I have been struggling with a forgotten relic of the 19th century American lit of the antebellum period. In fact, the novel itself, by Robert Henry Newell, is very little evidence of utopian thinking in this period. What it does reveal is that paper itself was a kind of utopia — an entrance point to a literate culture that could subsist on anti-woke dreams and romances. The novel ‘Avery Gleebun; between two fires’ (1857) is a tough read because of its paper thin characters and intense sentimentality.
But given that the most that people could afford at the time was a Bible and a few scattered religious tracts, the popular novel (of the time) had (HAD) to be sentimental. It is a work of literature with a few choice gems scattered in between pages of almost impenetrable sentimental dialogue. But why this work & its author fell into the forgotten list of antebellum authors who were NOT Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville is a blessed mystery that I am trying to unravel.
This novel has struck my interest, as well as the Orpheus C. Kerr (a pun based on “Off-Ice See-Ker”) Papers, has relaunched my study into the history of print in the 19th century. This begins and ends with William Charvat’s ‘Literary Publishing in America 1790-1850,’ a book that I have yet to fully read and truly appreciate. I’m going to try to read and take notes in hopes that a Ch. 4 of the dissertation will emerge.
I still remember that ‘God gives us the privilege of seeing the right’ to quote A. Lincoln, the 16th president and a fan of R. H. Newell’s work. So it will take a mountain of prayer to get over this hill which is also a kind of desert. I hope to emerge from it unscathed, but fear that it may be everlong (Foo Fighters’ song) an issue that never gets resolved. I hope that I am able to get a bird’s eye view of this chapter but it may not happen.
The cat creature bustled and hustled out of the open window and towards the garden. He overheard a conversation, as he stood on the roof, of a legend that no man’s ear had ever yet heard.
A young woman, dressed daintilly in red and gold, sat talking to her sister about the strangest of tales: a dragonite from afar. He was likely to dismiss this as nonsense from an old wives tale, but Bubba Yee perked his ears nonetheless.
The young woman in the dark crimson gown bent her head, brunette hair falling behind her ears, ever so preciously over her coffee, as she told the tale of the dragonite to her elder sister.
“I have seen it with my own eyes: the Naxos. A blue dragon from the floating continent who has shape shifting ability,” she said.
“Surely you must be joking!” the dark haired companion siad with ribald laughter.
“I would not tell you fairy stories!” the crimson lady said. ” I read it in the Annals of Marginalia Vol. IX part i. The Naxos is a beast who speaks fluent Cosmou, and he can take the form of a sage.”
“… or wiseacre!” she retorted.
“It was he who related the information of Mithrax’s attack repelled by…”
“Who?” she asked.
“An elf that I cannot remember or recall his name,” she said with a puzzled look.
“Speaking of elves, have you been apprised of how our young green friend is getting along?”
“I suppose better than usual since he was manumitted,” she said.
“I’ve heard that he spends all his days trying to master mathematics and poetry,” the dark-haired woman in navy blue said.
“Nonsense. This fellow is trying to become a white mage. I’ve heard his abortive incantations all day, and frankly, I’m sick of them.”
“Back to Naxos,” said the dark-haired woman.
“What do you know of him?”
“His wisdom is at least partially responsible for the prophecy,” she whispered,
adding, “That’s what Daddy doesn’t want you to know.”
“He always told us that Melchior received the prophecy through a red mage disguised as a beggar woman,” she said.
“Papa is always trying to keep us in the dark,” she said.
Another wizard came a-sauntering in with moxie. He mixed drinks often, and had a red nose from frequent drinking.
“I know the beggar woman,” he stated flatly.
“I think you read too many dragonite novels,” she retorted.
“Adam, don’t be silly.”
Adam had a peak-hat with three corners, scarlet as the late afternoon sunset. His face was like flint, and he screwed his eyes up at the two damsels.
Bubba Yee could hardly believe his luck having run into a real wizard. This fellow could possibly grant his wish to anthropomorphize. He listened intently to the conversation.
“You met her?”
“Well, not to say exactly…” he offered.
“I think you have been dreaming,” she said, staring at the hem of her crimson dress.
