Jay Williams

My Wizard of Oz presentation went well at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, and many thanks to the Tales After Tolkien Society for giving me that forum to discuss Dorothy dreaming!

Now that I’m home, I’ve taken a couple weeks for pleasure reading (not that I don’t love reading Oz; but it’s nice to read without a project in mind, sometimes). Since the conference, I’ve read:

  • Terrarium, Scott Russell Sanders  I read this in high school, when it was first published, and some of the images have stuck with me all this time. Rereading it now, I am struck by how it continues to be relevant, especially the idea that to convince the bulk of humankind to protect the Earth from human destruction, we might just have to trick everyone into believing we are protecting humankind from destruction by the Earth.
  • The Imlen Brat, Sara Avery Sarah is incredibly talented, and her Tales from Rugosa Coven blew me out of the water. I was amazed that fantasy could be presented so realistically. Brat is splendid, too. I suspect it will be the first in a series of pieces about this character and setting, and I have been comparing it in that way to “The Sword in the Stone,” which serves as the first section of The Once and Future King. Like “Sword in the Stone,” Brat is also perfectly capable of standing on its own. Read it right away.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, read by Claire Danes I acknowledge up front that it’s shameful that I hadn’t read this already. From the time it came out until 2010 I was in intensive literary study of other things, and my leisure reading during that period tended to less emotionally devastating books. I decided to listen to the audiobook, finally, in preparation for watching the Hulu series, which is getting a lot of buzz among my friends. This book is obviously amazing, and I find it profoundly disheartening how relevant it remains, especially in the current climate.

Today, I was looking over a book from my deep childhood, one of those short children’s novels we used to be able to get from the Scholastic order form they sent home from school. Thank God my parents wanted to encourage me to read, because I was always allowed to order a few of these, and some of them have stayed with me all this time.

The book I was looking at today is Jay Williams, The Magic Grandfather. It’s a pretty simple story about a sedentary, tv-loving kid who finds out his grandpa is a sorceror. When the kid accidentally sends Grandpa into the nether worlds, he has to find his own inner wizard to get him back. I loved this book. I’ve been daring myself to reread it all week.

Looking at the “Other Books by Author” page, I see that I was apparently a huge Jay Williams fan. Among the other beloved books I had that he wrote are The Hero from Otherwhere and the many volumes of the Danny Dunn series, which he co-wrote with Raymond Abrashkin.

I want to look into what else Abrashkin wrote, and I want to collect all of the Danny Dunn books again, and have another read through. If you have influence with the copyright owners, please do pressure them to republish these.

Here is the first bit of The Magic Grandfather:

Aside from his parents, there were two things Sam Limner loved. One was television, the other was his grandfather. And although he really did love his grandfather there were times when it was almost a toss-up.

Right now, for instance. He was watching Doctor Blaze of “Space Hospital” dueling with the two-headed leader of Sirius IV, and he was so absorbed that his father had to shake him by the shoulder.

For starters, let’s talk about how much cooler Williams’ idea of 70s TV was than the real experience of 70s TV. I want to watch “Space Hospital” now. And in the late 1970s, if that show had been produced at all, it would certainly have been canceled almost immediately, as was the fate of most genre shows of the period. Remember Wizards and Warriors and Mister Merlin? If you don’t it’s because they got canceled. Doctor Who fared somewhat better, but notice that that was on BBC TV, not American TV. To tune in Doctor Who at my house, someone had to stand next to the TV and hold the antenna.

In addition to the awesomeness of fictional TV, I admire Sam’s last name. “Limner” – it is a little more specific than “Painter.” I have ever since childhood thought it was cool when people who will be magical later have names that indicate some sort of creative artist. Like, genealogy is hinting at the story’s secrets.


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