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[page 12] _FLIPPING_ _THROUGH_ _FAPA_ _LIKE, THE 95th MAILING_ LARK --- A point well taken -'British cloth is now as shoddy as British steel'. The list could be extended almost to infinity too. There used to be a phrase current for anything of shoddy manufacture - 'Jerry built'; this, I think, is a considerable big laugh seeing that anything in the machinery line at least almost _has_ to be built in Germany to be worthwhile, and even over other product ranges I find it hard to believe that _any_ other country has foisted off on its markets items of a worse standard of manufacture than Britain has. Brand new £800 cars with iron filings in the crankcase are only _one_ little facet of this delightful trend, and no doubt in time the above phrase will be replaced by 'Limey built' in many areas. Still, so long as the _quantity_ is churned out who cares about the quality, huh? In recent years I have become not only very cynical but also extremely Nasty and Bitchy on this score and the number of fights I have got into with manufacturers is legion; often, too, even at that level, nothing short ot the direst threats of exposure and proceedings of some sort will produce any results at all. We have had cases, for instance, where Sheila has bought a pair of shoes from a shop with a very big national name and the soles have come off after three wearings. On taking them back she has been told by the manager of the shop, a high employee of the company manufacturing the shoes, 'Oh we'll mend them; we can't replace every pair that goes like this. People are bringing them in almost every day'. I think some amount of nastiness in these cases is defensible. But if all this applies to British goods, man, you should see British public services - Road Transport, for example, or - the incredible epitome of the whole business - British Railways. Yes, I wish you could meet British Railways. OPEN SEASON ON MONSTERS --- Am I correct in thinking that the Snollygoster on your cover had a gyro missing somewhere? This was a most delightful item, beautifully written and long overdue. I had long since begun to think that I was the only one who never read ++Ta ra ra - THE CONSTITUTION - Ta ra ra++, who boggled visibly at Amendments to Amendments of Revisions and who curled a silent lip in feeble [page 13] protest every time I opened THE FANTASY AMATEUR (and how often it seems to have been!) and read "We are going to get tough (Snarl) and from now on you are going to do so and so at such and such a time, and you will never do such and such a thing except at this or that time and then only if these or those apply, and anyone who doesn't comply will have his entrails torn out and roasted over a hot fire." It's nice to have company. SELF-PRESERVATION --- That was a nice bit you had on cats and mice, although when it actually comes to it I don't much like the mice getting killed; comes from being on amicable terms with most types critters, I guess - or mayhap from a sort of squeamishness. The day before yesterday I picked up a local cat which was tormenting a tiny brown mouse (the mouse was outside minding its own business, though, I must confess, and not in our pantry or anything like that), told her off gently while the mouse scurried off and offered her a saucer of milk by way of compensation. She was pretty furious about the whole deal and looked at me rather as though she thought I was mad. Maybe she had something at that. GAGAKU --- I hasten to agree with you in growling at passing missionaries, and am almost fanatical about different races being allowed - nay, actively encouraged - to keep alive their own customs and traditions. For one thing I regard missionary activities as a most incredible impertinence standing right up alongside the old 'Earth is the centre of the Universe because it is inhabited by man' belief; what makes us so utterly certain that what we have to offer these peoples - a spiralling materialism allied to a childish and outdated religion - is so much more desirable than what they already have? Added to this is the fact that the missionary/crusader mind is, to me, one of the few _truly_ alien thought processes and one with which I have no great wish to come to terms. I genuinely can not understand a mind that can think along lines like 'What I have and know is Good and Right and what 'they' have and know is Bad and Wrong; therefore I must destroy what they have and know and supplant it with my own'; in fact, I am quite at the other end of the scale. I approach with a reverence I reserve for few things, alien/different thought- processes and outlooks and the nearer I can come to seeing through the eyes of the people to whom these processes are natural, the more ecstatic I am about it. I think perhaps I have some half- formed belief that the more different ways one can look at things, the more of a whole integrated human being one becomes. I enjoyed your news item and your nice comment on 'Gorgo'. ASTRA'S TOWER --- An extremely fine essay, and one more testimony to the tremendous and unique nature of Tolkien's work. I have quibbles, naturally, over some of your points, but they are perhaps rather minor compared to my enjoyment of the essay as a whole and the fact that I got from it occasional reminiscent spine-tingles which I originally had when reading the books themselves. [page 14] I don't recall that I have ever come across Edmund Wilson direct, but judging from your quotations of his review of THE LORD OF THE RINGS it certainly sounds as though he has missed his way and should rather be driving a truck or delivering mail or somesuch. He is, of course, perfectly enititled to his opinion of the books; he is perfectly entitled to dislike them (and I am perfectly entitled to wish I could have a psychiatrist's report on why he dislikes them so much) - but he sure as hell is not perfectly entitled to be taking money for reviewing books if he is so incredibly, fantastically unperceptive or dull as to be able to assert that Frodo is unchanged at the end of his adventure. I would defy anyone to show me a character in the whole of fiction who is more altered by his experiences than is Frodo. On the whole I would say that your anonymous Young Fan who went @goshwow@ over the trilogy was much nearer to their true worth than is Wilson; I went pretty @goshwow@ over them myself. Which, I suppose, is one reason why I snarl a mite at your statement that Tolkien makes a 'bad showing' in comparison with mainstream writers. With _which_ mainstream writers, for Elrond's sake? Nabokov? Grace Metalious? John Braine? Jack Kerouac? @Gerrooch@. And then I go right on to follow up my snarl with a ferocious growl when you proceed to lump Olaf Stapledon as 'second or third rate'. Grrr-owf! As for Tolkien's poetry, it may indeed be far from great; it may be 'awkward, stilted, pedantic' (I haven't studied it, and I am no expert on poetry anyway) - but I think you would say the same of most, if not all, the poetry encountered in the middle of sagas and epic tales, and I feel that it is a mistake to judge such poetry by our own modern standards. In its context in those surroundings poetry means something different from what it does to us, often having some ritualistic or magical significance, and rarely occurring from pure aesthetic reasons. It may even be that its 'awkwardness' and 'stiltedness' and 'pedantry' gave it some of its supposed efficacy. And I think it is this usage of poetry which Tolkien has followed in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. MINIMAC --- Do tell about these cheetahs and lions of your acquaintance; I hear tell that cheetahs particularly make Fine Friends. THt BULL MOOSE --- Higher pensions for those who can't afford their own private pension schemes in our lil Old Welfare State sounds real fine and dandy - until one stops to consider that these people are often earning as much as, or more than, the middle class folks who are financing their pensions (and subsidising their Council Houses, and paying for their six or seven children through Family Allowances) and the reason they can't afford private pension schemes is often because all their spare cash goes on Hire Purchase payments on brand new TVs, latest model cars and fridges and washing machines and so on, with any little left over on the weekly booze supply, while the Well-To-Do middle class who can afford to buy the poor old working man all these fine things and many more often have to live in smaller houses than they really need and make do with scooters instead of cars. Yes, it certainly is a nice theory.