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


The New Arrival: L. T. Meade's EYES OF TERROR and Other Dark Adventures

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:

--John R.

--current reading: yesterday I read a Thomas Ligotti story for the first time

Friday, October 8, 2021

The New Arrival: Edith Bratt biography

 So, this week's new addition to the books in my office is THE GALLANT EDITH BRATT: J. R. R. TOLKIEN'S INSPIRATION by Nancy Bunting and Seamus Hamill-Keays (Walking Tree Press, 2021).

This comes as the latest entry in what seems to be a new and promising branch of Tolkien scholarship: biographies not about Tolkien himself but about people who were important in his life, to round out his milieu. First there were the two books (booklets, really) about his aunt, Jane Neave. Then the full-length biography about Fr. Francis Morgan, his guardian (originally in Spanish but since translated into English). And now this new book about his wife, Edith Bratt Tolkien.

I haven't had time yet to give this one more than a glance, but even that's enough to raise some questions that I'll want to read the biography to answer. 

First, this biography ends around the time its subject was thirty. But Edith Tolkien lived to be eighty. Did nothing of interest or importance happen to her after around 1918? That seems, at the mildest, unlikely.

Second, Carpenter is harshly treated. The authors may have a good reason for that, but I've beginning to think that maybe it's time to call an end to Carpenter-bashing. 

 Third, the book seems to bog down at one point over the question of whether Tolkien knew Sanskrit (I'd say yes) and whether it was an important influence on him (I'd say no --certainly not as much as, say, Gothic).

Looking forward to reading the thing and seeing if I learn the answers to these and other questions.

--John R.

--current reading: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

"[The trees] stood up in the twilight like living towers 

. . . amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights 

were gleaming, green and gold and silver"

Little Naveen (The Cat Room 10/8-21)

Thanks to Lisa and to our driver (Rick?), this morning we went from a single solitary v. lonely kitten (NAVEEN) to a roomful of kittens, nine in all, all between the ages of three and six months old. I don’t think it’ll be long before they find homes.

While Lisa got the room ready for the pending new arrivals, I took little Naveen out for a walk. He was too small for even our smallest harness so I used the collar and short leash. He behaved himself but was clearly at a loss as to the point of the exercise, so I mostly just carried him around and let enjoy some new sights and sounds.  I later sounded out BONNIE & BUBBA, who were more interested in smelling and playing with the leash than in letting me get it on them, so little N. remained the day’s only walker.

Of the new cats, the bonded black panthers Bubba and Bonnie were the most persistent in wanting out into the room, so despite Naveen’s mews of protest at having to go in, they got out into the room and played for a good long time. Bubba did more playing and Bonnie more exploring, but both enjoyed themselves. Bubba is definitely a predator who loves to drag toys away. At one point he went shopping, taking a tour of the room’s various toys and picking the one he wanted to play with. Afterwards they also set up a steady protest over being put back in their cage, sparked I think by Naveen’s repeated cries from the cage below.  There were growls, and hisses, and some swatting, mostly from him (Bubba) directed to her (Bonnie), but it looked like mostly crabbiness, not aggression.

The only other cat who came out for any significant amount of time was sweet little tuxedo cat SUNSHINE. He liked being carried, and games so long as they weren’t too energetic, and most of all just being out. Once he’d been out for a while he carried out a cautious exploration of the entire room, getting his bearings I think. A very endearing little cat.

The other bonded pair, Siamese RAZ and panther MATAZ, preferred to stay in and cuddle each other. Very deeply bonded, those two. Late in the shift I was able to pull first Raz and then later MaTaz out for a little time being held, or climbing on the cat-tree. They didn’t play much, but they purred loudly when I reached in and spent some time petting them in their cage, both before and after their time out. 

The final three I didn’t interact with much: PURPLE and MAGENTA and FUSHIA. Two stayed cuddled together in the big cage’s window, comforting each other in this strange new place. The third (the yellow cat) went in his little cat-cave as soon as I had it set up for him and stayed there all through the shift. He would purr loudly when I reached in and petted him (as did the other two when I petted them without making them move) but showed no inclination to come out. Think they’ll be more willing to come forth once they get used to the room, and us, and their new location and situation in general. 

—Thanks again to Lisa for getting all the name cards and information folders sorted out for the newcomers.

—John R. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

In My Desk

So, several months ago I took the first stab at straightening up my office (which still has a long way to go) and the top drawer of my desk. Last week I made another effort that turned up some things I'd been looking for for quite some time. And last night I gave it another go, aimed at the middle and bottom drawers. Things I turned up include candles and matches, many little scraps of paper, some interesting rocks, a letter from a nun, cat-treats (some of which Tarkus and Tyburn tested to see they were still good), lots of pens and some pencils, and this (see above):

I'm pretty sure I bought this at one of my visits to the Wade Center. I had clearly put this aside in hopes of at some point re-assembling it. But looking at it now, years later, I've concluded it's a lost cause. So, alas, out the door.