The cat noticed that the green face was extremely frustrated. His efforts to master magic had sloughed off like a snake skin. Weirdos had to become wanderers and learn magic the hard way… through experience. But the green elf with pointy ears could not afford to be weird – it was against court life – ruled by formality , honor, and of course, conformity. That day there was a horrible flood in the kitchen. BY had knocked over his water bowl much to the chagrin of his owner. The massive eartherware vessel with an open lip and arabesque decorations had been a sort of heirloom – a testimony of many cats – but was unstable and porous because of cracks. In order to grab a kitty snack, BY had turned over the box of kitty treats. His pointy ears perked and he purred like the staccato ticks of a clockwork owl.
Poxig wondered if Halifax was open to math lessons. The dreary court atmosphere made him pine for the freedoms as a young bard. But they were nullabists, and Poxig had higher ambitions. He had to be satisfied with his enervating job as a counrt mathematician’s assistant. The court yawned in boredom of his math lessons – but these were the best that money could buy. His familiarity with differential equations made him a hit commodity, but did the business of the court have to be so irretrievably dull? He would have to teach them again summations. This seemed to be almost impossible for them to conceive of.
BY, as a cat, was not at all obedient to his master. He acknowledged him in passing, but without interest. He was an affectionate cat, but his green-faced master seemed to be always too busy. He used to sit on the mat in order to get in a staring contest. But the cat’s eyes always burned with the ambition of his master. He was no ordinary cat, but wanted his master to be able to shine the light of transmogrification on him so that he could anthropomorphize. He wished to grow legs so that he could learn to stand on his own two feet. He was tired of walking on four, & being a burden to his master. He looked around the castle’s interior room which was adjacent to the refectory. He was filled with hatred for all those objects – the king’s toys from when he was a child – they were now his toys. A ragged old doll with a green face, the smelling salts that now emitted noxious fumes, the cradle which was his bed (now time worn and tawdry). They reminded him of his inferior status, and he longed to rise. He was sick of sitting at home and lying around like a vagrant. He wanted to do something significant.
As the green-faced owner had to admit, he was no ordinary cat, someday he would be a ‘yion.’ The Yion would be his new name once he had been changed to his anthropomorphic self. But until the, he had to admit that he was still a cat – no more, no less. Tears of pain continued to fall from his face, only because he was so ignored. The elvish human hardly paid attention to him. The unassuming little cat used to play games – something that would obviously be beneath a yion. These trivialitites passed the time, but clearly did not get him to his goal. He played the scratching post ball game – a tether tied to a scratching post. The was the circle ball game – a ball that went around in a circle. The point of this game, he could not discern. But the amusement suited his fancy and dispelled the awful spectre of boredom – a continual issue in the court of Cornelia, the capitol of Marginalia.
BY could tell that the green master felt this boredom powerfully as well, but he called it ‘ennuie,’ which was perhaps Dragonite for something he could hardly understand. He remained resigned to his temporary fate as a housecat, but his dreams were different. BY could imagine himself the summoned creature of a powerful warrior – perhaps his master. But it was beyond him for now so he curled up by the fireplace and napped.
I’ve been perusing into fantasy literature, and have found a few gems which I will explicate here. Wizard’s First Rule, by Terry Goodkind, is one of the best that I have ever read. This one has nuggets of wisdom woven into tangibly readable dialogue and action. I haven’t yet seen a fantasy novel that leads in so well with the death of Richard’s father, to the Mud People, to the jarring revelation of the Rule. Why this hasn’t been made into a TV miniseries yet, I don’t know.
I’m less of a fan of some of the spinoff fiction from this author. Severed Souls, for me, wasn’t near up to the descriptive capability of its predecessor. I’m still struggling with the wanton violence, which seems excessive and doesn’t really have a point. But many people would say that fantasy works do this ad infinitum. Going over the top doesn’t really help the dialogue, nor the plot. Without an appreciation of the characters, the book wouldn’t attract me in the slightest.
I also recently finished Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. Jordan seems an able administrator of his fiction in a way that is catching to the eye. His work was recently redone in a miniseries, but I didn’t like way the characters were portrayed. It didn’t hold a candle to the book, not by a longshot. In order to create a fantasy world this detailed, you probably have to get a PhD in the thing. But I’m still trying to get this book, and I may have to give it another good solid read.
