addictive too

And don't it make my brown eyes blue?

Dad got control over all that Spice.

So Baron Harkonnen had him iced.

Tried to kill me too

And don't it make my brown eyes blue?

So me and my mother ran away across Dune.

Got found by the Fremen, not a moment too soon.

They said it was easier to leave us behind.

But if we went with them that wd suit them just fine.

Now I'm dreaming of a big Jihad.

And the Fremen all think I'm God.

Maybe I do too

And don't it make my brown eyes blue?

--John R.

Current reading: THE LAND OF LAUGHS

*other recommended tracks: "I Want to be Peter Lorre", "Return of the King, Uh huh" (Strider as Elvis), and above all "A Frog and his Boy" (Kermit's elegy to Jim Henson).

**the exception for me was the ornithopter flight through the sandstorm 

Sunday, November 14, 2021


 So, as a special treat this Halloween, BBC 4 put on a one-hour radioplay adaptation of Hope Mirrees' much admired but little read 1924 novel LUD-IN-THE-MIST. Neil Gaiman, a longtime advocate of the book, appeared as Duke Aubrey, a sinister figure who is essentially the King of Faerie: this essentially requires Gaiman laugh menacingly from time to time, which he pulls off quite well.

Listening to this radioplay is no substitute for reading the book, but it's a great refresher if you're like me and it's been a long time since you've read the original. And for those who have never read the book it offers them a glimpse of what they've been missing.

Now having heard this, I cdn't say whether her story is better suited to audioplay or film adaptation, but I'd like to have the chance of comparing the two.

--John R.

P.S.: The next day after the Lud-in-the-Mist, the BBC broadcast another one-hour radioplay of another work from 1924: LOLLY WILLOWS by Sylvia Townsend Warner Townsend.  A very different kind of story --in fact, the case cd be made that it's not a fantasy at all* --but also very good. I know it's made me want to seek out the original. Recommended.

--John R.

*i.e. I think it fits in Todorov's category of The Fantastique

Tolkien's Panama

 So, would you like to own Tolkien's hat?

Do you have a quarter of a million pounds lying around?

If so, check this out:

What this comes down to is that  Tolkien's brother Hilary's family is selling off some family letters. Some of these might be among those items printed in BLACK & WHITE OGRE COUNTRY back in 2009. Also, "Tolkien family ephemera such as Tolkien’s own panama hat, "  In addition, I suspect some of the letters listed in this offering wd have appeared in the cancelled book WHEELBARROWS AT DAWN (2009-2010). 

I'll be interested in where this material turns up, and how accessible it is afterwards. 

--John R.


God help us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

L.T. Meade, Postscript

So, one detail I forgot to add to my post about Meade relates to the title story, "Eyes of Terror". This tale involves a plucky young woman who's being haunted by a sinister figure with glowing eyes. In the end all is revealed: the haunting is a fake staged by her cousin, who wants to break down her resistance to marrying him where he cd get his hands on the family fortune.

All this is pretty standard stuff, and a good example of what Todorov calls 'the uncanny', in that in the summing-up the mechanism behind the haunting is explained.

Except that the explanation doesn't hold water for a modern reader.

We're told the villain has been using radium, which, "as you know, when held near the eyes, can give them a luminous and very ghastly appearance" (Meade p.224). Thus he's using doses of radium to make his eyes glow like Gollum's. 

It's that "as you know" that gets to me here. I've seen this kind of hand-waving around the lesser-known properties of new radioactive elements before -- e.g. in an old episode of THE SHADOW (which revealed the dubious solution that exposure to radium causes whatever pathogens are in the body to re-assert themselves --- thus each victim dies of a different disease from the same cause). Here it makes me think that Meade's scientific and medical advisors were perhaps behind the curve so far as expertise went.* 

One other detail that caught my eye was the jingoism of the recent Boer War** that forms an important part of the background to the tale. We are told that the detective agrees to help the point of view character because she is "the daughter of that Colonel Dallas whose gallant action, when he sacrificed his life for his country on the march to Pretoria, is the talk and admiration of the country" (Meade .201).

So, does the story remain Uncanny, as it wd have been at the time of writing in the intent of the author? Or does the passage of time here undercut the credibility of the solution, transforming the tale into an impossibility, or Marvellous in Todorov's terms? At least we know it's not in the middle category, Fantastique (Fantasy), a designation reserved only to strories which end without the Uncanny vs Marvellous dichotomy being resolved. 

