If I stick with a book often it becomes a friend, opening itself to me. In beginning On the Edges of Elfland: A Fairy-Tale for Grown Ups, by David Russell Mosley, I liked first the Lovely- English Inn and-Village setting by the Woodlands. This was followed with affectionate characters and story-book suggestiveness through pub tales of what went before in the village. One does not want to see this village destroyed, or even changed. To change it would perhaps destroy it. I’m not as receptive to other tropes owing to readerly familiarity, so these must be handled in a manner refreshing to my years. Parts of young Alfred Perkins’ adventures in Elfland secure my reception, other parts do not.
One interest the book had going in is my desire to read books by New Englanders. As well as the publisher, the author and I share New England in common. Russell Mosley has also lived in England, where he achieved a Ph.D. in theology—with emphasis on medieval theology—from the University of Nottingham.
A scholar of fairy stories and criticism could do a good review of this book. As a reader and writer of fantasy I will respond differently. Jason Fisher in his “How to Review Books” BlogSpot entry of 10-22-12, advises answering this question: Should the book under consideration be read? His how-to has been helpful in the past, and its points are worth considering in composing a response. But, in reading Longinus on The Sublime I find myself agreeing with this ancient that “intelligence and zeal in themselves” are praiseworthy and should be focused upon instead of an author’s slips. So, in pondering, I find my purpose in engaging with Dr. Mosley’s book is not to give either a positive or negative review. What drew me to ask for the book may be more personal: Curiosity was the instigator.
While reading his blog I became interested in reading his book, the subtitle of which is A Fairy-Tale for Grown Ups. Reading people’s blogs often engages me to the point that I want to read their books. A book may be planned with full commitment and high expectations. Sometimes these are headed for self-publication, sometimes the traditional route. Anyway, curiosity is my draw, based on the personality and crafting coming through the webpages of these blogs.
Dr. Mosley’s book was granted me by the publisher on request; the same imprint publishing some of my Maine memoirs. We did not have to pay for it, and being on a fixed income we limit our book-buying here. Knowing my abilities, I did not promise to review though I planned some kind of response.
I find a confirmation of my reading involvement while re-reading CS Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism. Seemingly I have lost my reading muse in a transition from pleasure to work. The book before me became a work of … work. I’ve learned that what I wanted was to receive, not formally review, the book. And I’m sorry for turning several evening’s story-reading into work. An elderly primary character and purveyor of story in the Broken Spoke Inn on the edge of Elfland would not have allowed this to happen. His name is Oliver Cyning. Oliver inspired young Alfred Perkins when he was a small boy.
The production values of On the Edges of Elfland are very beautiful. One should not get rid of that word very in this instance. —Beautiful and nourishing the way aesthetics are meant to nourish the soul. Happy the author who finds his or her book in such hands, specifically Shannon Carter’s hands, she who designed its cover. But interior details of design and font and its delicate layout and chapter headings, by Ian Creeger, make me happy also through artistic impressions.
In a very carefully worded request, I had asked Resource Publications for a copy of this new fantasy. In saying I hoped to submit a response for publication, I was granted a copy some months after the book’s launch. The copy received had typographic errors. These typos appeared frequently enough to dispel the words meant to enchant my imagination. I was taken out of the book, not out of myself, whenever this happened. Typos aside, “To believe or not is usually in our own power; but [a] lofty passage does not convince the reason of the reader, but takes him out of himself.” (Longinus)
Now on to more impressions of the story itself. Before reading the book, but after reading a posted sample of the second chapter, I was put off by the word bully, and began to wonder if I should have committed to reading and responding. Just that one word. The word has been around for centuries, but is not used today for “a term of endearment” as on origination in the 16th century (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). However the word has deteriorated, however they are described, bullies have been around forever. I wondered then —might the narrator have used another word? But now you see me getting into heretical mode—”Here’s how you should have written your book, Dr. Mosley”. I really don’t want to do that, and suspect scholars don’t have that problem as much as do those who are themselves practicing the art form.
My non-review appeared in Mythprint some time back. A version with typos. (wink)
More next time: