Sunday, May 31, 2009
10 Books A Day: #42
Poems: Wadsworth Handbook and Anthology...C. F. Main, Peter J. Seng...Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc.
Little Nemo: 1905-1914...Winsor McCay...Evergreen
The World of Oz...Allen Ayles...HPBooks
The Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology...sel. Richard Barber...Littlefield, Adams, & Co.
The Book of the SubGenius...The SubGenius Foundation...A Fireside Book
Revelation X: The "Bob" Apocryphon...The SubGenius Foundation, Inc....A Fireside Book
The SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack: The Bobliographon...Ed. Rev. Ivan Stang...Thunder's Mouth Press
High Weirdness By Mail...Rev. Ivan Stang...A Fireside Book
Three-Fisted Tales Of "Bob"...ed. Rev. Ivan Stang...A Fireside Book
Book Count: 510.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
10 Books A Day: #41
The World of Michaelangelo 1475-1564...Robert Coughlan...Time-Life Library of Art
The World of Breugel c.1525-1569...Timothy Foote...Time-Life Library of Art
Bruegel...Marguerite Kay...The Colour Library of Art/Hamlyn
Bruegel: The Complete Paintings...Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen...Taschen
Maxfield Parrish...Coy Ludwig...Watson Guptill
Howard Pyle...Henry C. Pitz...Bramhall House
Arthur Rackham: A Life With Illustration...James Hamilton...Pavilion
102 Favorite Paintings by Norman Rockwell...Intro. by Christopher Finch...Artabras
The Land of Froud...ed. David Larkin...Peacock Press/Bantam Book
The Brothers Hildebrandt...ed. Mark A. Feldman, John A. Taylor...Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston
The Fantasy Art Techniques of Tim Hildebrandt...Jack E. Norton...Paper Tiger
Friday, May 29, 2009
10 Books A Day: #40
A Book of Dwarfs...Ruth Manning-Sanders...Piccolo
A Book of Wizards...Ruth Manning-Sanders...Piccolo
Matilda...Roald Dahl...Viking Kestrel
Just So Stories...Rudyard Kipling...Weathervane
The Story of the Champions of the Round Table...Howard Pyle...Dover
Children's Television, 1947-1990...Jeffrey Davis...McFarland and Company, Inc.
Animated TV Specials (1962-1987)...George W. Woolery...Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Kids' TV: The First 25 Years...Stuart Fischer...Facts On File Publications
Pufnstuf & Other Stuff...David Martindale...Renaissance Books
There were three science fiction series I used to read back in grade school: there was Rivets and Sprockets, the robot boys; there was Mr. Bass, from the mushroom planet; and there was Matthew and Maria Looney, the moon children. This is the only Looney book I've ever seen since about 1975, and until I found it I never knew that they were illustrated by Gahan Wilson. The Ruth Manning-Sanders books have great line illustrations by Robin Jacques and covers by Brian Froud. Rudyard Kipling supplied the pictures for his Just So Stories, just as Hugh Lofting later did for his Dr. Doolittle books and J. R. R. Tolkien for The Hobbit. And here of course are my books on children's programming, always handy for looking up memories and pinning down dates.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
10 Books A Day: #39
The Bart Book...Publisher Matt Groening...Perennial Currents
The Lisa Book...Publisher Matt Groening...Perennial Currents
The Ralph Wiggum Book...Publisher Matt Groening...Perennial Currents
The Crusty Book...Publisher Matt Groening...Perennial Currents
Comic Book Guy's Book of Popular Culture...Publisher Matt Groening...Perennial Currents
Binky's Guide To Love...Matt Groeining...Harper
The Portable Curmudgeon...ed. Jon Winokur...New American Library/NAL Books
The Portable Curmudgeon Redux...ed. Jon Winokur...Dutton
A Curmudgeon's Garden of Love...ed. Jon Winokur...New American Library/NAL Books
The Rich Are Different...ed. Jon Winokur...Pantheon Books
Sardonic wit abounds in both the Groening and Winokur books; by a strange coincidence both series are bound in small, square volumes. The Simpsons books are, of course, the work of many talents.
Book Count: 478.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
10 Books A Day: #38
Clifford the Small Red Puppy...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
Clifford the Big Red Dog...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
Clifford's Tricks...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
Clifford's Halloween...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
The Witch Next Door...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
The Witch's Christmas...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
Georgie's Halloween...Robert Bright...Doubleday and Co., Inc.
The Man Who Lost His Head...Claire Huchet Bishop...Reader's Digest Services, Inc.
City Mouse-Country Mouse and two more mouse tales from Aesop...ill. Marian Parry...Scholastic
Harvey's Hideout...Russell Hoban...Scholastic
The Animal's Boat Ride...Helen Wing...Rand McNally & Company
Donald Duck's Toy Sailboat...Annie North Bedford...Golden Press
Duck and His Friends...K. and B. Jackson...Simon and Schuster
Frog and Toad Are Friends...Arnold Lobel...Harper and Row
The Haunted House and Other Spooky Poems and Tales...ed. Gladys Schwarcz and Vic Crume...Scholastic
Monster Holidays...Norman Bridwell...Scholastic
A Cosmic Christmas...Ken Sobol...Avon Camelot
Got a lot of really young reader books here. While I was typing up I noticed there was a sort of sailing theme in a few of them; Duck and His Friends and Harvey's Hideout both feature rafts, the chipmunks Chip and Dale sail in Donald Duck's Toy Sailboat, and then there's The Animal's Boat Ride. A lot of Norman Bridwell here, and Clifford is as popular as ever, but does anyone remember Georgie the Ghost anymore? I remember it was one of the books they read, with pans of the illustrations, on the old Captain Kangaroo show.
Book Count: 468.
