Monday, December 27, 2021
Saturday, December 25, 2021
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.
who will probably be re-reading one of Jared's pieces within the next few weeks
Friday, December 17, 2021
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.
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
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.
--current reading: JURGEN by James Branch Cabell (1919)
--current music: The Kinks (favorite selections)
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
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'.
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
Randy Scouse Git
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
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS
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.
*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
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
Here's the link
--current reading: TWILIGHT OF THE GODS by Richard Garnett (1888; 1940 reduced edition)
Friday, December 10, 2021
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.
--current reading: KA by John Crowley
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
So, thanks to Doug A. and Janice for drawing my attention the following interview with Alan Garner in a recent issue of The Guardian.
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 mindAeschylus. 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.
current reading: KA.
THE WIFE SAYS:
Looking at this another way, you could say that Narnia is a cult and Susan is the only one who got out.
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.
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.
current reading: E. H. Visiak (MEDUSA, 1929)
Saturday, December 4, 2021
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.
*it's hard for adult cats to compete with adorable kittens
Friday, November 19, 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.
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.
Thursday, November 18, 2021
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?
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.
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.
*i.e. I think it fits in Todorov's category of The Fantastique
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.
THE WIFE SAYS:
God help us.
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
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.
--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
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.
*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
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.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
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.
We had eight cats in four groupings, each of which got about a half hour’s attention.
Friday, October 29, 2021
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.
Saturday, October 23, 2021
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.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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.
*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
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?
Monday, October 18, 2021
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:
1. THE ALLEGORY OF LOVE
2. THE PERSONAL HERESY (Lewis vs. Tillyard)
3. ARTHURIAN TORSO (w. Ch Wms)*
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.
--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
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).
--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
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.
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.
*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
So, in addition to the new book out on Edith Tolkien, there's another book just out that includes a chapter on Mrs. T.
THANKS FOR TYPING: REMEMBERING FORGOTTEN WOMEN IN HISTORY, cmp Juliana Dresvina.
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
Table of Contents
So, a while back I discovered Swan River Press because they occasionally do some Dunsany. This small press based in Dublin focuses on Irish writers like Le Fanu and others of the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century who wrote supernatural fiction. I'd never heard off Meade before, but based on the description below, taken from the back cover copy, what's not to like?
her specialty was medical or scientific mysteries
featuring doctors, scientists, occult detectives,
criminal women with weird powers, unusual medical
interventions, fantastic scientific devices, murder,
mesmerism, and manifestations of insanity
Both prolific and popular, she definitely sounds like someone worth knowing about. I'll post again once I've read the book.
For those interested in finding out more, here's a link:
--current reading: yesterday I read a Thomas Ligotti story for the first time