Sunday, December 24, 2023

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

re. the C. S. Lewis Correspondence Project

So,  re-reading my most recent post after hitting send I realized I had another point I'd wanted to make. Hence this follow-on post. 

I think this project has a good chance of success because it builds on a model the Wade Center used to good effect for years --certainly before I started going to the Wade (1983ff). They had photocopies of their Lewis letters in row after row of big binders. Inside each binder on the left hand was a photocopy of a page from a letter by CSL. Facing it on the right side was a typed transcription of the same page. When occasion offered --for example, a staff member or work-study student had some time free from other tasks-- she  wd add another batch of transcriptions. This not only made the material more available (not everyone finds Lewis's handwriting easy to read without some practice) but protected the originals from wear and tear. And it was self-correcting, since later users of the material wd point out misreadings and typos. 

I think something similar, aside from the technological advances, likely to serve as a model for this new project. Once the basic procedure is established, a huge project can become manageable, the work divided up among many hands. There's the added bonus that the work becomes useful right away, increasing that utility as long as the project continues.  

The only potential pitfalls I wd be wary of are (1) that this will be a massive amount of work and (2) I hope they have a procedure in place whereby members of the Steering Committee can drop out and new members recruited if needed, to guard against the 'Dead Sea Scroll' effect.

In short: a great idea that looks promising, with an end product that wd be of great use to more than just Lewis scholars. Let's hope things go well. 

--John R.

current reading: "Refuge of Insulted Saints", in HIGH SPIRITS: A COLLECTION OF GHOST STORIES by Robertson Davies

*the title of this post, by the way, comes from an Arlo Guthrie song

Saturday, December 23, 2023

The C. S. Lewis Correspondence Project

So, C. S. Lewis has been one of those authors posthumously prolific. His books were brought back into print, where they have been joined by previously uncollected works, especially literary essays and apologetics pieces. This good fortune for admirers of his works extends to his letters. The original life-and-letters put together by his brother Warnie, with the letters intercut with biographical passages,  never saw print, being recast into a shorter, simpler form by Christopher Derrick (1966).  As far back as 1981, when I first met him, Hooper was already, and already had been for several years, at work on Lewis's COMPLETE LETTERS. This finally came out in the form of the extensive if not comprehensive three-volume set of COLLECTED LETTERS (2000, 2004, 2007), totaling a massive 3999 pages  -- and even this was a Selected, not Complete, collection.

Now comes word of a new, ambitious project to collect together all Lewis's surviving letters into one electronic database. Their estimation is that CSL wrote some 10,000 letters. Of these 3208 appear in COLLECTED LETTERS. Hooper had located another 70 or 80 more by the time of his death (2020), and the editors of the Correspondence Project have by their count expanded that by 732 uncollected letters or fragments.  The goal is to establish a repository accessible to scholars all over the world. 

The group heading up this ambitious project is a team of seven scholars: Norbert Feinendegen, Monika B. Hilder, Bruce R. Johnson, Laura Schmidt, Arend Smilde, Charlies W. Starr, & Jill Walker. I don't know all these names, but the ones I do know lead me to feel the project is in good hands. It's also a good sign that the announcement is being published more or less simultaneously in The JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (from which I derive most of the information above*), VII, MYTHLORE, and SEHNSUCHT. 

The Contact person is Bruce R. Johnson:

It'll be interesting to see how this major project covering years of work by many hands comes out.  I know I've found Hooper's COLLECTED LETTERS of considerable value in my work on Tolkien and other Inklings over the years.


John R.

*Volume XIII.2 (2023)

Friday, December 15, 2023

Distressing News (Diana Paxson)

So, thanks to Doug K and David B for the link to the news about Diana L. Paxson, who has been the victim of a stabbing attack. The short version: she had a close call but shd be alright. The long version: the eighty year old Paxson and her son fought off the attack, which came from a fellow member of Greyhaven (essentially a commune): an artery was nicked but prompt aid from the son saved her. 

Here's the link:

Paxson is mainly known for her close association with Marion Zimmer Bradley: Her best known book, THE WHITE RAVEN (1988), tells the story of the Tristan and Iseult story from the point of view of Branwen, Iseult's maid). Essentially Paxson followed where Bradley's MISTS OF AVALON had led, but Paxson's is the much better book.

 --John R. 

--current reading (Kindle): GIFTED AMATEURS by David Bratman (2023) 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Layoffs: A Christmas Tradition

 So, I was sad to hear the news of 1100 people being laid off at Hasbro. On top of 800 let go early in the year, this totals about a third of their entire staff. They're even going to shut down the corporate headquarters in Rhode Island.

A lot of interesting posts on Facebook reflecting on earlier layoffs, both at WotC (1995) and TSR (1996).  Though I think I still hold the record of having been laid off by that rpg department three times. First by TSR at the end of 1996 when TSR all but shut down. Hired back by WotC at the next GenCon, I was laid off again in June 2001 when they decided they didn't need to hang on to the staff that saw the creation of 3e and the d20 system. Hired back again a year or two later by Hasbro, first briefly as a temp then made full-time, only to be laid off in November 2005 for no particular reason I ever knew.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying there is life after WotC. 

For all who got the bad news, best of luck and best wishes for the next stage, whatever that turns out to be.

Here're two pieces that between them give a pretty good overview of the bad tidings:

--John R.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Tolkien's Little List

So, the  previous post on Tolkien's brief correspondence with the great folklorist Katharine Briggs reminded me of something I'd come across a while back about Tolkien's connection with Briggs.

In Scull & Hammond's excellent CHRONOLOGY, they give an entry mentioning a list of people Tolkien wanted sent an author's complementary copy of SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR (ten in England and three more in America), then move on to give a second list of ten names "to whom future publications should be sent, since he owes them 'a considerable amount for help, encouragement, and gifts . . .' 

    Simonne d'Ardenne

    George Sayer

    Austin and Katharine Farrar

    the Reverend Mother Prioress of Oulton Abbey

    K. M. Briggs

    Professor P. N. U. Harting of Amsterday

    the Earl of Halsbury,

    Professor Clyde Kilby

    Edmund Fuller,

    and W. H. Auden"


It was just their bad luck that Tolkien published v. little during those final years, but the list remains a marker that he held a high opinion of each of these ten --some of them names familiar to any Tolkien scholar, some I confess to never having heard of before (the Reverend Mother and the Dutch Professor). 

--John R.

--current reading: A STRANGER IN OLONDRIA.

A Little Following Up

So, the great Kent internet blackout of 2023 is now over, after essentially what was a long, long day. Nobody physically hurt so far as I've been able to tell, but with massive disruption of people's daily lives. It's sobering sometimes to be reminded how much we depend on our devices, and how vulnerable the system is. Of various reports I found, the Kent Reporter did the best job in reporting facts.

As a personal note, we have friends who live about three blocks down the same street where the sabotage took place, just a few blocks off a busy (4-lane) street, in an area where patches of rural Renton & Kent can still be found here and there. It's by no means a remote area. I suspect the timing of the attack (about 5 am) had a lot to do with how they got away with it.

--John R.

Friday, December 1, 2023

The Day Without the Internet

So, sometime last night or this morning some vandal(s) decided to cut the cables that provides our internet connection.

 They've just gors our re-connected. More when I know more --this is one story, which (as the phrase goes) really gets us where we live.

--John R.