Thursday, January 26, 2023

Book cover: "The Quest of the Gole"

  • Title: The Quest of the Gole
  • Author: John Hollander (1929-2013)
  • Illustrator: Reginald Pollack (1924-2001)
  • Publisher: Atheneum, New York
  • Year: 1966
  • Pages: 117
  • Format: Library-bound hardcover
  • Dimensions: 5⅜ inches by 9¼ inches
  • Provenance: Given to me as a Christmas present by Joan last month. Before that, it had been in the Spokane County Rural Library, and then a used-book store.
  • Dedication: For Jeremy, David and Raphael
  • Introduction: Hollander, who taught at Yale University and primarily wrote poetry, states in the introduction that time can erase even written tales. Paper rots. Tablets break. And fragments and memories are what remain. "The Story of the Gole is one of these old tales, and it can only be set down here at all because parts of it are still to be found in many ancient writings. ... [This book] tells as much about the Gole as is known today."
  • Format: The prologue is in verse. The following three-part tale is mostly prose, with some sections of verse intermingled. Hollander also weaves commentary smoothly into the tale, letting us know what is known, where the surviving sources conflict with each other and what details are lost forever.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "And he did make his home here in our city, learning our language, and living in a cave by the bay."
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "Moad felt a strange kind of dizziness, as he realized what it was that was so remarkable about this common picture of the earth striving to meet something impossibly high above it."
  • Goodreads rating: 3.67 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review: In 2009, Adam wrote: "The language in this book is rich and modeled, in parts, on medieval romances and ancient epics. Some episodes evoke Arthur, and others Beowulf or Gilgamesh. Unfortunately, the story ends up being what you might expect from a poet of the post-modern era; that is, it culminates in an insubstantial mirage, an abstracted daydream with no enduring substance."
  • Another review: Writing briefly about "Curiosities" for the magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2006, Bud Webster describes the book as "tall, slim, elegant witty and eminently poetic" and further states, "The author's commentary is, for me, the most fascinating thing about this little book. Only a poet and teacher ... could have done it this well, and I'm glad he did."
Nebula (7 months old) sits alongside the spine of The Quest of the Gole.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Some of the books that helped to inspire Ruth Manning-Sanders

There's really interesting news this week regarding Ruth Manning-Sanders (1888-1988), the English poet and author who wrote dozens of beloved books for which she collected and retold folk and fairy tales from the all over the world.

Many books from Ruth's personal library — the actual copies that inspired and informed the unique style she built as a teller of tales — are up for auction now at Lay's Auctioneers in the United Kingdom. I've included the pictures from handful of the lots in this post.

Copies of many of her own books, including her early fiction and poetry, appear in the auction listings, too. But, to me, the most fascinating lots involve the books by others that once sat on her shelves. The very books she read, possibly from childhood in some instances, and that worked their way into her fiber. For example, there an many volumes of Lang's Fairy Books, each with a color in its title, that were published between 1889 and 1913 by Andrew Lang and his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne.

There are dozens of other titles, too, collected into lots. This is just a small sampling, from reading the listings and zooming in on the pictures of the spines:
  • Scandinavian Legends and Folk-Tales by Gwyn Jones
  • Russian Tales & Legends by Charles Downing
  • The Fairies in Tradition and Literature by K.M. Briggs
  • Legends and Folk Lore of the Scottish Lowlands by M.V. Jack
  • Bygone Lancashire by Ernest Axon
  • Legend of the Micmacs by Silas Tertius Rand
  • Hero-Tales & Legends of the Serbians by Woislav M. Petrovitch
  • Greek Folk Poesy by Lucy Mary Jane Garnett and John S. Stuart-Glennie 
A few lots contain fairy tale books in languages other than English. We know from biographical information that Ruth had an important collaborator regarding these volumes. Joan Manning-Sanders (1913-2002) helped to research the stories that her mother then retold. Family members say that Joan learned to read French, German, Russian and several other languages in order to discover new source material for her mother. The magic wouldn’t have happened without this mother-daughter teamwork.

I'm going to see if I can get lucky with the winning bid for something, because it would be a treasure to have some of these volumes alongside my Manning-Sanders collection. But I have no idea how these auctions will play out on the other side of the pond. 

In a dream scenario, all of these books would remain together at the Ruth Manning-Sanders Children's Library and Archives in some quaint village along the coast of Cornwall. But that's not in the cards, and no such place exists. Maybe the next best thing is for them to fan out to new homes. Ruth spent much of her life pulling fairy tales from all over the world into her orbit. Now, the process can reverse itself, and those fairy tale volumes from her library can go back out in the world in a Big Bang of imagination, inspiring future generations.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Wynn's dandy endpapers illustration for 1933's "Incredible Land"

These are the dazzling endpapers of Basil Woon's 1933 travel book Incredible Land, which is subtitled A Jaunty Baedeker to Hollywood and the Great Southwest. (Karl Baedeker published a series of guidebooks for tourists in the 1800s. They were so popular and respected that, well into the 20th century, Baedeker served as a synonym for any travel guide.)

My copy of the book doesn't have Wynn's equally dazzling dust jacket illustration, but I've included an online image of it here for posterity. I can't find much information about Wynn; having only a common four-letter moniker doesn't help much with the search engines. Any information sent via the comments would be appreciated!

This travel guide — with its hedonistic focus on finding women, food, beds and bootleggers in the West — was written during the late years of Prohibition and then essentially hit the booksellers' market just in time for Prohibition's repeal on December 5, 1933: Rotten timing for an author who had worked hard to let people know where to find illicit booze.

As The New York Times noted on December 10, 1933: "The lapse of time since this book was written has been less than a year, yet so much alcohol has flowed under the bridge during that period that many of Mr. Woon's pages have a distinctly historical flavor. This fact he himself acknowledges in a last-minute chapter of 'Addenda and Errata' in which he points out that repeal alters 'the entire entertainment map of the United States.'"

Here are a few tidbits about Arizona from Woon's book:
  • "The city of Tucson, once capital of Arizona, has of late been adopted by Eastern fashionable folk, many of whom have built fine homes there. The climate is said to be a cure for sinus trouble."
  • "During the rainy season in late summer the Arizona section of the road is sometimes impassable, due to cloudbursts transforming the desert arroyos into sudden torrents."
  • "From Roosevelt [Reservoir and Dam] one may continue southeast to Miami and Globe, copper smelting towns, and on through the Apache reservations to the Mormon colonies near Safford."

Other posts with endpapers illustrations (for your online browsing pleasure on a rainy or snowy day)