10 Books A Day: #37
The Marvelous Land of Oz...L. Frank Baum...Scholastic
Little Wizard Stories of Oz...L. Frank Baum...Bantam Skylark
The Tough Winter...Robert Lawson...Puffin/Troll
The Biggest Bear...Lynd Ward...Scholastic
Pippi Longstocking...Astrid Lindgren...Scholastic
The Peculiar Miss Pickett...Nancy R. Julian...Scholastic
The Mouse and the Motorcycle...Beverly Cleary...Xerox Publication Editions
Haunted Houses...Larry Kettlekamp...Xerox Publication Editions
The Story of Vampires...Thomas G. Aylesworth...Xerox Publication Editions
More grade school reads. Doing a little research I found out that Beverly Cleary was still alive; she was born in 1919! I was sorry to confirm that the great illustrations by Louis Darling were being replaced by more "up-to-date" artwork. Louis Darling (and his wife Lois) were also responsible for one of my Favorite Great Lost Books (since found), The Sea Serpents Around Us. The Peculiar Miss Pickett was part of the "Nanny Invasion" in the wake of Mary Poppins, but more for mid-century Americans; Miss Pickett is a babysitter, not a nanny or nurse. The Little Wizard Stories have only recently been reprinted.
Book Count: 449.
Monday, May 25, 2009
10 Books A Day: #36
The Golden Age...Kenneth Grahame...A. Whitney & Company, Limited
Dream Days...Kenneth Grahame...A. Whitney & Company, Limited
Puck of Pook's Hill...Rudyard Kipling...Doubleday, Doran , & Co., Inc.
Rewards and Fairies...Rudyard Kipling...Penguin
The World of Christopher Robin...A. A. Milne...E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
The World of Pooh...A. A. Milne...E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
The Three Royal Monkeys...Walter de la Mare...Alfred A. Knopf
The Gammage Cup...Carol Kendall...Harcourt, Brace and Co.
The Whisper of Glocken...Carol Kendall...Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc.
Carbonel, the King of the Cats...Barbara Sleigh...Dodds Merrill
The Dark Is Rising: Over Sea Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree...Susan Cooper...Guild America Books
King of Shadows...Susan Cooper...McElderry Books
There are so many good books here and so much that could be said about each one, and I'm so tired after a long but good Memorial Day, that I'm afraid I'm going to end up saying very little. But I'm brewing up an essay on "Quellenforschung and The Great Conversation in Children's Literature", where I hope to address many of the thoughts that these books evoke. Until then, farewell Rewards and Fairies.
Book Count: 439.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
"The Hundred Thousand Monkeys"
By Sir Alfred Hickman
This is a story that begins on the banks of the Ganges, in India. There are villages on the banks of the Ganges, and in one of them a little boy called Singh lived in a hut with his father and mother. It was his business to make curry for his father and mother while they were busy out of doors.
But one day Singh found it hot and also dull in the hut where he was busy with the curry. The sun was hotter still outside, but when he went to the door and looked out, Singh saw cool shadows under the tree, cooler than the dark of the hut because of the breeze that was lifting the big leaves and letting them flap softly back again. So Singh went and lay in the shadow of the tree.
Presently his father and mother came back hungry for their curry, and when they found that Singh had forgotten all about it, they beat him till he was very sore, and then made curry for themselves.
Singh ran away into the forest.
There were parrots in the forest, green and red and yellow, and they shrieked loudly as they flew from the palm to the banyan tree, and from the acacia to the feathery bamboo. There were snakes, spotted and shiny ones, brown and yellow ones, and black ones, and pale bright green ones, and they hissed and slid away into the tall grass. There were bigger things, too.
Singh heard the bamboos crack and the branches break, and saw the long grass wave where the big beasts were stepping. He also heard them roar. He thought they would probably eat him: but he did not mind, because his body was sore. And then a monkey dropped to the ground in front of him. The monkey had been hanging by one hand from the bough of a tree watching Singh for some time.
"What is the matter with you?" asked the monkey.
"I have been beaten," said Singh.
"No, no, that is not what is the matter with you," said the monkey.
"What is it, then?" said Singh.
"Why, yes. Your beating is over, and your skin is already not so sore as it was. The matter with you is that you want to tell a hundred thousand people about it, and there's no one to listen to you."
"Yes," sobbed Singh, "that is quite true. They are eating curry in the village, and if I try to tell them about it they will only beat me again and make me more sore."
"Come with me," said the monkey, "and you shall tell a hundred thousand people, and they shall weep for your sore body, and you shall feel better."
He caught Singh with his skinny hand, and ran through the undergrowth of the forest. Singh ran with him for a long time. He was too busy dodging branches, and jumping over fallen logs or puddles of mud, to notice how they went; so that he was not very much surprised when the trees came to an end and the forest opened into a white old city lying in marble ruins. There were fallen temples and wonderful broken pavements, and everything shone dead white in the hot, glaring Indian sunshine.
There were no people in the city, but as for monkeys--there seemed to be more than Singh believed there were in all the forests of the world.
"Tell these people," said the monkey who had brought him. And when the other monkeys had crowded up, this monkey looked laughingly at Singh, and went away, and say alone on the marble steps of what had long ago been a temple.
"I have been beaten and my back is sore--" began Singh.
"Aah!" said a hundred thousand serious faced apes, their eyes fixed steadily on his face.
"Because I lay in the sun and neglected the curry while they went working."
"Aah!" said the hundred thousand apes, all looking very much interested.
"My name is Singh, and I am very miserable."
"Aah!" said the apes.
"The people of the village have cast me out with a sore skin and no curry."
"Aah!" said the apes.
"A sore skin and no curry," said Singh again, for he could not think of anything else to say.
"Aah!" said the apes, as if these were only the beginnings of his troubles.
Singh could not think of anything else, and he was very unhappy, because he wanted to complain.
"Aah!" said the apes.
"A sore skin," said Singh miserably.
"Aah!" answered the apes impatiently. He heard some of them say, "Is that all?"
"No curry," he said once more; and then getting up quickly, he looked for the monkey who had brought him.
"Please take me back," he said. "I am not miserable enough for these people."
And the monkey said, "I thought so," and laughed, and took him back. But he was not beaten again. His mother was glad to see him, and gave him hot curry and put him to bed.
