On Saturday, October 19th, we went to the Astor Hotel on Milwaukee's east side to attend the wedding of Katherine (Katy) Arkenberg and Dwayne Bochnak. Katy is our friend and a member of the Burrahobbits reading group we belong to. We hope that Dwayne will become a friend as well, as he seems like a nice guy. And, besides, Katy met him through "Star Wars" fandom--.

The Astor Hotel is a nice venue, and the ballroom used very pretty. It was also adjacent to the hotel's capacious bar, which served as a place to hang out both before the ceremony, and while the room was being reset for the reception.

The bride looked beautiful in a classic, simply shaped white satin dress, decorated with lace appliques. The other women of the wedding party wore individually styled long dresses of a lovely royal blue. All the gentlemen were elegant in tasteful black suits with white boutonnieres.
Court Commissioner Mary Howard Johnstone officiated. The ceremony was not elaborate, but effective, with vows written by Katy and Duane.

Following the ceremony, the guests adjourned to the barroom, where open bar and snacks, some of them quite creative, kept people busy until the reception dinner was set up.

The reception was quite fun with many 'fannish' elements. We were bemused to see that we were at Table 111, until discovering that it was numbered for Bilbo's age at the beginning of "The Lord of the Rings" (properly, "eleventy-one"). Other tables had numbers referential to "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Doctor Who," "Firefly," and engineering and science. The bride and groom entered under an arch of illuminated light sabers.

The meal was one of the best wedding dinners we have had. Georgie and I had opted for the chicken, which was juicy, not at all overdone, and served with a very tasty sauce. The people who ordered the beef appeared to have sizable portions of actual fillet mignon, which looked very good also.

A disc jockey was laid on for after, but we didn't stay for dancing. I was impressed that the DJ came around to the tables and asked for particular requests. Altogether a totally successful and very enjoyable wedding. We wish Katy and Dwayne all the best, and look forward to getting to know Dwayne better.
On Tuesday evening, May 24th, the Burrahobbits reading group met at the home of Jan and Jeff Long to discuss"Under Heaven," the most recent novel by Guy Gavriel Kay.  This is the newest of his fantastic historical adaptations, this time set in a milieu approximating the 8th Century T'ang Dynasty, and the events leading up to and into the "An Shi Rebellion" of that time. 

The protagonist, Shen Tai, has been mourning the death of his father, a famous general, by spending two years single handedly burying the dead who had been left lying on the field of the General's greatest victory. This earns him not only the gratitude of the ghosts that haunt the field, but also that of the rulers of the opposing kingdom, who gift him with five hundred of their fine horses--a gift equivalent in value to several emperors' ransoms, and of great political and strategic value that pitches Shen Tai  deeply into the dangerous politics of his homeland.

Shen Tai's challenges work out as threads of the tapestry that also involves an Emperor in his dotage, competing heirs, scheming ministers, ambitious concubines, threatening barbarians, and dissatisfied generals--in short, all the characters one would expect in an epic of Mythic China.

Kay writes a very good story with believable danger and intrigue and a rather surprising denouement, without getting too caught up in "Orientalism" for its own sake. The book was well-liked by the group, and recommended for fans of Kay, and of historical fantasy.

Tuesday evening, the 26th, our fantasy book discussion group, The Burrahobits, met at the home of Sue Blom to discuss Robertson Davies' novel, The Lyre of Orpheus.

The Lyre of Orpheus fits marginally into the fantasy category due to its mystical element (the ghost of E.T.A. Hoffman comments on the action) and its Arthurian connection: not only does the book deal with the making of an opera based on the legend of King Arthur, but the events of the Arthurian canon begin to have parallels in the lives of the characters. Besides, we just like Robertson Davies--.

The novel is an entertaining look at the continuing lives (this is the third of a trilogy) of a group of people part of, and associated with, Davies fictional Toronto University, and, in particular with the decision to mount a full production of a "new" opera based on unfinished music composed by Hoffman, as reconstructed by an eccentric graduate student, and all that that entails in the way of artistic, academic, and interpersonal maneuvering.

