Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day Weekend

It was a productive and fun weekend.  The productivity was primarily getting  my parents started with their tech-oriented Christmas gifts (yay!).  That was fun for me, but we also went for a hike at Vaughn Woods: 

We also went to see "Noises Off!" which I'd heard a lot about, but hadn't seen before.  The setting was quite spectacular: 

Moon over the woods

Bison in a field behind the playhouse
We headed over to see the sand castle competition.  It wasn't entirely to my taste, but the artists  were certainly very accomplished:

Cthulhu and the Crustacean?

No longer a slave to the clock?

My favorite: "Selfie"!

Finally, something that would have caught the girls' attention!!!

The Gardener

Monday, June 06, 2016

C.S. Lewis, Plagiarist?

Twice in the last two weeks I've heard Lewis accused of plagiarism.

Once from a devotee of another Inkling, who (in passing) characterized Lewis's references to Numinor in That Hideous Strength as "plagiarism" of Tolkien's Númenor.  This is apparently the claim Tolkien himself made in Letter #169, although Tolkien hastened to add: "well, not that, since he used the word, taken from my legends of the First and Second Ages, in the belief that they would soon appear."

[Historical note: Tolkien's letter was written in 1955, 10 years after the publication of That Hideous Strength, and perhaps 5 or 6 years after the Inklings had ceased meeting.  Coincidentally, during that post-Inklings period (1950-55), Lewis had published his first 6 Narnia books.]

To the extent that plagiarism is, as I understand it, unattributed copying, the charge is false. In the Preface to That Hideous Strength, dated "Christmas Eve, 1943," Lewis states:
Those who would like to learn further about Numinor and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien.
(I have the "First Paperback Edition" - New York: Collier Books, 1965.)

Moreover, the concept of plagiarism is perhaps a little difficult to apply to a bona fide work of creative fiction.  Lewis was, as far as I can see, telling his own independent story, even though he took time to forge a connection with his friend's secondary world, through six references.  He wanted his tale, set in a dystopian near future, to share the same glorious past as Tolkien's world of Middle-earth (which itself is suggested as a distant past for our own world).

It is worth noting that Númenor is only one of two glorious legendary pasts Lewis invokes -- the other is the Arthurian mythos.  In other words, he was elevating the then-unknown Númenor, written by a friend of his, to the status of the Arthurian legends.   That is a pretty powerful tribute.

In a later post, I'll try to analyze the six references to Numinor and see what I can make of them.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Riotous Roses

My camera phone was easily overwhelmed by the depth and wild profusion of color and shapes, especially in the rose garden.

Cranford Rose Garden

Ombre effect...

I deliberately took several shots with this brightly-clad family in the background; so beautiful!

I took so many pictures of lavender in the garden; only this one really showed the depth of hue.

Purple flowers on the bank; reflection of Shinto gate

Milkweed Thistle



Water Lilies

How "The Hobbit" Could Have Passed the Bechdel Test - Part II

I originally planned this scene for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but the second movie actually squeaked through with a pass, so I'm instead proposing it for the third movie.

A brief but poignant exchange, it builds on the relationship established during my revised White Council scene for the first movie, and injects a little Wodehousian jocularity for a light-hearted interlude.  

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Scene: A quiet afternoon, next to a river.  TAURIEL is sitting on a boulder, sharpening one of her long daggers.  Enter GALADRIEL.

TAURIEL: Hey, cocky.

GALADRIEL: What ho, reptile.

TAURIEL: So, Galadriel, what are you doing in town?

GALADRIEL: I'm taking an origami class, Tauriel.

She takes out a mallorn leaf and quickly folds it into a scale model of Lothlórien.

TAURIEL: Cool.  I think you could teach that class.  Well, nice catching up with you.  Gotta run.



