Friday, May 27, 2011

A View Through The Spook-House Mirror

We're going back through the archives and sharing some thoughts about John and his work that have crossed our path over the years.
Today, some thoughts from librarian Lis Carey and how his time teaching at Emmanuel College in Massachusetts may have served him in other ways:
The ending of The Face in the Frost is really scary. I remember the first time I read the book; it starts off so funny, you think this is purely comic fantasy, and...by the end, it's terrifying.

Some years after reading it, I met the author, John Bellairs, at some event or other, talked to him, and found out that he'd taught English at my college for a year, shortly before I attended. He hated it there; he thought the school in general and the English department in particular was filled with strange, rigid, incomprehensible people. I thought, no, wait, this is the same English department which I turned in to the chairman of the department a paper arguing that Claudius is the hero of Hamlet and Hamlet the villain, followed by a paper arguing that Brutus is obviously the villain of Julius Caesar. And had long discussions with that same chairman [a nun of the Order of Notre Dame] concerning Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and loaned her my copy of The Silmarilion. Well, I wasn't an English major; I was a history major, and it was the chairman of the history department that I was still in touch with. I called him up and asked him if he remembered John Bellairs, and he said:
"John Bellairs! Yes, I remember him! Very nice man, but somehow he didn't seem happy in the English department. What's he doing now?"
"Writing fantasy."
"Those that can't teach, do..."
I think some parts of The Face in the Frost are my old college, seen in the spook-house mirror through which John Bellairs experienced it. But he was a very nice guy, even though permanently spooked by my school, and he wrote some very good books. It was quite a shock when he died, still quite young.

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