Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Connoisseur of Footnotes

So, I've just finished reading Joseph Lelyveld's HIS FINAL BATTLE: THE LAST MONTHS OF FRANLKIN ROOSEVELT (2016), which I recommend. I've long been puzzled about FDR's running again for that final term, about which there seem to be two schools of thought. One holds that FDR didn't know how sick he was. According to some things I came across when fact-checking a children's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt back in my days with Gareth Stevens, Roosevelt's doctor knew the president was in terminal decline but didn't tell his patient that, nor the family, it being another time with a different conception of doctor/patient relationships -- or such seemed to consensus at the time (this wd have been about 1989-1991). The other idea was that Roosevelt knew he was dying but considered himself irreplaceable and indispensable, unable to hand over the reins to anyone else, who just soldiered on until he dropped.

Out of Lelyveld's account comes a more nuanced position. Roosevelt knew he was desperately ill (enlarged heart, congestive heart failure, extremely high blood pressure) and that there was very little the doctors cd do for him. But he thought he had more time than he really did. The example of his father was probably strong in his mind: the elder Roosevelt had suffered a debilitating heart attack (at about the same age FDR went into serious decline) from which he never recovered, but by adopting an invalid routine (lots of rest, carefully monitored diet, regular visits to hot spring spas) had managed to live another ten years.  The example of Woodrow Wilson was also before him: Roosevelt knew Wilson well (having been Assistant Secretary of the Navy, back when Secretary to the Navy was a Cabinet position) and may well have concluded that he was not yet as obviously failing as Wilson had been (WW being paralyzed on one side).

The idea that seems to have been in Roosevelt's mind was that it was unfair to turn over an active war to an incoming president, and that he  needed to stay on till the Axis were defeated and the UN up and running. Then he could step down and turn things over to his Vice President. One aspect of this plan was ousting Henry Wallace as his VP in '44, since he didn't think Wallace was up for the job; out of the half-dozen possibles whose names were mooted, FDR chose Truman as his best likely successor, and actively manipulated the party bosses and convention to get the result he wanted: Senator Truman as his new VP.

As I said, an interesting book, full of examples of weighing oblique and after-the-fact evidence to try to arrive at the truth of what probably really happened. But it ended on a fun little note for me when I noticed an endnote  that drew my attention.

The day before Roosevelt died, he called out to a reporter from his passing car "Heigh-0 Silver!"(Lelyveld  p. 320).  The endnote associated with this appears on p. 373:

. . . Roosevelt was echoing the farewell cry of the Lone Ranger, 
hero of a popular radio serial, a fighter for justice in the Wild West,
 which would have been familiar to most radio listeners, children
 especially, in that era. Now in their dotage, those who survive
 can be found arguing on the Internet about whether "Heigh-O"
 should be transcribe "Heigh-O," "Hi-ho," or "Hi Yo." 
Silver was the Lone Ranger's horse.

What I imagine happened here was that some reader of the Ms queried the spelling of the name, or whether it needed some explanation. Or perhaps Lelyveld himself got that nagging feeling scholars sometimes get that they need to explain something, just in case. And then, once launched on it, the note grew, from the proper spelling of 'hi-ho, Silver!' to an explanation of the context, with an amused aside in the swipe against internet squabbles (by those in their 'dotage'). A superfluous note, but a fine example of the compulsive note-writer's art.

current reading: HIS FINAL BATTLE (just finished)

The Car Museum

So, Monday of last week marked the last day before we went back on the low-carb diet after holidaytide feasting (i.e., eating all our old favorites; anything we want).  And as a way of marking the occasion, we had planned to go to The Museum With The Stupid Name* to see their Star Trek exhibit. Unfortunately, we got a bit of a late start, and baulked at facing Seattle traffic. Default to plan B: a trip down to Tacoma to visit the LeMay car museum.

