Thursday, April 28, 2016

Back in Arkansas

Amount of time it took me after arriving to see the first mockingbird: about three hours.

--John R.

And to see the first cardinals: just under twenty-four hours.

No blue jays as yet, but I have seen a woodpecker. But then what with torrential rain, thunder, and lightning, intermixed with drizzle, conditions were less than perfect.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Barfield's ENGLISH PEOPLE is Published!

So, here's big news: a major work by a major Inkling available at last, over eighty years after the author completed it. I was lucky enough to have a role in preparing the text, creating a computer file out of the old 550 page typescript. Tiffany Martin then took my rough typed text and turned it into a properly edited book. The results is now available online at the Barfield Estate website for anyone who wants to read it.

If you have trouble opening the link, go to the website's main page, look under the header 'Literature', and click on the last entry.

I first read this long unpublished work at the Wade Center back around 1985, so I'm v. excited to finally have it more widely circulated. Many thanks to Mr. Barfield's grandson for letting me work on this project and to Dr. Martin for all her work in seeing it through to the end. I look forward to seeing what impact this long-delayed work's appearance has on Inkling studies.

--John R.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lovecraft on an Inkling

So, still at work on the Nodens, which I'm glad to say is finally nearing its end, and keep coming across things that while interesting are not relevant to the paper in hand, some of which I'm marking for future reference. One was relevant to a question that had long interested me: whether any of the Inklings were aware of H. P. Lovecraft's work. I suspect so but have never been able to muster any direct evidence. What I did come across, while looking up just when H. P. Lovecraft wrote two specific works,* is the reverse: proof that Lovecraft was aware of the work of one of the Inklings. In  a passage in Joshi's vast dual-volume biography of Lovecraft,**  Joshi quotes Lovecraft's opinion of Charles Williams.  Lovecraft had been sent*** several of Wms' early novels (since this took place in 1934, when only five of Wms' seven novels had been published:  WAR IN HEAVEN, MANY DIMENSIONS, THE PLACE OF THE LION, THE GREATER TRUMPS, and SHADOWS OF EXSTACY; the final two, DESCENT INTO HELL [1937] and ALL HALLOWS EVE [1945], were yet to come, not being published until after Lovecraft's death). Here's what Lovecraft had to say to Derleth about Wms' novels:

Essentially, they are not horror literature at all, 
but philosophical allegory in fictional form. 
Direct reproduction of the texture of life & the
substance of moods is not the author's object. He
is trying to illustrate human nature through symbols
& turns of idea which possess significance for those
taking a traditional or orthodox view of man's 
cosmic bearings. There is no true attempt to express
the indefinable feelings experienced by man in 
confronting the unknown . . . To get a full-sized
kick from this stuff one must take seriously the 
orthodox view of cosmic organisation -- which
is rather impossible today.

(I AM PROVIDENCE,  p. 878)

As Joshi points out, by taking the 'traditional or orthodox view', Lovecraft means being a Christian, "which Lovecraft emphatically was not". Joshi also agrees with Lovecraft's judgment, writing that "Lovecraft's evaluation of these mystical, heavily religious works is very much on target" (ibid)

So there we have it: a passing reference which shows, if nothing else, that the two groups (Lovecraft's Weird Tales circle and the Oxfordian Inklings) were contemporaries, even if their paths almost never crossed.

--John R.

 *THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH and "The Strange High House on the Hill",
my two favorites among his works, and incidently his two most Dunsanian tales.

**at 1149 pages, it's even longer than THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT

***by H. C. Koenig, the great champion of the great Wm Hope Hodgson's works.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


So, thought this was an entertaining piece with a serious point worth sharing. Enjoy!

--John R.
current reading: Lovecraft's best short story + his sonnet cycle.

Obama's Greatest Failure

So, with Jackson it was the Trail of Tears.  With FDR it was the Internment Camps. And with Obama, it's his failure to close Guantanamo Bay.  Here's a thoughtful piece that argues he failed at least in part because he never intended to end detainment without trial, only to achieve a symbolic shutdown of a facility that makes the US look bad. Depressing reading, but food for thought. Here's the link:


Friday, April 15, 2016


So, today my copy* of the new Tolkien book arrived: A SECRET VICE: TOLKIEN ON INVENTED LANGUAGES, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgines --- both of whom I'm hoping to see at Kalamazoo in a few weeks' time.  Unfortunately I'm so deeply immersed in my paper for the Medieval Congress that I haven't had time to dive in yet on the new book. So in the meantime, here's a link to quite a good interview describing the book:**

*actually two copies. I must have preordered it (on as soon as it was listed, and then forgotten that and re-pre-ordered it again more recently to make sure I didn't miss out on it. Good thing I'm towards books like most hobbits are towards food: better two than one.
**thanks to Andrew for the link.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time to Vote

So, Washington state is big on democracy and loves to vote: caucuses, initiatives, non-binding measures, local issues, and actual elections (local and statewide and national). The current ballot falls firmly in the 'local issues' categories, and only has two items up for a vote: one seeking authorization for Capital Improvements to Kent schools and the other to renew funding for the fire department.

