Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Pratchett Play

So, today we didn't go to a play. But we probably wd have, given more advanced warning. We only learned that MONSTROUS REGIMENT, based on Terry Pratchett's book of the same name, was playing at the Taproot through seeing a brief ad for it in the Program Book for JEEVES TAKES A BOW on June 3rd. Unfortunately its last day was Sunday June 4th.

Even though we didn't make it to this one, I take it as a good sign that Pratchett's work remains popular several years after his death. I've seen the half-dozen or so film adaptations (some live action, some animated) released so far. I must say that out of the forty-some books Pratchett wrote, most of them as part of his Discworld series, MONSTROUS REGIMENT --the tale of women disguising themselves as men in order to join the army -- strikes me as a somewhat odd choice. I've read almost all of Pratchett, and this belongs to the category of  what I'd consider minor Pratchett: those books I read once when they first came out but never re-read.

Still, minor Pratchett is better than a good many others' best, so I'll keep my eye out for another chance.

--John R.

--currrent reading: YELLOWFACE by Kuang

Saturday, June 3, 2023


So, today Janice and I went with friends Jeff and Kate to see JEEVES TAKES A BOW at the Taproot theatre. I'm a big admirer of P. G. Wodehouse and have read all his Bertie and Jeeves novels, as well as all the short story collections (written over a sixty-year period --something of a record for the same author with the same pair of characters). I've even read the one book that features Jeeves  without Bertie; there's a book with Bertie without Jeeves but I've never been able to find that one.

This play did not adapt any of the Wodehouse books but spun up its own story out of Wodehousian characters and motifs. These bits and pieces make good use of the era's Art Deco setting to form a screwball comedy. I'd prefer to see one of P.G.W.'s masterpieces adapted, but if you like this kind of thing --and I confess I do -- then it's well worth seeing.  

Certainly it captures the spirit of Wodehouse better than does the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which gets the main character wrong (Webber portrays Bertie as surly when he shd be at most a bit querulous --and under considerable provocation, I might add). They did get the other main character, Jeeves, right.

So, while I enjoyed seeing it live, the best performance of the stories I've seen are the Hugh Laurie / Stephen Frye adaptations from the early nineties. 

Or, better yet, I cd re-read the books.

--John R.

--current reading: MONSTER (just finished), YELLOWFACE (just started)

Friday, June 2, 2023

UKL: The Ursula K. Le Guin Journal

 So, now that I'm wrapping up and filing away odds and ends from Kalamazoo, I didn't want to miss sharing the news (new to me, anyway) announcing a new journal devoted to Ursula K. Le Guin. It's called UKL. A call for papers has also gone out for a planned volume of essays devoted to Le Guin's work, but I have less information on that project. Here's some pertinent excerpts taken from their website describing the journal's "Aims & Scope":

We argue that as a major figure in modern literature, an academic journal dedicated to discussing Le Guin’s work is long overdue, and this journal fills that scholarly vacuum

The mission of UKL: The Journal of Ursula K. Le Guin Studies is to create a scholarly forum for exploring various facets of Le Guin’s writing, including her fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, and blog posts . . . 

[UKL will be] a professional, peer-reviewed, annual publication . . . Individuals without previous publishing experience are especially invited to submit. For questions and inquiries about UKL: The Journal of Ursula K. Le Guin Studies, contact the current journal editors at or .

For those who might be interested, either as a reader or potential contributor, here's the link.

--John R.

current reading: MONSTER: A Fan's Dilemma by Claire Dederer (weighty questions, lightweight answers).

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Kalamazoo diversity


So, I’ve now had a chance to listen to the recording of the racism roundtable, and been able to confirm some of my in-person (virtual person, that is) impressions.

The first and foremost flaw, from my point of view, is DiNardo’s assertion (in the discussion following the papers) that, given the current crisis, Tolkien scholars needed to put aside biographical studies and exploration of Tolkien’s thought and instead focus their attention on Tolkien and racism and related issues. 

Tolkien’s invented languages were not mentioned but I can’t see how they’re not part of those marked for marginalization. Instead, she said, we need more RINGS OF POWER and especially MtG: Middle-earth. I concluded that she’s not really interested in LORD OF THE RINGS or THE SILMARILLION, et al, in themselves, as works of art, as in what can be done with them —i.e. as tools to fight racism.

My own belief is that as Tolkien scholars we’re all in this together. I don’t agree with the idea that Tolkien scholarship is a zero-sum game.

—John R.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

More on Kalamazoo diversity panel

So, unless I'm missing something (a very real possibility),  it looks as if the recorded sessions from this year's Medieval Congress are only available to those who registered for the conference. I didn't take any notes from the presentations for this roundtable but will try to listen to it over the next few days, schedule permiting. lf successful I'll post any resultant notes.

