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
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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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