MT VOID 06/24/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 51, Whole Number 1916

MT VOID 06/24/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 51, Whole Number 1916

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/24/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 51, Whole Number 1916

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups (NJ)

July 14: ROBOCOP (1987) and story "Brillo" by Ben Bova and Harlan 
	Ellison ( or 
	), Middletown (NJ) 
	Public Library, 5:30PM
July 28: "The Spectre General" by Theodore R. Cogswell and "The 
	Witches of Karres" by James H. Schmitz (both in SCIENCE 
	FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 
August 25: TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
September 22: "In Hiding [Children of the Atom]" by Wilmar 
	H. Shiras and "The Big Front Yard" by Clifford D. Simak 
	(both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
October 27: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
November 17: "Rogue Moon" by Algis Budrys and "The Moon Moth" by 
	Jack Vance (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
December 22(?): TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM 

Garden State Spec. Fiction Writers Lectures (subject to change):

July 9: Michael Swanwick, Building Stories, Old Bridge (NJ) Public 
	Library, 12N
August: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
September 10: Ellen Datlow, The State of Horror, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 12N
October 1: Ken Altabef, Adventures in Publishing, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 12N
November 5: David Sklar, Character Dreaming, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

Yet More Hugo Changes (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Just when you thought it was safe to read the Hugo finalists...

MidAmericon II has just announced a change to the Retro Hugo ballot: "Darker Than You Think" was mistakenly categorized as a novelette. It is a novella, but did not receive enough nominations to qualify in that category, so no longer appears on the ballot. "Vault of the Beast" by A. E. Van Vogt (Astounding, August 1940) has taken its place for novelette category. [-ecl]

Every Bit Helps (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The airlines have a new way of making a profit. They realize that people who fly coach do not like the narrow the narrow center seats. For an extra fee a passenger can get an assured aisle seat.


And for a few dollars more you can arrange a seat with no broken glass or baby vomit. [-mrl]

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for July (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Well, we are starting the second half of 2016. I guess I should be listing my choices for what on Turner Classic Movies you might have never heard of, or heard of but never seen. When I look at the films I have chosen for this month I notice that they are from 1955, 1957, and 1958. I wonder if I have a bias for the 1950s. Certainly there were a lot of good movies made in the 1950s, though outside of people with interest in science fiction, not many people seem to remember that decade with a particular fondness. But in the '50s there were a lot of interesting and hard-hitting films that one way or another went against the rules of the formula. Then they would be shown on television in the 1960s when I was a teen and starting to appreciate unusual cinema. Anyway, give these films a try if you will. As usual, all times are East Coast times. Also as usual if I am caught mischaracterizing any of the films here the Turner Corporation will disavow any knowledge of my actions or of me. And that is not surprising since they probably never heard of me.

I have a special fondness for 3:10 TO YUMA (1957), a Western well enough liked in its time but rarely seen these days. But someone must be remembering it because it did get a high-budget remake in 2007. Both versions are good, but I like the simplicity of the monochrome original, a film somewhat along the lines of HIGH NOON. In this adaptation of the story by popular crime writer Elmore Leonard Glenn Ford plays Ben Wade a killer who is somehow actually likable but seductive as a snake. He has the strange talent of charming anyone he wants to use. Dan Evans (Van Heflin) is a rancher whose cattle herding efforts are about to fail because of a three-year drought. Desperate to get money to buy water to save his cattle Dan agrees to escort Wade to the train to Yuma to stand trial. He knows full well that he risks getting killed by Wade's powerful gang. Wade decides to use his charm on Evans. Let the mind games begin. Watch the film the first time for the suspense that continues pretty much to the end of the film. And watch it a second time for the characters. Glenn Ford rarely plays a villain (maybe only this once), but he is just about perfect as Ben Wade. One odd note: listen carefully to the song lyrics sung by Frankie Laine. They must have been written as some sort of a parody of Western song lyrics. And it made a hit record in spite of the bizarre lyrics. [Wednesday, July 20, 4:45 PM]