In the meantime, here's the list of presenters:

Kristine Swank (presider), Mercury Natis, Robin Reid, Luke Shelton, Toni DiNardo, Lars Johnson, and Mariana Rios Maldonado (respondent).


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

At Kalamazoo

 So,  Kalamazoo was an odd mix this year: a shrunken dealer's room (perhaps a third to half it's size in previous years) and far fewer people about (I heard estimates that this year's attendance was about two-thirds that in recent years). Yet in the meeting rooms there seemed to be a good crowd and no falling off in the quality of the papers and panels.

The first session, which I missed, was devoted to the Rings of Power series.

 That afternoon I attend the CSL session, which wrestled with Lewis's claim that there had never been a Renaissance in England, because the English hadn't needed one, never having had a 'Middle Ages'. The panelists were well-informed and mounted a well-spoken defense of what I suspect was more a case of Lewis being a gadfly than anything else.

Next up, the first Tolkien event I attended was devoted to controversy such as Tolkien and racism, gender issues,  colonialism, and the disturbing enthusiasm of white supremacists for his work. At least three of the speakers called for putting aside other forms of Tolkien scholarship, such as biographical studies, so we cd devote all our energy into meeting this the challenge. I was impressed, but part company when they put a 'MUST' into their thesis. 

Another session dealt with which major saints in the Church most influenced Tolkien, with Aquinas

and the Tomists winning out over Augustus; Bonaventure and Boethius came in for some mention but not, to my surprise, Francis.

I was struck by how far this session was from the Tolkien in Crisis session; it was as if the two groups came from different worlds.

Different again was a misc. panel that examined Tolkien as a translator, Tolkien and PEARL, et al. unfortunately the person who was to deliver the Numenor piece cdn't make it.

Last of all were the two back to back sessions devoted to Christopher Tolkien focusing on CT as a 

an editor of the legendarium. I think these together were my favorites of the whole conference.

There was much more, but this shd give an idea of what the revived Medievalist Congress was like. 

--John R

-- THE BATTLE OF MALDON (current reading: Tolkien's translation).

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT back in print

So, today is the release day for the American hardcover edition of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT (replacing the original two-volume set).  Unlike the original American edition, this is a one-volume book, like the recently re-released British edition.  It's been available in the UK as an e-book all along; now it's available over here as well. 

--John R., v. pleased to have my book reprinted. I put a lot of work into it and I'd like people like me who are interested in such things to have it readily available.

--'He who dies with the most copies of THE HOBBIT wins'

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Now at Kalamazoo

 So, I'm now at Kalamazoo. 

So far I've gotten their internet to accept my laptop (twice) --which I'll need, since some sessions at in-person, some virtual, and some mixed.

I've also Seen Someone I Know (in this case, Brad Eden)

and had my first poke into the Dealers' Room.

If shd surprise no one that I bought two books within the first ten minutes:




Last of all, I looked at the program book some more and tested the hang-out and socialize virtual room being hosted by Luke Shelton (hi Luke).

Now for some lunch, or at least a cup of tea, and then this afternoon it's off for the afternoon CSL session.

--John R.

--current reading: THE BATTLE OF MALDON by JRRT 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Anduin (Tolkien Manuscripts at Marquette)

 So, those who wonder what I've been up to for the last six years or so, here's a review of the project.

In brief, it involved Marquette's making high-quality scans of every page of manuscript, typescript, galley, proof, and misc (e.g. maps and small sketches) of LORD OF THE RINGS material and organizing them so it's now possible to trace through draft by draft to locate changes in phrasing and concepts.  Last fall's exhibit at Marquette shows the results.*

 Thanks to Brad Eden for the link.

--John R

*one important point to consider is that this increases access to the manuscripts while also preserving the originals.

Gawain before Kalamazoo

So, I'm now on the road, the first day of my trip to Kalamazoo.* After seeing the Glasgow panel I went back and re-read Tolkien's original lecture, which I had not looked at for a long time. The biggest takeaways for me include the speakers' use of the phrase "deep-rooted" to describe SGGK. They picked this up from Tolkien himself, who uses the these words at least three times in his essay, with great effect.

 Tolkien also makes several references to SGGK as a fairy tale, which may have struck the original audience as slightly odd but which a modern Tolkien reader will naturally link up with OF FAIRY-STORIES, first published just six years earlier. Similarly, a passing use of 'literary credibility' cd w. the benefit of hindsight be linked to OFS's secondary belief.