--John R.

--current reading: BARDS OF BONE PLAIN

--today's song: THE BOSTON RAG

*to be fair, after his capture the villain does complain repeatedly that his eyes hurt and that the radium seems to have affected his vision.

**the story was first published in THE STRAND in 1904.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Prolific L. T. Meade

So, a few weeks ago a new collection of weird/suspense stories by L. T. Meade arrived --  an author I'd never heard of before ordering this book. Now that I've read it I'm somewhat disappointed; the stories are readable but uninspired. The best ("The Dead Hand") is a first-person narration by a palmist who is called in to read the palm of a murdered child in order to identify the killer: this one benefits from a sympathetic and appealing narrator. Meade wrote a book's worth of stories about the character (THE ORACLE OF MADDOX STREET, 1904) that might well be worth tracking down. For those interested in ghost-hunters there's A MASTER OF MYSTERIES: THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN BELL -- GHOST EXPOSER (1897).

Historically Meade is more interesting for her career rather than by any literary virtue of her work. A professional writer for venues like THE STRAND (famous as the home of the Sherlock Holmes stories), she more than held her own as a woman thriving in a man's world. She was also amazingly prolific, averaged a bit over 2000 words per day for a total of some 300 books, either novels or short story collections featuring one of her many series heroes or villains (and villainesses), in addition to many non-series stand-alone stories. As if this were not enough, she edited ATALANTA, a literary journal of fiction for girls.

Her productivity was no doubt in part due to her never taking a vacation and to her working method. She dictated each story or novel chapter to a secretary, then revised the resulting typescript.* 

Finally, readers of Dorothy L. Sayers' work may be interested to learn that one of Meade's many collaborators whom she relied upon for scientific or medical advice was Rbt Eustace, who later played the same role with Sayers'  THE DOCUMENTS IN THE CASE.  Embarrassingly enough, he gave her inaccurate information which invalidated the crucial bit of evidence that enables that mystery's solution, which is probably why she didn't collaborate with him again.

--John R.

*this was also the method of Earl Stanley Gardner, who famously took 5 weeks to write each of his Perry Mason books.

current reading: THE BARDS OF BONE PLAIN  by Patricia McKillip

today's song: "Get It Straight" by The Rossington-Collins Band

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Cat Report (11/5-21)


With only three cats in the cat room it was walks for everybody. Unfortunately I was so busy walking I didn't make any notes, hence this light-on-detail report.

CADDIE, our beautiful marbled brown and black cat, had a good forty minutes out walking and made good use of it. She tended to ignore people, walking right past them, but was nonetheless much admired. She knows about doors: discovering the door between the cat room and aquariums she sat down facing it and waited for it to be opened for her (which of course didn’t happen).  She tried to exert moral pressure once she discovered the cat-beds, taking the position that since they were cat-beds and she was a cat, she shd be allowed to climb inside and try them out. But on the whole she did great and I think enjoyed herself.

That left our little sandy lions, one longhaired (Simba) the tother shorthair (Zoey).  
SIMBA got half an hour, filled with lots of petting: he walks up to people and invites attention. Between his sunny disposition and beautiful long fur he was much admired. At one point he was in the perfect pose: on the store’s main aisle sitting next to the red ‘Adopt’ sign with an arrow. Unfortunately I couldn’t take a picture and manage the leash at the same time.

ZOEY also got a half-hour or so. She spent the first ten minutes huddled up on the little cabinet thing just outside the cat room door that holds the key. Then she shook herself, jumped down, and started exploring. She went further than either of the other two, and took time to roll over belly-up on the cool tile floor. It was interesting to see that she's okay with dogs so long as dog is well behaved with no barking.

health issue: the bit of what looks to be cat acne on Zoey’s chin has taken the form of a small scab.  Suspect it’d be better to keep an eye on it but otherwise let it heal up on its own.

—John R.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

An Evening of Poe in Renton

So, thanks to Janice's having seen a mention of it on Facebook, the night before Halloween we went to see an evening of Poe at an old theatre in downtown Renton.

I had expected this to be a one-man show, like the one we saw just off the Maple Valley Road two years or so ago, which focused on EUREKA, or the excellent John Astin performance we saw near Chicago over twenty years ago.  Instead it turned out to be readings by a three-person troupe.