MARTY won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1955, but outside of TCM it gets very little play these days. The whole premise is a hard sell to today's audiences. Marty Piletti (played by Ernest Borgnine when he was an unknown) is a 34-year-old, overweight butcher who lives with his mother. He is sick to death of his family and friends asking him, "When are you going to get married?" Marty knows the answer to that question. It is "never." He would love to get married. He would love to have a girlfriend. What he has instead is a string of years of empty evenings and disappointments. Then the unthinkable happens. Marty meets a girl who might be interested in him. That destabilizes Marty's relationships with his family and his friends. MARTY was the first of several 1950s films that were big screen adaptations/remakes of plays that appeared on live TV. Rod Steiger played the part of Marty Piletti on television as Ernest Borgnine did in the movie. The play and the screenplay were written by Paddy Chayefsky who also wrote THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964), THE HOSPITAL (1971), ALTERED STATES (1980), and most famously NETWORK (1976). Borgnine was a very unusual choice for the lead of a film. At this point most film leads were very attractive. Actors who did not have good looks were relegated to character roles. Putting Borgnine in the lead was a real risk, but United Artists even used Borgnine's weight as a selling point on the posters. You should watch how well Borgnine carries this film. [Sunday, July 10, 2:15 PM]

Best film of the month? I have to go with Stanley Kubrick's THE PATHS OF GLORY (1958). [Monday, July 4, 4:30 AM]


SOUTHBOUND (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A powerful variation on the multi-story film. SOUTHBOUND is five horrific stories, each of which fades into the next. Some of the story types are familiar, some new. All take place along or around a nearly empty California highway without a number. Six writers, four of whom direct the film, give us a well-made and weird horror film. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

SOUTHBOUND opens in the middle of a story already in progress. Two men splattered with blood are driving down an empty highway apparently haunted by what look like black rags that seem to be hanging from the sky. When we get a better look at them we see that they are hellish demons who seemingly come out of the ground. As we watch the story we suddenly realize that the characters have changed and there was a smooth transition to the second film without us realizing it. Soon it becomes clear that each story will smoothly pass the baton to the story that follows it. One story after another goes by, and most are creepy as all get-out. There is little explained about the stories and somehow that makes them all the scarier. One family eats unidentified and unidentifiable meat that cause pairs of people to synchronize with each other. Sometimes the ground cracks open for little reason unless it is to create a passageway to Hell. Each story is recognizable as a separate story only after it is over.

Some of the stories at least start in familiar territory. One has three girls from a girl jazz band having a tire blowout on the seemingly endless road that is common to all the stories. Just in time they get an offer of a ride from some seemingly nice people. That start has been done many times before, but where the story goes is all SOUTHBOUND's own. Another story has a careless driver knocking down a pedestrian and having to perform surgery on the victim guided by a doctor on a phone connection. Things do not go well.

Present in this film are many elements of different sub-genres of the horror film. There is the supernatural; there is a monster; there are demons; there is a house invasion; devil worshipers show up. This film is a Whitman Sampler of sub-genres of the horror film.

The same morbid atmosphere continues from story to story which is a little surprising since there are different directors for each story with Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, and someone who chooses to be called "Radio Silence" each directing one segment. Each but perhaps the last took a hand in writing the film. Hanging over all the stories is a bizarre commentary by a radio talk host played by Larry Fessenden.

This film is the great-grandchild of the old horror anthology films (e.g. TALES FROM THE CRYPT) made by Amicus in the 1960s and 1970s). But where Amicus created their horror by implication, SOUTHBOUND goes straight for the throat (at times literally). It is strong stuff and maybe these days a horror film has to be. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


The "Magicians" Trilogy (THE MAGICIANS, THE MAGICIAN KING, THE MAGICIAN'S LAND) by Lev Grossman (book reviews by Dale Skran):

Based on generally liking THE MAGICIANS first season on Syfy, I decided to buy THE MAGICIANS and read it. About half-way through the book I ordered the second two from Amazon. There is a lot in this trilogy, and I more or less read straight through it. There are a number of differences in how the SyFy version handles the story. The first season of THE MAGICIANS takes elements from the first two books, and changes some of the key conflicts in significant ways while retaining the overall flavor of the written work. This is a somewhat long and quite dense series (each book is about 400 pages) so I'm not going to recapitulate the plot or list all the characters. Instead I am going to focus on the themes that I found the most compelling.

