The secret of Narnia

Michael Ward

New from the world of literature: Michael Ward has detected the organizing principle behind the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis: each of the seven books evokes the mood of one of the seven medieval heavens: Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Sol, Luna, Mars, and Saturn. At first glance it makes sense. That’s why the Christian theme is a minor one and why there’s a Father Christmas but no Nativity.

He has two books that analyze the parallels between medieval cosmology and the seven volumes. There’s a more scholarly critique called Planet Narnia and a more popular book called The Narnia Code. They came out a couple of years ago so you may have heard of them. You can read about them at Planet Narnia.

Hat tip to Jeffrey D. Koonistra, the book reviewer at Analog. He gets a point deducted, though for referring to representative people of their day as Medieval Man and Twenty-first-Century Man.

Gregory Clark, soldier and journalist

Someone asked me about Gregory Clark‘s books. This is THE Gregory Clark, Canadian journalist: soldier, reporter, humourist, and family man, not the American fellow who writes about economics. Clark fought in World War I, winning the Military Cross at Vimy Ridge, and reported on World War II. Greg Clark’s father, Joseph T. Clark, was the editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star.  Clark worked for the Star for many years and developed his famous humour columns, often embellished with a cartoon drawn by Jimmy Frise. Clark’s son, James Murray Clark, was also a Star journalist, but was killed in 1944 while serving with the Regina Rifle Regiment.  Clark died in 1977.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation created the Greg Clark award in his honour.

In honour of spring, everyone should read his short essay, “Bird of Promise.”

Bethesda, Maryland

Susan Jacoby

Susan Jacoby

Barbara Forrest

Barbara Forrest

I’m in Bethesda at a conference of the Centre for Inquiry. So far I’ve met authors Barbara Forrest and Susan Jacoby, much to my delight.

Jane Austen’s blighted romance

jane-austenNew evidence suggests that Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, interfered with Jane’s chances for a happy marriage.

Lynne Murray’s book blog

I stumbled upon this book blog while looking for something else: Lynne Murray’s “30 Years Ago Today: I had an orange notebook.” Here’s part of her article about “Motherhood: humor, sadness, artistry, magic & grace“:

Shirley Jackson is arguably a better writer than my favorite domestic goddess essayist, Betty MacDonald who wrote: The Egg and I, The Plague and I, Onions in the Stew, Anybody Can Do Anything, and um, a bunch of children’s books…

MacDonald was more of a comic genius. (She created the unforgettable Ma and Pa Kettle, based on farming neighbors in Washington state.)

Jackson and MacDonald both address what someone has called “the visceral shock of motherhood” and the disillusionment of the drudgery of family life from a woman’s point of view. I lent out my copy of The Egg and I, so I can’t quote you the passage where McDonald describes the shock of her swift descent from bride to wife. She made it funny, but you could see why her first marriage ended in divorce as she detailed her transition between being a sought-after bride to living with a husband who considered her a “bad sport” or inept because she didn’t share his knack for and joy in the drudgery of farm life. I remember reading it at 12 or so, and thinking, hmmm . . . men, marriage, maybe there’s something there that the romantic stories don’t mention.

More books!

I let myself be lured into a bookstore (the Indigo at Yonge & Highway7) to meet a friend and pick up my share of materials to be judged for the STC Toronto’s Technical Publications and Online Documentation contests. Of course, once in the store I had to look around. This is what I ended up with.


  • The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow, about probability and improbability (for LotStreetWiz)
  • Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey
  • Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs by Andrew Newberg

I reluctantly passed up Stroke of Insight, a first-person account of recovery from a stroke even though it had good insights into the nature of brain function and body awareness—too expensive, little re-read value. It was interesting that damage to the left or verbal side of the brain immediately produced an oceanic feeling of exaltation and oneness with the universe.

Science fiction & fantasy:

  • The Collected Short Fiction of C. J. Cherryh by C. J. Cherryh
  • The Heart of Valor by Tanya  Huff – third in a series about interstellar warfare
  • Blood Bank, by Tanya Huff – short stories & a screenplay about Victoria Nelson, police detective, and Henry Fitzroy, vampire: I like the novels
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: he’s amusing in the blogosphere, so I have to try his writing
  • Heroes in Training, stories selected by Martin H. Greenberg: about young people and how they take that first step on the Glory Road; or, how do people rise to the challenge in an emergency?
  • The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, stories selected by Ellen Datlow. Looks good.

I am now truly set for the next two months, especially since I have a few half-read books around, such as Of Moths and Men and The God of Small Things (a novel set in India) and If Life is a Game, These are the Rules.

The competition is stiff, but I think Cherryh is my favourite science fiction author. Hard science fiction. With physics. With anthropology. With realistically partial views of what’s going on. And even with economics. And I noted the dismal persistence of pretty good male authors while female authors of better caliber vanish from the shelves.

Big grey sky

I left work just about local sunset under a vast, humid grey cloud, the fringes of Hurricane Hanna.

I picked up a cooked chicken on the way home and had almost the classic Margaret Visser meal tonight: chicken, corn, and tomato. In her book Much Depends on Dinner, she had rice on the plate as well. (Each chapter of the book describes the history of a food in the dinner.)

It’s going to rain tomorrow and we’ll have hot, humid weather. I’m not doing any laundry tonight. At least the temperature is going down to 20 tonight; and I’ll button the house up against the heat tomorrow.

Our long-haired cat, Marlowe, has been very bad-tempered all day with sticky burrs in her fur, but she won’t stand still for anyone to cut them out: its a two-person operation.

I worked late last night and I want to be alert tomorrow, so I’m going to replenish the dry catfood and go to bed. If I can’t sleep I’ll go out for a walk.