First up came THE RAVEN, as was thoroughly appropriate.

But they followed this with a piece I cd have done without: THE BLACK CAT. I can see why they'd want to do this one for Halloween but still its a story of animal cruelty and mutilation I cd have done without. I'd have much preferred THE TELL-TALE HEART if they were going the first-person-told-by-a-madman route.

Then came THE HAUNTED PALACE, which I think of as one of Poe's minor poems and not one I wd have picked, given the riches they had to choose from (ALONE, A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM, ULALUME, ANNABELL LEIGH, EL DORADO).

Oddly enough, rather than end up with THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (which 'Haunted Palace' wd seem to have set up), they closed with the tale USHER II  by Ray Bradbury. Not one of his more subtle pieces, but despite the main character's tendency to shout they did a fairly good job of it.

All in all, an enjoyable evening.  But given the Poe/Bradbury juxtaposition, I don't want to let the opportunity pass to share Bradbury's poem about Poe. I've posted it in this blog before, but that was as far back as 2008, so it seem high time to share it again.


"I Have A Brother, Mostly Dead" 

I have a brother, mostly dead
And angels curled upon his head
Most of my life, mostly unseen,
And yet I feel with him I've been
A cohort playmate friend of Poe
Who tours me where live friends can't go . . .

And so my brother, dead, you see
Is wondrous literate company.
Thus if my Muse says: Nevermore!
I hear a tapping at my door;
My brother comes to saviour me
With graveyard biscuit, rictus tea . . . 

So Idea Ghosts sit up again . . . 
And shape themselves with words for clothes.
All this my long lost brother does
This sibling spent before my cause . . .

. . . sweet brother, flower my tomb
With words so rare and phrase so bright
They'll bonfire burn away the night.

All this to me lost brother is
And I his live sweet Lazarus.
His shout ignore? his cry refuse?
No, no! Much thanks, long-dead fine Muse.

--Ray Bradbury

The Cat Report (Friday October 29th 2021)


We had eight cats in four groupings, each of which got about a half hour’s attention.

FIrst up I let our beautiful little dark torbie, SADIE, our senior cat (I think she’s about nine). It took some tugging,  but once she was out she joined me on the bench, being petted and purring up a storm while grooming my arm. Thought a walk wd be too alarming for her, so we settled for a thorough exploration of the room instead, to help her get her bearing and hopefully feel more comfortable.  An adorable little lap cat in search of a lap of her own.

Next up were our lion-colored returnees SIMBA and ZOEY, a bonded pair a little younger than Sadie (seven I think).  Both had walks. He was calm and unflappable, and actually did some exploring.  ZOEY was more nervous. Did notice what might be some cat acne on Zoey’s chin, but we were outside the cat room on her walk at the time, and she didn’t want me checking on it.

The mother/daughters marbled tabby family CADDIE (2yr) and FLOPPER/SQUEAKER (1yr) were next. I think the one with the red collar must have been Caddie, since the other two played together their whole time out while she kept mostly to herself. F&S love string games and catnip spray. C is quite friendly but likes seeing what she can find while the other two draw attention. Since she had a collar on already I snapped a leash to it, but she immediately moved away from the door, which I took as ’no thanks’ on her part.

The two little black kittens (3 month old) SEBASTIAN and BARNABY finally, finally got their turn with out, after an hour and a half of plaintive cries. They love the string game, and were willing to play from outside the cage with Flopper/Squeak inside it, which was fun to watch. Their cries at being put back in their cage when the time came were just as heartfelt as those from before.

Quite a few people walking by stopped to look at cats but didn’t notice any serious potentials.

Here’s hoping we have a final burst at the end of October that gets a few of these great cats to new homes.

—John R.

Friday, October 29, 2021

More on Re-wilding Dunsany Castle

 So, many thanks to friend Denis for sharing the following link, in French, offering another view of the current Lord Dunsany's efforts to return part of the land on his family estate to a more natural state.

Good for him.

I know if I had land I'd plant it in trees and set up as many protections for the trees as possible.

So far Ld D has shown an admirable stick-to-his-guns-yness: let's hope he continues as he's begun. 

Plus of course it's great to see the glimpses inside the castle.

--John R.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Le Guin Award

So, thanks to J.'s sharing the link to this piece, I found out about the new Le Guin Award, which celebrates non-violent solutions to problems. Too many fantasy works rely on violence as a solution; Le Guin wanted to encourage those who explored other options.