Now, that is the best of all ways to be comforted. If ever you feel miserable, go and tell it to a hundred thousand serious-faced monkeys, and you will find that you are not miserable enough.
10 Books A Day: #35
Saturday, May 23, 2009
10 Books A Day: #34
The Royal Book of Oz
Kabumpo in Oz
The Cowardly Lion of Oz
Grampa in Oz
The Lost King of Oz
The Hungry Tiger of Oz
The Gnome King of Oz
The Giant Horse of Oz
Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz
The Yellow Knight of Oz
Pirates in Oz
The Purple Prince of Oz
Ojo in Oz
Speedy in Oz
The Wishing Horse of Oz
After L. Frank Baum passed away, his publisher's saw no reason to let the cash-cow of Oz perish as well (now there's a character and title for you; The Cashcow of Oz!), so they tapped young author Ruth Plumly Thompson to carry on the books that were "Founded on and Continuing the Famous Oz Books of L. Frank Baum." Thompson took the Oz books in a different direction. She created fewer of Baum's eccentrics like the Scarecrow or Scraps the Patchwork Girl; she relied far more on traditional figures like knights, pirates, djinn, and talking animals. While Baum's heroes were mainly girls, Thompson's were mainly boys. There was also a large dollop of Ruritanian romance in Thompson's writing, as well as more of the ordinary boy-and-girl type romance that Baum tended to avoid in his original Oz books. Thompson stopped writing Oz books in the late '30's, but published a couple more in the early '70's before she passed away in 1976.
These books are in a peculiar format; although only slightly wider than an ordinary paperback, they are eight inches tall! For purposes of the catalog, I'm listing them as softcover. All cover paintings are by Michael Herring.
Book Count: 414.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
10 Books A Day: #33
The Wizard of Oz
The Land of Oz
Ozma of Oz
Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
The Road to Oz
The Emerald City of Oz
The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Tik-Tok of Oz
The Scarecrow of Oz
Rinkitink in Oz
The Lost Princess of Oz
The Tin Woodman of Oz
The Magic of Oz
Glinda of Oz
All fourteen of the Oz books written by L. Frank Baum. The Wizard of Oz has the original interior illustrations by W. W. Denslow; the other thirteen have the original interior illustrations by John R. Neill. All cover paintings are by Michael Herring.
Book Count: 399.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
10 Books A Day: #32
The White Deer...James Thurber...Harbrace Paperbound Library
The Dragon Hoard...Tanith Lee...Ace Fantasy
A Book Dragon...Donn Kushner...Avon Fantasy
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...Roald Dahl...Bantam
Charlie and the Great Glass Elavator...Roald Dahl...Bantam
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen...Alan Garner...Del Rey
The Moon of Gomrath...Alan Garner...Del Rey
Elidor...Alan Garner...Del Rey
The Owl Service...Alan Garner...Del Rey
I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the old version, where the Oompa Loompas were a race of pygmy Africans (Look, little chocolate people!); they have since been edited in the book into a golden-haired, rosy-skinned race, or, in the '71 movie, orange-skinned and green-haired. The new movie actually comes closer to the original Oompa Loompa conception. When I checked the book out from the school library and was carrying it around everywhere reading it, I accidentally left it on the car roof while we were loading up. We drove off, the book was lost along the way, and Mom ended up having to pay the school for it.
I got the Alan Garner books back in '81 or '82, read them, liked them well enough, but have never had the urge to re-read them again all the way through since. The White Deer is full of Thurber's wonderful poetic wordplay; The Dragon Hoard is a delightfully whimsical tale, an opera buffa of a fairy tale; I must confess I have never been able to read A Book Dragon since I got it in '91, but haven't quite been able to part with it either.
I'm starting a new little thing with these lists. At the end of each I'm putting the total number of books catalogued so far. So today:
Book Count: 385.
10 Books A Day: #31
The Black Cauldron...Lloyd Alexander...Dell
The Castle of Llyr...Lloyd Alexander...Dell
Taran Wanderer...Lloyd Alexander...Dell
The High King...Lloyd Alexander...Dell
A Wrinkle in Time...Madeleine L'Engle...Dell
A Wind in the Door...Madeleine L'Engle...Dell
A Swiftly Tilting Planet...Madeleine L'Engle...Dell
Many Waters...Madeleine L'Engle...Dell
An Acceptable Time...Madeleine L'Engle...Dell
We're dealing with two series of books today. Both were printed by Dell. Both have had volumes that won awards (The High King and A Wrinkle in Time got the Newberry Award). Both had their premiere volumes made into disappointing films (The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron were squeezed into the most forgotten Disney animated movie ever made, while Wrinkle got a made-for-TV adaptation).
Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles (as is the series over-all name) deals with the life and adventures of Taran, a foundling boy, who begins life as a pig-tender and ends up as King of Prydain. These are good books; I enjoyed reading them, and sought out any related stuff, like The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain. But if the series suffers from any drawbacks it is that it is too perfect, too architecturally complete. There is little wiggle room for the imagination, all mysteries are explained; all the characters, admirable in themselves, learn their due lessons and fulfill their destinies. In the end, magic goes away and the heroes must use the lessons they've learned in real life, yadda yadda yadda. The series ends, not with triumph or the sense of doors opening up to elsewhere, but with weariness, drabness, and the prospect of hard labors to come. Realistic, perhaps, but hardly satisfying.
Madeleine L'Engle's "cosmic" books, on the other hand, are not so much one long tale (except insomuch as all history is one long tale) as it is episodes in the lives of members of the Murray family, and they are as full of mysteries and open doors and wide vistas as anyone could ask for. In the end Meg Murray and her family have to use the stuff they've learned in "real life" as well, but we are left with the feeling that the "magic" hasn't gone away when they are done; it is rather where it has always been, close by, hidden, welling up and out and there if we need it.