The part that really floors me is I think the same reason why this piece by one of the great scholars of his time (who specialized in fourteenth century literature) has been neglected. For Tolkien, Gawain's contest with the Lady is "a mere pastime" --not particularly important or interesting.  Instead, he argues that the most important event in the story is whether or not our hero made a valid confession before setting out for the final encounter with the Knight. I find it hard to accept that the Gawain-author wd have spent so much time and attention on what Tolkien sees as a side-issue and so little on what Tolkien argues is the main issue.

Still, I'm glad to see some belated attention come its way, and what others make of Tolkien's reading.

--John R.

--current reading: JRRT's THE BATTLE OF MALDON 

*so far we've got as far as Milwaukee

Monday, May 1, 2023

A Review of the Haggerty Tolkien Exhibit

For those who couldn't make it to the recent Tolkien Maps, Art, and Manuscripts exhibit at Marquette's Haggerty museum, here's a review that does a fine job showing what the exhibit space looked like as well as individual items on display : 

I was particularly pleased to see a description of the Archives' reprocessing project, which shd be of enormous help to future researches wanting to locate specific passages within the mass of manuscripts:

Before exiting the exhibition, one found a “bonus” portion across from the final named section that presented the complex navigation, reorganization, and ongoing digital humanities project that encompasses the Tolkien Archives. Here the curators contextualized Marquette’s initial acquisition of the Tolkien materials and how this exhibition coincided with the Raynor Memorial Library’s creation of the digital platform, AnduinTM. AnduinTM, named for the river that crossed most of Middle-earth east of the Misty and White Mountains, is the database system that is meant to resemble the “river of creativity flowing from Tolkien’s work.”

To highlight the ease of the new system of digital scanning in which you can view The Lord of
the Rings by book, chapter, chapter draft, and (eventually) individual passage, the curators included large interactive screens with which one could explore the database, a contrast in comparison with the cumbersome microfilm machines of the past and highlight of how far technological access has come for current and future Tolkien scholars and fans alike. For those wishing to access AnduinTM, please contact William Fliss ( at Marquette’s Special Collections and University Archives.

I'm planning to spend a day in the Archives after Kalamazoo , so we'll see how much I get through. 

--John R.

--current reading: several things, all of which are distracting me from each other.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

You-Tube posting of Glasgow SIR GAWAIN Event

So, those who missed the event is honor of Tolkien's SIR GAWAIN lecture can see the panel of four speakers here on-line. Even though this is one of Tolkien's lesser known essays it's well worth making closer acquaintance with. Here's the link: 

--John R.

--current reading: Tolkien's Sir Gawain essay

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Tolkien's Sir Gawain Lecture

So, this month marks the 70th anniversary of J. R. R. Tolkien's delivering a talk on SIR GAWAIN & THE GREEN KNIGHT at the University of Glasgow. Unlike his famous essay BEOWULF: THE MONSTERS & THE CRITICS (which revolutionized Beowulf studies by arguing that work shd be studied for its literary merit, not mined as a historical artifact), and ON FAIRY-STORIES (the seminal statement establishing modern fantasy as we know it).* Meanwhile, his Gawain piece has largely been neglected. But that seems likely to change, thanks to the Gawain event held today in Glasgow --indeed the same city, same university, and same building as the original site where Tolkien appeared.**

As is become usual these days, the event was in mixed in-person/on-line form. I was one of the virtual attendees --I gather several hundred people in all. I understand the panel of speakers will be put up on You-Tube for non-attendees to enjoy: if so I'll put up a link.

About This Event

On 15 April 1953, Tolkien delivered the W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture, on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to an audience of 300 at the University of Glasgow. The essay was published posthumously, in 1983, in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, edited by Christopher Tolkien. 

Join us at Glasgow on Thursday 27 April 2023, 5-6:30pm, on-campus (Joseph Black Building) or online, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the lecture and its significance, Tolkien's links to Glasgow, and the importance of the Sir Gawain text in Tolkien's creativity. 

Our panel of speakers will feature:

  • Professor Jeremy Smith, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Lydia Zeldenrust, Lecturer in Middle English Literature, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Andoni Cossio, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow
  • Chair: Dr Dimitra Fimi, Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature, and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic 

For those attending on-campus, there will be an opportunity to see a pop-up exhibition with documentation related to Tolkien’s appointment as the 1953 W.P. Ker Memorial Lecturer (including a hand-written letter by Tolkien), in collaboration with Archives & Special Collections, University of Glasgow.

--John R.

*Recently A SECRET VICE has gained prominence and influence in the world of language creation.

**They worked out which was the original room but it was no longer available, having been converted from lecture hall to smaller labs.