Davies' work is very good for those of us who appreciate a low-keyed comedy of manners, particularly in an academic setting. (We have two professors in our group, who found The Lyre of Orpheus amusingly true to life--.)

On Tuesday the 24th, the Burrahobbits convened their regular meeting at the residence of Jeff and Jan Long. The book under discussion was “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke. Clarke is the author of “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell,” and “Ladies” is a collection of short stories set mostly in the same milieu. Most of the stories were quite enjoyable, although of course the group did not all agree on which were which. Georgie and I most liked the title piece, “Mrs. Mabb”, ‘Mr. Simonelli, or, the fairy widower,’ ‘Tom Brightwind, or, how the fairy bridge was built at Thoresby,’ and ‘John Uskglass and the Cumbrian charcoal burner’. ‘On Lickerish Hill,” an attempt to transplant “Tom Tit Tot” into the landscape was regarded as least successful. “The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse,” a “Stardust” story by Neil Gaiman, got mixed reviews.
The Burrahobbits fantasy book group met February 28 to discuss Peter Dickinson’s “The Kin”. This work by the prolific author is composed of four stories (originally published as four books) about the adventures of the “Moonhawks”, a clan of people at the dawn of human culture and language. The books were written for the Young Adult market, so the protagonists are a small group of young people who become separated from their clan while trekking to new territory after being displaced by a hostile tribe. Whether the main story is fantasy (as opposed to speculation) is debatable, although there do seem to be definite instances of “First Ones” (tutelary animal spirits) speaking through the people or sending true visions. Each chapter of “real world” action is accompanied by a portion of the Kin’s mythology, commencing with the birth of People into the world, and including some hero tales and the story of the first warfare.

The Kin survive drought, volcanic eruption, flood, marauding lions and crocodiles, and enemy raiders by dint of ingenuity, guts, and the occasional vision, though not without losses. The nice thing about these stories is that the leaps of invention are quite reasonable. For example, a deadfall trap used to catch “rats” for food is extrapolated into a larger version intended to deal with a man-eating lion. One of the things we found quite interesting was how little it took to establish a technology, or a culture. When the book opens the Kin’s tools are limited to digging sticks, knapped stone cutters, and the all-important fire log, which allows the Kin to keep and transport fire. They use hollow gourds to carry water, but have no strings or straps, so anything that has to be carried has to be carried in hand. Though contact with other people they meet in their wanderings, they acquire the use of other tools, such as fishing spears. We found it quite interesting that although most of the other people the Kin meet are pre-verbal, they tend to have skills and cultural development that are the equal of, if not in some ways superior to, those of The Kin.

It is not a thrilling book, but it is an interesting and engaging reflection on what it is to be human. It is also cleverly written, since Dickinson manages to use a restricted vocabulary for the Kin’s language without being dull or repetitious. (A humorous note: I predict this is the longest book you will read that has no mention whatever of what someone is wearing or not wearing, since the concept of clothing does not exist in this milieu any more than airplanes or automobiles do--). Enjoyable light reading for adults and possible thought-provocation fodder for advanced children able to deal with concepts of death and battle.
Tuesday night, November 28th, our fantasy raading group, the "Burrahobbits", met at the home of Fr. Peter Schuessler. Peter provided a very congenial meeting place with yummy snacks and drinks, and we had a good session of cheery chat before settling down to discuss the evening's book, "Hercules, My Shipmate," by Robert Graves. Graves is best known as the author of "I, Claudius," but has written many other books of non-fiction, poetry, and other fiction applying his unique blend of historical research and invented interpolation. "Hercules, My Shipmate," (1945) is his retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece. We found the book very interesting but not without problems. The book begins with a lengthy exposition of the religio-political history leading up to the events, particularly focusing on the struggle between the supposed indigenous Goddess religion and the patriarchal institutions of the Achean invaders who came to dominate the Greek peninsula. Interesting, but not exactly a swift start to a novel. The title character, Hercules, does not appear until the eighth chapter, but he is not really the protagonist anyway, that being of course Jason.