In the end, I think the difference between these two sets of books comes down to belief. Alexander builds his world almost like a model train. It is cunning, and crafted, and fascinating, and runs around the tracks as it is designed to do. As such, it is an admirable work of fun, but I don't think Alexander ever actually believes in it. L'Engle grows her books like a garden, though, and they are full of fruits and flowers whose seeds were gathered from afar, in eclectic, uneven growth, but full of nourishment and pleasure. L'Engle believes in her garden; at least, she has faith in what she has sown. And these are qualities and differences I do not think I would ever have realized if it weren't for their chance proximity on my bookshelves.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
10 Books A Day: #30
Mammals...Herbert S. Zim and Donald F. Hoffmeister...Golden Press
Poems Bewitched and Haunted...sel.& ed. by John Hollander...Everyman's Library
Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales...John Gardner...Bantam Skylark
Gudgekin the Thistle Girl and Other Tales...John Gardner...Bantam Skylark
The King of the Hummingbirds and Other Tales...John Gardner...Bantam Skylark
Christmas Curiosities: Odd , Dark, and Forgotten Christmas...John Grossman...Stewart, Tabori, and Chang
A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, & Other Subversive Spirits...Carol K. Mack & Dinah Mack...Arcade
The 13 Clocks...James Thurber...The New York Review Children's Books
Bored of the Rings...Harvard Lampoon...Roc Fantasy
A couple of the great old Golden Guides, library discards; a book of poems for Halloween; the satirical (and hilarious) fairy tales by the great author John Gardner; and the latest swag from my Edward R. Hamilton Bargain Books venture. Christmas Curiosities is just that; peculiar imagery from the time between St. Nicholas falling out of favor in the Protestant world and the now familiar image of Santa Claus becoming defined; also limited by the time that color printing becomes more widespread and inexpensive. Kristkindls, Krampuses, and Wienachtsmen compete with Santa Claus and St. Nicholas for the job of gift giver. I find the images of Mrs. Claus and Santa at the Creche are a lot older than I thought. The 13 Clocks is one of the greatest, oddest books of all time, and I'm glad to have this edition; Bored of the Rings has the advantage over other The Lord of the Rings parodies that have come out since Peter Jackson's movies, in that it is actually funny, instead of being merely snide.
Monday, May 18, 2009
10 Books A Day: #29
Rabbit Hill...Robert Lawson...Puffin
Homer Price...Robert McCloskey...Scholastic
Centerburg Tales: More Adventures of Homer Price...Robert McClosky...Scholastic
Hercules and Other Tales from Greek Myths...Olivia E. Coolidge...Scholastic
The Gorgon's Head...Ian Serrallier...Scholastic
Jason and the Golden Fleece...John Gunther...Scholastic
The Case of the Marble Monster and Other Stories...I. G. Edmonds...Scholastic
The Marvelous Land of Oz...L. Frank Baum...Scholastic
Mystery in the Night Woods...John Peterson...Scholastic
I was nine, it was the 1972-73 school year, and I was in fourth grade. Maybe it was the fresh, kind, encouraging presence of Mrs. Bratton after a rather arid and forbidding year in third grade. Maybe it was the air of change and uncertainty in the air. Or maybe it was just time, that time in my life, when a kid actively turns his mind seeking outward instead of just passively soaking any stuff in that comes his way. Whatever the reason, that was the year I really became a reader.
All of the books today come from that time. That's not to say they are the original copies I read; most of them were in the classroom library. But most of them, as you can see, are Scholastic editions, which were the majority of the kinds of books you could order through the Weekly Reader. I picked copies up at used book stores and sales, sometimes years later. And while I was making out today's list I noticed a peculiar thing. And that was how old some of these books were, even at the time I first read them.
Robert Lawson, the author/illustrator most famous for his story about the bull Ferdinand who only wanted to smell the flowers, first published Ben and Me in 1939! Rabbit Hill was published in 1944. Ben and Me has always been one of my favorite books; it is the story of a rather caustic mouse, Amos, who helps and befriends the famous statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin. It was made into a short animated Walt Disney film. Robert McCloskey, another author/illustrator most famous for his book Make Way For Ducklings, published the Homer price books in 1943 and 1951. Homer Price is an ordinary, down-to-earth, but clever young boy who encounters extraordinary adventures in his little town of Centerburg (think Mayberry, but more mid-America). Anyway, the observation I draw from all this (and it is fairly commonplace but little remarked) is that most of the literature provided for kids is from the generation before, or even the one before that. This is logical, since it is mainly parents and teachers who are providing it. Of all the books that are published every year, it is only a few that catch on and hold, sometimes down generations.
I really started reading myths here. I loved the Ray Harryhausen movie Jason and the Argonauts, and the illustrations in John Gunther's book (by Ernest Kurt Barth) were really engaging realistic for me. The Hercules and Perseus books were a little more stylized; The Gorgon's Head was particularly like the designs on Greek vases. The Case of the Marble Monster was my first exposure to Japanese stories, and the adventures of the kindly and wise Judge Ooka, who declares that the sound of money is adequate payment for the smell of food, and who may be the first person to use the old ruse of having every suspect touch an object, saying it will expose the guilty party, and by finding out who didn't touch it, knows that one is guilty...well, I've got to say I enormously enjoyed re-reading them again before writing this post.