On some level THE MAGICIANS is FRIENDS with magic. We follow the lives of six main characters (Quentin, Eliot, Janet, Alice, Penny, and Julia) as they first learn magic and then embark on their careers as magicians. Each travels a different road but all survive to the end of the trilogy and achieve through painful experience a considerable degree of success. There is a soap opera aspect here, as Quentin falls in love with Alice, but then sleeps with Janet and Elliot, leading Alice to sleep with Penny) but probably to no greater degree than would be the case with some random group of six friends.

Grossman's genius is that he has created a kind of magic that is more or less the kind of magic we have in the real world--science and technology. It is not a coincidence that Quentin's final Brakebills project (flying to the Moon) and Alice's final project (trapping a single photon) are both tasks that scientists/engineers have actually accomplished in the real world. Grossman's magic is hard to learn and hard to perform. It takes many years of study of arcane languages, extreme amounts of practice with complex hand motions, and a single slip-up can be hazardous. Many of the characters attend the hidden but elite magical university of Brakebills, a sort of Harvard for magicians. Getting into Brakebills requires genius level intelligence combined with passing a complex magical test. Here they are subjected to a richly imagined old-school college experience, with bizarre professors, quaint traditions, harrowing exams, and fascinating cliques. Quentin, Alice, Janet, and Elliot are part of the "Physical Kids." They hang out in a magical cottage, and the test to join is to break into the cottage using physical magic.

In the outer world, Julia, who has failed the Brakebill's exam for reasons that are better explained in the TV show than the novel, leads the life of a "hedge witch," drifting from safe house to safe house, picking up magic via any means she can acquire it, including sex, slowly becoming a machine for the acquisition of power. Eventually she is invited to join an elite group of hedge witches operating in France. For the first time she feels at home, but then becomes involved in the group's efforts to contact the old gods. This sets her on a painful and dangerous path that by the end of the trilogy has resulted in her becoming "a three-fourths" goddess, the Queen of the Dryads, living on the bottom side of Fillory.

Interleaved with the tale of "friends with magic" is the story of Fillory, which might be understood as "dark Narnia" or maybe what Narnia would be if it were real. This story is a novel within a novel, cleverly laid out over the whole series as we gradually learn the full story of the Chatwin brothers and sisters who found the doorways into Fillory, became High Kings and Queens there, and in some cases met terrible ends. Quentin has been obsessed with Fillory since he first discovered the novels, and knows true happiness for the first time when he travels there and realizes that it has always been a real place.

Magicians in Grossman's universe suffer the same curse as we who live in the real world, especially those of us smart enough and lucky enough to attend top universities and have decent jobs. Quentin and his friends can easily make money, buy drugs, have sex, party, learn magic, write papers, make magical gadgets, or simply live ordinary lives. What they can't to is cure cancer, be immortal, or use magic to find love. In other words, although they have the powers of super-heroes, they don't have anything they really want. Just as for us, finding meaning in life is for the magicians by far the toughest trick. Many fall into lives of empty hedonism, like Alice's magician parents. Others while away the days manipulating human affairs or using magic to play dangerous games. Some become members of the Wizards' court, engage in magical scholarship, or teach at magical universities, of which there are many scattered around the world. Still others work in secret to prevent crime or protect the Earth from incoming asteroids and comets.

For Quentin and his friends, the siren lure of Fillory beckons, but leads many of them on dangerous paths. Alice becomes a niffin, a vastly powerful but not very human spirit of pure magic, after being consumed by magic as a consequence of a battle. Penny becomes a librarian in the Neitherlands, a world between all worlds, his hands having been bitten off in the same battle where Alice became a niffin. Quentin, exiled from Fillory, and desperate for money in the third novel after having been fired from a teaching job for violating Brakebill's rules, signs up with a band of magical thieves to steal an unknown object of power.

The trilogy is all of Heinlein's three story types. We have "Boy meets girl"--Quentin meets Alice, along with some boy meets boy involving Elliot. There is also the "Man who learned better" as Quentin, Elliot, Janet, and Alice all outgrow the fears and weaknesses that have driven them to Fillory. And there is, of course, "Boy/girl grows up," which especially applies to Quentin and Alice, who are the central characters, but also to Elliot, Janet, and Julia in different ways.

