Sunday, May 31, 2009

10 Books A Day: #42

The World We Live In...The Editorial Staff of LIFE and Lincoln Barnett...Time Incorporated

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

Leonardo's Notebooks...Leonardo Da Vinci (ed. H. Anna Suh)...Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers

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

Book Count:500.

Friday, May 29, 2009

10 Books A Day: #40

Matthew Looney and the Space Pirates...Jerome Beatty, Jr....Avon Camelot

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.

Book Count:488.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Books A Day: #39

The Homer Book...Publisher Matt Groening...Perennial Currents

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

Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock...Carla Stevens...Scholastic

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...Robert Bright...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

Rhymes and Verses: Collected Poems for Young People...Walter de la Mare...Henry Holt

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 Wind in the Willows...Kenneth Grahame...Charles Scribner's Sons, Inc.

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

Seaward...Susan Cooper...Atheneum

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"

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

The Golden Fleece...Padriac Colum...Macmillan Co.

The Children of Odin...Padriac Colum...Macmillan Co.

Stories of King Arthur...(Blanche Winder)...M. A. Donohue & Co.

Grimm's Fairy Tales...The Brothers Grimm (tr. by E. V. Lucas, Lucy Crane, and Marian Edwards)...Grosset & Dunlap

English Fairy Tales...(Joseph Jacobs)...Wordsworth Classics

Irish Fairy Tales...Joseph Jacobs...Wordsworth Classics

Alice in Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass...Lewis Carroll...Grosset & Dunlap

The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll...Lewis Carroll...Vintage

The 13 Clocks...James Thurber...Simon & Schuster

Capt. Kidd's Cat...Robert Lawson...Little, Brown and Company
The Phantom Tollbooth...Norton Juster...Random House
Padriac Colum was an Irish author. I first read his books back in middle school, and his The Children of Odin was the first version of the Norse Myths I ever read. He was blessed with a fine line illustrator for both of these books, named Willy Pogany. Stories of King Arthur was the first version of the Matter of Britain I ever read; I read it in a Signet paperback in fifth grade. This old hardback version does not list the author, Blanche Winder, whose name I got when I found an old copy of the Signet book. Grimm's Fairy Tales was even before all that, because it was a family book; I don't remember a time we never had it. It is full of good, sometimes gripping pictures by Fritz Kredel. Giant poodles being fed live coals on a shovel, a man nailing up the severed head of a talking horse,weird little dwarves bargaining for lives--and the knight and woodwose from the frontispiece, shown above.
The fairy tale books are well served by their illustrators as well: Arthur Rackham for the English, John D. Batten for the Irish. I think the editor of the English tales was Joseph Jacobs, from his two books, but no author is listed. The Alice books are of course illustrated by John Tenniel, Lawson's book by Lawson himself, and the Thurber (which here is a library discard) by Marc Simont. After all this talent the Jules Feiffer pictures for The Phantom Tollbooth are almost embarrassing; i know he's supposed to be a brilliantly witty cartoonist, but it just looks like a cartoony mess, like he just doodled it while talking on the telephone. I would prefer stills from the obscure Chuck Jones' movie adaptation.
Book Count: 425.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

10 Books A Day: #34

All titles are by Ruth Plumly Thompson, illustrated by John R. Neill, and published by Del Rey.

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

All titles by L. Frank Baum and published by Del Rey:

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

Peter Pan...J. M. Barrie...Bantam Classic

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 Book of Three...Lloyd Alexander...Dell

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

Reptiles and Amphibians...Herbert S. Zim and Hobart M. Smith...Golden Press

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

Ben and Me...Robert Lawson...Dell Yearling

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

Boy: Tales of Childhood...Roald Dahl...Puffin

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

John Bellairs

Many years ago (evidence suggests it was 1979 or so) there came the first time I bought books with my own money. Before then I had to beg Mom long and hard. But I had made $10 doing yard work, and I was ready to step out on my own booking adventures. There was no local bookstore, only the racks in the grocery store, drugstore, and convenience stores. I chose to go to Gibson's, our small local department store, and while Mom combed the clothes aisles I browsed the racks, looking for fantasy in the Tolkienian vein. With my bill and some loose change I was just able to buy three paperback books (wondrous times!), and I chose The Source of Magic by Piers Anthony (a dragon on the cover), The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson (two cool wizardy guys on the front, and a comparison to JRRT), and The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs (good things by Lin Carter and Ursula K. LeGuin quoted, and again a cool wizardy guy). Now thirty years later I have given up on Anthony after following the Xanth series for twenty or so sequels, wait patiently for Donaldson to grind out the ninth (and last) book of the Thomas Covenant series, and mourn that there is no more genuine Bellairs forthcoming, ever. Thirty years on I am grateful that my instinct and luck led me to buy that first Bellairs.

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 .

