Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Antiquarian Book Fair

So back on April 28, we went to the 63rd Annual ABAA New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.   There was an interesting range of authors and genres, including an 18th C album of Piranesi’s works.  

I count myself fortunate that I didn't see anything I genuinely craved!  For example, there were some detective stories by Dorothy Sayers, amidst a surprising amount of Agatha Christie, but I didn't see any of her work on Dante.  

one of many opportunities for collecting Ian Fleming's work 

two personally inscribed Ernest Hemingway 
books from the library of Lillian Ross

I was probably more tempted by this edition of SGGK amidst other Arthuriana than by anything else over the course of the day.
Tolkien & Gordon's edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Each bookseller has an individual stall, which they organize and arrange as they see fit; I did not perceive any particular rhyme or reason to the arrangement of the stalls themselves.  So there was a large element of serendipity to the day, which is no doubt intentional.

A fancy two-volume set of The Irish Peasantry

There wasn't much Dunsany. I might have been tempted by The King of Elfland's Daughter, but certainly not by his short story collections.

Slim pickings for Dunsany

The two most famous Inklings were reasonably represented in their more popular works.  For example, I saw a few of the Narnia books, but no copies of An Experiment in Criticism.   At least one vendor was offering something beyond the formally published books.  

asking $475,000 for a letter/manuscript and genealogical chart from the hand of J.R.R. Tolkien

what you get for your $475,000, part 2

C.S. Lewis rates only 10% of that - but then again, he failed to include a genealogical chart

What about a known influence/inspiration to the Inklings?
asking a mere $27,500 for A Voyage to Arcturus

The Day of the Triffids is practically being given away at $1,750

Geometria et Perspectiva, 1567:
if you have to ask, you can't afford it 

When wandering among the stalls, it's easy to forget that you're in the Armory; one's attention is inevitably drawn to the well-lit stalls and all the commodities and commotion at ground-level.  But I looked up as we were exiting.

The balcony reminds me of Shakespeare, though it was not in fact
used in any of the productions I've seen at the Armory

The screening on the way in was perfunctory, presumably focused on making sure we weren't trying to exercise any Second Amendment rights.  Once inside, security guards were always nearby, often sitting unobtrusively, and I'm sure there were many cameras.  Most vendors, even those with extraordinary items, allowed people to go in to their stall and peer closely through the glass at their wares; those with less valuable books sometimes had bookshelves for browsing.  A very few arranged their stalls in a manner to subtly suggest that only serious purchasers were welcome to approach.  On my way out, I was grateful that the only book I'd brought with me was a paperback of The Song of Roland in poor condition with prominent orange highlighting from a previous owner.  The security guard readily accepted my claim of ownership.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Home and Not-Home

This year's Mythmoot was a bit strange for me.   Partly, this has to do with various crises in the background at home and at work, the worries I couldn't leave behind.  And I'm very acutely aware that I haven't been doing any sort of academic writing in the last few years, consistent with a feeling (or a fear) that I have nothing to say.  Then again, the "homeward bound" theme, though certainly 100% appropriate as we returned to the National Conference Center, didn't seem to prompt truly compelling topics, even among those who have plenty to say.  And of course there was the constant undercurrent of an insider's recent ouster; a reminder that this is no longer the scrappy up-and-comer defying the odds.  Even worse, we learned over the weekend that we would not be able to see Verlyn, as she was convalescing. 

However, the bacon was plentiful, and the company was good, and I got to spend some time with SGGK.  

The "Dream Team" of Tom, Joe, and Alan were again victorious in the pub quiz -- pretty much guaranteed when two-thirds of the questions were on Tolkien! -- so our household will be enriched in due course by a book or two purchased with an Amazon gift card.    

I got to chat a while with Brenton's wife Chrissie, who had gotten lost in the maze of corridors, and with Tara, who had found her way easily (doubtless drawing on deeply embedded memories of Mythmoots past).   

In the course of a hazy and humid stroll around the grounds, I saw a deer, a cardinal, and a bright blue bird of some kind (but not a bluejay). 