The book is a sometimes unwieldly mix of realism and the fantastic. The gods intervene in the affairs of men (although ambiguously, in dreams), there are apparently ghosts, Medea can do real magic, and of course Hercules has his miraculous strength. On the other hand, Graves (sometimes cleverly) demythologizes the Clashing Rocks, the Harpies, and the myth of Sysiphus. Centaurs are men with a Horse totem, and there is no unsleeping dragon guarding the Fleece, although there are guardians to outwit.

Graves' quest story seems influenced by both Sindbad the sailor and Hans Christian Anderson's "The Tinderbox", as the various members of the Argo's crew get to show off their skills in furtherance of the quest. The reading is rather dense, and one does feel that we would not have had to have every landfall and overnight stop recounted.

On the other hand, the wealth of detail does sometimes fascinate, and you end up with a feeling that you know a lot about the mythic-period cultures of the Black Sea and the Aegean, and Graves does succeed in making many of the Argo's crew inidividuals, with particular emphasis on Jason and the tragic Hercules, "whom all men admire, but none envy."
Elizabeth Moon's recent novel "The Speed of Dark" might seem an odd choice for a fantasy reading group with an emphasis on Tolkien, since it is very-near-future science fiction, and SF elements are actually rather minimal. In fact, I'm not sure who chose it. Nevertheless, most found the book quite engaging, and we had a lively discussion about it.

The story concerns a group of autistic people who have benefited from childhood treatments so that they are very highly-functioning and able to hold jobs doing important work in pattern recognition and analysis for a research-oriented corporation. Their autism gives them an aptitude for this work as long as they are supported by having things like an on-site gym where they can go to expend nervous energy when needed. Lou, the main character, is among the best adjusted of the group and has non-autistic friends and takes part in a fencing class.

Conflict arises when their group acquires a new senior manager who resents the autists' special concessions, and is intent on coercing the workers into becoming test subjects for a new treatment that may make it possible for them to function "normally." The potential dangers not only of the untested treatment but of leaving a life, however circumscribed, to which one has become accustomed, are the novel's sources of tension.

Moon does an admirable job of presenting the world from the autistic's viewpoint. She has an autistic son herself, and has studied the subject intensely. Her proposed "cure" represents the current best science on this as-yet poorly understood condition, and reflects her hopes for the future.

While the book has lots of merits, I found it unsatisfying. The senior manager is a cardboard villain whose motives are unconvincing--no one would really expect to have their entire department suddenly go on extended medical leave and upper echelons not notice--. Further, the danger once confronted proves to be not all that dangerous. Lou not only comes through the procedure with flying colors, he seems to drop his past life (in the seemly rushed denouement) without a care or a regret. My criticisms were not shared by others in the group, so I ould encourage anyone who might be interested in the subject matter to read it and make up your own mind.

I had also recently read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," by Mark Haddon, in which an autistic fifteen year old decides to investigate the killing of his neighbor's dog. It develops many of the same issues found in Moon's book, without the science-fiction trappings, and is a good story in its own right.
On Tuesday evening, the Burrahobbits fantasy reading group met at the home of Dave Hoose. We enjoyed the summer evening in the Hoose’s yard, sipping lemonade and working our usual rambling discussion around to this unusual work by John Steinbeck.
Steinbeck is better known for his works of realistic Americana, such as “The Grapes of Wrath.” In introductory notes to the work, the author indicates that he had always loved the works of Thomas Malory, and with the discovery of the Winchester Manuscripts that expanded upon the Arthurian canon, decided to make use of this new resource to update Malory for modern times. The work was not finished in Steinbeck’s lifetime and was only published as an unfinished work. Steinbeck declared his intention was not to re-write T.H. White or “Camelot,” although, ironically in the later portions of the work he does mimic White in that he introduces very modern ideas and sensibilities, although he avoids the satirical elements that mark “The Once and Future King.” The collection of letters dating during the writing process that are appended hint that he may have become more expansive in reaction to negative comments on the first sections, which follow Malory most closely.

