John Bellairs’s second book turns 40 years old this month. The Pedant and the Shuffly is the fable pitting cold, hard logic against boundless, explosive chaos.
It's the tale of unfortunate souls that meet up with an antagonizing academic named Snodrog who, through the use of the art of logic and some wizardly sleight of hand, convinces his victims they are linen napkins, thereby actually turning them into linen napkins – or Flimsies. This had gone on for quite a while and would likely have continued had it not been for Sir Bertram Crabtree-Gore wandering in. Crabtree-Gore – a rotund, amiable chap that boasts some of the same characteristics as his creator – tracks down one of the rare creatures of the land, the Shuffly, in an effort to give Snodrog a taste of his own medicine.
Marilyn Fitschen, Bellairs’ long-time friend and the book’s artiste, points out that Pedant was never intended as a children book, more of an "illustrated adult book." Plus, what sort of children would understand “roots of the tree clutchant,” “ignoratio elenchi,” and the humour of "Four Hundred Variations of the Equilateral Triangle", anyway? However, a collegiate environment, much like the University of Chicago, which generated the book's mockery, is where a book like this would likely be welcomed, suitable for an erudite but specialized population.
That said, here is an ad from the University of Chicago newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, dated February 20, 1968 for a book signing (or, the Saul Bellow encounter):
WHAT IS A SHUFFLY? WHO IS SNODROG?
Find out at the AUTOGRPHING (Sic) AFTERNOON at STAVER'S Bookshop
and meet the Author and illustrator of the new book:
"THE PEDANT AND THE SHUFFLY" A FABLE INSPIRED BY 57TH STREET
Author: John Bellairs, of CHICAGO and SHIMER
Illustraor: Marilyn Fitschen, of CHICAGO
Publisher: Macmillan (Free Press!)
TIME: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24 -- 2 TO 5
STAVER BOOKSELLERS, 1301 EAST 57TH STREET, CHICAGO
(Corner of Kimbark)
Long out of print, The Pedant and the Shuffly was re-published in paperback by the Mythopoeic Press in 2001.