The quote on the mug, by the way, reads 

"Daybreak is a never-ending

glory . . . getting out of bed is

a never-ending nuisance."

The logo identifies it as coming from The American Chesterson Society, a group I've never belonged to. Based on other things it was found with suggests that it became an x-mug around 2013, so I probably got it a few years before that.

--John R.

---current reading: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum"

"What an evil fortune!" [muttered Gandalf]

"And I am already weary."

Sunday, October 3, 2021

My Newest Publication (Obit for Richard)

So, this month began with my newest publication, a piece I wish I'd never need write at all: a memoir of my friend Richard West, one of the all-time greats when it came to Tolkien scholars and a close friend of almost forty years (he was Best Man at our wedding). 

I'd recently written about how much I enjoy visiting Milwaukee because it's a chance to see old friends. One of the sad things about visits to Milwaukee is that in addition to getting together with friends I'm also strongly reminded of friends who are no longer with us. Taum Santoski of course, and also Jim Pietrusz, the most dedicated reader I've ever known, and now Richard.  

For the past few years I've visited Marquette twice a year for research trips of from one to four weeks each, And during each of those trips Richard wd take the morning bus over from Madison one day. We'd meet up for lunch and walk down to Miss Katie's diner,* then spend the afternoon pursuing our own researches at the Archives. As the time for the six o'clock bus back to Madison neared I'd walk him down to the bus station (just as years earlier he or one of the other Univ.Wisc.Tolk.Soc members had walked me back from their meeting room to the Madison bus stop for the last bus to Milwaukee), the two of us talking up a storm the whole way. I'll miss those visits, and those talks. And reading the eventual published results. Richard was also a dedicated participant in a long running series of Tolkien symposiums; the fellowship from this will continue but diminish by this absence. 


He loved Tolkien scholarship 

and cats 

and the company of like-minded scholars, 

Old English and Old Norse literature, 

and C. S. Lewis and the Inklings, 

folk dancing,  

and of course Perri.

Here's a link to the journal's site: my memoir for Richard is in Volume XVIII

--John R.

*sometimes joined by Bill Fliess, Marquette Archivist, or Stephen Sullivan, an alumni of TSR from before my time and fellow Alitterate who happened to be Richard's cousin. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Drought Over: Time for Flood Warnings

 Well, that was quick.

The long hard drought we struggled with all summer --the kind of drought that kills trees and does other permanent damage -- is now over. How do I know? Because yesterday they activated the Flood Warning system

--John R.

Alert Sent On: 10/01/2021 11:19:44 AM PDT

This is a system test.

No river flooding is occurring in King County at this time. As a subscriber, you will receive automated phone calls, emails and/or text messages when certain flood conditions exist. The type of message you receive – and for which rivers – depends on how you set up your flood alert account.

To make changes to your account or to learn more, visit the King County Flood warnings and alerts website or call 206-477-4727. To unsubscribe from all Flood Alerts, reply to this email using “unsubscribe” in the subject field.

If you live or work near or in a floodplain, remember to be flood ready this fall!

The Cat Room

It was good to get back into the Cat Room yesterday. After more than a month away it was a roomful of cats I didn’t know (nine in all: four cats and five kittens). A good day for cat walking.

ARIEL and LUCETO, our pair of beautiful tortoiseshells, had the first walk. Janice helped me get the blue harness on the dark torbie (Luceto?) to start with but afterwards at the end of the walk  I wasn’t able to open the snaps and had to pull the harness off over the cat's head. Luckily she’s  a fairly low-key cat and didn’t object. Next up the orange torbie (Ariel?) had her turn with the collar. She too did very well. Beautiful, beautiful cats.

The other fluffy pair, ZOEY and SIMBA, each had a turn on the leash; like the others two they spent their time exploring all the cat-trees up and down near the cat-room all the way over to the niche between the cat room and the fish. Both pairs had to deal with dogs passing by that got closer than I was comfortable with but fortunately the cats stayed calm and the dogs were well behaved. I’d put that down as ‘wary of dogs’ and recommend they not be adopted to a household with a dog.

The three two-month kittens, Naveen and Ariel and Tiana were shyer than I expected. They were shy of being picked up or of my approaching them but on their own they played and explored and hide and pounced as kittens should. Toys that had a little distance also got the many-toed thumbs up. Naveen had an admirer who wanted to adopt him then and there: I showed her the Q-code and encouraged her to send in a query to Arlington right away, which I think she did.

The two three month kittens: McGhee and Zora, our little black panthers, were independent and full of energy: they loved just about every game that was offered to them. McGhee rode on my shoulders at one point. He got a short walk at the end of things, during which I discovered that he knows the rules but just thinks they don’t apply to him. 

Here’s hoping they all find good homes, sooner rather than later.

—John R.

Question: do we really have two cats (of different generations) with the same name? Or as seems more likely have I gotten my notes muddled on this point?

And today came the word that those beautiful affectionate tortoiseshells have been adopted. — JDR