The Mystery in the Night Woods (with illustrations by Cyndy Szekeres) was probably my most favoritest book that I got before fourth grade, but my copy was read to rags. This one is actually one my brother got when he was in second grade, the same year I was in fourth. It's the story of a flying Squirrel and his best friend Bat, the mistake he makes, and his redemption foiling the depradations of the villain Weasel. Animals living in the wild, but with clothes and some civilized artifacts like stoves and flashlights. Looking at it now I see some influence from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, but it has a charm all it's own. And that great title!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
10 Books A Day: #28
Going Solo...Roald Dahl...Penguin
Esio Trot...Roald Dahl...Puffin
The Twits...Roald Dahl...Bantam Skylark
The Magic Finger...Roald Dahl...Puffin
Fantastic Mr. Fox...Roald Dahl...Puffin
The Witches...Roald Dahl...Puffin
The Enormous Crocodile...Roald Dahl...Bantam Skylark
Danny the Champion of the World...Roald Dahl...Bantam
The BFG...Roald Dahl...Puffin
George's Marvelous Medicine...Roald Dahl...Bantam Skylark
Revolting Rhymes...Roald Dahl...Bantam Skylark
Roald Dahl is another one of those very English writer's whose origins were not quite English; his father was Norwegian, and he spent great formative slabs of his childhood in Norway. What I never quite realized about him before was that he did one film adaptation of Ian Fleming's James Bond books. This in turn led him to doing the script for the film of Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in which Dahl elaborated a chef with a secret "foodge" recipe into the eccentric owner of a candy factory; some years after that Dahl's own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came out. Another interesting fact: Dahl made up the term "gremlin," or at least first recorded the word in published writing. Another fact: Dahl's funniest poetry is written in the manner and style of Hilaire Belloc's The Bad Child's Book of Beasts.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Strange luck and instinct led me to his other books, as well. I learned about his other books, St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies and The Pedant and the Shuffly, an kept an unhopeful but vigilant eye out for them. I found Fidgeta in a used bookstore near Southwest Texas State University; there was no reason to think it would be there, but I swear when I walked in I got the vibe that I might find it, and there it was in the bargain bin for $1. I found The Pedant and the Shuffly at the little half price bookstore that used to be here in Seguin; I'd been going there for years, but I suddenly got the urge to dig through the sloppy boxes of kid's books rather thoroughly, hoping to maybe find it, and lo and behold it was there. I got The House With A Clock In Its Walls at Yesterday's Warehouse, ordered the first two sequels at our college bookstore, and from then on kept up with Bellair's juveniles until he passed away in 1991.
Brad Strickland took up Bellairs' series then, finishing four books he had begun, and then continuing on with stories of his own, told with the Bellairs characters and in his style. I have kept up with the books, mostly because I am a sucker for sequels and an insufferable know-it-all who has to find out what happens next. Strickland's books are competent, but because he is walking in another man's shoes he cannot make them develop too differently or they don't seem to fit Bellair's style, while simply following the form too slavishly (as even a glance at the style of his titles suggests; see post below) begins to become tired re-hash. A natural growth seems impossible. That said, while I was researching for this post, I found that Strickland has a new book out, The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer, that I'm going to get as soon as I can.
But my research also revealed startling news. Years ago (not quite forty, in fact) Lin Carter revealed that John Bellairs was working on a prequel to The Face in the Frost, dealing with how the two main characters, Prospero and Roger Bacon, first met. It was never finished, however, and languished while Bellairs' kids' books took off. Now there is going to be a book called Magic Mirrors published, this very month, supposedly, that collects (on the occasion of it's 40th anniversary) The Face in the Frost, St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies (re-printed for the first time), The Pedant and the Shuffly, and the only surviving first third of The Dolphin Cross, the long lost prequel! Huzzah!
To find out more about Magic Mirrors (and, indeed, anything more about John Bellairs) go to http://www.bellairsia.com/ .
10 Books A Day: #27
St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies...Macmillan
The Pedant and the Shuffly...Macmillan
The House With A Clock In Its Walls...Dell Yearling
The Figure In The Shadows...Dell Yearling
The Letter, The Witch, And The Ring...Dell Yearling
The Treasure Of Alphaeus Winterborn...Bantam Skylark
The Curse Of The Blue Figurine...Bantam Skylark
The Mummy, The Will, And The Crypt...Bantam Skylark
The Dark Secret Of Weatherend...Bantam Skylark
The Spell Of The Sorcerer's Skull...Bantam Skylark
The Revenge Of The Wizard's Ghost...Bantam Skylark
The Eyes Of The Killer Robot...Bantam Skylark
The Lamp From The Warlock's Tomb...Bantam Skylark
The Trolley To Yesterday...Bantam Skylark
The Chessmen Of Doom...Bantam Skylark
The Secret Of The Underground Room...Puffin
The Mansion In The Mist...Puffin
By John Bellairs, Completed By Brad Strickland:
The Ghost In The Mirror...Puffin
The Vengeance Of The Witch-finder...Puffin
The Drum, The Doll, And The Zombie...Puffin
The Doom Of The Haunted Opera...Puffin
By Brad Strickland:
The Hand Of The Necromancer...Puffin
The Hand Of The Necromancer...Dial
The Bell, The Book, And The Spellbinder...Puffin
The Specter From The Magician's Museum...Puffin
The Wrath Of The Grinning Ghost...Dial
The Beast Under The Wizard's Bridge...Dial
The Tower At The End Of The World...Dial
The Whistle, The Grave, And The Ghost...Dial
The House Where Nobody Lived...Sleuth Dial
Comments to follow soon. Just getting the darn list up was tiring enough.
Friday, May 15, 2009
10 Books A Day: #26
Treasure of Green Knowe...L. M. Boston...Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc.
The River at Green Knowe...L. M. Boston...Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc.
A Stranger at Green Knowe...L. M. Boston...Voyager/Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich
An Enemy at Green Knowe...L. M. Boston...Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc.
The Boggart...Susan Cooper...Aladdin Paperbacks/Simon & Schuster
The Boggart and the Monster...Susan Cooper...Aladdin Paperbacks/Simon & Schuster
Tom's Midnight Garden...Phillipa Pearce...Harper Trophy/HarperCollins
The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain...Lloyd Alexander...Dell Yearling
The Wizard in the Tree...Lloyd Alexander...Dell Yearling
Bridge To Terabithia...Katherine Paterson...Avon/Camelot
The Green Knowe books were published in the period spanning 1954-1964. They deal with the adventures of various children in a magical old house (called Green Knowe). The book I first read in middle school was An Enemy at Green Knowe; I was looking for magic books like Bed-knob and Broomstick, which had had a deep influence on me, and it seemed to fit the bill. I never saw the series again till years later, when I was able to get most of the volumes at a San Antonio library sale (all except for Stranger; I got that when the series was re-printed in the wake of Harry Potter).