Abrams, who outbid me on An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism (ed. by Lewis E. Nicholson), very generously gave it to me and (alas!) refused compensation.  If I ever part with the book, he gets first dibs.  On the way home, Tom had me read the first paragraph of each essay but Tolkien's aloud to him while he was driving; whether for this reason or another, a Great Drowsiness came upon him and I soon found myself in the driver's seat for the final stage of the journey.

I was not driving when I took this picture

Thursday, June 08, 2023

My First-Ever Corsi-Rosenthal Box!

So, I ordered all the materials to make my own C-R box way back in the first week of 2022.  And I enthusiastically shared the instructions on social media.  But I also bought two commercially available air purifiers for use in my home -- nice and compact -- and just never got around to making the C-R box.  After all, I wasn't really going to get COVID at home, was I?  (I'm far more likely to be exposed than my spouse, and I generally mask up in public indoor spaces, esp. subways, restrooms, elevators.)

Enter June 2023, with wildfires raging in Canada.  Tuesday evening, I noticed the strange quality of the light on the way home from the subway... and a slight acrid smell at home, as if something had burned.  I didn't think much of it.  But Wednesday morning was much worse, and over the course of the day the sky darkened to a dull, dystopian glow.  And at home, our air filters didn't seem quite up to their task.  I was uneasy about it, but it wasn't until late at night that it occurred to me -- why not?

So I did it this morning, at long last!  It ain't pretty, but I'm proud of it.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Bobance and Bounce

In chapter 5 of The Silver Chair, Puddleglum assures the children he will join on them on what he sees as their grim and hopeless quest:

I'm not going to lose an opportunity like this.  It will do me good.  They all say -- I mean, the other wiggles all say -- that I'm too flighty; don't take life seriously enough.  If they've said it once, they've said it a thousand times. 'Puddleglum,' they've said, 'you're altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits.  You've got to learn that life isn't all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.  You want something to sober you down a bit.  We're only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.'  That's what they say.  (Lewis 75-76)

From this use of bobance, bounce, and high spirits, I had the impression that the three words were connected.  After all, bounce suggests physical energy -- a natural result of high spirits.  And to my mind, partly from context and partly from the sound of the word, bobance suggested a sort of buoyant cheerfulness, in mood and/or energy.   

I first got an inkling of my misjudgment from the opening passage of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (ll. 8-10):

Fro riche Romulus to Rome ricchis hym swyþe; 
With gret bobbaunce þat burȝe he biges vpon fyrst,
& neuenes hit his aune nome, as hit now hat;

[From the time noble Romulus swiftly directs himself to Rome;
With great bobbaunce that city he establishes first,
& names it his own name, as it now has;] 

So what is bobance/bobbaunce, then?  The OED advises the word is Obsolete, apparently overlooking its use in a 1953 children's book that has remained continually in print ever since.  Starting with the glossaries provided with the poem:

  • SGGK, 1940 Early English Text Society edition: "bobbaunce, boast, 9; OF. bobance" (Gollancz 137)
  • SGGK, Tolkien/Gordon second edition: "bobbaunce n. pomp, pride 9. [OFr. boba(u)nce.]" (Davis 167)
The sole meaning the OED provides for the singular form is: "Boasting, pride, pomp."  The five references offered range from c1380 to a1533.  One is from the poem Cleanness: "Bobaunce & bost & bolnande priyde."  Another is from Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue, though I'd note that Riverside Chaucer perfunctorily glosses this as "boast" (Chaucer 112).  

Do the other Marsh-Wiggles think Puddleglum is too full of pride/pomp?  Or too full of boasting?  They think he needs to become more serious-minded, to understand that life isn't easy.  I think pride may work better here, but since a person who is too prideful may be prone to boasting, maybe we can hedge our bets and render their remarks as follows:

'Puddleglum, you're altogether too full of boastful pride and bounce and high spirits.  You've got to learn that life isn't all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.  You want something to sober you down a bit.  We're only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.' 