We've been here before, but the exhibits change from time to time, and besides it's a really neat place. My favorites remain the Ford Model T and Model A's, which I think just represent in my mind the default of what a classic car shd be like.**  Which is not to say I didn't appreciate the many, many other neat cars they had, particularly the Packards.  The most interesting car was the Stanley Steamer: they had the hood up so you cd see the boiler, and get a sense of just how complicated this car was to drive. There was no sign of a firebox, which was puzzling. It's easy to forget that once upon a time we had a choice: in those early days there were electric cars (reliable start, quiet ride, low mph, limited range/charge), steamers (great cars but more likely to blow up than gas-powered cars), and the gasoline-powered cars (great range, higher speed) whose descendents ruled the road for the next century.

Among the other notable cars I saw a Crosley (my father's first car was a secondhand Crosley, or so I'm told), their Cord, some 'James Bond' cars as part of a British Invasion exhibit, and much else. I was on the look-out for a mid-50s Plymouth, this being what my grandmother drove before she traded it in for the push-button car, but to no avail.

As the visit wore on I found snippets of songs about cars ("gee our old La Salle ran great") running through my head. You'd think the line that kept running through my head wd be "they took all the cars and put them in a car museum"*** but no, it was as I was motivating over the hill, sparked by seeing a Coupe DeVille, the very next line being I saw Maybelline in a Coupe DeVille. And sure enough, now that I was looking for it I spotted a V8 Ford not far away, that being the other car called out by name in Chuck Berry's song, one of the first great rock n roll hits (though I prefer Johnny Rivers' cover version, recorded about a decade late). 

All in all, we spent hours there and had a great time. I've since learned that the original site for the LeMay museum is still open, so we'll have to head down there sometime (our previous visit having been quite some time ago, before they opened the new site).

Finally, here are some photos the museum took, which I think came out pretty well:

And here are two that Janice took of the Stanley Steamer.

--John R.

current dvd: THE BEATLES Saturday morning cartoon (last seen by me in about '67, when I was seven years old and they were being broadcast new).

*MOPOP, formerly the EMP; affectionately known as 'Paul Allen's Attic'; the one that looks like kaijun fewmets but includes such interesting exhibits as Stoker's typescript for DRACULA, Buffy's stake ('Mr. Pointy'), and an unpublished letter from J. R. R. Tolkien.

**got to ride in the rumble seat of a Model A once, and though far from comfortable it was great.

***with apologizes to Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Week in Cats

So, last week I went in and walked the cats (Sheena, Peetie, and Old Man Hank) twice

It all started Tuesday morning (the 10th) when about a hundred crows all started cawing at the same time, a sure sign something has gone wrong (they were even joined by some seagull keening). Sure enough, checking below our feeder I found an injured pigeon, clearly the victim of a hawk or cat. I managed to get it to the Sarvey animal rescue folks on Rainier, who think it has a good chance of pulling through. Then, since I was already in Renton, I thought I’d swing by and see if any of the cats wanted walking. 

They did. All three had a turn, followed by Hank having an extra turn, since he seems to have been having a hard time lately. 

I found out that everyone in the store knows HANK, greeting him by name. He loved being out and about. 

Old Man Hank

One important thing I noticed is that Hank is afraid of dogs. I was holding him when a dog went by, and he trembled as long as it was in sight. And that was a smallish, well-behaved dog that never even saw him. So that would tend to suggest that a home with a dog might be hard on Hank.

Today (W. Jan. 11th) there was more walking. I noticed that HANK has two modes: he mews when anxious or exploring but is quiet when curious/interested or in stealth mode (moving away from a dog, for example).  Also, Hank likes you to talk to him. It doesn’t matter if it’s babble or whatever: he just likes hearing your voice while he’s on the leash.

Hank had disappeared when I got back to the room after Peetie’s walk, but it wasn’t hard to find him, since one of the cupboard doors that’d been closed when I left was now ajar. Sure enough, he was in there where he’s not allowed, happily sitting on laundry. 

PEETIE  is getting better at the walks — he no longer tries to get under shelves or the like (Sheela’s also much better about this). But he is undecisive. When put down he’ll go back and forth up and down the same row, unable to decide where to go next. He is getting better at recognizing how to get back to the cat-room from pretty much anywhere on that side of the store. He saw some dogs and, while not pleased, stayed calm enough.  He also purred for me back in the room, and enjoyed the string-and-chain game.


