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Perelandra and Crankhumdunberry

March 30, 2010 at 11:03 am
By Collin Hazlett

(In which I start classes, the internet breaks, and Schiller and Garrison Keillor make surprise appearances.)

I think that by this point it's become a tradition for me to start my posts with an apology paragraph explaining why I hadn't posted before now. This is a boring tradition. I think a better solution may be, from this point forward, to put the customary apology at the END of the post. Then people who would appreciate an apology for the timing of the post may skip to the end and read the apology as many times as is necessary until satisfied. So that is what I am going to do.

In other news, I'm back! Back at Carleton!

I had a short but relaxing break, in which I started many books that I did not finish. This seems to happen every break. For instance, near the end of last summer I read the first 600 pages of a 650-page novel (Foucault's Pendulum). The climax started around page 600, but I could not read any further, because I had to go to Carleton, and the book had to go back to my local library. I tried to check out Foucault's Pendulum from Carleton's library, but someone had already checked out the only copy, and so I simply had to wait, wondering what on earth was going to happen to the main characters, for seven weeks. Then the book was returned and I checked it out and finally read the end. That, folks, is suspense.

This break, I started a lot of C.S. Lewis books. I loved the Narnia books when I was younger, and now I'm discovering C.S. Lewis all over again through his books for adults. His writing is so clear and funny and thought-provoking, and I feel lucky to have encountered it at two distinct phases of my life, just as I feel lucky to have been about the right age to reach each of the Harry Potter books when it came out. I didn't know before this break that C.S. Lewis wrote science fiction, but he did: he wrote a trilogy of books called Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I'm on Perelandra now. It's the sort of book you might expect if The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Wrinkle in Time had a baby book, only for an older audience than either of those books (perhaps the older intended audience was a recessive allele carried by both parents).

When I got back to Carleton, I went to the Libe to check out Perelandra and some of the other books I was in the middle of, and I ended up checking out a lot more books than I thought I would, including a 900-page novel (Anathem by Neil Stephenson), which was recommended to me as I was checking out the other books. The first 60 pages have been great, and I still have 840 left! (Whether I'll be able to read all of them is by no means certain.) So now I have a lot of books, probably more than enough to last until the end of term.

Plus, I'll be reading the complete works of Jane Austen for English this spring. We're not just reading her published novels, but also her unfinished stories, notes she made in the margins of other books, and stories she wrote when she was 11-13 years old.

The stories Jane Austen wrote as a little kid are amazing. In fact, Volume the First, which is what the little Jane Austen titled her notebook full of silly stories (which was followed by Volumes the Second and Third at later ages), has claimed a spot on my top ten favorite books of all time.

Here is an excerpt from the story Frederic and Elfrida in Volume the First. In this story, the beautiful but not-very-bright Charlotte has become accidentally engaged to two fiances at once.

It was not till the next morning that Charlotte recollected the double engagement she had entered into; but when she did, the reflection of her past folly, operated so strongly on her mind, that she resolved to be guilty of a greater, and to that end threw herself into a deep stream which ran thro' her Aunt's pleasure Grounds in Portland Place.

She floated to Crankhumdunberry where she was picked up and buried; the following epitaph, composed by Frederic, Elfrida, and Rebecca, was placed on her tomb.


     Here lies our friend who having promis-ed
     That unto two she would be marri-ed
     Threw her sweet Body and her lovely face
     Into the Stream that runs thro' Portland Place.

These sweet lines, as pathetic as beautifull were never read by any one who passed that way, without a shower of tears, which if they should fail of exciting in you, Reader, your mind must be unworthy to peruse them.

Is this not the best thing ever? The rest of the story is equally hilarious, as are all the other stories. And remember, Jane Austen was at this point no older than 13, and possibly as young as 11.

There is a play in Volume the First called "The Mystery," which is notable for leaving the audience entirely in the dark as to what is going on throughout the entire play. It begins in media res with a character called Corydon walking on, apparently in mid-monologue. But you don't get to hear any of the monologue, because some more characters enter, and Corydon says "But Hush! I am interrupted" and exits, never to appear again. The two arrived characters, the Old and Young Humbug, seem to be in the middle of a conversation themselves, or rather at the end of a conversation, which consists of the Young Humbug agreeing to follow the advice of the Old Humbug (we never find out what the advice concerned). That is the first scene. Here is the second scene:

                                                        Scene the 2d

                                           A Parlour in Humbug's House.
                                 Mrs Humbug and Fanny, discovered at work.

