Monday, January 3, 2011

Lin Carters Explorations in Fantasy - Part 1

I've mentioned before that while Lin Carter might not have been a brilliant author of fiction, he was one hell of a editor. He rescued many obscure masterpieces of fantasy while editor of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series.

In his day, aside from numerous essays in journals and magazines, he wrote four non-fiction books.

Two earlier non-fiction works written by Carter were not considered part of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series -Tolkien: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings" was published in 1969 and Lovecraft: A Look Behind the "Cthulhu Mythos" saw print in 1972. Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy was published in 1973 as the 58th volume of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series. Written by Lin Carter, it was the only non-fiction book to officially be included in the series. Later, in 1977, he published his fourth non-fiction book, returning again to J.R.R. Tolkien with Middle-Earth: The World of Tolkien Illustrated (with paintings by David Wenzel).

I have not had the good fortune of yet hunting down a copy of Carter's Lovecraft exploration nor have I yet unearthed a copy of Tolkien Illustrated, but I have had the very good fortune of finding Tolkien: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings" and Imaginary Worlds. Both are thoughtful, entertaining and educational looks at the genre of fantasy. When writing my Appendix N posts or posts on the fantasy genre in general, I find myself consulting both of these tomes.

Carter was perhaps one of the most well read fantasy scholars that I know of. I once read a quote from him alluding to the idea that he read an average of one novel per day. 300 plus books a year is a staggering amount, but one thing is for certain: the man read an amazing number of novels, non-fiction books and poetry from his earliest days, up until his death in 1988. He utilizes that vast knowledge, and opinion based upon careful study backed with proof, to entertain and educate his audience in his non-fiction books that I have read. I have uncovered many interesting reads based upon Carter pointing me in the right direction.

I plan on writing a lot about Lin Carter this next calendar year of 2011. How much? I'm not sure. I'm starting with this little admition: I love Linwood Vrooman Carter. At least as an editor. I've read a bit of his fiction. Mostly in my younger days when I devoured anything "Conan", lately, I've been reading his fiction out of respect for the man. No, he was not a master of fiction, but damn could the guy ever identify the good stuff.

Who was Lin Carter? Well, honestly, I'm still discovering that. I hope to answer that question as honestly as I can; however, I think it best to let him tell us. In his own words:

Well, I love dogs, and books, and swords, and Oz, and Barsoom, and collecting Egyptian antiquities, and art nouveau, and Chinese cloisonne. And Sax Rohmer, and Paradise Lost and The Three Imposters, and Talbot Mundy, and Ezra Pound. And huge old Victorian houses, and having books published--not quite in that order, of course! I like exploring through old, cobwebbed corners of literature, piecing together fragments of neglected Sumerian epics, finding gorgeousness in the Shah Namah, forgotten jewels in the Shi-King, or prowling the dusty pages of Per-m-hru (the Egyptian "Book of the Dead"), and in short, discovering wonder in old, old books nobody else bothers to read anymore.
That says a lot about Mr. Carter. Part 2 will be about his book Tolkein: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings".

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