The MAGICIANS trilogy has received large amounts of serious critical praise. For example with regard to THE MAGICIAN'S LAND the NEW YORK TIMES said it was "richly imagined and continually surprising novel" and "the strongest book in Grossman's series." Grossman won the 2011 John W. Campbell award for best new SF writer on the strength of THE MAGICIANS, the first book in the series. Grossman appears to be a relatively unique author who has received high praise both from mainstream critics and traditional SF fans.

There is a super-heroish aspect to the MAGICIANS. At one point Elliot uses magic to enhance his speed, strength, and durability so that he can win a single combat with the champion of a rival Kingdom. At various points Janet battles a giant snapping turtle and a ram god using flight, Ice-man like freeze powers, and ice- tipped battle axes made of anti-magic metals. In still another instance Quentin and Alice battle both of the gods of Fillory, with Alice at one point transforming Quentin into a dragon. And there is one colossal running battle with a horde of monsters that concludes with a throw-down with the nearly all-powerful Martin Chatwin, who sold his humanity to one of the ram gods of Fillory for power so he could stay in Fillory forever. This is the point at which everyone finds out (as if they didn't already know) that Alice is by far the best magician among them. Alice's special magical craft is control of light, which means in practice she can do whatever the comic book character Dr. Light can do, but this is only a small part of the vast array of powers she can bring to bear on an enemy.

One aspect of this series I find fascinating is that Lev Grossman has a twin brother, Austin, who is a game designer and the author of SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE, a super-hero pastiche that received a lot of positive critical attention and that I liked a lot. Further, they have an older sister, Bathsheba, who is an artist that specializes in sculptures having a mathematical origin. All three siblings attended the highly regarded Lexington High in Massachusetts, rated the 19th best high school in America, and all three have distinguished academic backgrounds at schools like Harvard and Yale. The Grossman parents are also well-known writers and poets of an earlier generation. I suspect that THE MAGICIANS draws a lot on Grossman's own family and the schools he attended, but you would have to know the family well to draw any specific parallels.

THE MAGICIANS trilogy is mature fantasy at its best. I recommend it to a wide audience ranging from SF fans to people who mainly read "serious" literature. My review has not fully captured the depth and resonance of Grossman's work. Highly recommended, but only for teens and up due to non-explicit sex, violence, and drug use, as well as adult themes including non-explicit child molestation. [-dls]

GYPSY by Carter Scholz (book review by Dale Skran):

While trolling the Internet looking for Hugo award suggested reading, I noticed some references to a tale of interstellar exploration by one Carter Scholz, who I was not familiar with. Sometime later I picked up the book GYPSY PLUS... which is part of the PM Press "Outspoken Authors" Series. [It includes GYPSY and four other pieces.] At the risk of generalizing without having read the seventeen volumes, they appear to be mainly authors of the left-wing persuasion. Certainly Mr. Scholz turns out to be from that church.

GYPSY reminds me a great deal of LEVEL 7 by Mordecai Roshwald. Written in the 1960s, LEVEL 7 is a "just so" story that might be best described as propaganda. The point is that nuclear war is bad and we will all die. Repeated over and over and over. Roshwald (and Scholz) are decent writers. The pages are readable, the characters somewhat compelling. However, when you are done you realize that you are the victim of a trick--that the author is just trying to make a point, and in a somewhat leaden fashion.

In GYPSY the point seems to be that humans are not meant to make interstellar voyages or have high technology. To escape a dying hyper-technological and over-heating Earth, a daring entrepreneur secretly builds and launches an interstellar ship. This ship is an Orion type hibernation vessel that is well conceived technically. As in all such "just so" stores (and in a fashion similar to that in Kim Stanley Robinson's AURORA) one by one the systems fail, and eventually everyone dies, although a single person does reach the target star. At the very end they appear to hear an apology from Earth, which is most probably the hallucination of a dying person.

Just to confirm what sort of a writer Scholz was I read the "United States of Impunity," an essay included with GYPSY. This turned out to be a channeling of Noam Chomsky about all the vile deeds of the US related to the economic crash of 2008. In this style of fabulism, which never applies logic to any of its conclusions, the writer works backward from "the US is bad" to find facts that appear to buttress the argument. Perfectly correct statements are juxtaposed with wild-eyed nonsense in a farrago of left-wing clap- trap.