10 Books A Day: #27

By John Bellairs:
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

The Children of Green Knowe...L. M. Boston...Harcourt, Brace, and Company

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

The Magical Monarch of Mo...L. Frank Baum...Dover
Queen Zixi of Ix...L. Frank Baum...Dover

Worzel Gummidge...Barbara Euphan Todd...Oxford University Press

The Marvellous Land of Snergs...E. A. Wyke-Smith...Dover

The Secret Garden...Frances Hodgson Burnett...Wordsworth Editions

Bed-Knob and Broomstick...Mary Norton...Scholastic Book Services

The Enchanted Castle...E. Nesbit...Harper Festival

The Phoenix and the Carpet...E. Nesbit...Dell Yearling Classic

The Midnight Folk...John Masefield...Dell Yearling Classic

The Box of Delights...John Masefield...Dell Yearling Special
Today we begin a stretch of "children's books"--"juvenile fiction"--whatever not quite right term you want to use for this kind of writing that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. Many of these books, beside being great reads, are also important in fantasy literary history, as influences and inspirations.
L. Frank Baum, besides writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and thirteen other Oz books besides) wrote dozens of other books, many under different pseudonyms. Ix and Mo, which were written after Oz, and before he ever wrote an Oz sequel, contain characters who later made guest appearances in various Oz books; Baum seems to be another writer whose works all belong somehow to the same continuum.
Before there was Bilbo the Hobbit there was Gorbo the Snerg, in The Marvellous Land of Snergs, an influence that Tolkien himself gratefully acknowledged. Snergs are a short race who enjoy parties and celebrations, and who live in a land apart rather more similar to Neverland than Middle-Earth. It is inhabited by witches and ogres, and the Flying Dutchman and his crew have a berth there as well as Miss Watkyns, who supplies a home for superfluous or unwanted children. It is the adventure of two of these children, Joe and Sylvia, their antagonism with the witch Mother Meldrum, and their help by Gorbo, that the book details. This obscure but good little book has only been reprinted lately (for the first time in 70 years or so) because of the revived interest in the "roots" of JRRT.
E. Nesbit was a similar model for C. S. Lewis, as any reader turning from her books to the Narnia Chronicles can easily see. Here are my older copies of Masefield's books, as well as the first in the series of the Worzel Gummidge books. I first read (and got my copy of) Bed-knob and Broomstick when I was in fourth grade, about the same time as Disney's movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks came out. The book is actually two of Mary Norton's books put together, both dealing with adventures of the same characters.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Books A Day #24

Selected Essays...G. K. Chesterton...Wilco Publishing House

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

The Complete Father Brown...G. K. Chesterton...Penguin

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:

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

The Coloured Lands...G. K. Chesterton...Sheed and Ward

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

In Other Words...John Crowley...Subterranean Press

Novelties and Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction...John Crowley...(Harper) Perrenial

Novelty: Four Stories...John Crowley...Doubleday

Little, Big...John Crowley...Bantam Books

Aegypt...John Crowley...Bantam Books

Love And Sleep...John Crowley...Bantam

Daemonomania... John Crowley...Bantam

Endless Things: A Part Of Aegypt...John Crowley...Small Beer Press

Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land...John Crowley...William Morrow

The Translator...John Crowley...William Morrow

The Solitudes...John Crowley...Overlook Press
In Other Words is a volume of essays, mostly about writers and writing, but also containing some appreciations of "comix", like Winsor McKay, George Herriman, Edward Gorey, and Walt Kelly. It too is a signed special edition. The picture above comes from the back of the book.
The Solitudes is the newly edited form of the formerly titled Aegypt; Aegypt is the name now given to the overall cycle of novels individually titled The Solitudes, Love And Sleep, Daemonomania, and Endless Things, now reprinted in a unified format by Overlook Press.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

10 Books A Day: #20

The Anubis Gates...Tim Powers...Ace

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

13 Phantasms And Other Stories...James P. Blaylock...Ace

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

The Tower at Stony Wood...Patricia A. Mckillip...Ace
Ombria In Shadow...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
In the Forests of Serre...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
Alphabet of Thorn...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
Harrowing The Dragon...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
Solstice Wood...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
Od Magic...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
The Bell at Sealey Head...Patricia A. McKillip...Ace
The Midnight Folk...John Masefield...New York Review Books
The Box of Delights...John Masefield...New York Review Books
McKillip is one of the best fantasists writing today. Most of these books are graced with covers by Kinuko Y. Craft, whose detailed, jewelled style perfectly compliments McKillip's own.
The Masefield books are illustrated by Rowland Hilder (Folk), and Masefield's wife Judith (Box). I am pleased to have these hardback reprints of volumes I only had in paperbacks before, especially since this edition of The Box of Delights is unabridged. Some might remember the BBC production of that book some years ago; now apparently a major motion picture is in the works. I don't know why they don't start with The Midnight Folk, which is in my opinion the superior book.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

10 Books A Day: #17

The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft...ed. S. T. Joshi...Dell Trade Paperback

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

James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia...Edgar Macdonald...University Press of Mississippi

Falstaff...Robert Nye...Little, Brown

Faust...Robert Nye...Putnam

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.