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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Bod Squad
I had a very enjoyable break in Oxford today, where I met up with ashkitty along with new friends grondfic, theprimrosepath and jane_somebody - all members of thedarkisrising LJ comm. Dodging the Oxford finalists with carnations in their buttonholes (apparently it's a Thing) we made our way to the Bodleian and a lecture on matters Arthurian and turn-of-the-20th-century youth organizations - then on to the main event, which was a visit to this this exhibition:


It's a really well designed exhibition, featuring relevant medieval manuscripts and artefacts alongside drafts and other material connected with modern Oxford fantasy writers, primarily Tolkien, Lewis, Cooper, Garner and Pullman. If you are interested in this kind of thing and have a chance to go, do so! Clearly whoever put it together knows and loves these writers and their Oxford/medieval connections. In fact our lecturer was one of the curators, and another was my old acquaintance Diane Purkiss, whose path crosses mine in unpredictable ways every couple of years, it seems. Diana Wynne Jones was amply represented in the book display but her papers didn't feature: I suspect they were being catalogued at the Seven Stories archive in Newcastle when the exhibition was being planned.

Amongst many fascinating items, my favourite was probably a draft page of The Owl Service. A couple of the changes Garner made in red pen caught my eye. The first, on the verso, is a workmanlike improvement. Gwyn explains to Roger about the stone down by the river. In the first draft, he says: "It's called the stone of Gronw." This has been altered to the less plonking: "That'll be the stone of Gronw." The second edit (on the recto) is more interesting. It's the part where Alison is telling Roger that the plates' pattern is in the form of an owl. In the draft, he replies sceptically:

"I suppose it is, if you look at it that way."

But Garner has altered this to:

"I suppose it is, if you want it to be."

In its revised form this is one of my favourite lines in the book - and a great example of how Roger always cuts to the heart of the matter, without necessarily realising that he has done so.

Other highlights? Six Signs, made for Susan Cooper by her then husband in the 1970s. A facsimile of the account of the fall of Moria discovered by Gandalf & Co. in The Fellowship of the Ring, made by Tolkien and given an appropriately singed appearance by being held over the bowl of his pipe. A sixteenth-century copy of the Ripley Scrolls. Much more beside.

I was so impressed by the exhibition that I splashed out and bought the rather pricey book associated with it. I was particularly happy to see that Four British Fantasists was in the Further Reading section, as well as fjm and chilperic's Cambridge Guide to Fantasy Literature. The book even quotes from my essay for the Cambridge Guide; however, for some reason the endnote attributes it not to that book but to Four British Fantasists, and moreover to a page (p. x) that doesn't exist... Spooky.

A little later we were joined for a while by Frances Hardinge, whose books I've raved about on this LJ and who is one of my Twisted Winter contributors, but whom I'd never met before in the flesh. She turns out to be, as one might have predicted, delightful. Then, a brief visit to a pub I will refer to only as the Aquila and Infant. I'd never actually visited before, having previously gone to the more Spenserian sounding Lamb and Flag across the road, but I'm glad to have made its acquaintance. It's full of history no doubt, but I think its wine list must have expanded considerably since the days when its ceiling plaster was dry cured by the Inklings' tobacco. And so, to Didcot and thence Bristol and a hungry cat. It was altogether a fun day - the only blot on it being that I left the bag with my "books to read on the train" at home in error, and so didn't get the travelling work done that I'd meant to. I actually suffered kanji withdrawal! But I will be back on that horse tomorrow...

Sounds tres cool!

It was!

I think the Inklings themselves deserted the Aquila toward the end of their days (and if memory serves, it was the Lamb and Flag they then resorted to).

They did. The Fowl and Fetus (another generation's local name for it) was remodeled in 1962, eliminating the back parlor and they decamped across the road, but weren't very happy there either, and after CSL's death the next year meetings dribbled to a halt.

Later, the F&F was remodeled back to its earlier state, and Walter Hooper, Lewis's Anton Schindler, proclaimed, "It's our pub again!" How would he know? He hadn't arrived until after they left!

(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-06-19 09:00 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2013-06-19 11:59 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2013-06-19 12:03 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-06-19 04:34 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2013-06-19 04:50 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ethelmay, 2013-06-19 07:13 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2013-06-19 07:23 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I am pleased to hear that you had a good day in Oxford, and that you met jane_somebody, who is one of my favourite people :-)

Your name was much mentioned (in a good way).