Sheena does not approve

When it was SHEENA’s turn, she’s also doing much better. She mostly gets carried around the store: when I put her down, she goes in circles and mews. She clearly has no sense of direction, and no idea where she is in the store or how to get back home again. Think the carry-about is worthwhile, though, for the change of scene and the getting her attention from people in the store. Plus she’s getting less fearful at being out of the room, though still on the anxious side.

We had some potential volunteers come in today; I gave them flyers. They petted all three cats; Sheena was particularly glad to get attention from them. 

Here’s hoping all three find homes soon, esp. Hank.

—John R

P.S.: Here's a picture of Helena as well.

Helena (now Daisy)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Clyde Kilby's Collected Essays

So, just before Christmas arrived the new book by the late Clyde Kilby, A WELL OF WONDER: ESSAYS ON C. S. LEWIS,  J. R. R. TOLKIEN, AND THE INKLINGS (ed. Loren Wilkinson & Keith Call; Mount Tabor Books/Paraclete Press 2016). I'd been asked to provide a blurb and had been happy to submit one,* which I'm glad to see they used. Here's  what I said in the blurb:

As the first decades of Inklings scholarship 
recede from living memory, it's good to see 
the papers of an influential critic from that 
period made available again. Kilby is now 
mainly remembered for founding the Wade
Collection, but he was also among the first
to see the Inklings as a coherent writers' group,
and the pieces collected herein make the case
for considering these authors in context
with each other's work. Perhaps the out-
standing piece is his short account of
meeting C. S. Lewis at Oxford in 1953;
published in 1954, this is one of the earliest
memoirs of Lewis to see print, and it's good
for it to see the light of day again after
more than a half-century.

In the current book, this piece appears as Chapter 2: "My First (and Only) Visit with Mr. Lewis", p. 16-19.  The two men met for about half an hour, by appointment, in Lewis's office at Magdalen. Lewis was fifty-four at the time and engaged in compiling the bibliography for his O.H.E.L. volume; he talked about all the exercise he got from lugging folios about and disparaged the idea of naming 'periods' of literature, like "the Renaissance" ("an imaginary entity responsible for everything the modern reader likes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries"). They spoke of Palestine, and Lewis expressed a curiosity over whether the re-establishment of Israel (it having been created as a new nation only six or seven years before) wd mean a rebuilding of the Temple and a restoration of sacrifice.

Questioned about art and Xianity, Lewis pooh-poohed the idea of Christian literature: "He said the same relation existed between Christianity and art as between Christianity and carpentry" -- that is, that a carpenter might be a Xian but this didn't mean that he produced 'Xian carpentry'. Told of Wheaton College's founder's description of a novel as "a well-told lie", he dissented strongly, saying that "one is far more likely to find the truth in a novel than in a newspaper".   They talked a little about the then recently deceased C. E. M. Joad**

Asked when he might come to America, he was emphatic that this cdn't take place before his retirement. As for a specific invitation to come that very summer, he replied "he had to get some vacation then, and a trip to this country [i.e., the US] would be anything but a vacation." He autographed a book for Kilby, somewhat reluctantly (Kilby does not say which one of CSL's bks it was, only that he had brought it with him). When Kilby expressed a wish to hear Lewis lecture, Lewis first said there were no lectures scheduled (presumably the visit took place during one of the breaks between terms) and teased Kilby for being a "professor [who wanted] to hear a lecture while on vacation". They talked a little about metaphor and then Kilby, fearing to overstay his welcome, departed.

In addition to the Lewis piece, the volume also gathers together pretty much all the account of Kilby's meetings with Tolkien that had been originally published in Kilby's little book TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION.*** I haven't gone through and compared to see if all that material is now here, but certainly most of it is, making this essay collection a good place to read an account by someone who had the chance to read virtually all of THE SILMARILLION during Tolkien's lifetime.