Monday, April 24, 2023

Fanfiction encounters the real world

So, a few days ago the story broke about how a fanfic writer was trying to extract $250 million dollars from Amazon and the Tolkien Estate. After a bit of poking around the best account of it I saw on the internet is a piece on the PC Gamer site by Tyler Wilde:

According to them, the sequence of events seems to have run roughly like this.

1. Fanfic author Demetrius Polychron registers the copyright for a novel called THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE KING (sic).  (2017)

2. D. sends a letter to Simon Tolkien (JRR's grandson) describing the book and asking for the Estate to review the Ms.  The Estate ignores query.

3. D. hires a lawyer, who renews his idea of collaboration.   (2019)

4. The very next day, the Tolkien Estate, who don't fool around when it comes to protecting JRRT's copyrights,  rejects any idea of collaboration.

5. D. personally delivers a copy of his Ms to Simon T's home. 

6. Receiving no reply, D. asks for his Ms back and informs S.T. of his plans to self-publish the book and six sequels.

7. D's book is published (September 2022)

8. D. sues Amazon and the Tolkien Estate for $250,000,000.

9. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE KING disappears from Amazon. (April 21st 2023)

For those who are curious, a plot summary of the book can be found at the Fractal Books site:

 Long before the arrival of Annatar, the original Rings of Power were forged by Celebrimbor and Narvi in Eregion near the Misty Mountains. These first magic Rings were far more powerful than those that came after and were corrupted by Sauron to be fought for in the War of the Ring.

Elanor, daughter of Samwise, is nervous the night before her debutante party in the Shire. In the 22nd year of the reign of the High King Elessar the Blue Wizards return from out of the East bearing perilous news: the rest of the Rings of Power have been found and they are in deadly danger. Thus begins the War of the Rings to End All Wars of the Rings. Before it is over Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, Men and magical races long forgotten or never seen before will join the Quest for Celebrimbor’s originals and the last of Sauron’s corrupted Rings of Power.

Elanor, two Hobbit friends, the Crown Prince Eldarion of Gondor, his Elvish uncles the Princes Elladan and Elrohir of Gondor join the Wizards Alatar and Pallando of Aman in a war across Middle-earth fighting for their lives.

If they fail, they will witness the return of the Valar Morgoth, the source of Evil and former Master of the long defeated Sauron. With all the Rings of Power at his command, Morgoth will enslave the whole of Middle-earth – forever.

Doctor Who as Gandalf

So, recently I rewatched one of the old Harryhausen films, SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE 
TIGER (1977). I knew that Patrick Troughton, one of the most fondly remembered actors to play DOCTOR WHO (The Second Doctor, 1966-69), was in it. What I didn't remember is how strongly his Grecian alchemist and sage, Melanthius, resembles Ian McKellen's Gandalf the Grey.

Also, while looking this up I took the time to confirm something I'd heard years ago: that Troughton had a small role in THE OMEN (which I've never seen). It was interesting to see how much Troughton's serious role there, which consisted mainly of running away, resembled his comedic Dr. Who scenes, which also featured a lot of running away.* 

--John R.
Current reading: Wm Morris THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END
Current viewing:  THE ARK (streaming)

*except for the gruesome ending --THE OMEN is a horror movie after all.


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Lord Dunsany's THE REWARD (from FIfty-one Tales)



One's spirit goes further in dreams than it does by day. Wandering once by night from a factory city I came to the edge of Hell.


The place was foul with cinders and cast-off things with shapeless edges, and there was a huge angel with a hammer building in plaster and steel.  I wondered what he did in that dreadful place. I hesitated, then asked him what he was building.  'We are adding to Hell,' he said, 'to keep pace with the times'.  'Don't be too hard on them', I said, for I had just come out of a compromising age and a weakened country. The angel did not answer.  'It won't be as bad as the old hell, will it?' I said.  'Worse', said the angel.


'How can you reconcile it with your conscience as a Minister of Grace,' I said, 'to inflict such punishment?'  (They had talked like this in the city whence I had come and I could not avoid the habit of it.)  


'They have invented a new cheap yeast', said the angel.


I looked at the legend on the walls of the hell that the angel was building. The words were written in flame, every fifteen seconds they changed their colour,  'Yeasto, the great new yeast, it builds up body and brain, and something more'.


'They shall look at it for ever', the angel said.


'But they drove a perfectly legitimate trade', I said; 'the law allowed it'.


The angel went on hammering into place the huge steel uprights.


'You are very revengeful', I said.  'Do you never rest from doing this terrible work?'