(no subject) - wellinghall, 2013-06-19 06:59 am (UTC)(Expand)
I'm just a bit envious of you seeing that exhibition.

I feel fortunate to have had such easy access to it.

Were I not thousands of miles away, I would jump to that exhibit in an instant. Did they mention The Notion Club Papers?

Edited at 2013-06-19 05:56 am (UTC)

I don't recall seeing any mention of it, no - though if I'm wrong perhaps someone will correct me.

(no subject) - wellinghall, 2013-06-19 08:32 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2013-06-19 12:05 pm (UTC)(Expand)
What a splendid day! I envy you that exhibition.


You'd have loved it.

I can confirm it to have been a splendid day; and thanks to everyone for being wonderful. It was a privilege to meet you all.

I was entranced by Susan Cooper's Six Signs (made by her husband). Great to see them there - solid and very 'real'. The Ripley Scrolls, with their alchemical imagery (featuring lots of Dragons - Yay!) were also a delight.

It was great to meet you!

(no subject) - ashkitty, 2013-06-19 08:30 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-06-19 11:45 am (UTC)(Expand)
Oh! I am so near Oxford and was there last night...

I will get to the exhibition. I also need to do the 90 minute extended tour of the Bodleian because it features in my novel.

You've got till October - but don't let it slide away! Many's the exhibition I've missed because it was so easy to get there that I never felt it to be urgent. (That could just be me, though.)

(no subject) - wellinghall, 2013-06-19 08:32 am (UTC)(Expand)
Thanks a lot for the review of the exhibition. In fact, I am going to be meeting my family in England in two days for the second half of my June holiday because I insisted on traveling rather than going back to the US and my family doesn't want to spend the money to come to Asia, so this was a compromise. My parents have scheduled us to spend all of our time in London and Torquay (naturally all I can think about for this latter is Fawlty Towers, so I am not sure what to expect), but I am hoping I can convince them to make a side trip to Oxford for this exhibition. The account of the fall of Moria sounds potentially persuasive - although I personally find the Six Signs to be extremely tantalizing. Alas, I think Newcastle is too far away for a side trip, but what I wouldn't give just to spend a week at those archives!

Well, it's not entirely out of the way. You could describe a graceful curve through southern England.

The edits are interesting. I suspect we won't see so many surviving in future; all the novelists I know these days write straight on to a PC and don't print out drafts along the way. Some may save earlier drafts, but I think quite a few don't. I've stopped doing it myself with poems, too

Yes, it's a shame. For those of us who are interested in process there's nothing so revealing as a set of drafts. But I suspect that we will be a more "invisible" generation altogether than those that came before us and wrote their letters, diaries, poems and novels on more durable material. When California tumbles into the sea, taking the Google servers with it, we will become as irretrievable as Atlantis.

(no subject) - shark_hat, 2013-06-19 10:10 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-06-19 11:48 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - sheenaghpugh, 2013-06-19 12:24 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I'm now reminded of the most memorable literary exhibition I've attended in Britain. I was lucky enough to visit the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, on something like the one day of the month that it's open to general visitors. Down the middle of the library corridor was a series of glass cases with mss. and books of distinguished authors who were members of Trinity. As I approached, I saw a cluster of people around the very last case in the row. It held, of course, works of A.A. Milne.

As is only right and proper!

My first cousin - albeit four times removed - would have been Master when he was there. I wonder how they got on?

aaaaaah why did I have to get a job (I kid, I kid), there were so many cool people there and it would've been so great to meet you and everyone else! *twitches* that exhibition sounds brilliant and I will definitely have to go on a weekend!

also, very much enjoy "the Aquila and Infant". will only call it that from now on.

Even without our glittering company you won't regret a visit - but it would have been good to meet you!

Thanks for the review - I shall be going on Sunday (and, the pink carnations aren't new, by the way - they were around in the 80s. Mine is probably mouldering brownly in a photograph album at this moment).

My default assumption for any bizarre Oxonian custom is that it's old as the hills, naturally! It did occur to me to wonder how it would go down if we tried to make our students at UWE do something similar, though.

(no subject) - heloise1415, 2013-06-19 10:40 pm (UTC)(Expand)