Additional ruminations on OED entries:

Significantly, perhaps, the word bob in the current sense of buoyancy is a relative newcomer.  The oldest senses of the verb (c1320 and c1280) had to do with cheating/deceiving/defrauding and hitting/striking with a fist or a rounded thing.  The first noun form (c1400) involved a knob or cluster, but the sense of trick/deception is attested c1540, and a blow of the fist followed c1566.  

The noun bob, n.4 seems to have emerged around 1550 with a sense of "1. An act of bobbing, or suddenly jerking up and down; a light rebounding movement." (Although the OED provides no attestations for this usage.)

The verb bob, v.3 seems to be first attested around 1568, although the OED finds one dubious earlier reference in Chaucer in 1386. "1a. intransitive. To move up and down like a buoyant body in water, or an elastic body on land"


"bob, n.4." OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2023, www.oed.com/view/Entry/20791. Accessed 29 May 2023.
"bob, v.3." OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2023, www.oed.com/view/Entry/20801. Accessed 29 May 2023.
"bobance, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2023, www.oed.com/view/Entry/20811. Accessed 29 May 2023.
Chaucer, Geoffrey, and Larry Dean Benson. The Riverside Chaucer. 3. ed., [Nachdr.], Oxford Univ. Press, 2006.
Davis, Norman, editor. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Edited by J.R.R. Tolkien and E.V. Gordon. 2nd ed., Clarendon Press, 1968.
Gollancz, Israel, editor. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Oxford University Press, 1940.
Lewis, C. S. The Silver Chair. 1st Harper Trophy ed., HarperTrophy, 2000.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

My 2021 Reading Projects

So, apparently buoyed by the success of my 2020 Shakespeare reading project, I had a modest ambition for 2021: I would read all of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene and finish reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in middle English.  

I apparently thought I would read one canto per day and dispose of Spenser in 74 days, and thereafter read 79 stanzas of SGGK in 79 days, and then move on to other poetry, such as Tennyson's Idylls of the King.

Well, I did manage to read Idylls of the King in May 2021, so there's that.  And I certainly got a decent start on The Faerie Queene in 2021; I chipped away at it from mid-February to late July.  Then I set Spenser aside, and it was nearly a year and a half before I started again in earnest!  But now, after a two-month push, I am DONE.  

So my initial 74-day estimate was a little off; it took me more than 7 months over a 2.25 year period.

When I recommenced FQ, I also started up with SGGK again as well, so there is some hope that my official 2021 reading project could actually be completed during my lifetime.  

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Nine Years Ago Today...

LEE'S MYTH:  So this is apparently the kind of morning when a simple attempt to make a fried egg turns into Popcorn for Breakfast. Let my biographers make of it what they will.

FRIEND: On the mostly cloudy winter morning of Jan. 19, 2014, LEE'S MYTH went into her kitchen as whimsical as always. Instead of making a fried egg, which was a staple for the first and important meal of the day back in those days, she made popcorn. Little did she know it heralded the dawn of a new era. By 2050, popcorn was considered the breakfast of champions.

LEE'S MYTH: Hahaha! That is awesome. FRIEND, you are now my official authorized biographer. 😉

LEE'S MYTH: (Unfortunately, the real story involves an element of horror - an egg with a Black Yolk and the stench of Mordor....)

FRIEND:  This authorized biographer has the next 40 years to improve her writing:)

LEE'S MYTH: And I guess I have 40 more years to come up with some achievement that will justify a full-length biography.... Hmm, no pressure, right? 🙂

* * *

So far, as of January 2023, it's looking like I may have to hire my own biographers if I want even a cheesy biographical pamphlet.  But there are two more Mordor-adjacent incidents to report since 2014.  

2017: Ungoliant visited during a brief warm spell in February and sank her fangs into our tree:

2022: A batch of cookies was thwarted by the Black Yolk of Mordor.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Frog-Talk: Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ

Apropos of nothing, I made a note of this in October 2017: Brekekekèx-koàx-koáx / Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Beech-Grove

After Sam and Frodo are rescued from Mordor, they awaken in a beech-grove in Ithilien.  We enter the scene with Sam's return to consciousness:

(LotR VI.4 at 951).*  After some discussion and their morning ablutions, Frodo and Sam follow Gandalf "out of the beech-grove in which they had lain" even further into a world of bliss and beauty and abundance (id. at 952).