"The Prize will be given to a writer whose work reflects the concepts and ideas that were central to Ursula’s own work, including but certainly not limited to: hope, equity, and freedom; non-violence and alternatives to conflict; and a holistic view of humanity’s place in the natural world."

As a pacifist, I'm glad to see that point of view being a major focus.

I assume this will be a yearly event, although the announcements I saw don't actually state that. 

Co-incidently, yesterday I saw an image of the new Le Guin stamp, which I'd heard about but not seen; it features a scene from LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS (the desperate sledge-journey across the ice).

Finally, I had missed or forgotten the news (from September 2019) that a new film/streaming video adaptation of the EarthSea books was in the works:

"Before she died in January 2018, Le Guin had given the producer her blessing to turn her work into a series of films. The adaptation since has been re-envisioned as a television series. An Earthsea miniseries based on the book series, with the teleplay co-written by Le Guin, aired on Sci Fi Channel in 2004."

I'm a bit dubious about the 'blessing', given similar claims made by the people in charge of the previous EarthSea series, which was (a) awful and (b) bore little resemblance to Le Guin's work. We'll just have to see if this most recent adaptation does a better job of conveying the appeal of Le Guin's story. Assuming, that is, that Le Guin's story turns out to be suitable for adaptation. 

--John R.
--current reading: finished THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH
--EYES OF TERROR by L. T. Meade

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

This Year's MythSoc Award

So, congratulations to the winner of this year's Mythopoeic Award for best work of Inklings Scholarship, John M. Bower for TOLKIEN'S LOST CHAUCER,* who came out on top of an impressive list of finalists this year: McIlwaine, Cilli, Garth, and the contributors to A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS.**  Bower was gracious in his acceptance speech, praising each of the runner-ups.*** Best of all, he announced that he is now under contract with Oxford University Press to produce his next book, TOLKIEN ON CHAUCER, 1913 - 1959 --- which sounds like the edition of Tolkien's writings on Chaucer some of us had hoped for in the first book. More primary Tolkien material made available is a good thing in my reckoning.

The other big winner, for the Fantasy Scholarship (Non-Inkling) Award, is Anna Vaninskaya's FANTASIES OF TIME AND DEATH, which looks at Eddison, Dunsany, and Tolkien: two neglected authors put in context with the most famous fantasy author of them all. In her acceptance, Vaninskaya mentioned that this book was the first installment of a much bigger project; I'll be interested to see what comes next. 

--John R.

*a book I reviewed for TOLKIEN STUDIES.

**disclosure: I was a contributor and editor of the volume.

*** "John Rateliff is one of those Tolkien scholars that I learned quickly to consult for unrivaled expertise in books like THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT."    Gosh.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Sime patterned art

So, the artist S. H. Sime, best known as the illustrator of Lord Dunsany, is best known for his black-and-white work. I knew from various researches during my dissertation he did some color work, but it was not until I had a chance to visit the Sime Gallery in Worplesdon that I realized how much color work he did, mostly landscapes but also a few portraits (including a memorable one of John on Patmos's vision). Some of these used a very unusual and striking technique I've never seen elsewhere. Of the two piece I hope will show up as links within this post, the first is called "Patterned Hills" and the other  I think "Dark Forest". Has anyone come across this technique before?

--John R.


Monday, October 18, 2021

"The Neglected C. S. Lewis"

So, the new issue of THE JOURNAL OF ENGLISH STUDIES has just arrived, and my eye was drawn to their review of a new book out by Mark Neal and Jerry Root, called THE NEGLECTED C. S. LEWIS: EXPLORING THE RICHES OF HIS MOST OVERLOOKED BOOKS".  I found their list interesting, if unnecessarily limited by their decision to focus entirely on his academic works. The eight books they chose are as follows:


2. THE PERSONAL HERESY (Lewis vs. Tillyard)


4. O.H.E.L  (I admit I've never read this one myself)

5. STUDIES IN WORDS (the second of these eight I haven't read. perhaps best summed up as 'Lewis does a Barfield'. a book Tolkien disliked)

6. AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM (probably the most controversial of all these eight)

7. THE DISCARDED IMAGE (which gets my vote as by far the best of the books they cover)

8. LETTERS TO MALCOLM (which doesn't seem to fit in their theme or thesis at all).

If I were to recommend any of Lewis's books as 'neglected', I'd opt for THE DISCARDED IMAGE (a little gem that shows off Lewis the lecturer at his best) and SPIRITS IN BONDAGE (the only relic of his early Yeatsian period). And then of course there's THE DARK TOWER, which a lot of Lewis scholars like to pretend doesn't exist as the simplest way to avoid dealing with it.

