What I’m reading today, November 23…

Still tediously crawling through Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail (Kindle), and, god, it’s dull. As far as I can see there was no reason for this ill-equipped and ill-considered expedition other than Parkman’s obsession with the Plains Indians, whom he tended to regard as rather lethal children. I’m amazed he survived.

Pretty sure he was gay, too, given that he rhapsodises over the physiques of Indian men, while the women are mostly dismissed as fat squaws or – very occasionally – pretty squaws. Or maybe it was just a more innocent age. Hmm…

Parkman clearly fancied himself a great buffalo hunter, though his marksmanship clearly left a lot to be desired, as did his morality, he being happy to slaughter bison for no better reason than that they were there – typical townie!

I honesty don’t know why I carried on with it, as very little of consequence has happened and, getting towards the end, seems unlikely to happen now, it is, though, the perfect bedtime book – a few pages and off I drift…

* * * * * * *

I have long had an interest, somewhat dormant of late, in the fantasies of Michal Moorcock, reawakened by seeing the final image, from Frank Frazetta, in this blog post – see the comments for what I believe it represents.

As a result, I went rummaging through my collection, looking for the book that inspired it (oh, OK – Phoenix in Obsidian), and realised that if I did have it, it was packed away, and I wasn’t up to opening so many boxes  to hunt for it, especially when I wasn’t even sure it was there.

At one time I had almost everything Moorcock had written (a prodigious output in the sixties and seventies – a seemingly endless series of books and short stories, many of which were complexly interlinked), even a set of first edition paperbacks (never seen them in hardback), of The History of the Runestaff, a trilogy set in the distant future, in which the insane country of Gran Bretan sets out to rule the world, that suddenly sprouted a fourth volume, so I had books that were titled Book 1, 2, and 3 of the Runestaff Trilogy, and lo, here came book number 4.

Whether that error gave them any value, I have no idea, as I’ve long since parted company with them, later replacing them with the more mundane four-volume set which I still have – somewhere.

It reminded me, though, of the saga of  Prince Corum Jhaelen Irsei, sole survivor of the Vadagh, a somewhat Elvish, pre-human race, exterminated by proto-humans who, in that age and realm, called themselves Mabden. Mind you, that little corner of the multiverse was a place so contentious that even being the sole survivor of an exterminated race could not be considered a permanent condition.

Moorcock told the tale of Corum in – yes, you’ve guessed – a trilogy, the final volume of which ended, in 1972, with the words “This ends the Final Book of Corum”.

Then, hey, in 1973, a fourth volume appeared, then a fifth and – finally – a sixth in 1974, which ended with the words “This ends the third and final volume of the Chronicle of Corum and the Silver Hand”. And,  at last, the saga really did end (sort of, as Corum was but a single thread in Moorcock’s Eternal Champion masterwork).

Now, those final three books, I have never been able to obtain – until now (truth to tell, I just gave up for a decade of two), when I was able to snag both trilogies (print).

The first volume, in which Corum, temporarily the last of his race, is drawn into the eternal war between Law and Chaos for control of the Cosmic Balance and the multiverse, and, ultimately, through his actions, encompasses the deaths of all the gods of both Law and Chaos, leaving the Mabden, as was, and would be, ever their wont, to create gods out of their own fears and longings, and the remaining, rediscovered, Vadagh to drift along as aimlessly as ever, which was what led to their downfall in the first place,  I’ve just finished, and the second volume I’m just about to start.

Waiting in the wings – Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, which I haven’t read and probably should have, and Orwell’s 1984, which I haven’t read since my teens. (Both Kindle.)

Watch this space…