Category Archives: B - READING


24434. (William Shake­speare) Son­net 2 “When forty win­ters shall besiege thy brow”
24435. (Dex­ter Roberts) Tes­ti­mo­ny before the U.S.-China Eco­nom­ic and Secu­ri­ty Review 
. . . . . Com­mis­sion, Sept 9, 2020 [selec­tion]
24436. (Andrey N. Petrov, et al) Build­ing Resilient Arc­tic Sci­ence Amid the COVID-19 
. . . . . Pan­dem­ic [arti­cle]
24437. (Dex­ter Roberts) The Myth of Chi­nese Capitalism
24438. (Antho­ny E. Marks) The Pale­olith­ic of Ara­bia in an Inter-region­al Con­text [arti­cle]
24439. (Adam David­son) The Pas­sion Economy
24440. (Amanuel Beyin) The Bab al Mandab vs the Nile-Lev­ant: An Appraisal of the Two 
. . . . . Dis­per­sal Routes for Ear­ly Mod­ern Humans Out of Africa [arti­cle]
24441. (Louise A. Hitch­cock) Under­stand­ing the Minoan Palaces [arti­cle]
24442. (Louise A. Hitch­cock) View from the West: Why Aegean Archae­ol­o­gy Mat­ters [arti­cle]
24443. (Fred C. Woud­huizen) The Old Indo-Euro­pean Lay­er in the Mediter­ranean as 
. . . . . Rep­re­sent­ed by Hydronyms, Toponyms, and Ethics [arti­cle]
24445. (Heike Drot­bohm & Nan­neke Win­ters) The Event in Migrant Categorization:
. . . . . Explor­ing Event­ful­ness Across the Amer­i­c­as [arti­cle]
24446. (Louise A. Hitch­cock) Knos­sos Is Burn­ing: Gen­der Bend­ing the Minoan Genius [arti­cle]
24447. (David Wen­grow) The Ori­gins of Mon­sters: A Pré­cis [arti­cle]
24448. (Geof­frey J. Matthews [car­tog­ra­ph­er] & R. Cole Har­ris) His­tor­i­cal Atlas of Cana­da, Vol.1
. . . . . ― From the Begin­ning to 1800
24449. (Geof­frey J. Matthews [car­tog­ra­ph­er], R. Louis Gen­til­core, Don Meas­ner, & Ronald H. 
. . . . . Walder) His­tor­i­cal Atlas of Cana­da, Vol.2 ― The Land Trans­formed 1800–1891
24450. (Geof­frey J. Matthews [car­tog­ra­ph­er], Don­ald Kerr, Deryck W. Holdsworth & Susan L. 
. . . . . Laskin) His­tor­i­cal Atlas of Cana­da, Vol.3 ― Address­ing the Twen­ti­eth Century