Middle school was also where I read The Wizard in the Tree, by Lloyd Alexander (who of course is more famous for his Prydain Chronicles). I read The Sword in the Stone, and Howard Pyle's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and an adaptation of Beowulf, and I peeked into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (and decided at the time that it wasn't for me!). And I first read The Hobbit, and then all chocks were off.
Susan Cooper's Boggart books are the latest published on this list, from '93 and '95. These books are good reads, but her The Dark Is Rising series is great; in those books Cooper's conception and writing talent are superior to J. K. Rowling's by far. It is a pity that so many people will only know them through the awful movie The Seeker. Tom's Midnight Garden was more fortunate in its' movie adaptation; it was blessed with the considerable talents of Joan Plowright. Bridge To Terabithia is of course not a fantasy: it is about fantasy, however, and its power to affect real life.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
10 Books A Day: #25
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
10 Books A Day #24
St. Francis of Assissi...G. K. Chesterton...Doubleday Image
The Everlasting Man...G. K. Chesterton...Doubleday Image
The Club of Queer Trades...G. K. Chesterton...Carrol & Graf
Charles Dickens...G. K. Chesterton...Wordsworth Editions
Collected Works Vol. I: Heretics, Orthodoxy, The Blatchford Controversies...G. K. Chesterton...Ignatius
Collected Works Vol. XIV: Short Stories, Fairy Tales, Mystery Stories...G. K. Chesterton...Ignatius
Collected Works Vol. VIII: The Return of Don Quixote, Tales of the Long Bow, The Man Who Knew Too Much...G. K. Chesterton...Ignatius
Collected Works Vol. XI: Plays, Chesterton On Shaw...G. K. Chesterton...Ignatius
Collected Works Vol. XXI: What I Saw In America, The Resurrection of Rome, Sidelights...G. K. Chesterton...Ignatius
The Annotated Thursday: G. K. Chesterton's Masterpiece The Man Who Was Thursday...G. K. Chesterton, Annotated by Martin Gardner...Ignatius
The Ignatius Press project of producing the collected works of GKC is a grand and glorious one, and if I had the resources I would gladly buy the thirty or so volumes printed so far, in hardback if possible. This are not thin little volumes, either, but big fat bricks of books, awash with annotations and introductions.
Martin Gardner is another one of those peculiar admirers that Chesterton collects. Gardner is something of an arch-skeptic and materialist, who for some reason (perhaps he needs the relief from being so rational all the time) loves fantasy and whimsy. In addition to Thursday, Gardner has also annotated the works of Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum.
While searching Google for an illustration for today's post, I ran across the Gervasio Gallardo cover shown above, for when The Man Who Was Thursday was published as part of Ballantine Books' (later Del Rey's) Adult Fantasy series. I started getting books just a little too late to get the early stuff, but in time to pick them up in used book stores. I came to like Gallardo's style, which was always kind of bizarre while being solid and detailed.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
10 Books A Day #23
Thirteen Detectives...G. K. Chesterton...Penguin
The Annotated Innocence Of Father Brown...G. K. Chesterton, ed. Martin Gardner...Dover
The Flying Inn...G. K. Chesterton...Dover
Four Faultless Felons...G. K. Chesterton...Dover
The Ball and the Cross...G. K. Chesterton...Dover
The Napoleon of Notting Hill...G. K. Chesterton...Dover
The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond...G. K. Chesterton...Dover
Manalive...G. K. Chesterton...Dover
Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox...G. K. Chesterton...Image/Doubleday
Orthodoxy...G. K. Chesterton...Image/Doubleday
Father Brown, the simple-seeming priest who solves mysteries by his experience and insights in the ways of the human heart rather than by clues like footprints and tobacco ash, is arguably GKC's most famous creation. He was portrayed by Alec Guinness in the 1950's movie Father Brown (aka The Detective), and has appeared in the PBS series Mystery. Father Brown identifies the criminal by realizing that he is no monster of mystery, but doing something that any man might do, that he might do, but for the grace of God that has spared him the circumstances. He is somewhat unique in the annals of crime fiction in that he not only discovers the criminal but offers him a way out of the labyrinth that he has lost himself in.
There is a movie adaptation of Manalive in the works (it has been shot, and is now in editing). It was produced by Dale Ahlquist, who writes and presents the show G. K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense. The production cost was a mere $100,000, and what I can see of it looks rather amateurish, but Manalive is one of GKC's best books, and I certainly hope for the best for the finished project. You can take a look here: http://manalivethemovie.com/.
And I would like to state here my admiration of Dover book editions, both for their reprinting of classic and obscure titles and for their sturdy covers and binding.
Monday, May 11, 2009
10 Books A Day: #22
Wisdom And Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton...Joseph Pearce...Hodder & Stoughton
A Chesterton Anthology...sel. P. J. Kavanagh...Ignatius/Bodley Head
The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton...G. K. Chesterton...Sheed and Ward
Gilbert Keith Chesterton...Maisie Ward...Sheed and Ward
G. K. Chesterton: Collected Nonsense and Light Verse...sel. Marie Smith...Dodd, Mead
G. K. Chesterton: Radical Populist...Margaret Canovan...Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
The Man Who Was Thursday...G. K. Chesterton...Dodd, Mead
The Poet and the Lunatics...G. K. Chesterton...House of Stratus
The Works of G. K. Chesterton...G. K. Chesterton...Wordsworth Poetry Library
With today's batch of books we move to the shelves of the next wall. Now might be a good time to mention again the code by which I indicate what kind of book each volume is: plain type is for common paperbacks, italics for trade paperbacks or soft covers, and bold for hardbacks. Within the comments all titles are in italics, as per common usage. Prepare yourselves, for I have enough Chesterton to last two more posts besides this one.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was what I would consider a writer's writer. Beloved of course by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy L. Sayers, he was also able to capture the admiration of the likes of H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, John Crowley, and Neil Gaiman, who, if unable to share in his beliefs, like his spirit. That spirit is one of fun, thankfulness, and appreciation of the good things in the world, along with the feeling that these things are worth struggling for and defending if they are endangered, without being enslaved to the seeking of them.
The Autobiography was finished by GKC shortly before his death, and is famous for talking about almost everything but the documented facts of his life; it is rather better than that, being a memoir of how he felt and came to feel about it all. Ward's biography came about ten years later and deals more with the facts; Pearce's biography is just a few years old and is something of a melding of the two, and a mediation of the decades-long insights on GKC and the influence of his works that have occurred since his passing. Canovan's work deals with GKC's political beliefs, especially Distributism; this is a firm belief that to preserve the freedom of a country the land and the means of the production must be firmly in the hands of the people, and not the state. Under this system, for example, the government would not be able to take the land you had bought if you did not pay taxes on it, which makes it essentially a rental from the state, rather than true property.
Although GKC is famous for his novels, poetry, short stories, and essays (his collected newspaper articles alone could and do fill several 700 page volumes) his only higher education was in the Slade School of Art. For a while he supplemented his income by providing illustrations for books by his friends. In The Coloured Lands and Collected Nonsense and Light Verse one can see various examples of his drawing, including reproductions of his famous paper puppets that he constructed all his life.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
10 Books A Day: #21
Saturday, May 9, 2009
10 Books A Day: #20
Last Call...Tim Powers...Avon
Last Call...Tim Powers...William Morrow & Company, Inc.
Expiration Date...Tim Powers...Tor
Earthquake Weather...Tim Powers...Tor
On Stranger Tides...Tim Powers...Subterranean Press
The Stress Of Her Regard...Tim Powers...Ace
Declare...Tim Powers...William Morrow & Company, Inc.
Strange Itineraries...Tim Powers...Tachyon Publications
Three Days To Never...Tim Powers...William Morrow & Company, Inc.
Tim Powers, like James P. Blaylock, was mentored by Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? was dedicated to him), and he also lives, works and teaches in California. Just last year I went back and tried to get as many hardback copies of his works as I could, which is why there are two editions of Last Call here. I did this with both Blaylock and Powers because I decided I wanted their works in the most permanent and durable form I could get.
Powers' stories have been described as "secret histories," in which real life events and personages appear, but are given different, strange, "occult" significance. Thus Einstein invents a time machine, Lord Byron is plagued by vampires, and Thomas Edison's ghost is craved by spirit-huffers who wish to ingest him for a rush. The main protagonists in Powers' books, however, are not the famous people. Powers' heroes are often unknown to history, but no less important for that. A typical Powers hero makes an innocent mistake (though often through bull-headedness or carelessness) which lands him in terrible consequences. He gains secret knowledge he doesn't want to know, suffers wrenching physical torment, and loses or is separated from those he loves. Often it is only through his dedication to some skill or craft (electrical engineering, poker playing, spycraft, obstetrics) that he is able to survive and save the day. But along the way he gains the love and friendship of those with whom he shares the ordeal; in many stories he gains the love of his life.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
10 Books A Day: #19
The Man in the Moon...James P. Blaylock...Subterranean Press
All The Bells On Earth...James P. Blaylock...Ace
The Knights of the Cornerstone...James P. Blaylock...Ace
Night Relics...James P. Blaylock...Ace
Land of Dreams...James P. Blaylock...Arbor House
The Last Coin...James P. Blaylock...Ace
The Rainy Season...James P. Blaylock...Ace
Winter Tides...James P. Blaylock...Ace
Pilot Light..."William Ashbless"(James P. Blaylock & Tim Powers)...Subterranean Press
Blaylock is a writer born, living, and teaching in California. He was mentored by Philip K. Dick, and sometimes has collaborated on works with his good friend and fellow author Tim Powers, with whom he has created the fictional poet and adventurer, William Ashbless. The Man in the Moon is the first draft of Blaylock's book The Elfin Ship, which editor Lester Del Rey convinced him to re-write and lengthen. The last third of this version is very different from what was published first (not worse, but different plot-wise). It is very worthwhile for me to have this edition of one of my favorite books; not just for the story, but for the commentaries, the bonus of the reprint of the first of the Langdon St. Ives stories (his steampunk scientist character), and the fact that it is only one of a thousand numbered copies signed by Blaylock and Powers. Pilot Light has a bonus in that it is illustrated by Gahan Wilson.
What I like about Blaylock's work, whether it is in the more whimsical "Balumnian" books or in the "magic realism" stories that take place ostensibly in our world, is the sense all his heroes have of the wonder and marvel of things, of sometimes quite ordinary things. Characters might just as easily enjoy a cellar full of marbles as a pirate treasure, or think that someone who takes a Pogo Possum book can't be all bad. It is the sense of wonder for wonder's sake, and not for any money or power that might come from it, that marks a hero in Blaylock's books, as someone who has "all the right instincts", be it for a good used bookstore, a marvellous machine, an aquarium of exotic fish, or a fantastic gumbo with a cold glass of tea. Going on a journey with Blaylock you might find the incredible secret of the little old lady down the street, or the seemingly hokey lodge might turn out to really harbor an ancient treasure, or a common gimcrack item hold mystical powers. What seems ordinary might have a fantastic side, and legends might hide startling truths in plain sight in the mundane world, all revealed to blundering innocents whose only resources to deal with it all are those "right instincts". It seems to me a perfect analogy for our own existence.
10 Books A Day: #18
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
10 Books A Day: #17
More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft...S. T. Joshi and Peter Cannon...Dell Trade Paperback
The Transition Of H. P. Lovecraft: The Road To Madness...H. P. Lovecraft...Del Rey
The Best Of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales Of Horror and The Macabre...H. P. Lovecraft...Del Rey
Supernatural Horror In Literature...H. P. Lovecraft...Dover
The Dunwich Cycle: Where The Old Gods Wait...Robert M. Price, Series Editor...Chaosium Fiction
The Necronomicon: Selected Stories and Essays Concerning the Blasphemous Tome of the Mad Arab...Robert M. Price, Series Editor...Chaosium Fiction
Encyclopedia Cthulhiana...Daniel Harms...Chaosium Fiction
Lurker In The Lobby: A Guide To The Cinema Of H. P. Lovecraft...Andrew Migliore & John Strysik...Night Shade Books
H. P. Lovecraft: A Biography...L. Sprague de Camp...Barnes & Noble Books
The King Of Elfland's Daughter...Lord Dunsany...Del Rey Impact
The Complete Pegana: All the Tales Pertaining to the Fabulous Realm of Pegana...Lord Dunsany...Chaosium Fiction
The Great God Pan and The Hill Of Dreams...Arthur Machen...Dover
These are not, of, course, my only Lovecraft books. I have a whole raft of paperbacks got back in the day when they were as hard to find as hen's teeth. Now there are many fine quality editions that tempt me every time I go into a Border's.