The greatest fantasy novel (other than Tolkien which doesn’t count) is ‘The Elfstones of Shannara,’ by Terry Brooks. This masterwork was made into a TV miniseries with MTV, but as far as I know, it has been yanked off of Netflix, for reasons that I durst not explain. I did enjoy this portrayal of the work, and it was much closer to the book’s contents with a few annoying teen prop fictional sentimentalism. But if I had to recommend one to go for, it would be this one. I’m part of the way through Song of Shannara. This work seems promising, but ‘Elfstones’ is the masterpiece.
I’ve recently finished Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Roses and Thorns. The world she has created is fairy tale friendly and quite sexy at points. I’ve likened this particular work to other mythos registers such as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and Erica Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling. The storytelling is succinct, dynamic, and eminently readable. Romance and fantasy do often dovetail nicely, as they do in this incipient work about Prythia.
The list goes on here, and I’m about to get into some N. K. Jemsin total escapism. I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to hold down a job!
I’ve been reading and rereading this account (By Nathaniel Hawthorne) of the Fourierist utopian colony Brook Farm founded by George Ripley. My interest has shifted over time, but the main point here is that the colony is a strange amalgam of Christianity and socialism in a way that would never be possible today. The hours of reading often lead nowhere. I am still chugging away at this thing, but it’s become an obsession that never ends. I’m not getting much sleep at this point.
The main issue is that distractions keep coming up that frustrate my efforts to remain focused. One of those is FIFA 22 for the XBOX. But the old stuff that I used to do, mainly fantasy YA lit for my son, keeps coming up. I am redoubling my efforts by taking retreats to hotels in the North GA mountains in order to focus solely on this project.
I can honestly say that this is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do professionally. No one should go into a PhD program lightly. It takes everything you have and more if you want to succeed. I’m glad at least that I still have time to put down the tchotchkes that muddle the brain and refocus. It’s going to take a Metamorphosis of the type that Kafka relates in his novella of the same name.
I hope that my fans from the YA lit take it to heart, b/c these advanced degrees are not so easy to get. But I do believe that it will be worth it in the end. I just have the worst insomnia, and some dizziness. Looking forward to the day when this whole thing will be done. But I need a mix tape of jarring discordant melodies to get me to sleep sometimes. I recommend Silver Dapple.
I’m glad to post this, b/c for the longest time it seemed that I was locked out of my account.
Very rarely do I hear a storyblog so brutally honest as this one by Ms. Moon. I’m relaying it to my readers who desire some sort of a knock-some-sense-in-me factuality about publishing in YA lit.
The rest of this blog is about Heptograms…. A kind of magnificent man made star.
The heptogram is the seven pointed star. But it’s also symbolic of Ouija board games and fantasy role playing. Caveat: this is an experimental post. Scientists beware!
This amalgam of triangles may be a platonic conception of a star untethered to astrological nonsense. But more likely on the Pascal’s triangle. This view of a geodesic dome is a replica of the same mathematical principle of Pascal’s triangle, which has infinitely repeating triangles.
This mountain of nonsense has very little to do with my dissertation, but you’ll be glad to know that Pascal’s triangle can be replacated in numbers by adding sums:
The French mathematician Blaise Pascal created a fractal that expressed this value of triangles that infinitely repeat.
Why do we put a star of Bethlehem on the top of the Christmas tree? It is more likely because of the tapping into the non-changeable quality of the stars, a reality that organizes our days without the use of Chaos (the destroyer).
The 7 pointed star remains a geometric figure which cannot be tesselated. The image is below.
I have been playing the board game ‘Starburst’ below. Same principle.
I have been trying to sift through a number of documents related to the French-American connection during the embryonic stage of American Lit. This has taken the form of the writings of Albert Brisbane, who popularized Charles Fourier (Much as the works of Michel Foucault popularized Jeremy Bentham in ‘Discipline and Punish’) in his ASTRAL howl: ‘The Social Destiny of Man.’
I’ve spent hours in the stacks of the GSU library trying to sort through microfiche (which if you haven’t done is a wild ride in throwback research) in order to get a digital still of Brisbane. I did manage to get this still, (which for the purposes of copyright I am posting a dummy image below). The main word that I got from this particular document was ‘sidereal.’