Surprisingly enough the accompanying Voters' Pamphlet didn't have 'argument for' vs 'argument against', followed by 'rebuttal of argument against', followed by 'rebuttal of argument for', as is usually the case. That's particularly unexpected given that the amounts involved are quite large ($252,000,000, or just over a quarter of a billion dollars) and the improvements significant: building two new elementary schools, adding twenty new classrooms, repairing roofs and the like. I guess the issuing of bonds doesn't fire off the antitax trigger so many initiatives and referendums come up against.

A case in point: the other Proposition, concerning our fire department.  A few years back Kent decided that rather than setting up a separate fire department for Covington (the recently incorporated area immediately to the east of Kent) it'd be better to create a regional fire department that covered several adjacent cities. That's worked pretty well; all the present measure does is re-up their funding for another six years.

Enter the antitax brigade, who make a whole array of charges* against the measure which all more or less come down to a call to defund the fire department in the name of lower taxes. One of the points they put forward in their Statement is a cry to "Remember Pine Tree Park!" This is interesting, because it works directly against the point they think they're making.

A few years ago, the Kent government said it didn't have enough money to keep the city parks going and would have to shut down some of them unless a levy passed. It got voted down, with the result that the city sold off one small park** and removed some amenities from others (e.g. a pier that'd become too dilapidated for safety which they cdn't afford to replace). So the real lesson to 'Remember Pine Tree Park' is that you don't get what you don't pay for: de-fund something the community values and it goes away.

So, two easy votes for a change.

--John R.
current reading: THE CAULDRON OF ANNWN by Th. Evelyn Ellis [1922]

*one includes the point that it's wasteful to have a fire truck respond to a health emergency call when some form of ambulance is more appropriate. True enough, but those who oppose the measure don't explain how defunding the department will address this problem in any way.

**the outcry was such that they've since cancelled the deal and it remains city property for now

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tolkien's KULLERVO on NPR

So, thanks to Janice for the link to a quite nice book review of Verlyn Flieger's edition of THE STORY OF KULLERVO.  This first appeared in TOLKIEN STUDIES a few years ago, but it's nice to have it in book form: easier access, and a handsome volume in and of itself, w. as an added bonus a nice piece of Tolkien's KALAVALA art on the front cover. Not only did the reviewer appreciate Tolkien's piece but she's also properly appreciative of Verlyn's editing. As usual there are some strange assertions in the comments at the end, alas (Shippey did not take over Tolkien's Oxford chair: that was Norman Davis), but those are easily ignorable.  All in all, nice piece. Congr. to Verlyn.

Here's the link:

--John R.
current reading: THE CHILDREN OF DON by Lord Howard de Walden.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

An Invasion in Slow-Motion

So,  once upon a time not that long ago, this wd have been referred to as 'creeping socialism'. As it is, this has got to be one of the weirdest invasions I've ever heard about: the Russian infiltration of Georgia, which is being overrun a hundred yards at a time. Want to know what it's like to go to sleep in one country and wake up in another, without having moved a foot? Go visit Georgia (while you can; it'll soon all be South Ossetia).

Here's the link.

--John R.
current reading: AS I SEEM TO REMEMBER by Sir Leonard Woolley (post.publ. by Allen & Unwin 1962)

own Lovecraft letters

So, today I got a flyer from Heritage Auctions (the folks I got the Sime from, who now won't stop sending me message after message about other things they have that I don't want) that a set of ten Lovecraft letters, mostly unpublished, to one F. J. Pabody* (1932-1937) are being auctioned off, with an expected price of about $20,000. That's a lot, and just goes to show how mainstreamed Lovecraft has become (like Tolkien, and increasingly Lewis as well).

Here's the link:

--John R.

*looking at the name, I'd guess it was the inspiration for Dr. Pabodie, creator of the famous drill of the same name, in HPL's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Tea Party I Missed

So, had I known about this beforehand I wd have been tempted to arrange my recent trip to Arkansas to cover one more evening.  As it was, I missed something interesting by a day: the evening of the day I left Magnolia to fly back here, my alma mater, Southern Arkansas University (which I still think of by its old name, Southern State College), was hosting a speech by Tom Cotton, the junior senator from Arkansas (and I think the youngest person currently serving in the Senate).  I disagree with Cotton on just about everything, but was sorry to pass up the chance to see him in person and hear him present his ideas himself, rather than catch bits and pieces of them filtered through news reports and headlines. After all, I went to see Orville Faubus give a speech on the town square in front of the courthouse back when he was trying to stage a comeback long after his time had passed. And howevermuch I disagree with Cotton it'd be interesting to hear how he frames his ideas: what the world looks like from such a radically different position -- after all, he's an anti-tax radical who opposed disaster relief because it hadn't previously budgeted and is most notorious for trying to sabotage the president and State Department's negotiations to de-escalate our long-running standoff with a foreign power.

On the other hand, checking things out more closely I've learned that this wasn't a free event but fundraising for the Arkansas Republican Party, presumably to be used to try to re-elect or shore up support for the sorry lot they currently have in office (Boozman, Hutchison, and esp. Cotton). And I'd have had a hard time giving money to any cause with Ronald Reagan's name attached to it.

Still, wd have been interesting.

--John R.
current reading: THE FLOATING BODY by Kel Richards (2015/2016), the third in the C. S. Lewis-as-detective mysteries, and the best so far, though that's a low bar to limbo under.