There are also a number of essays on Lewis and on Tolkien, largely focusing on Xian aspects or interpretations of their work, as well as an essay apiece on Williams and on Sayers, and at least two on CSL, JRRT, et al being considered together as 'the Oxford Group'

All in all, well worth having on the shelf.  As an extra added bonus, the dust jacket has a nice picture of four Inklings together: Dundas-Grant, Hardie, Havard, and Lewis. It's a well-known piece, but this is the best reproduction of it I've seen, and its presence here is appropriate, given that Kilby was co-author of the book IMAGES OF HIS WORLD, the first to gather together photos of Lewis and his friends.

--John R.

*after all, with the exception of Deborah Sabo I think Kilby and I are the only Tolkien scholars to have been at Fayetteville, Arkansas -- albeit decades apart.

**whom Tolkien once described as 'Joad of Joad Hall', suggesting that his personality bore more than a little resemblance to Kenneth Grahame's Mr. Toad

***herein  titled Chapter 15: "The Evolution of a Friendship and the Writing of The Silmarillion
At thirty-three pages I think this is the most substantial memoir of Tolkien yet published, aside from the FAMILY ALBUM.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The New Arrival (Kilby's Collected Essays)

So, I'd started to draft a post two days ago and then decided to put it off till I cd do a more thorough job. Except that it seems that when I went to hit "Save" I accidently hit "Send" instead.

Sorry about that: I'll have the real post up later today

current reading: a book by Toni Tennille that shd have been called 'Love Didn't Keep Them Together'
current dvd: Saiunkoku, Beatles' cartoon show, the James Mason "20000 Leagues"

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sales of C. S. Lewis (+BBC CSL piece)

So,  when posting about best-selling genre authors a few days ago, I shd have noted that JRRT's friend C. S. Lewis also made the top ten, coming in at #6 with estimated sales of 120,000,000 -- which, while about a third of Tolkien's estimated sales, still staggered me. I wdn't have thought the Chronicles of Narnia sold anything like that number. Perhaps those paperback editions of MERE CHRISTIANITY, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, et al, on the Xian shelves of the religious section in stores like Barnes & Noble account for a large portion of that amount. It's certainly not OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (Lewis is not that widely read among science fiction fans) or, say, THE DISCARDED IMAGE (probably my favorite of Lewis's books, and certainly the one I learned the most from).

Also, I learned a few days ago (thanks to Andrew F. for the link) that the BBC's Radio Four has a half-hour show devoted to CSL up on their website. Part of their Great Lives series, it discusses the life and legacy of Lewis, with historian Suzannah Lipscomb and chaplain Malcolm Guite praising Lewis while host Matthew Parris presents a slightly more skeptical perspective. Libscomb appreciates that Lewis "approaches the past on its own terms" (a point of view CSL considered a necessary corrective to what his friend Barfield called 'chronological snobbery'). Somewhat to my surprise they cover his liaison with Janie Moore straightforwardly. They also get points in my book for including a snippet of Lewis's own voice along with archival bits by four people who knew him (only the fourth of whom, Humphrey Carpenter, is identified*). Carpenter makes the interesting point that CSL refused to let people talk to him about their private lives for the v. good reason that he might then feel pressure to respond in kind, and (as his more recent biographer McGrath has made abundantly clear) he had excellent reasons for not wanting folks to know about his private life. More importantly, the host, Parris, puts his finger on something that I think doesn't get enough attention in discussions of Lewis's work. Parris said that when reading Lewis he often got the feeling that Lewis wrote with ulterior motives. I've always felt that way myself, and it's seriously gotten in the way of my enjoying such works as A GRIEF OBSERVED and TILL WE HAVE FACES, spoiling a good deal of CSL's work for me.

So, a positive but not haliographical look at CSL's life, well worth checking out.
 Thanks again to Andrew F's sharing the link.

--John R.

*the third is named "Peter", but I have no idea which of the no doubt many Peters CSL knew in his lifetime this might be, nor do I recognize either of the first two voices. At any rate, it was good to hear Carpenter's voice again; his relatively early death was a great loss.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cat Photos: Helena, Peetie, and Sheena

So, I don't seem to have a photo of Old Man Hank*, but here are photos of little Helena, Peetie, and Sheena, taken by one of my fellow volunteers and shared among the group:

--John R.

*more's the pity, since he has a lot of charisma