'I rested one Christmas Day', the angel said, 'and looked and saw little children dying of cancer. I shall go on now until the fires are lit'.


'It will be very hard to prove', I said, 'that the yeast is as bad as you think'.


And the angel made no answer but went on building his hell.



So, as part of my re-acquainting myself with Dunsany, I've been re-reading some of his more obscure works. While I made a good-faith effort between 1987 and 1990 to read everything Ld D wrote, there were some things that I only read once and others not published until after I'd finished the dissertation and moved on to other projects.


One such obscure item is IF I WERE DICTATOR, a small (107 page) booklet from 1934 that was part of a series of at least eight authors. It's not a serious treatise but more a listing of pet peeves and what he'd do about them if he were put in charge. Writing very much tongue in cheek (he names his dictator The Grand Macaroni and his minions the 'gold shirts'), he restrains himself for the most part.


There's not much here that's memorable, but he does let himself go when he devotes a brief section to the issue of why people not overtly evil nevertheless do evil in the world —for example, food adulteration*—but the words cd just as easily apply to environmental degradation:



The men who do these things are not the public's enemies because they hate their kind, but because of the limitation of their vision. They cannot see farther than the means that make them and their families rich; they cannot see the harm that they are to the community, and to their own families which are part of the community. 


p. 57: 

On a completely different topic, another passage states in passing that

The last war was won with a fortnight or so to spare, the people of the now Disunited Kingdom having been as close as that to starvation.  


I don't know if this is or was a widely held opinion,** but it's interesting, esp. when we remember that Dunsany served in that war, writing official wartime propaganda.


--John R.

current reading: Dunsany (misc)


*a topic he addressed several times in his works, perhaps most directly in the play CHEESO. For Dunsany at his most unabashed on this topic, see my next post, featuring his short piece 'The Reward', from Fifty-one Tales.

**My thinking being more along the lines of Mosier's MYTHS OF THE GREAT WAY.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The D&D Movie (Honor Among Thieves)

 So, I've now seen the new D&D movie (Honor Among Thieves) and have to say that while not great I enjoyed it. 

The best thing, I thought, was how it hit the right balance between making an adaptation recognizably true-to-its-original on the one hand, and providing newcomers with what they need to know on the other. A good example wd be naming and identifying creatures (owl bear, displacer beast, gelatinous cube). 

Certainly it's far better than the three previous films to bear that name (gone and well forgotten). And Hugh Grant fared better than the hapless Jeremy Irons: here the villain does not so much chew scenery as glory in the Harry Mudd-ness of it all.

While it deserves praise for capturing the flavor of D&D, the best thing about this film is the cast. Surprisingly, it's the women who fare best: the tiefling druid delivered the best performance, closely followed by the barbarian and paladin, with the sorcerer and bard (the star of our show) lagging a bit behind. 

So, on the whole, a success. Personally I'd cut the opening twenty minutes or so, which cuts back and forth between past events and the present right when our story shd focus on getting going. But maybe that's just me.

I'm surprised the credits don't include a line acknowledging Gygax and Arneson (or Arneson and Gygax, depending on yr preference). The only person credited here known for his work on the game is the late Kim Mohan, here labelled 'Loremaster'. By this I assume he must have played some role as a resource for the film folks, to answer any questions about how something they wanted to do in the movie wd work in terms of the game.  There were also two WotC folks, unknown to me, who I assume worked as liason between WotC and the filmmakers.

Finally, it came as quite a surprise to me that the august New York Times wd feature a fairly straightforward review of the film. We've come a long way since fantasy in general and D&D in particular only got written about when it cd be cast as a wink-wink these silly people sort of thing. Now it's so mainstream that it appears on things like those Valpak coupon things that come in the mail (see below). 

Thanks to friend Matt F. for the link:

--John R.

--current reading: THE LAST BOOK OF JORKENS

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Quote of the Day

"it is not possible to eat an onion

and to be eloquent

at the same time"

--KHALED, by F. Marion Crawford (1891)

--AFS #39  (December 1971 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Esteemed Company

 So, today I went in and looked up who else had won the Outstanding Contributions award and found I'm in v. good company. Here's the year-by-year list, extracted from the Tolkien Gateway website:*

2014   Christopher Tolkien

2015   Tom Shippey

2016   Verlyn Flieger

2017   John Garth

2018   Priscilla Tolkien

2019   Catherine McIlwaine

2020   Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull

2021   Dimitra Fimi

2020   Brian Sibley 

--I call rhat good company indeed.

--John R.