* * *

So here we see peace and safety associated with a bed outdoors in a beech-grove.  We say "safe as houses," but the description here really emphasizes the lack of roof.  With no roof and no walls, the hobbits would necessarily be exposed to the elements, wouldn't they?  No doubt the clement weather, too, is a sign of grace. 

FN* Sam quickly realizes where he is (that smell!) and verifies that Frodo is sleeping peacefully.  Over the next five paragraphs he has a bit of conversation with Gandalf and springs out of bed, before we (along with Sam) learn that Frodo first woke up hours before ("I was awake early this morning, and now it must be nearly noon.").  

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Lewis Carroll's Games and Puzzles

I used to have a paperback book devoted to various brain teasers by Lewis Carroll, which I foolishly jettisoned when it started disintegrating and have never been able to find again after many online searches.  I associate it with the place we lived in 1986-1991, so it was probably published no later than that (quite possibly much earlier) and seem to recall it was edited by Martin Gardiner.  It may have been published by Penguin.  And yes, I have used some and all of those search elements and more (including quotes from specific rhymes and puzzles I remember from inside the book) to no avail.

One of the games this book introduced me to is a thing where you are to change one word into another in a certain number of steps, changing one letter at a time - and of course, each step must be a word. 

For example, the challenge might be to change DROP into PAIL, which can be done in 6 steps as follows:

(It may be possible to do it in fewer than six steps, that's just what it took me!)  This is a game I've played sometimes on the subway for fun, setting myself the odd semi-random challenge; ideally there is some connection between the words.

Other examples I generated, as a possible exercise for the reader: 

  • change HAND into FOOT (5 steps or fewer)
  • change NOSE into EARS (5 steps or fewer)
  • change BALD into HAIR (4 steps or fewer)
  • change NOSE into TOES (4 steps or fewer)
  • change COOL into WARM (5 steps or fewer)
  • change SHOE into SOCK (this took me 10 steps - surely it can be improved upon!)
  • change MIND into MUSH (5 steps or fewer)

Elvis Is Everywhere and Other Pre-Pandemic Miscellany (2019)

  • The song could so easily have been "Elves Is Everywhere" – Sam Gamgee's theme song – and it could have had the refrain "Elves needs boats, Elves needs boats" (thus explaining the Bermuda Triangle in the process).  We will not speak of the Lórien bots, although that has its own charm.
  • The calls to legalize marijuana now always provoke this thought in me: "...because there isn't nearly enough carelessness, incompetence, and sloppy thinking."
  • Doesn't the Ursula K Le Guin book (on which a friend's cat is sleeping) look like the The Tombs of Tuan? I like to think of Túan as the undead offspring of Tevildo and Húan.  And that might explain why the cat isn't helping...
  • Thinking of S, who died far too soon:
    • She loved wearing overalls, for pretty much the same reason her beloved hated them (they are unflatteringly unisex and juvenile)
    • Overall, she had a sort of modesty or humility that seemed to reflect a lack of confidence, or even a discomfort with her own gifts (which were many).  
      • When she was in grad school, there was a guy in her program who kept telling her "I'm in love!"  She would keep asking him who with, and he would keep replying "With life!"  It was obvious to me and everyone else that he had a crush on her, but she seemed to take his statement at face value and found it very inspirational.  (She was very surprised and chagrined when he finally confessed that she was the object of his affection.) 
      • When we were in high school or early college, I remember my dad mentioning once that she'd sent him her resume; he told me he was willing to speak with her, but she'd have to reach out to him.  Why didn't I tell her that?  (She never did reach out to him.)  
    • She was given to almost naive enthusiasms, perhaps even self-consciously reveling in her own unabashedness, while she could be quite scornful of enthusiasms she didn't share.
    • She had no patience with posers/wannabes.
    • I remember several quirks about her beloved, including that he deleted the Minesweeper game on her computer because he couldn't resist playing it.  But they were devoted to each other, and I believe were quite happy together.