--all in all, sounds like a worthwhile project with some quirks. 

--John R

--current reading THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Still (Again).

*it's interesting to see that biographical revelations about Wms are having a trickle-down effect -- in this case on the part of the reviewer

""The Most Reluctant Convert" (CSL Biopic)

So, one of the things that arrived last week was a flyer for Max McLean's latest CSL film/stage adaptation. Rather than yet another iteration of the Jack & Joy story, this one focuses on young Lewis from childhood to his conversion -- that is, the period covered by his autobiography. And like his autobiography, it's a look at his early life narrated by his older self looking back.

I admit to being a bit amused by the film's subtitle "The Untold Story of C. S. Lewis". I'd have thought between CSL's autobiography (SURPRISED BY JOY), the first SHADOWLANDS movie, the SHADOWLANDS play, the second SHADOWLANDS movie, the major biographies (at least four by my count),* et al, that had been pretty well covered by now.

In any case, the date of this 'One Night Only' event is November 2nd (a Tuesday). 

If you'd like to watch the trailer or just find out more about the project, here's the link on the flyer:

--John R.

--still waiting for a film about JRRT and CSL in the thirties and forties. Complete with Janie Moore.

*Green & Hooper, Sayer, Wilson, and McGrath

Friday, October 15, 2021

Identifying a part of THE SILMARILLION Tolkien showed KIlby

So, I was looking for something else when I came across a passage I'd marked in Clyde Kilby's TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION.  After pointing out various parallels between Tolkien's myths and the Old and New Testaments, Kilby goes on to say

In this connection I should mention a lengthy account 

which Tolkien asked me to read. It was in the form of

 a Job-like conversation on soul and body and the 

possible purpose of God in allowing the Fall so that

 He could manifest His own sovereignty over Satan 

all the more, of Christ's incarnation, the spread of 

His light from one person to another, and the final 

consummation at Christ's return. He said he was 

not certain whether to include this in  The Silmarillion

 or publish it separately.

[Kilby p 61-62]

I assume Kilby is talking about The ATHRABETH here, though the description he gives doesn't seem to match up with that work very well. But we do know that Kilby read the Athrabeth and made careful notes on it. Unless there's another work that's been published somewhere in the wilderland that is HME X-XII and N.o.M.e and I just missed it. 


Cutest Bookends Ever

So, thanks to Janice for this photo.

Bonus points if you can tell which is Tarkus and which Tyburn.

--John R. 

--current reading: THE NATURE ON MIDDLE-EARTH (these sections on Elven demographics).

A Failed Meme re. Tolkien

So, there's a meme going around lately that's punchy but fails in the facts department. Usually I give such stuff a pass, but this one offers a good example of fact rearranged to make a better fiction.

Here's the post that's making the rounds:


First of all, I'd like to point out that Tolkien didn't have an editor on LotR. As a result, he had control of the text to an extraordinary degree, even over minutia like the spelling of dwarves. His argument here was with the typesetters at the printer, not with his publisher.

Nor was FELLOWSHIP rejected by an editor: this mis-statement is a mash-up of the complicated maneuverings* whereby Tolkien essentially engineered Allen & Unwin's withdrawal in order that he could to submit it to Collins instead -- who promptly dropped the ball, leading Tolkien to go back to Allen & Unwin instead.

It was the Puffin Books edition of THE HOBBIT that upset Tolkien by changing his text without his permission, especially since he only discovered what they'd done after the book was in print and on store shelves. As a result he refused to allow Puffin to reprint their edition, something they were eager to do.

A&U did irk JRRT when their printer made the same sort of changes with the first volume of LotR, but Tolkien insisted they use his preferred spellings and got this set right (see below).