24422. (Kewin Peche-Quili­chi­ni) Âge du Bronze, Âge de Guerre ― Vio­lence organ­isée et 
. . . . . expres­sions de la force au IIe mil­lé­naire avant J.-C. [con­fer­ence report]
24423. (Gary Rollef­son) Tumul­tuous Times in the Eighth and Sev­enth Mil­len­nia BC in the 
. . . . . South­ern Lev­ant [arti­cle]
24424. (Siniša Maleše­vić) Imag­ined Com­mu­ni­ties and Imag­i­nary Plots: Nationalisms, 
. . . . . Con­spir­a­cies, and Pan­demics in the Longue Durée [arti­cle]
24425. (Har­ald Meller) Princes, Gold Weapons and Armies ― Reflec­tions on the Dieskau Gold 
. . . . . Find and its Pos­si­ble Ori­gin from the Ear­ly Bronze Age Born­höck Bar­row near 
. . . . . Dieskau in the Saalekreis Dis­trict [arti­cle]
24426. (Avram David­son) The Ene­my of My Enemy
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24409. (Steven Has­san) Com­bat­ting Cult Mind Control
24410. (Kapil Raj) His­toire d’un inven­taire oublié [arti­cle]
24411. (Jack­son Craw­ford) Bleikr, Gulr, and the Cat­e­go­riza­tion of Col­or in Old Norse [arti­cle]
24412. (Kath­leen Belew) Bring the War Home
24413. (David Alt­man & Rossana Cas­tiglioni) Deter­mi­nants of Equi­table Social Pol­i­cy in Latin 
. . . . . Amer­i­ca 1990–2013 [arti­cle]
24414. (Anna Belfer-Cohen & Erel­la Hov­ers) The Ground Stone Assem­blages of the Natufian 
. . . . . and Neolith­ic Soci­eties of the Lev­ant – Cur­rent Sta­tus [arti­cle]
24415. (Time Reynolds, et al) Shanidar Cave and the Bara­dos­t­ian, a Zagros Aurignacian 
. . . . . Indus­try [arti­cle]
24416. (Jean-Paul Gagnon) The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Uni­ver­si­ty [arti­cle]
24417. (Jean-Paul Gagnon) Safe­ty in Num­bers: Strength­en­ing Resis­tance to Anti-democratic 
. . . . . Chal­lenges [arti­cle]
24418. (Car­men Cuen­ca-Gar­cía, et al) Sens­ing Archae­ol­o­gy in the North: The Use of Non-
. . . . . Destruc­tive Geo­phys­i­cal and Remote Sens­ing Meth­ods in Archae­ol­o­gy in 
. . . . . Scan­di­na­vian and North Atlantic Ter­ri­to­ries [arti­cle]
24419. (Estela Cristi­na Vieira de Siqueira & Cícero Krupp da Luz) Contextualizing 
. . . . . Envi­ron­men­tal Migra­tion: The Gap between the Legal Nature of Refuge and 
. . . . . Envi­ron­ment dur­ing the Age of Glob­al Warm­ing and Nat­ur­al Cat­a­stro­phes [arti­cle]
24420. (Mehreen Ahmed) The Inter­lude [sto­ry]
24421. [2] (Jack Vance) The Dying Earth


24376. (John Hersey) The Algiers Motel Incident
24377. (Dana Sha­ham, et al) A Mous­ter­ian Engraved Bone ― Prin­ci­ples of Per­cep­tion in Mid­dle Paleolithic
. . . . . Art [arti­cle]
24378. (Jacob Sobo­roff) Sep­a­rat­ed ― Inside an Amer­i­can Tragedy
24379. (Eber­hard Zang­ger) Pre­his­toric Coastal Envi­ron­ments in Greece: The Van­ished Land­scapes of Dimi­ni . . . . . Bay and Lake Ler­na [arti­cle]
24380. (Ármann Jakob­s­son & Yoav Tirosh) The “Decline of Real­ism” and Inef­fi­ca­cious Old Norse Literary
. . . . . Gen­res and Sub-gen­res [arti­cle]
24381. (Afsoun Afsahi, et al) Democ­ra­cy in a Glob­al Emer­gency: Five Lessons from the COVID-19 Pan­dem­ic . . . . . [arti­cle]