Far from being "outspoken" Scholz is part of the left-wing echo chamber that dominates universities in the modern age. And this is sad, because in a lot of ways GYPSY is a well-done SF tale, even if all the facts have been aligned to create a propagandistic result.

I don't plan on reading anything more from Scholz, and neither should you! [-dls]

Reading Community (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris):

In response to Mark's comments on his brother-in-law's column in the 06/17/16 issue of the MT VOID, Charles S. Harris writes:

What is a reading community? Is it like a book club on steroids? [-csh]

Mark replies:

Just the opposite. It is more diffuse but encompasses more than three or four people who get together. [Note: this sort of an inside reference. Evelyn, Charles, and I make up the core of two very small book clubs.] [-mrl]

Fake Movies (letter of comment by Kevin R):

In response to Steve Coltrin's comments on "fake movies" in the 06/17/16 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

I'd really like to see "See You Next Wednesday." [-kr]

Mark replies:

"See You Next Wednesday" (2014) is a 15-minute Australian film. [-mrl]

THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS by Samuel Pepys (letter of comment by Kevin R):

In response to Evelyn's comments on Samuel Pepys's DIARY in the 06/17/16 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

[Regarding starting the washing at 1AM:] Possibly the washing was done before dawn so the clean wash could be put out to dry at sunrise?

[Regarding place-holders in lines:] While I was raised on "no cuts!" when lining up for a show I can't really condemn a fellow for wanting to while away the queuing time in a bookstore.

The last bookshop I worked in before moving back east was on the same block as a movie theater, and our Friday and Saturday night crowds were definitely affected by the curtain times of the films showing a few doors down! [-kr]

Philip Chee writes:

[Regarding Evelyn's comments on a multi-course meal Pepys describes:] You haven't been to a contemporary 10 course Chinese dinner then? [-pc]

THE DIARY OF SAMUEL PEPYS by Samuel Pepys (Part 4) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Comments on Women:

Pepys had a serious jealousy problem. He got it into his head that his wife was having an affair with her dancing instructor and so he writes, "I am ashamed to think what a course I did take by lying to see whether my wife did wear drawers to-day as she used to do." [May 15, 1663]

Then he feels sorry: "Up with my mind disturbed and with my last night's doubts upon me, for which I deserve to be beaten if not really served as I am fearful of being, especially since God knows that I do not find honesty enough in my own mind but that upon a small temptation I could be false to her, and therefore ought not to expect more justice from her, but God pardon both my sin and my folly herein." [May 16, 1663]

He even goes to the extent of swearing to levy fines against himself for future infractions: "... I having high words about her dancing to that degree that I did enter and make a vow to myself not to oppose her or say anything to dispraise or correct her therein as long as her month [of lessons] lasts, in pain of 2s. 6d. for every time," [May 20, 1663]

[This levying of fines against himself extended to other "vices" or "sins" as well; see the next section for comments.]

But all this does no good; soon enough he writes that of "how my jealousy wrought so far that I went softly up to see whether any of the beds were out of order or no," [May 26, 1663] And later, "I did watch to see my wife put on drawers," [June 4, 1663]

And later: "[My wife] answering me some way that I did not like I pulled her by the nose, indeed to offend her" [April 5, 1664] Okay, now we can add wife abuse to Pepys's list of sins. And later he writes, "Lay pretty while with some discontent abed, even to the having bad words with my wife, and blows too, about the ill-serving up of our victuals yesterday..." [October 7, 1664] And again: "I was very angry and begun to find fault with my wife for not commanding her servants as she ought. Thereupon she giving me some cross answer I did strike her over her left eye such a blow as the poor wretch did cry out and was in great pain, but yet her spirit was such as to endeavour to bite and scratch me." [December 19, 1664]

For all his jealousy about his wife, Pepys seems to think himself not bound by the same rules. There are so many examples, I could not include them all, but a few samples will suffice.

