Friday, June 14, 2024

Where do You Get Your Ideas? Lloyd Alexander responds

It must have been in the late 1970s that I read Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles (five novels, plus occasional shorter pieces collected in The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain in 1982). I liked them, but wished they were a little less juvenile. Soon afterwards I also read his early novel, Time Cat. (This was before I declared the subgenre of cat fantasies verboten.) And I think I read a few others, but didn't persist as I preferred fantasies written for adults rather than for children.  

Recently, I ordered from ILL a children's book Where Do You Get Your Ideas? (1987) by Sandy Asher. It includes some original replies by writers to whom Asher had sent her question in advance.  I was after one author's reply in particular, but I was pleased to see the following comment from Lloyd Alexander, which stirred memories.

Ideas, I think, come from two places. Outside—that is, everything we see and do, and everything that happens to us. And inside—when our own special imagination starts mixing with the outside.

Some years ago, my beloved orange cat, Solomon, gave me the idea for a book called Time Cat. Solomon had a way of suddenly appearing in my workroom, then disappearing before I noticed that he had gone. This made me pretend that he was magically able to visit any of his nine lives whenever he felt like it. Time Cat was my first fantasy for young people and I have Solomon to thank for it. (p. 11)

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Ray Bradbury on Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

In 2023, Jonathan R. Eller edited and published a thick volume Remembrance: Selected Correspondence of Ray Bradbury, which I'm just getting around to reading.* Not much on the Tolkien and C.S. Lewis front, but there is one interesting and relevant exchange. 

Russell Kirk wrote to Bradbury on 12 September 1967, asking: 

have you been influenced at all by William Morris, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien? (p. 153)

Bradbury replied on 16 September 1967:

No, I haven't been influenced by Morris, MacDonald or Tolkien, though I have read and enjoyed Lewis' Screwtape Letters; however he has not been any influence that I know of. (p. 154-155)  
Kirk had already written on Bradbury in his 4 April 1967 column in the National Review, "From the Academy: Count Dracula and Mr. Ray Bradbury"--according to Eller, this column was reworked in Kirk's book Enemies of Permanent Things (1969). But Kirk's questions in this letter were for another piece, "The Revival of Fantasy", which appeared in Triumph, May 1968, and which was itself revised for Enemies of Permanent Things. Despite Bradbury's disavowal of influence, Kirk repeatedly compares Bradbury with Lewis and Tolkien and others. Kirk even quotes from an earlier passage out of the same Bradbury letter, but does not even hint at Bradbury's disavowal. 

* The book is very oddly arranged, and the footnotes at the back are keyed to twelve different chapters, none of which are designated in the page headers, making the reader look back to the contents page to see which chapter contains page, say, 153, and then on to the back of the book to find where the Notes to that chapter begin (again, there are no designations in the page headers to help). I can think of many punishments the designer should endure--the first being unemployment. That the copyright page credits one Ruth Lee-Mui as interior designer, as though her work is something to be proud of, is mind-boggling.


Monday, March 11, 2024

Dunsany on His Early Stories

In 1917, the John W. Luce Company of Boston published a "Gift Edition," a boxed edition of six volumes of his early stories. One set he inscribed (probably during his 1919 US tour), and it was put up for auction by Swann Galleries in 2011. Their catalog entry here shows the handwritten poem by Dunsany that he inscribed in The Gods of Pegana. I transcribe it here.

In a dream I must have gone,
  In a dream and sleeping fast, 
To a city never known,
  In a land that cannot last.

Thence these stories I have brought
  For your cities mad with steam,
That a dream from skies unthought
  May be mingled with your dream. 

Dunsany


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The First Edition and Early Printings of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published by Alfred A. Knopf of New York on 18 September 1964. The first UK edition was published by George Allen & Unwin in November 1967. The text of the book was altered in 1973 by Roald Dahl himself. [A companion article documenting the differences can be found here.]

Between 1964 and 1973, the Knopf edition was reprinted several times, but none of the printings are marked. Some book club editions also appeared, making for a very confusing situation for book collectors seeking a first edition. Here I present my findings, which involve binding variants, and colophon variants. I will also discuss the dust-wrapper, and some book club variants.

Binding variants

The earliest printing of the Knopf edition was bound in maroon cloth, with a much rarer variant in blue cloth. Both are shown below. (Not shown is a later version in white paper boards with a brown cloth backstrip. The endpapers in later printings vary from the original light brown to different shades of green.)


The crucial difference in the text of the book that determines the printing is found in the colophon on the final page of the book [page 164]. The earliest variant, known in the initial printing, has six lines in the colophon. Click on any image to enlarge it.
The fourth line was soon dropped, leaving the colophon to be five lines:
Next came a four line colophon, with variations, priority undetermined:
A different copy has an added Library of Congress cataloguing details (note the ISBNs given for a Trade Edition and a Library Edition--see below for more about these):
A later colophon gives a new Typographer (Tere LoPrete replacing Atha Tehon):
The above are the observed variants. There could be more.

Dust-wrapper

There are no observed variants on the dust-wrapper from the earliest years. Note that the price $3.95 is printed at the top right of the front flap:
There are later variants (see below).
 
Book Club Editions
 
At least two Book Club Editions have been observed. Both have notably cheaper bindings. One is in grey boards, the other in grey boards with a pink backstrip (this one has the imprint "Junior Deluxe Editions"). They appear to have been issued to coincide with the 1971 film. Here are the two bindings followed by the dust-wrapper (note the appearance of "Book Club Edition" at the lower right of the front flap, and no price at the top right of the front flap, and the code at the bottom of the rear flap):
 


Library Edition

The Library Edition was issued without a dust-wrapper. At least two versions exist, one without the ISBN at the lower right of the rear cover (next), and another with the ISBN (second below):

The UK first edition was published in November 1967. Here is the cover, followed by the statement of printings in a later copy: 

Note: all of the above details and images concern editions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory published prior to the revised edition of 1973.

Monday, October 30, 2023

A Ghost Version of A Voyage to Arcturus

Updated 5 November 2023

Some months ago I consulted Walter Rigdon's Notable Names in the American Theatre (1976), and in a list of "Premieres in America" I found an unexpected reference to a theatrical performance of A Voyage to Arcturus in New York in 1970. It reportedly took place on March 4, 1970, at the Theatre Genesis, at 10th & 2nd in New York City (p. 188).

That's all the information that is found in that book, and sadly, that turns out to be the only reference to the performance that I can find. Thus I still wonder: Who adapted it? Who starred in it?  How long was the show?  How many performances?  How did this version relate to the novel? 

I did look around for further details, and only found some contextual information. The Theatre Genesis was an off-off Broadway theater, founded in 1964, for the producing of works by new American playwrights. Located in the East Village, it was housed in St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. Its most famous playwright was Sam Shepard, among other notables. It was first run by Ralph Cook (an actor and parishioner), who left the theater in 1969. It was then operated as a cooperative for a few more years, and it seems to have ended around 1973-74 when the new leader Murray Mednick moved to Los Angeles. Some of the early history of Theatre Genesis is related in Kembrew Mcleod's The Downtown Pop Underground (2018).

The 1970 performance was probably inspired by the publication of the Ballantine edition of A Voyage to Arcturus, which came out in November 1968. 


Anyone know of any other details? 

Thanks to Murray Ewing (see comments), here are a few notices from The Village Voice:

 26 February 1970, p. 48

12 March 1970, p. 50



Saturday, September 16, 2023

Finding E.R. Eddison in an Unexpected Place

Chance brought me to view a copy of an anthology Great Stories of Sport (1931), edited by Thomas Moult. Scanning the contents I was surprised to see E.R. Eddison's name, with an eleven page piece titled "The King Wrestles with Goldry Bluszco"--it is self-evidently a section from The Worm Ouroboros (1922). Actually it is the bulk of chapter two of that book, "The Wrastling for Demonland." The bibliographically-inclined may be interested to know that it runs from the 19th paragraph of that chapter (beginning "Now began a great company to come forth from the palace...") on to the very end of that chapter (pp. 19-28 in the 1922 Jonathan Cape edition). Moult credits its appearance as "By special permission of the Author and Messrs. Jonathan Cape Ltd." I wonder if any readers of a sport anthology went looking for the full of Eddison's classic fantasy.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

William Morris on Believing or Not Believing in a God

 In his posthumous;y published A Diary (1907), William Allingham (1824-1889), a friend of William Morris, recorded on [Tuesday] 13 June 1882 a discussion he had with Morris: 

Walking with William Morris from the Society of Arts to Bloomsbury last Friday, we talked, among other things, of believing or not believing in a God, and he said:  "It's so unimportant, it seems to me," and he went on to say that all we can get to, do what we will, is a form of words. I think I agree in part, not entirely; but in the street and in a hurry explanation was impossible.