--just finished: ALWAYS COMING HOME (even the accompanying cassette)**

--in the early stages: KHALED by F. Marion Crawford

**Yes, we still own, and play, cassette players --in the plural.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

I Am Honoured

So, last night I started receiving congratulations from some of my Tolkien friends--but for what, it wasn't clear. 

Today brought clarity. It turns out that that I've just been given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tolkien Society -- a group I joined more than forty years ago, back in the days (circa 1981) when the people in the Society I had the most contact with were Jessica Yates, Charles Noad, Lester Simons, Brin Dunsire, and Susan Rule.  I've have been a member of the T.S. on and off (mostly on) ever since. 

This took me totally by surprise --I hadn't even known I was up for such an award--but it's an entirely welcome one. Outstanding Contribution Award -- what cd be sweeter than the praise of one's peers?

Here's the official announcement: both up on the Tolkien Society website 

(click on the following link and scroll down to the bottom of the left-hand column)

And File 770, which is as official as they come when it comes to sf/fantasy news (from Smof Mike Glyer)

 And now back to another celebratory cup of tea (Yunnan).

--John R.

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Cat Report (Fri.3/31-23)






The seven cats were in a lazy mood when we arrived but did not stay that way. 

The first to go out were the lively pair of yearlings TOPAZ (orange stripped) and Black TIGER (black patterned stripes). After they’d played a bit on went the leashes and we ventured out into the main room of the store. I walked the one while Janice walked the other. Topaz started out skittish but warmed up to walking as he got further afield. He particularly loved getting attention from folks.  His favorite bit turned out to be a little office opposite the drinking fountains; he went right in and wanted to get up on the chair at the desk. Good memories of a previous owner’s work room, perhaps?
   While I was walking Topaz, Janice walked Tiger, who seemed to attract an even larger crowd and to be our current champion walker.

Next up were our resident guests LUNA and LILY, who were happy to come out into the room with the bench but made clear their distress at the idea of putting on the leash and going out. So both got petting, and play, and some holding, but not a walk.

The two kittens, CALLY (the yellow and white kitten) and MARLEY (the pastel kitten and dominant of the pair) were too squirmy for the leash*  but made up for it by playing pretty much every game we had for the to play.   

Last out was our senior-ish cat CINNABON, who seemed to enjoy having the place all to themselves. I was unable to make her into a cat burrito or enchillada: my efforts turned out more along the line of a cat taco. She stayed with me holding her surprisingly long (see photo) but did not altogether forgive me till I let her play with a catnip sachet, which she seemed to think the Best Thing Ever. 

I have to ask: What’s up with the crowd? About the time Tiger came in we had a dozen or more people gather outside the glass. They seemed to be a tour group, since they all left together, but I didn’t find out who they were or why they were here.

—John & Janice

*to wear it, that is. He thought it made a great chew-toy.


Then to Little Rock

To make a long story short, as my uncle wd say:

After east Texas it was up to the western edge of Little Rock for a gathering that brought together the Smiths, Philpots, and Rateliffs (me). I think I was the youngest person in the room, my ninety year old Smith uncle the most senior.

The next day we went up in Sherwood, on the north side of the River, to visit my Rateliff aunt, my father's sister-in-law, whom I'd not seen in a good many years; good to catch up on the doings of cousins.

The next few days involved getting ready for the trip back, which was thankfully uneventful. It was a good trip, and served as 'proof of concept' that I shd be able to make trips in the future so long as I don't overdo it. Kalamazoo 2023 here we come.

--John R

--current reading : Le Guin ALWAYS COMING HOME, which I'm finally within reach of the end of (have now read 84% of the expanded edition).  It'll be a good day to re-shelve this ponderous work.


The news today out of Little Rock --six hundred people hurt by a huge tornado-- thankfully did not include any of the family I'd just been to see. Thankful for that.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

And off to Longfield

 After an unsatisfactory night in Shreveport (waterleaking from the ceiling was only one of that hotel room's failings), we went back over to Waskom for more visiting. 

We had to cancel the trip to Magnolia to visit the graves, since heading that direction at that time wd have brought us into the storm front: thunderstorms and a tornado. 

Instead me went by Jonesville,  a small town near Waskom that reminded me of Washington, Arkansas, which we got to visit some years back. Its main feature is the T. C. Lindsey & Co. General Store, which has been in business continually since 1847 (a record in the state, they tell me, and only a few years after statehood). The original building burned down in 1922, so the current structure is only one hundred and one years old.

Inside is half museum and half store, with current for-sale items at eye level or below and antiques in glass cases further up. Among my favorite items was the Remington typewriter (I asked if they'd sell me a ribbon spool for my Remington Oldstyle Portable, but they declined). A bale of cotton (marked as the last one ginned and baled in the area.  An array of craft rootbeers. And much, much more. My brother-in-law, who was with us, remembered when the store was still someplace you'd go to do practical shopping (such as the time his older brother brought him there to buy shoes). Well worth the visit.