Here's how Humphrey Carpenter, author of the authorized biography of JRRT, describes it:

He was . . . infuriated by his first sight of the proofs, 

for he found that the printers had changed several of his spellings,

 altering dwarves to dwarfs, elvish to elfish, further to farther

and ('worst of all' said Tolkien) elvin to elfin. The printers

 were reproved; they said in self-defence that they had merely

 followed the dictionary spellings. (Similar 'corrections' to 

Tolkien's spellings were made in 1961 when Puffin Books 

issued The Hobbit as a paperback, and this time to Tolkien's 

distress the mistake was not discovered until the book had

 reached the shops.) 

 [Carpenter, TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY, page 221]

As for the OED,  I've heard this little quip before. I think it comes from an interview or memoir but cd not trace its source in time to include it in this post. Tolkien did work on the OED at the beginning of his career but he actually worked on the final sections --e.g words like walrus (W) not dwarves (D).

So, a fun little story but not exactly what happened. 

--John R. 

*essentially Tolkien wanted a publisher to commit to publishing LotR and THE SILMARILLION together as a two-volume set, when what the publishers wanted was LotR (which was actually finished, though still in need of a lot of work) with a future option on Silm (which was still far from finished).

UPDATE Oct 18th: and here's what I hope is a better link --JDR

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Chapter on Edith Tolkien

 So, in addition to the new book out on Edith Tolkien, there's another book just out that includes a chapter on Mrs. T.


From the description given on the publisher's website, the book as a whole reminds me of Johanna Russ's HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING (unfortunately).  

For those who might be interested in the book and to give an idea of the range here, I've copied the Table of Contents below. Of these, of course it's Chapter 16, Edith Tolkien in the Eye of the Beholder, by Maria Artamonova, that catches my attention.

Table of Contents

Notes on Contributors
List of Figures

1. Part I: Secretaries and Editors
2. M.E. Fitzgerald: Office Manager to Modernism, Catherine Hollis, U.C. Berkeley, USA
3. The Secretary and Her Professor: Alli Hytti and L. A. Puntila, Anu Lahtinen, University of Helsinki, Finland
4. Jumped-up Typists: Two Guardians of the Flame, Karen Christensen, Independent scholar
5. Thanks for Penguin: Women, Invisible Labour, and Publishing in the Mid-Twentieth Century, Rebecca E. Lyons, University of Bristol, UK

Part II: Politicians and Activists
6. Backing the Family: Servilia Between the Murder of Caesar and the Battle of Philippi, Susan Treggiari, Stanford University, USA
7. A Flaming Soul: Maissi Erkko Fighting for Women, Finland and Family Legacy, Reetta Hanninen, University of Helsinki, Finland
8. Student, Diplomat, Wife, traveller ? A Transnational Life of Marie Sargant-Cerný, Hana Navratilova, Independent scholar
9. Breaking the Silence and Inspiring Activism on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery: Legacy of Kim Hak-soon (1924-1997), Woohee Kim, Harvard University, USA

Part III: Artists and Painters
10. Jeanne de Montbaston: An Illuminating Woman, Melek Karatas, King's College London, UK
11. Judith Leyster: The Artist Vanishes, Irene Kukota, Curator, France
12. Textiles Rubbing Us the Wrong Way: A Tour of Karin Bergöö Larsson's Acts of Fibre Resistance, Godelinde Gertrude Perk, University of Oxford, UK
13. Canvases in the Attic: Four Generations of the Lane Poole women, Juliana Dresvina, University of Oxford, UK

Part IV: Mothers and Others
14. Haunting Augustine: St Monnica as Mother and Interlocutor, Patricia L. Grosse, Finlandia University, USA
15. “The Typist Home at Teatime”: Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot's Role in Shaping T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922), Arwa F. Al-Mubaddel, King Saud University, Riyadh
16. Edith Tolkien in the Eye of the Beholder, Maria Artamonova, Oxford University, UK
17. “Why Aren't There More Women in Your Books?” Ann and William Golding, Nicola Presley, Bath Spa University, UK
18. “You'll Say that Mum is at the Bottom of All This”: the Untold Story of Eva Larkin, Philip Pullen, Writer

Part V: Poets and Writers
19. “Murder, He Wrote”: Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Julia Bolton Holloway, Independent Scholar
20. Golden Myfanwy: The Domestic Goddess Who Turned the Screw, Eleanor Knight, Writer
21. Double Act: U.A. Fanthorpe and R.V. Bailey, Partners in Rhyme, Elizabeth Sandie, University of York St John, UK