For example, he writes that he went "through the Fleete Ally to see a couple of pretty [strumpets] that stood off the doors there, and God forgive me I could scarce stay myself from going into their houses with them, so apt is my nature to evil after once, as I have these two days, set upon pleasure again." [May 29, 1663]

And later in an uncoded passage he writes that he "fell to talk with Mrs. Lane, and after great talk that she never went abroad with any man as she used heretofore to do, I with one word got her to go with me at the furthest Rhenish wine-house, where I did give her a Lobster and do so touse [tousle, rumple] her and feel her all over," [June 29, 1663]

He even describes his fantasies: "and to bed, before I sleep fancying myself to sport with Mrs. Stewart with great pleasure" [July 13, 1663] and "to bed, sporting in my fancy with the Queen." [July 15, 1663] It really is unbelievable how frank Pepys is in his diary!

But he also apparently loves his wife, writing that he is "sad for want of my wife, whom I love with all my heart, though of late she has given me some troubled thoughts." [June 15, 1663]

Pepys hits his low when he relates, "This night late coming in my coach, coming up Ludgate Hill, I saw two gallants and their footmen taking a pretty wench. ... They seek to drag he by some force, but the wench went, and I believe had her turn served, but God forgive me! what thoughts and wishes I had of being in their place." [February 4, 1664] I am sure that such attitudes persist to this day, but I doubt most would commit these thoughts to paper.

However, even if he had attempted to help the victim above, it might have had only a temporary result, since it appears that then, as now, the well-connected seem to get off from crimes that the poor and politically weak pay heavily for: "The rape upon a woman at Turnstile the other day, her husband being bound in his shirt, they both being in be together, it being night, by two Frenchmen, who did not only lye with her but abused her with a linke, is hushed up for L300, being the Queen Mother's servants." [February 22, 1664]

By May 28, 1667, he has mellowed at least to the point that he first describes "two pretty woman alone" being pursued by "some idle gentlemen [who] would needs take them up." The women would run away and join up with some other people, and the men would fall back, and eventually the women managed to get away from them by taking a boat. Pepys then writes, "I was so troubled to see them abused so; and could have found in my heart, as little desire of fighting as I have, to have protected the ladies." Of course, he didn't *actually* do anything to help them, but at least he is not fantasizing about joining the men.

And others are equally reprehensible. Pepys writes, "My uncle Wight came to me to my office this afternoon to speak with me about Mr. Maes's business again, and from me went to my house to see my wife, and strange to think that my wife should by and by send for me after he was gone to tell me that he should begin discourse of her want of children and he also, and how he thought it would be best for him and her to have one between them, and he would give her L500 either in money or jewells beforehand, and make the child his heir. He commended his body, and discoursed that for all he knew the thing was lawful." [May 11, 1664] Pepys's reaction is surprisingly mild considering how jealous he normally is. The whole thing sounds very strange--given the promised bequest and inheritance, it would seem as though he did not intend it to be kept a secret from Pepys, yet it is hard to believe he intended the thing openly.

(As an aside, it has always been treated as piling Pelion on Ossa for Henry VIII's ministers to accuse Anne Boleyn of adultery with her own brother, when the other "co-respondents" were so much more likely. But WOLF HALL makes clear that this accusation was not as far-fetched as it seems. Having had a daughter, Anne was still under pressure to produce a son and heir to the throne. If she was not conceiving with Henry, she may have decided to get some assistance. But she could not produce an heir that looked like her music teacher or Lord Thus-and-So. Her only option might have seemed her own brother, since producing a son who looked like a Boleyn would seem perfectly normal.)

Pepys does see to occasionally have a bout of conscience (though not very often), as when he writes, "From thence walked toward Westminster, and being in an idle and wanton humour, walked through Fleet Alley, and there stood a most pretty wench at one of the doors, so I took a turn or two, but by what sense of honour and conscience I would not go in..." [July 23, 1664]

One is reminded of Captain Renault in CASABLANCA when one reads, "I had my pleasure here of her, and she, like an impudent jade, depends upon my kindness to her husband, but I will have no more to do with her, let her brew as she has baked, ..." [August 15, 1664] At least Captain Renault would keep his word to assist the women who agreed to sleep with him (or so Rick said, and he would have no reason to lie).

Pepys's womanizing did occasionally prove an embarrassment to him. On October 1, 1666, he writes, "But pretty! how I took another woman for [Betty Mitchell], taking her a clap on the breech, thinking verily it had been her."