Today it was over to Longview for an enjoyable family gathering. Tonight we're back in Shreveport, in a new room in a different hotel. Tomorrow it's up to Little Rock for a visit with the Smiths.

--John R. 

. . . And in Shreveport

So, the family visit is off to a good start, with a good long visit with my sister yesterday. We even got to see Kashmir the cat, who was deposed to be accommodating. The only sour note was the restaurant. I'd picked, the Shreveport Cracker Barrel, my favorite restaurant in these part, only to find it's not what it was. Service was bad (for example the food came but the knife fork spoon didn't follow till ten minutes later). The soup wasn't hot but instead slightly under room temperature. A pity; it's been a fun stop when passing through the area for years, but I doubt we'll stop there again.

Still, we got more family visit time in, and I bought a Chunky, one of my favorite candy bars in my youth. And the shortcomings of the restaurant turned out to be middling compared to the hotel room, which (to make a long story short) culminated in our currently waiting to be switched to a new room. On without a leaking roof. 

After which our plan is to drive to Magnolia. If the tornado they're predicting for today manifests we'll need to make some adjustments.

--John R.

--current reading: ALWAYS COMING HOME. Easier to read, it turns out, on the Kindle --easier to hold and 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

I'm in Dallas

So, you know you're not looking your best nearing the end of a long day of travel when fellow travellers offer to help you with your luggage. Or insist you take their seat on the shuttle. Or hold the door open for you -- this last from a woman with a walker. Never let it be said that Parkinson's isn't a disease with a sense of humor.

A good night's sleep here in Dallas and we shd be in good shape to start the family visits tomorrow.

--John R.

--current reading: the Dunsany/Clarke letter (finished, as book #II.363)

--resumed Le Guin's ALWAYS COMING HOME, reading almost 10% of it on the flight.

Marketplace covers D&D

So, here's another sign, if any were needed, of how D&D is Big Business. 

The recent turmoil over Hasbro's decision to revoke, by fiat,* the open license under which other game publishers release D&D-compatible products caused a big enough stir that it got covered by national radio:

The show in question is MARKETPLACE, hosted by Kai Ryssdal; the D&D piece is the final segment. 

It takes up roughly the last five or six minutes of that week's show.

The battle for the Dungeons & Dragons economy,


It's good to see one thing hasn't changed: The enduring truism that D&D is, always has been, and remains a license to print money.  This piece also divides the industry into (a) D&D and (b) non-WotC D&D compatibles. That there's a third category, independent RPGs, seems to fall below their radar. Still, it's interesting to see national-wide coverage of what was once our little hobby.  It'll be interesting what effect the release of the D&D Movie this week will have. 

--John R.

--current reading: the Dunsany/Clarke letters

*since rescinded 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


So, the latest volume of TOLKIEN STUDIES* is now out; my copy arrived today. Haven't had a chance to look through it yet, but it looks to be primary material by JRRT, Wm Cloud Hicklin's edition, sorting out and editing Tolkien's time-charts keeping track of who was where when in LotR. It's a nice bonus to have the "Lorien Time" drawing nicely reproduced on the cover.

As so often with Tolkien, we sometimes have to wait for it; this looks like one of those times when it was definitely worth the wait.

---John R

*officially Volume XIX Supplement (2022)

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sessions at Kalamazoo

So, the program book for Kalamazoo has arrived. I was worried that its offerings might be scant in thes postpandemic days, but a look through shows there's plenty to keep a medievalist busy (462 sessions). Here's a listing I put together of the scheduled Tolkien events.  This doesn't necessarily cover everything --sometimes there is a stray paper on Tolkien that makes up part of a panel that's non-Tolkienish in theme -- but it's a good place to start. And of course there are all sorts of treasures in the form of presentations on a vast array of medieval authors and themes.

  sessions at Kalamazoo, 2023

   Thursday May 11th

   Friday May 12th

   Saturday May 13th

13  Bernhard Center 210    Thursday 10am

Medieval Elements in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (A Roundtable) 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Yvette Kisor
Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont 

A roundtable discussion with Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.; Lydia H. Hayes, Catawba College; Jennifer Fast, Newman Theological College; Christopher Vaccaro; and Valerie Dawn Hampton, Univ. of Florida 


204  Virtual    Friday 10am

Religion along the Tolkienian Fantasy Tradition: New Medievalist Narratives 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tales after Tolkien Society
Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar 
Friday 10:00 a.m. 

