based onThe Once and Future King by T. H. White
1967 • 179 minutes • Warner Bros.
Camelot is how Captain Cinema and I met. Back in at our small town high school in Georgia, our theater director screened it for our class, presumably trying to select the longest possible musical to keep the normal children out of his hair while the theater kids were complicating his life. (I’m guessing here, although I did later end up among the theater children.) “C’est Moi” began playing and we, seated next to each other, began mercilessly riffing it. (“I ‘ave come from France!” “Oh, yes, we very definitely heard you coming, Lancelot, that’s quite a pair of lungs on you, my good fellow.”) We’ve been friends ever since.
Despite that seminal adolescent screening of Camelot, I had no idea that the musical was based on T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. Which is no credit to it in my eyes. The Once and Future King is one of those sf classics that most people seem quite fond of, but I could never quite get my hooks into. I’d say it was a French-American kid’s natural aversion to L’Angleterre, except that Arthurian mythology is really, really French. (Which is why J. R. R. Tolkien, ever the Anglo-Saxon, decided to give England a proper English mythology. And thus modern mainstream fantasy was born!) To very poorly caricature Jebediah Atkinson, I didn’t like it when it was a book, I didn’t like it when it was a musical, and I didn’t like it when it was a movie. NEXT!
I can’t tell you how happy I am it’s December. Sure, finals season is upon me, but I always get antsy on the last one or two days of a month. I like having a fresh calendar and new wallpapers. But November still lingers, in the best of ways: last month, Lu tagged me with a short reading questionnaire. Why don’t we get started?
In June, I was alerted by my fellow The Lord of the Rings fans to NPR’s call to nominate books for their Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. Setting aside the problem of conflating the genres—I mean, I get it, but it does mean a lot of good books in both categories will fall by the wayside—I enjoyed looking through the comments for new recommendations and, of course, taking the opportunity to peddle Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering like it’s my job. (If you read and liked The Lord of the Rings, you should read it. End of story.) The nominations were counted, the votes were tallied, and on Thursday, NPR unveiled the fruit of its labors—their top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books (circa Summer 2011). I’m not going to copy the list verbatim—you can find a printable version here if you so desire—but I am going to talk about some of the selections that made it, be they good or bad in my book.
All other things being equal–do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical specimen, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?
While I do love the smell of new books and the feel of a new dust jacket under my fingers (I don’t care for leather-bound copies; it makes me think of antiques and get nervous about reading them), I prefer used books. As an enormous speculative fiction fan, I’m used to mass market paperbacks from the seventies and eighties, its pages yellowed and mildly crumbling, its cover sweet ridiculous, and sun damage on the page. While I didn’t enjoy The Once and Future King, I got a huge kick out of imagining the first owner—she clearly read the book while in a park, given the sun damage. I love that sense of history and community with other readers. Reading can be a solitary pursuit; why isolate yourself?
The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Arthurian mythology has never been my favorite; I remember skipping over those parts in The Illustrated Book of Myths, because Egyptian and Norse mythology were just so much more interesting. (Such an attitude may explain why I love Tolkien so much; he also didn’t care much for Arthurian mythology and set about creating an Anglo-Saxon mythology for England.) This probably explains why I didn’t even know The Once and Future King was a composite of five books before I finished my edition, which only collects the first four books of the series—The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. (To be fair, my edition was published before The Book of Merlyn was.) So many people have told me they love The Once and Future King that I almost feel hesitant about this review—because I didn’t.