The rest of this blog is dedicated to understanding this term. Sidereal. Dictionary.com defines this adequately. But the idea is not in the definition. It is this antiquated idea (which many people tie to astrology, but I argue has nothing to do with this sort of superstition) that there is a sacred canopy over us, that dictates the course of human events in a way contrary to random chance.
I won’t get into chaos theory here, because of course it is not possible to totally defeat chaos. Chaos is just part of life, as that Jeff Goldblum clip of Jurrasic Park may testify as to the “tiny variations” (01:31). But is there some other reality tied to the course of the planets and the positions of the stars, which might dictate the relationship between a very random (internet/streaming media) sense of how events happen in the 21st century and the implacable wisdom of the ancients?
I do think that Brisbane was on to something here, or perhaps that we have lost the sense that some things are predetermined in a way that defeats a ‘time plus matter plus chance’ version of reality. The stars symbolize a kind of alternative destiny, that if the starlight could reach the earth before the star burns out, would connect us with an awesome and quite supernal version of reality.
Tefl and Poxig woke that morning with some trepidation that the winter wraiths of the Ladimore mountains would descend. As the first rays of daylight ceded to the afternoon glare, the cold began to make them more cantankerous by the minute. The icy cliffs seemed quite impassable and Truliso for the moment had disappeared from view. As they awoke from their slumber in the icy cliff, they plotted their course back through Nitla Pass to the confines of Marginalia. With the ORB lit, they would have a chance at reaching the king and presenting themselves as the warriors who were to fulfill the prophecy. But the episode with Marty the gatekeeper had made them realize their material lack, and in fact they could not depend on civilized methods to reach their goal. Poxig awoke, as if from a stupor, only wishing that he could return to his days as a bard of old tales. There was no place for music in this regions, and winter wraiths were always tracking them.
“We must advance through Nitla Pass, and back across the Vistula river, said Tefl.
“I beg to differ,” said Poxig after a moment’s pause. “Those roads only lead to peril, and we will surely be overtaken by highwaymen, or worse, winter wraiths.”
“Well, by what authority do you make this decision?” asked Tefl.
“I pray to my god Releven, and he renders decisions that I must follow,” said Poxig.
“Releven is a legend of the elvenfolk, but he is not to be trusted in the time of peril,” said Tefl.
“Think of it this way: suppose we were to make it through Nitla Pass, like we were able to last time. Don’t you think that Darxon will be anticipating for us to use that route? He already knows that we have been to the Naughright guild. Only Releven had a great enough strength to oppose Mithrax at the pass. Our way is fraught with peril and we lack adequate resources to oppose such a force. We must go up Mt. Redoubt through the Renfro Woods. Do you have a better idea?”
“We must needs make our way through with the force that Master Control provides. No visible god can help us. How can you depend on the advice of an Elven legend to lead you in the time of war? Did not you learn of the religion that divided man and elf during the war? We must depend on a force stronger than an Elven myth.”
This severely irked Poxig because he knew of Releven’s protection and favor, but could not make his friend see the danger of returning through Nitla Pass on the King’s road. They had lost nearly all their silver in their expedition to the Silver City, and they would not have recourse to journey in the open where they were subject to taxes and tolls. Also, it was likely that Darxon knew of their path and had posted sentries.
The argument continued between the two companions.
“We must plow through Nitla Pass and face Darxon’s threat head on,” said Tefl.
“I admire your courage. But where did you get that argument?”
“What are you talking about?”
“No man stands alone. He must stand on the shoulders of a giant that has come before,” replied Poxig.
“Master Control bids it.”
“But we cannot stand on the shoulders of an invisible God.”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“Releven was the god that stood against Mithrax at Nitla Pass,” Poxig said.
“And you think that Releven is actually a god?”
“He is the elven diamond, the son of the promise,” replied Poxig.
“And you claim to know this god?” asked Tefl.
“My family has paid obeisance since my youth,” he replied.
“Then, your visible god has told you that we will not be able to defeat the Dark Lord at Nitla Pass?” Tefl asked.
“I am sure of it,” said Poxig.
The argument continued for some time like that, back and forth. No hero could convince the other fully. But in the end, they had to compromise. The party would ascend Mt. Redoubt and press on through the Renfro woods. There were more chances to run into wolves. The trail might be unclear, and the chance of getting lost was likely, but they had to stand on the shoulders of a god that had come before. No invisible God with a half-known prophecy could be trusted to lead them with superior force and courage.
Stories hold a special ability to deeply impact their readers. Those who enjoy reading imaginative fiction like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings by the Wade Center’s authors already know the truth of that statement. From the page to the screen, from the parables Jesus used for the spiritual benefit of his audiences to the trials of two small hobbits struggling up the slopes of Mount Doom, stories engage the heart in ways that other forms of expression cannot accomplish. We yearn for that kind of engagement and feel nourished once we find it, like taking a breath of fresh spring air or a drink of water after a long thirst.
J.R.R. Tolkien calls this nourishment “recovery” in his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” explaining that stories can help us see life afresh and reawaken or illuminate spiritual truths:
After they had crossed over the blue field gate, Poxig and Nesta appeared at the shoreline of the Crescent Lake. They had experience little discomfort. They had not achieved their aim, but at least had gained the trust of an invaluable ally in sage Luckan. Now with his blessing, they would have to return to the borders of Marginalia, and find enough support to gain access to the king’s chamber. The journey across the Ladimore mountains would not be an easy one. The snowfall on the top of mount Redoubt was so thick as to make it almost impassable.
“What did you find in the interior of the city?” asked Tefl.
“We were introduced to the Naughright guild, but evil forces had infiltrated it. Darxon’s mages voted us down,” replied Poxig.
“I must needs return to Naughright to learn light magic,” said Nesta.
“You will get that opportunity,” said Poxig. “But now it is too dangerous. Darxon’s mages could lead you to calamity.”
“We did make the acquaintance of one sage Luckan,” said Poxig. “He was able to light the ORB for us.”
Poxig showed the four the lit ORB, which was brilliant in all its array.
“Now with the lit ORB, it is possible to gain the attention of the king,” said Poxig.
The party now had to decide what to do with Truliso, and how to preserve the Dragon king’s message. Jane Lampion was able to take care of Truliso, but it was doubtful that she could return to the Cardia Islands. She would have to go as far as Excelsior, and then remain there for the party to return with news of the king’s decision. With the influence of king Charles, and access to the remaining ORBs, it would be possible to thwart the earthlink or at least delay it.
They moved beyond the gradations of the acclivity as they continued through the gloaming. Beyond the reaches of the magic gate’s protection, there was no telling what dangers might confront the party of four. Poxig and Tefl sent Truliso to scout ahead for goblin rangers, which were said to occupy this mountain path. Once they reached the borders of Marginalia, they would have to confront the hordes of imps that were swarming the country. It had now come to their attention through the letter of Christopher White that the imps were loyal only to Garlang and that they were trying to destory the confines of Marginalia city.
“What hope would we have to overcome these goblin rangers without a properly equipped army?” asked Tefl.
“We must rely on Truliso to scout for us. We now have the ORB, which guarantees our entrance into the king’s court.”
The glow of the ORB comforted Poxig. Its reds and blues glint with hints of gold scintilla. He could feel that its aura was protecting them from grave danger. As long as the ORB was lit, they at least had the magical protection of Luckan, which would surround them with a circle of protection of light magic. Darxon’s power could not harm them with the ORB in their possession.
Shiela Nesta’s force with the light magic had begun to accrete from her experience inside the Naughright guild. Her healing powers were now substantially beyond her ability when she had lived at the outpost with her uncle. She would have had a more difficulty turning leaves into healing powder, but some of the remedies that she had learned from the likes of Luckan had made her ability beyond what it had been at the outpost with her uncle sage Barry.
The crew of four continued up their path to the acclivity on this rocky trackless waste. The trees had been snapped in two because of the force of the gusts in the Ladimore range. They would have to make their way through snow and ice that made the way almost impassable. They huddled together in hopes of keeping warm. Their destination of the Vistula riverbed which formed the barrier of Marginalia seemed quite a ways off.
They would have to stop for the night and rest under the outcropping. No fire would warm their hearts: only the glow of the ORB could give them comfort in the inky dark night. Poxig bade them good night and tucked himself under his blanket to sleep away his fears of goblin hordes. With Truliso leading the way across the mountain range, they took a pause to regather their strength for the morning trudge across the path of blinding white.