Mrs Hum.   You understand me, my love?
Fanny.        Perfectly ma'am. Pray continue your narration.
Mrs Hum.   Alas! it is nearly concluded, for I have nothing more to say on the Subject.
Fanny.        Ah! Here's Daphne.
                          Enter Daphne.
Daphne.     My dear Mrs. Humbug, how d'ye do? Oh! Fanny, t'is all over.
Fanny.        It is indeed!
Mrs Hum.   I'm very sorry to hear it.
Fanny.        Then t'was to no purpose that I ....
Daphne.     None upon Earth.
Mrs Hum.   And what's to become of? .....
Daphne.     Oh! That's all settled.
                      (whispers Mrs Humbug)
Fanny.        And how is it determined?
Daphne.     I'll tell you.
                     (whispers Fanny)
Mrs Hum.   And is he to? ...
Daphne.     I'll tell you all I know of the matter.
                    (whispers Mrs Humbug and Fanny)
Fanny.        Well, now that I know all about it, I'll go away.
Mrs Hum. } And so will I.
Daphne.   }

The third and final scene, as you might expect, sheds no further light onto what is happening. I love this play.

On a different subject, Schiller has made another appearance! When we returned to campus, there were posters hung around on different buildings with Schiller's face on them as well as GPS coodinates, a time, and another number. The coordinates pointed to Sayles, and the time and number were the airing time and channel of the Colbert Report. Nothing Schiller-related happened for quite some time, but everyone amused themselves by watching the show. Near the end of the show, I decided that Schiller had probably been intercepted by counter-Guardians and was not going to appear at all, and I left Sayles. About 45 seconds later, this happened.

Yes, that is our Schiller. How the Guardians got it on the show is anyone's guess. But it was great to see Schiller's face again, even if there was no opportunity to catch him myself.

On to Garrison Keillor. The famous Minnesotan author/radio show personality/comedian/etc. made an unpublicized appearance at Carleton's Passover Seder on Monday, according to reliable sources (namely, a friend of mine who was there). Upon my asking whether it was possible that this was merely a Garrison Keillor imitator and not the man himself, my friend replied that his voice was unmistakable. So either it was a REALLY good Garrison Keillor imitator, or we must conclude that it was in fact Garrison Keillor. I realize that my credibility on this claim is somewhat diminished by what day it is, but I assure you that this happened. If it were a joke, it would be a lame one.

Wow, this post is long! So, in the words of Jane Austen and Friedrich Schiller, "goodbye."


Apology: I know I said I'd post again during the week of Spring Break. But, you see, there were other things that I did instead. Sorry about that. The story I was planning on telling will still get told.


  • April 1 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I also missed Schiller, because my boyfriend and I are terrible cynical people who assumed everyone had been duped when Schiller didn't show up after fifteen minutes of waiting, so we went and got food downstairs. Halfway through my cheeseburger, I heard everybody start screaming upstairs. It was at that point that I died inside.

  • April 1 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Haha! Jane Austen is so awesome!!
    Hmm. The story of poor Charlotte kind of reminds me of something out of Anne of Green Gables, actually.

    Sounds likes an excellent break :)

  • April 2 2010 at 12:34 pm
    Prospective Student Class of '15

    Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I never knew she had short stories from her early teenage years! Garrison Keillor is another favorite figure in my life. All-around pleasant man. Can't wait to visit Carleton this fall!

  • April 2 2010 at 5:36 pm
    Hah! I saw the Schiller appearance. Kudos to whoever managed that. (Also enjoyed the Salmon building announcement from Pres. Oden. The video was great.) Thanks for posting the Austen. Wonderful! I accept your apology.
  • April 5 2010 at 2:40 pm

    It appears that there is an alum who works as a writer for the Colbert Report and that is how Schiller came to be on national television.

  • April 13 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Oh how I loved the Jane Austen seminar, back in the spring of 1990! Thanks for reminding me.