It is interesting, given the frankness in his diary, that Pepys should write that he spent most of a day "looking over and tearing and burning all the unnecessary letters, which I have had upon my file for four or five years backward, which I intend to do quite through all my papers, that I may have nothing but what is worth keeping and fit to be seen, if I should miscarry." [December 9,1666]

Every once in a while, Pepys does something to remind us what a scumbag he is. On December 21, 1666, a woman comes to him and he writes, "I took her to my chamber, and there it was to help her husband to the command of a little new pleasure boat building, which I promised to assist in. And here I had opportunity para baiser elle, and toucher ses mamailles' [to kiss her and to touch her breasts]..."

In July 1667 Pepys gets a bit of a scare, wherein his long-time mistress Mrs. Martin tells him that she is pregnant with his child. The panic lasts for only a couple of days.

But one wonders if that had any cautionary effect on Pepys. One is reminded of his past and his attitudes when not a paragraph later he writes about a woman who comes in complaining that she was "pulled into a stable [by a Dutch captain who] did tumble her and toss her ... when she knows that [she] hath suffered [Pepys] to do any thing with her a hundred times." The idea that she might actually have a preference in whom she lies with apparently does not occur to him.

By August 18, 1667, though, we definitely discover that Pepys has not turned over a new leaf regarding women: "[I] turned into St. Dunstan's Church, where I heard an able sermon of the minister of the place; and stood by a pretty, modest maid, whom I did labour to take by the hand and the body; but she would not, but got further and further, from me; and, at last, I could perceive her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her again-- which seeing I did forbear, and was glad I did spy her design." Good for her, and I just wish he had not noticed it ahead of time!

Finally, on October 25, 1668, it all comes to a head, when he writes, "... my wife, coming up suddenly, did find me embracing [Deb.] CON my hand SUB SU coats; and endeed, I was with my MAIN [hand] in her c*nny." [The final phrase is omitted even from Project Gutenberg's supposedly complete edition.] On November 9, 1668, he manages to get Deb. a note telling her to deny he had kissed her. His justification for this is pretty astonishing: "The truth is that I did adventure upon God's pardoning me this lie, knowing how heavy a thing it would be for me to the ruin of the poor girle, and next knowing that if my wife should know all it were impossible ever for her to be at peace with me again, and so our whole lives would be uncomfortable." How noble of him!

[I am also astonished that found as he was, whether or not he actually *kissed* Deb. would matter that much, but apparently it did--unless that is code for something else.]

And his concern for Deb. and for his wife might be more convincing if on November 13, 1668, he had not written, "... the truth is, I have a good mind to have the maidenhead of this girl, which I should not doubt to have if je could get some time para be con her."

All this led to that favorite passage of Helene Hanff's: "At last, about one o'clock, she come to my side of the bed, and drew my curtaine open, and with the tongs red hot at the ends, made as if she did design to pinch me with them, at which, in dismay, I rose up, and with a few words she laid them down..." [January 12, 1669) (This, of course, does not exactly match Hanff's description of "his wife chased him out of bed and round the bedroom with a red- hot poker." She also got the date wrong, citing it as 1668. Admittedly, that is how Pepys dated it, but we would call it 1669.)

Needless to say, all this led to much contention between him and his wife, with her noticing every time he even looked at another woman. Finally, he writes that his wife was "mighty dogged, and I vexed to see it, being mightily troubled, of late, at her being out of humour, for fear of her discovering any new matter of offence against me, though I am conscious of none; but do hate to be unquiet at home. So, late up, silent, and not supping, but hearing her utter some words of discontent to me with silence, and so to bed, weeping to myself for grief..." [December 21, 1668]

Next week: a few odds and ends. (Don't worry, I will be getting to the Great Plague and the Great Fire eventually.) [-ecl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison6d by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd...

Well, I am not going to tell sad stories about the death of kings, but of bookshops, and in particular the latest, the Cranbury Bookworm.

