Friday, May 19, 2017

Miracle Monday

I missed Miracle Monday, didn't I? Oh, well. I'll blame it on my son's tonsilectomy happening that day, my ghostwriting gig, my editing work, proofreading, and having  to index my Superman book. A while back I actually did write a post about Miracle Monday, so might as well  post it belatedly.

For whatever reason, nobody published novelizations of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. However, Elliott S. Maggin wrote a couple of novels around the same timeframe, published by Warner Books, that were photographically, if not narratively, tied in with the movies. By that I mean that there are pictures of Reeve on the cover and a section of photos from Superman II in the middle.

The plot is fairly straightforward: A demon named C.W. Saturn is tasked with taking Superman's soul. He tries to get it--and it must be done in a fair manner, i.e., Superman has to agree or commit some heinous sin--by wearing down the hero to the point that Superman would commit murder just to make things stop. So Saturn takes over the body of a young woman (who just so happens to be a time traveler from the future who's trying to figure out exactly what happened on Miracle Monday) and causes all sorts of havoc all around the world, starting with revealing Superman's secret identity. Superman's got to stop him, which is both an act of will and a superheroic feat. He does stop Saturn, of course, by not giving in to exhaustion and despair.

It's a pretty good little novel. Maggin knows Superman better than just about everybody, and it's on display. Including Jimmy Olsen and Perry White seems almost perfunctory, but in a story about Superman's secret identity being exposed, it's also obligatory. I did like the conversation between Lois and Clark after she finds out.

Miracle Monday is an artifact of its time--back when Clark Kent was a television news anchor (which just doesn't seem to work for him, no matter the rationale behind it).

The time travel works as a framing device, with the travelers going back in time to find out why people started celebrating Miracle Monday in the first place. It's a holiday in which everybody is just happy to be alive, with Superman as it's patron saint. So as we learn about the holiday, the fact that everybody's memory of the events leading up to it will be erased becomes clear. As if it wasn't already obvious when Saturn exposes Superman's secret identity.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

French Sources of Mystery

One reason I haven't been posting much lately is that I've been combing through a bunch of old French books. Particularly, the Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses to which Borges refers in "Fauna of Mirrors."

Let's review: The "Fauna of Mirrors" story opens as follows:

In one of the volumes of the Lettres edifiantes et curieuses that appeared in Paris during the first half of the eighteenth century, Father Fontecchio of the Society of Jesus planned a study of the superstitions and misinformation of the common people of Canton; in the preliminary outline he noted that the Fish was a shifting and shining creature that nobody had ever caught but that manysaid they had glimpsed in the depths of mirrors. Father Fontecchio died in 1736, and the work begun by his pen remained unfinished; some 150 years later Herbert Allen Giles took up the interrupted task. According to Giles, belief in the Fish is part of a larger myth that goes back to the legendary times of the Yellow Emperor.

I've gone through most of Giles's work (already mentioned here) and now I've gone through all but one volume of the Lettres. In the thirty-some I've gotten access to, there is no mention of a Father Fontecchio, or of fish being in mirrors and attacking our world.

I say all but one volume: I haven't been able to get number 31 yet.

Keep in mind a few things. First, my French is pretty rusty. Second, this is eighteenth-century French. Still, I think I've been pretty thorough. All the volumes of the Lettres are available on-line in searchable formats. I used the same terms for each volume search: miroir, Fontecchio, Zallinger, poisson, superstition.

I used to be certain that Fontecchio was a real guy, though I can't recall why and have no source for that. Zallinger is equally obscure. Let's see, there's reference to Zallinger (as Zallinger, P.) on the University of Pittsburgh's Borges Center site, but nothing on Fontecchio. They publish a journal devoted to Borges.

So what's the next step? I dunno.