Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Gift from the Treasury of F. Ralston Ludlow

As those who have been to Quayment may know, one of the greatest bibliophiles in the town is Ray Ludlow. No one was quite sure of his age, but in the middle years of the first decade of the 21st century, he was definitely over 70. Strange stories were whispered about him, which focussed on an ancestor, one "Davey-Jack", from the mid-1800s, reputed to be a PIRATE... Everyone knew Ray was wealthy, but they also knew that he was generous and friendly, and seemed to bear a secret sorrow which no one was able to penetrate.

People like to consider various memories as they prepare to celebrate Christmastide: hopefulyl they review the great story of the Coming of Christ by re-reading the prophecies. They stimulate their compassion with heart-touching stories of conversion like A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with their intensely Pauline power. (Ever think that St. Paul was the apostle to whom we owe the story of the birth at Bethlehem? It seems most likely... but leave that for now.)

Finally, they conjure up appetizers of various forms, be they of food or of music or of decoration - the Whos had their strange and mystic things for walls and floors and ceilings, and every blessed window and every blessed door - and I hope you do not miss them in your own homes. You will find the glories of Christmas scenery and adventure in books like A Christmas Bower or even in movies like "The Bells of St. Mary's" and "Desk Set" and "Come to the Stable" and "Little Women". There is the whole genre of Santa story which is nothing more than the metaphor for God's gift-giving, transposed for seasonal and stylistic purposes to the North Pole.

But there is another form of appetite to be whetted: not only the artistic, the musical, and the gustatory. There is also the sense of STORY. We know from Chesterton that fundamental insight into the true Christian basis for all Story, the same basis Jaki studies for Science. But the GKC quote is overlooked, so I will give it to you now:
...the sanity of the world was restored and the, soul of man offered salvation by something which did indeed satisfy the two warring tendencies of the past; which had never been satisfied in full and most certainly never satisfied together. It met the mythological search for romance by being a story and the philosophical search for truth by being a true story. That is why the ideal figure had to be a historical character, as nobody had ever felt Adonis or Pan to be a historical character. But that is also why the historical character had to be the ideal figure; and even fulfil many of the functions given to these other ideal figures; why he was at once the sacrifice and the feast, why he could be shown under the emblems of the growing vine or the rising sun. The more deeply we think of the matter the more we shall conclude that, if there be indeed a God, his creation could hardly have reached any other culmination than this granting of a real romance to the world. Otherwise the two sides of the human mind could never have touched at all; and the brain of man would have remained cloven and double; one lobe of it dreaming impossible dreams and the other repeating invariable calculations. The picture-makers would have remained forever painting the portrait of nobody. The sages would have remained forever adding up numerals that came to nothing. It was that abyss that nothing but an incarnation could cover; a divine embodiment of our dreams; and he stands above that chasm whose name is more than priest and older even than Christendom; Pontifex Maximus, the mightiest maker of a bridge.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:380]
Tolkien may not have quoted it in his essay on Fairy-Tales, but he should have. And someday, when someone writes A Little Summa on the Story or some other such study of the topic, it will serve as a major starting point.

Ah, the Story...

It will do no damage to the lore of the great Saga (in which Ray plays a minor and often hidden role) for me to reveal one of his secrets. Among other things, he maintained a shelf of what are often called "Boys' Books". These are by no means reserved to the young male of the species; they delight girls also, and there is no age restriction! But we have no time to examine the matter; we are busy preparing for Christmas!

And so, for your delight, please explore just an excerpt from Ray's catalog of delights. If you have read these, savor the delight from memory, and perhaps go and read them again.

Ah - but if you have NOT read them - oh lucky and thrice blessed! Go, quickly, and seek them. Seek them for yourself, for your loved ones, for children or (even more) for parents and for teachers. Let the delight wax unrestrained in the humor and adventure and heart...
The Mad Scientists' Club by Bertrand Brinley
New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club by Bertrand Brinley
Secret Agents Four by Donald Sokol
Ex-Cub Fitzie by Neil Boyton, S.J.
Countdown by Rev. Kurt Becker
SOS at Midnight by Walker A. Tompkins (and sequels)
Sinbad and Me by Kin Platt
The Mystery of the Haunted Mine by G. D. Shirreffs
Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Ian Fleming
Septimus and the Minister Ghost Mystery by Stephen Chance
Spacehounds of IPC by E. E. "Doc" Smith

Danny Dunn stories by J. Williams and R. Abrashkin (series; especially do NOT miss Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy with its reference to Chesterton, though CAUTION it does contain a spoiler.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Scarlet Pimpernell by Baroness Orczy
The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney
The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
There are many more, but this may serve as a start. And if you want to learn more about Ray and this treasure, look for The Tree of Virtues at any Quayment bookstore.


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