Let me start with what someone wrote of its original location: "Just outside Princeton, there's a small town (whose name I've forgotten) that a friend once took me to visit. On the main street through the town, there's a large three-storey, white-boarded house with a porch and garden, a little ramshackle but otherwise unexceptional. But inside, the house as a completely different character--it's an Aladdin's library of books. From basement to attic, every inch of wall, every available table and much of the floor is covered with books. It's impossible to describe the atmosphere of musty seediness, of volumes lying sadly neglected, tired and shelf-worn, in the gloomy basement under the creaky floor, of the stacks piled up the main staircase, of prize books locked in glass cabinets, and of rooms where the light seems to seep through the windows with the speed of slowly-turned pages. It's like a kind of treasure house, full of common copper coins and fancy inflated banknotes. I came out feeling a little book-happy, bibliothecally-overdosed." [-Si Courtenage]

Well, they closed the basement off many years before they moved-- the uneven floors and low beams made it a real safety hazard, I guess. But they still had a good SF section (paperbacks were mostly a dollar or less each!). Really cheap books were on the porches.

A couple of years ago, they were forced to vacate the old building. (My understanding is that the owner of the building was a relative of the owner of the bookshop, and let them use it either rent-free or very cheaply. But then she needed to sell the building, and the Bookworm was forced to move.

It moved to a much smaller location (one floor, one large room) a block and a half away. Its new location, alas, was a pale shadow of its former self, approximately equal to the space in the SF/mystery/children's room and the history room in the former location. Where one would leave the old Bookworm with a bag (or two) of books, from the new Bookworm one is more likely to find only one or two books. They put a lot of inventory into storage in anticipation of a larger space, and said that they considered this an interim location until they could find something larger in Cranbury.

But in the three years in their new location, they could not really make a go of it. The older customers were loyal, but there was no build-up of younger patrons. (The person I spoke to said that almost all their current customers had been coming to the Bookworm since the 1980s!) The current owner (who had worked in the old Bookworm for years) had two small children and realized that he would never be able to save money for college or any other purpose if he continued running a brick-and-mortar used bookshop. So by early July, the Cranbury Bookworm will be no more. Or rather it will do what so many brick-and-mortar used bookshops do--it will become a virtual bookshop. The Bookworm has always had a selection of better-quality books, and one presumes that will be their on- line stock, since one does not make money on-line selling paperbacks for a dollar.

So the last, and best, general used bookstore in my area (for a fairly expansive definition of area) is closing. Red Bank had three used bookshops; all are gone. Highland Park had two; both are gone. Shrewsbury, Keyport, Matawan, and Milltown had used bookstores--all gone. Even New Brunswick (home of Rutgers) and Princeton have none to speak of. The closest ones to me are in Colonia (14 miles), Cream Ridge (28 miles), Hopewell (31 miles), and (possibly) North Brunswick.

There are also the "non-shops": periodic or on-going Friends of the Library sales, annual fund-raising sales, Goodwill stores, and even Freecycle. But today only the large annual sales are still around to give me the opportunity that used bookshops used to provide: to browse a large selection of books on all subjects and in all categories, not looking for anything specific, but just looking, hoping to find that book I want, but did not know I wanted, because I did not know it existed.

And it is not just New Jersey. Every year, we have people from Massachusetts and New Jersey get together for a "mini-convention." Over the years, it has gotten more and more mini, down from a high of 15 or so, to about 7 or 8. But the attractions have decreased as well. The highlight used to be the trip into Manhattan, with visits to Dover Books, the Science Fiction Shop, Kim's Video, Mercer Street Books, Barnes & Noble used book section, Academy Books, 8th Street Books, Weiser's Used Books, 12th Street Books, Tower Records, Tower Books, Shakespeare & Co., Footlight Records, Forbidden Planet, and (the grand finale) the Strand. (Well, not always each one, but trying to decide was part of the fun, and they were all in a fairly compact area near where we parked.) Over the years, they faded away until all that are left are Mercer Street Books, Shakespeare & Co., and the Strand. (Forbidden Planet is still there, but has no books anymore.)

I haven't had such depressing news since I heard of the closing of Johnson's Bookstore in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1998 after over a hundred years of business. It wasn't only that Johnson's was a great used bookstore, but also that Mark and I used to meet there once a week while we were "sparking"! [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper
Quote of the Week:
          I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known. 
                                          --Walt Disney 

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