The intriguing thing about the work is wondering what it might have been like had it been finished. The book ends just as the Lancelot-Guinevere-Arthur triangle is on the horizon, and before any mention of the Holy Grail. It would have been very interesting to see how Steinbeck approached these important Arthurian subjects.

Reactions to the book were, as usual, mixed. Some of us preferred the more elaborated chapters (as I did), while others preferred the clean purity of the early chapters.
On Tuesday evening, we gathered on the lovely deck at the residence of Peter Schuessler for the Burrahobbits cookout, which has become an annual affair. As usual, Peter was master of the grill, providing delicious burgers and bratwurst, and mixmaster Dave Hoose made his famous Martinis for anyone that wanted one. We brought my devilled eggs, and Georgie made strawberry shortcake, with fresh strawberries from the West Allis Farmers’ Market and homemade “cakes”. Other salads and snacks were also on offer, so, as usual, it was a delicious time. Even after the food and drink, we managed to have a cogent discussion of “The Merlin of the Oak Wood,” by Anne Chamberlin. This book is the second of her “Joan of Arc Tapestries” series, which has so far chronicled the youth of Gilles de Rais and birth of Jehanne D’Arc in “The Merlin of St. Giles’s Well.” “Oak Wood” continues following the lives of the two main characters as Gilles grows into his career as a warrior and becomes involved in the unsavory politics of France, and Jehanne as she awakens to the arcane life of the earth around her and eventually decides to claim her position as “La Pucelle.” What’s frustrating is that this last event takes place in literally the last pages of this volume, which makes one wonder why both books, which are of modest length by modern standards, couldn’t have been combined into one. Both together would hardly add up to one Jordan or Modesitt chunk. However, one suspects that the inevitable third volume which will have to cover the three years of Jehanne’s glory and martyrdom, would then seem meagerly slim, even padded out with Chamberlin’s somewhat didactic exposition of ideas about the survival of Pagan practices in the war-torn France of the Hundred Years War.

This was one of the most discussed points of the book, not so much in the possibility of continued ancient rituals, which isn’t that unreasonable, but Chamberlin’s fictionalized idea of the underlying philosophy. The concept of “balance” as a goal isn’t new, but the old ways priests’ balancing of “good” and “evil” seems somewhat disturbing, particularly as it leads Yann to take some pretty nasty actions in pursuit of his purpose. We did not think that “moral ambiguity” was a much-debated concept in those troubled times, but “desperate times call for desperate measures” seems to be the byword of everyone in the books and seems at odds with the doctine that means affect ends which is a tenet of much mystical study.
The Burrahobbits met at the Long’s residence Tuesday evening to discuss “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. We had quite a bit of fun speculating on which writer had contributed which parts of the book. There were differences of opinion as to whether “Them”, the Anti-Christ’s kid gang, were useful to the plot or not, although the majority agreed that they did fulfill a very necessary purpose in the humanization of the Destroyer. Some felt that the ending rather petered out, but most of us declared that the book was quite enjoyable, although not “deathless prose.” Crowley the tempter and Aziraphel the angel were the general favorite characters, and we appreciated the parallels to spy lit like John Le Carre in addition to the apocalyptic plot takeoff of “The Omen” which is the major thrust of the work.
Saturday evening the third we met for the annual Burrahobbits holiday party at the home of Jan and Jeff Long. Although the Burrahobbits aren't shy about calling it a "Christmas" party, we found that trying to find a date in December conflicted with so many other events that we just moved it to the first weekend in the New Year as a convenience. As always, there was plenty of good cheer and good food. The meal portion is a potluck technically, but by this time we have settled into usual roles, in which Georgie supplies the torte from Clasens, I bring shrimp and "crab", Sue Blom makes eggnog, the Longs supply cold meats and buns, and so on.