Do You Even Pray Though? Examining the Worship of the Great Mother Goddess in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe 

Rachel Sikorski, Independent Scholar 

Playing with Medieval(ist?) Religion in Forum-Based Play-by-Post Roleplaying Games: A Case Study 

Geoffrey B. Elliott 



255 Virtual    Friday  1.30 pm

Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race (A Roundtable) 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, Univ. of Glasgow Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow
Mariana Rios Maldonado, Univ. of Glasgow 

A roundtable discussion with Robin Anne Reid, Independent Scholar; Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow; Mercury Natis, Signum Univ.; Toni DiNardo, Univ. of North Carolina–Chapel Hill; and Lars Olaf Johnson, Cornell Univ.
Respondent: Mariana Rios Maldonado 


278   Schneider Hall 1155     Friday 3.30pm

Tolkien and the Middle Ages: Tolkien and the Scholastics 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

D. B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership, Viterbo Univ. Michael A. Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.
Michael A. Wodzak 

Thomistic Evil in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
Mitchell B. Simpson, Univ. of Arkansas–Fayetteville 

Tolkien and Aquinas: The Body, Wonder, and Aesthetics 

Paul L. Fortunato, Univ. of Houston–Downtown 

Was Tolkien a Franciscan? Bonaventurian Themes in the Legendarium 

Craig A. Boyd, St. Louis Univ. 

“What your folk would call magic”: Thomas Aquinas and Natural Power in Tolkien’s Works 

Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ. 


340  Schneider Hall 1330 (hybrid)    Saturday 10am

Climate Change II: Social, Ecological, Political, and Spiritual Shifts in J. R. R. Tolkien and Medieval Poets 

Sponsors: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo; International Pearl-Poet Society Deidre Dawson, Michigan State Univ.
Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Jane Beal, Univ. of La Verne 

Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont 

Tolkien’s Old English Exodus and Philosophy of Translation 

Perry Neil Harrison, Fort Hays State Univ. 

Elements of the Bel Inconnu Tradition in Tolkien’s Legendarium Yvette Kisor 

Deep in the Earth: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Transformation of a Motif from the Works of the Pearl-Poet

Jane Beal 

The Fall of Númenor: A Political and Natural Catastrophe 

Gaëlle Abaléa, Univ. de Paris–Sorbonne 


LUNCH     12:00–1:00 p.m.

Tolkien at Kalamazoo  Business Meeting 

Bernhard Center 242 


374  Bernhard Center 210   Saturday 1.30pm

Christopher Tolkien: Medievalist Editor of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium I: The Works 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College Christopher Vaccaro 

The Sun, the Son, and the Silmarillion: Christopher Tolkien and the Copernican Revolution of Morgoth’s Ring 

Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ. 138 

She Put a Spell on the Man U Script: Tolkien’s Edits on BeowulfSellic Spell, and the Foundations of the Ogress 

Annie Brust, Kent State Univ. 

Competing Silmarillions in a Post-Tolkien World Stephen Yandell, Xavier Univ. 


423  Bernhard Center 210   Saturday 3.30pm

Christopher Tolkien: Medievalist Editor of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium II: The Interactions 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ. Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont 


The Legacy of Tolkien’s Love for and of Nature in His Children: The Evidence from Michael H. R. Tolkien’s Library 

Brad Eden, Drexel Univ. 

“I have written with you most in mind”: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Letters to Christopher Tolkien 

Deidre Dawson, Michigan State Univ. 

Christopher Tolkien and the Legacy of the Father of Middle-earth 

Iona McPeake, New York Univ. 


Tales after Tolkien Society 204

Tolkien at Kalamazoo 13, 340, p. 133, 374, 423 



Song of the Week

So, the song that's been the theme song playing in my head the past few days is "Top of the Pops" by The Kinks. A classic from the same album as "Lola", this was part of their comeback --their first comeback, that is, from a band who had a string of comebacks, never staying on top for more than a song or two but hanging in there, never quite going away. 

Thanks to my friend Franklin for having introduced me to this song (and several other gems from the same album) back in Fayetteville days.

--John R. 

current reading: Arthur C. Clarke and Lord Dunsany's collected correspondence.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


 So, today Janice pointed out to me that the new edition of my HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT is the #1 best seller, by some definitions of #1. Specifically, if you go to

and go to the category IN CRITICISM ON NOVELS & NOVELISTS, you'll find it in the #1 spot.

by  J.R. R. Tolkien  (Author), John D. Rateliff  (Author)

Have to say I'm really happy about that.
Thanks to all who bought the book. 
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
(but that it takes you less time than it did me)

--John R.