Saturday, June 04, 2016

Many Dimensions

So, I've been delving into Charles Williams a bit as part of Mythgard's The Inklings and Science Fiction class.  The official readings are "Et In Sempiternum Pereant" (available in Doug Anderson's Tales Before Narnia) and "The Noises That Weren't There" (thus far apparently published only as a serial in Mythlore 67, and 8).

In reading "Et In Sempiternum Pereant," I found myself wondering about Lord Arglay's character.  To me, there's at least a suggestion that he is not, or has not been prior to this episode, a particularly virtuous or godly man from a Christian perspective.  

First off, I found myself wondering if Lord Arglay had taken advantage of the man whose Francis Bacon papers he'd been reviewing.  The overall set-up of the encounter somewhat suggests this: a worldly, sophisticated man (not only a British Lord, but also a retired Chief Justice) heads out to the boondocks to meet with a man in financial straits who owns certain as-yet-unpublished papers the former Chief Justice is considering for a possible occupation or hobby in retirement.   Moreover, the owner's financial circumstances are mentioned in the same breath with the fact that Arglay had restrained himself, and humored the owner, when the owner made a bitter joke about the papers, which Lord Arglay had not found amusing. (The joke was "All that is smoked isn't Bacon," which may possibly have reflected disappointment at owning papers of great historical significance which cannot be monetized.)  For me, this particular trope was pressed into my consciousness through the short story "Parson's Pleasure" by Roald Dahl.  [Historical note: I doubt there is any "actual" connection between the two stories.  The Williams story was apparently written around 1931, but not published in his lifetime.  So Dahl's short story appeared first, as it was published in 1958 and the Williams story was published in 1986.   Their lives overlapped -- Dahl was born in 1916 and Williams died in 1945 -- but I don't know if they ever met or corresponded, etc.]

Ultimately, however, I suspect Arglay did not take advantage of him in the usual predatory sense; after all, their relations had been amicable enough that the "host" offered to send Arglay off by car (very unlikely if he knew that Arglay had forced him into a hard bargain, although possible if he'd been fleeced in ignorance) and there is no reference to Arglay being in possession of the papers (e.g., patting his pocket to assure himself they were there, etc.).  The advantage-taking, if any, would have been to adhere to norms of scholarship and simply review them in situ without remuneration, rather than taking the opportunity to alleviate the man's distress by compensating him for his kindness in making the papers available to Arglay for study and publication.  The story, standing alone, does not entirely foreclose such a reading.

And still other aspects of the story raised questions for me concerning Arglay's character, again questions that are not fully resolved in the story itself.   Arglay's reported lifelong efforts to maintain his equanimity and not to take on responsibilities, to remain aloof and uninvolved, suggest a want of Christian charity.  Likewise, his recollection of a convicted man's screaming suggests perhaps a detachment amounting to a lack of compassion. Arglay's "habit of devotion" is addressed to the "Omnipotence" rather than the Christian God -- and it is not prayer, per se, but merely "his means of recalling himself into peace out of the angers, greeds, sloths and perversities that still too often possessed him."  Arglay's "natural temper" is apparently "violen[t]" -- "There had been people whom he had once come very near hating, hating with a fury or selfish rage and detestation; for instance, his brother-in-law."  Even the long-suppressed hatred of his brother-in-law (which he now recognizes as unjustified) was something he apparently never truly overcame, but only set aside perhaps for equanimity's sake.  Moreover, Arglay sees the cottage only when he  experiences despair; it seems to materialize at the same time that he falters and fails in the virtue of hope (since despair is its negation).

In a private email and her guest lecture, however, Sorina Higgins mentioned that Arglay is one of the main characters in the Williams novel, Many Dimensions; his character is perhaps more fully developed there.  The brother-in-law appears too, and is in fact the undisputed villain of the piece; a person well worth hating by any standard.

So I'm now on a frolic and detour reading Many Dimensions.  Unlike "The Noises That Weren't There," I've only had to look up one allusion so far, to Kipling's poem "The Sons of Martha" (first published 1907).