Lurker in the Lobby is an interesting, well-illustrated analysis of movies based on and inspired by HPL's work; it also quotes a letter of Lovecraft's in which he tells of leaving the "dreary" 1931 Dracula and going out into the "fragrant tropic moonlight" of Miami, Florida! So established in my mind is the image of "the gentleman from Providence" as a hermit that I sometimes forget that he did travel. The image of Lovecraft in khaki shorts, flowered shirt, and straw drawstring hat popped into my head when I read those words, and I had to laugh out loud.
L. Sprague de Camp's biography seems to me a classic example of dissonance between biographer and subject. De Camp writes as if he knows better than HPL how he should have handled his writing, his life, and even his wife. What de Camp fails to realize is that without his indifference to what would sell in the contemporary markets, without his sense of the decay of culture, without his carelessness to the conventions and comforts of everyday life, Lovecraft would not have been Lovecraft and produced the work he did. It is why, despite de Camp's successful and adventurous career, we have the term "Lovecraftian" and not "de Campian."
10 Books A Day: #16
Falstaff...Robert Nye...Little, Brown
The Late Mr. Shakespeare...Robert Nye...Arcade
Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works...Robert Nye...Penguin
Arthur Rex...Thomas Berger...Delacorte Press
The Pyrates...George MacDonald Fraser...Knopf
Boy In Darkness...Mervyn Peake...Hodder Children's Books
Letters From A Lost Uncle...Mervyn Peake...Methuen
The Gormenghast Novels: Titus Groan/Gormenghast/Titus Alone...Mervyn Peake...Tusk Overlook
The Circus Of Dr. Lao...Charles G. Finney...Bison/University Of Nebraska Press
Just some random notes: the illustration is by Frank C. Pape from James Branch Cabell's Figures Of Earth. Robert Nye's books are all written in the style of Thomas Urquhart's translation of Francois Rabelais...Thomas Berger is one of the few authors I have seen in the flesh..."King Arthur, who was never historical, but everything he did was true"...Fraser has written the best swashbuckling book ever, and the scripts for the old Michael York Musketeers movies that were popular in my youth...Boy In Darkness is an excised section from the Gormenghast books, recounting an adventure of Titus in the lost recesses of the castle...I looked for a copy of The Circus Of Dr. Lao for twenty-five years before I finally found one.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Mujina: A Story From Lafcadio Hearn's "Kwaidan"
On the Akasaka road, in Tokyo, there is a slope called Kii-no-kuni-zaka--which means the Slope of the Province of Kii. I do not know why it is called the Slope of the Province of Kii. On one side of the slope you see an ancient moat, deep and very wide, with high green banks rising up to some place of gardens;-- and on the other side of the road extend the long and lofty walls of an imperial palace. Before the era of street-lamps and jinrikishas[rickshaws], this neighborhood was very lonesome after dark; and belated pedestrians would go miles out of their way rather than mount the Kii-no-kuni-zaka, alone, after sunset.
All because of a Mujina that used to walk there.
The last man who saw the Mujina was an old merchant of the Kyobashi quarter, who died about thirty years ago. This is the story, as he told it:
One night, at a late hour, he was hurrying up the Kii-no-kuni-zaka, when he perceived a woman crouching by the moat, all alone, and weeping bitterly. Fearing that she intended to drown herself, he stopped to offer her any assistance or consolation in his power. She appeared to be a slight and graceful person, handsomely dressed; and her hair was arranged like that of a young girl of good family. "O-jochu (honorable damsel)," he exclaimed, approaching her--"O-jochu, do not cry like that!...Tell me what the trouble is; and if there be any way to help you, I shall be glad to help you." (He really meant what he said, for he was a very kind man.) But she continued to weep--hiding her face from him with one of her long sleeves. "O-jochu," he said again, as gently as he could--"please, please listen to me!...This is no place for a young lady at night! Do not cry, I implore you! Only tell me how I may be of some help to you!" Slowly she rose up, but turned her back to him, and continued to moan and sob behind her sleeve. He laid his hand lightly upon her shoulder, and pleaded: "O-joch!--O-jochu!--O-jochu!--Listen to me, for just one little moment!...O-jochu!--O-jochu!"...Then that O-jochu turned round, and dropped her sleeve, and stroked her face with her hand;--and the man saw that she had no eyes or nose or mouth--and he screamed and ran away.
Up Kii-no-kuni-zaka he ran and ran; and all was black and empty before him. On and on he ran, never daring to look back; and at last he saw a lantern, so far away that it looked like the gleam of a firefly; and he made for it. it proved to be only the lantern of an itinerant soba(noodle)-seller, who had set down his stand by the road-side; but any light and any human companionship was good after that experience; and he flung himself down at the feet of the soba-seller, crying out, "Aa!-- Aa!!-- Aa!!!"...
"Kore! Kore!" roughly exclaimed the soba-man. "Here! what is the matter with you? Anybody hurt you?"
"No--nobody hurt me,'' panted the other--"only...Aa! aa!..."
"--Only scared you?" queried the peddler, unsympathetically. "Robbers?"
"Not robbers--not robbers," gasped the terrified man..."I saw...I saw a woman--by the moat;--and she showed me...Aa! I cannot tell you what she showed me!"...
"HE! Was it anything like THIS that she showed you?" cried the soba-man, stroking his own face--which therewith became like unto an Egg...And, simultaneously, the light went out.