Of course, being Burrahobbits, we had to have SOME book discussion. The subject for the evening was The Dragon and the Unicorn, by A.A. Attanasio, which was pretty roundly jumped on. The consensus was that Attanasio's attempt to conflate Arthurian, Celtic, and Norse mythology with science was not well done. (The "world tree" on which the various gods live is Earth's magnetic field.) In addition, the writer's attempts to express the sensations experienced by non-material beings such as the "unicorn" of the title smacked of bad drug-trip writing pompously executed. Conclusion: Not the worst thing we've ever read, but not recommended.
Oh. My.

As has become our custom, we went out to see Return of the King with the Burrahobbits opening night. Very seldom is a motion picture or artist's conception better than my visual imagination (I have a wonderful visual imagination, couple with an almost total inability to draw it out--). Return of the King was that rarity. I found Minas Tirith so beautiful that tears came to my eyes. There were so many other things that were so beautifully realized it is hard to count them all. The long shot of Arwen riding across the bridge to Rivendell is one. Andy Serkis in the flesh as Smeagol, and the transition scenes making his devolution into the wretched Gollum quite chillingly believable was another. There are so many others. Shelob was believable, but less terrifying than I might have thought, whereas Sauron's assault on Pippin through the Palantir of Orthanc was far more so than I expected. The army of the dead Oathbreakers was more scary because they moved with speed—something not usually associated with the undead. Gollum's blissful fixation on the Ring, even as he falls to his death clutching it, was perfect. Watch the frantic and expressive movements of the Great Eye as Barad-Dud crumbles under it. Frodo and Sam looked authentically worn out as they approached Mount Doom—subtle details like the chafing around Frodo's neck from the 'weight' of the Ring are just so impressive.

Of course there are quibbles. The computer army generators get carried away for effect: the armies you see on screen are way too big and far exceed the numbers declared. Think of it—a group only ten wide and ten deep is a hundred. Ten of those are a thousand. Thus you can see that the army of Saruman that marched on Helm's Deep had vastly more than ten thousand figures in it. The force that assails Mina Tirith would have to number in the hundreds of thousands, yet they are put to flight by Rohan's alleged six thousand, who, on screen, appear nearly as numerous as the orc horde.

Legolas' one-elf assault on the rampaging oliphaunt was pure showing off, and I would have preferred to have cut that a few seconds to give us an expanded version of the death of Theoden and the Nazgul King—keeping in Eowyn's speech that begins, "Back, foul dwimmerlaik!" and Angmar's reply, "I will bear you down to the Houses of Darkness--." Especially since Legolas could have achieved the same result with an arrow to the eye, and Eowyn accomplished the same thing with a swift double hamstring. I also wanted to see Merry screwing up his courage to strike the Witch-King. His sudden attack from behind (echoed by Sam's attack on the orc menacing Frodo in Cirith Ungol) tends to reinforce the role-playing game stereotype of hobbits as sneaky backstabbers. We may get some of this in the extended version, since the film's producer, Barrie M. Osborne, is quoted in today's Milwaukee Journal describing the demise of Saruman, the Houses of Healing, and the scene where Eomer discovers the fallen Eowyn on the battlefield, so there is hope.
The "book" was "The Return of the King," the last volume of The Lord of the Rings. Not surprisingly, we were able to fill the entire evening with serious discussion of the work, fueled by some rather out-of-the-ordinary questions. While we were all generally admiring of the master's works, there was good debate about "The Scouring of the Shire," including whether or not it was necessary at all, and whether or not the repressions committed by "Sharkey's" thugs were too modern in tone. We pretty much agreed that, since Frodo was the main character, the return to the Shire was indeed a necessary part of winding up the story. The depredations of Saruman were more debatable, but we eventually concurred that, as, despite the claims of governance, there was no political agenda other than despoiling and destruction, this was gangsterism, and not technically Fascism. We agreed to catch the movie of Return on opening night, Dec. 17th. at the Westtown Cinemas for the 7:30 show.

