[Illustration of an astronaut walking away from his crashed ship on a planetary landscape, saying "SERCON! SERCON!]

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[page 8] {Note on the Text: The following information is separated from the main letter by solid lines above and below the text.} Ruth Berman 5620 Edgewater Boulevard Minneapolis, Minn., 55417 July 6, 1964 Dear Fred, This is a somewhat overdue thanks for your sending me _Lefnui_ 3, although writing to a friend is also a congenial way of spending the time till I get sleepy. I am tired, of course, but I happened to sleep late today and won't be sleepy for a while yet. A pity, too, because I'm working for my father and my brother and two cousins this summer as one of the secretaries, and I have to get up more or less early tomorrow. The four of them share an office, and I spend the days there filing or typing edifying remarks like "There is some enlargement of the heart, but it is within the limits of normal, there is no evidence of parenchymal pathology, the study of the chest is otherwise negative." Yes, it is frustrating, isn't it, to know that Britain has such good paperbacks, all clearly marked "not for sale in the U.S." I have their _Hobbit_--it has a cover of Gandalf, the dwarves, and Bilbo riding over the mountains done by Pauline Baynes. I don't like her illustrations in _Tom Bombadil_ ( I like the pictures, but not as illustrations), except for the beautiful cover, but this cover, perhaps because it shows the characters at a distance, seems to me a completely satisfying picture of Tolkien's Middle-Earth. I don't mind so much that we can only get expensive hard-bound editions--we can get them, after all--but it's sad to think of the illos we can't get. I don't know _The Little Panjandrum's Dodo_, although it sounds as if I'd enjoy it. I read _Mopsa the Fairy_ in grade school (the year I discovered the mythology-folklore shelf and read straight through it with forays out for the fantasy in with the regular fiction), and didn't like it much--I couldn't understand well what was going on, and it seemed to be too quiet. Perhaps I'd like it more now. ((Could be; I know that when I first read _The Wind in the Willows_, I considered it far too quiet, with not nearly enough action.)) Redd Boggs is quite right in warning that author's remarks about their own books are not to be trusted. I think my favorite in that line is Mark Twain's Note in _Huck Finn:_ "Persons attempting to find a plot in this work will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral will be shot." (Wording not exact.) Have you seen Maurice Sendak's _Where the Wild Things Are?_ It's more a picture book (three double page spreads of the Wild Things romping) then a story, but the story is enchanting too: "he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are." ((I skimmed through it, and only remember one page particularly -- the forest growing in the bedroom. I'll have to go back and reread it. I do like Sendak, though not quite as much as the critics seem to.)) The cover looks as if it might be another in the series of Adventures of the Frog Prince Bjo had in _Gaul_. It's handsome either way--but if it is, what's its name? ((I don't know. Bjo? Steve?)) Today finished writing an adaptation for radio of I. L. Perez's "If Not Higher." An unusual problem in adaptation. Normally I have to cut. In this case the story was five pages long, and my adaptation was ten pages long. About half the dialogue is all my own and so are three of the six characters, and I am immensely proud of it. It is not, of course, as good as the original, but I think Perez himself would approve of it. Fortunately for me, the story, in this case, overshadows Perez's wonderful prose. If I'd been foolish enough to scrap Perez's words entirely except for the punch line, the story alone has the ability of folk-lore to shine in any man's telling. Briefly: the townsfolk of Nemirov believe that, when their rabbi disappears every year just before the New Year, he goes up to heaven to tell God their troubles. A sceptic trails the rabbi one year, and finds that he spends the time disguised as a wood-cutter, [page 9] selling wood "on credit" to poor folk who can't afford it, lighting the fire for them, etc. Thereafter, when anyone says the rabbi goes to heaven, the sceptic says "If not higher." Also today finished _Sword At Sunset_ by Sutcliff. It reminds me much of Mary Renault's handling of the story of Theseus. Her Arthur does not have quite the glamor of Renault's Theseus, but there's the same atmosphere of reality surrounded by the magic which would have been accepted as real magic at the time--neither the legendary magic we enjoy now nor the realism which kills the story by cutting out all the magic. Clarification of terms up there. We don't believe in any magic. Normally, when there's magic in a story we accept the story as a fantasy, as in _The Once and Future King_, or else the author explains it away and we can set it all down to "realistic portrayal of superstitions." Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Renault take another tack: describe as magic what the characters would have believed was magic, do it in such a way that the reader can interpret the magic in terms of today's sciences--but leave in a few coincidences that cannot be explained away, and, if it's done as those two do it, the reader gets a thrill of wonder from a magic that suddenly seems real. That's not a very good clarification. However, it's the best I can do with the present state of the idea us it jumps about in my head. Best, Ruth Berman

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