Catching Up

Oct. 9th, 2003 12:50 pm
It’s been rather busy the last couple of weeks: let’s see.

On the 12th of September, I was depositing my paycheck at our credit union when I noticed a poster for sale of a 1997 Mercury Sable station wagon, good mileage and good price. The credit union occasionally has vehicles that have been ‘surrendered’ on a loan default, and this was a model we had been looking at as a possible replacement for my ’91 which now had 220,000 miles on it. I checked out the car and found it was an acceptable color, a nice teal green. (Georgie has the right to veto cars that are white or silver, as being unsafe for visibility in winter, or beige, as being boring.) I test drove it that Saturday morning, and found it good. We went in to the CU office on Monday and put down a payment to hold it while we shuffled funds to buy it. The ’91 was donated to charity. I would have felt bad giving or selling it to someone since I’m pretty sure whatever goes wrong with it next will be disastrously expensive if not dangerous, but the place we gave it to is an auto-mechanic training program, and they’ll take it apart an put it together again before they turn it loose on anyone else--. The wagon is very nice, and now I can do things like haul home a hunk of plywood from Menard’s again.

September 23rd was the Burrahobbits meeting, and we kept with the September Celtic theme, as the reading here was the Tain Bo Cualinge. We compared and contrasted a number of translations, including that of Lady Gregory, and the recent on by Thomas Kinsella. We also had cakes (including apple spice cupcakes by Georgie) to celebrate the eve of Bilbo’s birthday, which is of course Sept. 24, our reckoning.

September 29th is Michaelmas (the feast of St. Michael), and we got together for dinner at the residence of Tim Kozinski and Shelia Haberland for the annual dinner of lucky goose (it is lucky for you to eat goose on Michaelmas—not so lucky for the goose.) I brought wine and Georgie brought pies for dessert, both of which were well received. Tim prepared goose en croute as an appetizer, and the main dish of roast pork, both of which were excellent. The luck of the goose has stood by us well in the past, we shall see how effaceous it is this year. At any rate, we had a lovely dinner with good company.

October 4 was this month’s Bardic dinner—early this month due to other conflicts. Once a year we do a communal play reading instead of an individual reading, and this year’s play was the classic American comedy, “Arsenic and Old Lace.” We had great fun with the reading, despite the fact that many of us had to double roles. Georgie read Abby Brewster, Megan Barrowsby was Martha Brewster, I doubled the Brewster brothers Jonathan and Teddy, Bob Seidl read Mortimer Brewster, and Lily Sullivan was our Elaine. New York 30’s was the food theme, and we had standing rib roast will all the accouterments, with New York style cheesecake for dessert.

October 5, we drove to Spring Green for the closing performance of the season, “The Tempest.” It was a lovely day for a drive, and the gradually warming temperatures meant that with preparation we were able to endure the outdoor performance in comfort. This was an excellent production of Shakespeare’s last play, with some new ideas in it. Jonathan Gillard Daly was a very vigorous and worldly Prospero, much different from the withdrawn and mystical character frequently seen. He has learned to use his magic as a survival tool, instead of the monkish study which lost him his dukedom. If Daly’s performance had a flaw, it is in his lack of vocal variety. Prospero has a number of lengthy declamations, beginning with his exposition to Miranda in the second scene, and some of these got monotonous after a while. Most of the other characters were unremarkable, but both Ariel (Colleen Madden) and Caliban (Christopher Marshall) were scene-stealers in their own ways. Madden’s Ariel was subtly unhuman, not the flitting sprite commonly seen, and clever amplification of her good voice made her singing magic very effective. Caliban was a more human and more wretched creature, and seemed rather informed by the “Lord of the Rings” Gollum, with his emphasis on cringing and bootlicking rather than feral savagery.

October 6th was our 19th wedding anniversary. (It never seems to have been that long!) In the earlier part of the day we closed refinancing of our home mortgage so save ourselves a bit of money each month. In the evening we celebrated with dinner at Sanford, still Milwaukee’s finest restaurant. I had the seasonal mushroom special, which consisted of a mushroom and barley appetizer, tempura mushroom with broth, pheasant and wild mushroom “cobbler,” and “truffle” ice cream with spice cake. Georgie had the rabbit loin appetizer, followed by grilled elk, and tart cherry clafoutis for dessert. It was all wonderful! After dinner, we went to the Ashram meeting and found the topic of the night had been postponed by the low turnout, and just settled into an evening of chat.

October 7, we made time to run out to a movie, the first one in weeks. We chose to see “Secondhand Lions,” which we can heartily recommend. Robert Duvall and Michael Caine are fun to watch (although I don’t quite buy Caine as a Texan) and Hailey Joel Osment gives a fine performance as the boy fobbed off on his two eccentric and mysterious great-uncles. It is a very entertaining plot, enlivened by the old men’s reminiscences of their fabulous past which keeps it from being a mere sentimental story. Go and see it.
Tuesday night the 22nd was our annual Burrahobbits picnic at "Martini Point," the beautiful back yard and deck belonging to Burrahobbit Fr. Peter Schuessler. We managed a nice picnic before being driven indoors by the unseasonably cool temperatures. Highlights of the dining included the obligatory Martinis provided by chief mixologist Dave Hoose, and grilled chicken breasts and bratwurst by Peter. Georgie provided a fresh blueberry pie, and I contributed some of my 'famous' devilled eggs. Other members had their signature salads or other goodies, so it was an appropriately hobbitish feast.

The book for discussion was 'A Canticle for Leibowitz,' by Walter Miller. Genreral consensus was that this classic post-apocalypse novel stood up to the passage of time fairly well, and that its more disturbing aspects still had the power to evoke some interesting sidelights on our own times--particularly now.
Last night the Burrahobbits book discussion group met at the residence of Sue Blom. The book was "The Devil Wives of Li Fong," by E. Hoffman Price. The book is rather a curiosity since it was a new book in 1979 by an old "Wierd Tales" writer. At 200 pages in paperback, it's a short book by modern standards, and we found it a fast easy read. The plot involves the adventures of two "serpent spirits" who had been wicked women in past lives. A good monk inadvertently blesses them with human form, and they determine to use the opportunity to earn merit so that they will be reincarnated as true humans in the next life. After finding a hidden treasure, they decide to use to improve the life of a deserving man and settle on the apprentice druggist, Li Fong. The plot is complicated by the designs of greedy men after the treasure, and well-meaning but misguided holy men intent on "rescueing" Li Fong from the toils of the serpent-women. The book was generally enjoyed, and the characterizations of the bold and decisive women and the narrow-minded Abbot were particularly effective.
Last night the Burrahobbits, our local branch of the Mythopoeic Society, met for its monthly book discussion, at the home of Sue Blom. Topic was "The Hounds of the Morrigan," by Pat O'Shea. This is a young-peoples' fantasy set in Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century. The book was enjoyed by everyone for its humour, original characters, and bold treatment of historical Irish archetypes. We also set our reading list for the remainder of this year:

April 22 "The Devil Wives of Li Fong" by E. Hoffman Price; at Sue Blom's
May 27 "Lion's Blood" by Steven Barnes; at residence of Pat Bowne
June 24 "Artemis Fowl" by E. Colfer; at residence of Dave Hoose
July 22 "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter Miller and summer picnic; at residence of Peter Schuessler
August 26 "The Worm Ourobouros" by E.R. Eddison; at Jan's/Jeff Long's residence.

Sept. 23 "Tain Bo Cuailnge" (Cuchulain's cattle rustling tale) trans. L. Winfred Faraday, 2002, at residence of Don Mueller
Oct. 28 "Ghost Stories" by M.R. James; at residence of Gregory Rihn and Georgie Schnobrich
Nov. 25 "Return of the King" by JRR Tolkien; at Sue Blom's
Dec. 17? "Return of the King" movie night (Premiere); theatre TBD

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