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24340. (Yoshi­ta­ka Amano) The Tale of Gen­ji [art­book; text by Anri Ito & Junichi Imura]
24341. (Sören Stark, et al) The Uzbek-Amer­i­can Expe­di­tion in Bukhara. Pre­lim­i­nary Report on 
. . . . . the Third Sea­son, 2017 [arti­cle]
24342. (André-Yves Bourgès) Sur deux textes en vers du dossier hagiographique de Tugdual 
. . . . . [arti­cle]
24343. (J. A. Kegerreis, et al) Atmos­pher­ic Ero­sion by Giant Impacts onto Ter­res­tri­al Planets:
. . . . . A Scal­ing Law for any Speed, Angle, Mass, and Den­si­ty [arti­cle]
24344. (Kei­ichi Wada, Yusuke Tsukamo­to & Eiichi­ro Kokubo) For­ma­tion of “Blan­ets” from 
. . . . . Dust Grains around the Super­mas­sive Black Holes in Galax­ies [arti­cle]
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24324. (Juli­et Clut­ton Brock) Ani­mals as Domes­ti­cate ― A World View through History
24325. (Andrew Gar­rard, et al) Pre­his­toric Envi­ron­ment and Set­tle­ment in the Azraq Basin: 
. . . . . Inter­im Report on the 1987 and 1988 Exca­va­tion [report]
24326. (Adam Gry­de­høj, Ilan Kel­man & Ping Su) Island Geo­gra­phies of Sep­a­ra­tion and 
. . . . . Cohe­sion: The Coro­n­avirus Pan­dem­ic and the Geopol­i­tics of Kalaal­lit Nunaat [arti­cle]
24327. (Chris Fox & Paul Wiegert) Exo­moon Can­di­dates from Tran­sit Trim­ing Vari­a­tions ― Six
. . . . . Kepler Sys­tems with TTVs Explain­able by Pho­to­met­ri­cal­ly Unseen Exo­moons [arti­cle]
24328. (Alun M. Ander­son) After the Ice ― Life, Death, and Geopol­i­tics in the New Arctic
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24306. (K. Lan­glois, et al) Vit­a­min D Sta­tus of Cana­di­ans as Mea­sured in the 2007 to 2009 
. . . . . Cana­di­an Health Mea­surs Sur­vey [arti­cle]
24307. (S. J. Whit­ing, et all) The Vit­a­min D Sta­tus of Cana­di­ans Rel­a­tive to the 2011 Dietary 
. . . . . Ref­er­ence Intakes: An Exam­i­na­tion in Chil­dren and Adults with and without 
. . . . . Sup­ple­ment Use [arti­cle]
24308. (Matthias Wack­er & Michael F. Holick) Sun­light and Vit­a­min D ― A Glob­al Perspective 
. . . . . for Health [report]
24309. (Sid­dharth Chan­dra & Eva Kassens-Noor) The Evo­lu­tion of Pan­dem­ic Influenza; 
. . . . . Evi­dence from India, 1918–19 [arti­cle]
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24295. (John Graunt) Nat­ur­al and Polit­i­cal Obser­va­tions Men­tioned in a Fol­low­ing Index, and 
. . . . . Made upon the Bills of Mor­tal­i­ty [1662]
24296. (Thomas Piket­ty) Cap­i­tal and Ideology
24297. (Noel B. Salazar) Anthro­pol­o­gy and Anthro­pol­o­gists in Time of Cri­sis [arti­cle]
24298. (Joyce Mar­cus) The Inca Con­quest of Cer­ro Azul [arti­cle]
24299. (Tobias Richter, et al) Inter­ac­tion before Agri­cul­ture: Exchang­ing Mate­r­i­al and Sharing 
. . . . . Knowl­edge in the Final Pleis­tocene Lev­ant [arti­cle]
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24281. (William Shake­speare) Son­net #1 “From fairest crea­tures we desire increase”
24282. (Kather­ine Stew­art) The Pow­er Worshippers
24283. (Marc Lip­sitch; David L. Swerd­low & Lyn Finel­li) Defin­ing the Epi­demi­ol­o­gy of 
. . . . . Covid-19 [arti­cle]
24284. (Jor­rit M. Kelder) A Thou­sand Black Ships: Mar­itime Trade, Diplo­mat­ic Rela­tions, and 
. . . . . the Rise of Myce­nae [arti­cle]
24285. (Peter Hagoort) The Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of Lan­guage Beyond Sin­gle-Word Processing 
. . . . . [arti­cle]
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 — Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn

Affi­ciona­dos of fan­ta­sy fic­tion are usu­al­ly famil­iar with the col­lab­o­ra­tive works of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletch­er Pratt col­lec­tive­ly known as the “Harold Shea sto­ries,” writ­ten in the 1940s. Both these men were hard-nosed ratio­nal­ists who enjoyed writ­ing fan­ta­sy, with de Camp par­tic­u­lar­ly keen on build­ing worlds out of the log­i­cal impli­ca­tions of mag­i­cal premis­es, and equal­ly keen on the humour that ensues from such log­ic. De Camp lived until 2000, dying at the age of 92, writ­ing dur­ing most of that time. He pub­lished a sci­ence book on pri­ma­tol­ogy in 1995 and an auto­bi­og­ra­phy in 1996. He remained well known and well loved in the Sci­ence Fic­tion / Fan­ta­sy com­mu­ni­ty for all that time. Pratt, how­ev­er, was born in 1897 and died in 1956, short­ly after the pub­li­ca­tion of these famous col­lab­o­ra­tions. With­out de Camp, he wrote four sci­ence fic­tion and two fan­ta­sy nov­els, as well as six­teen books on naval his­to­ry and many oth­ers on a broad range of sub­ject. He was also a pio­neer “gamer,” cre­at­ing a com­plex math­e­mat­ics-based strate­gic naval war game in 1933 that is con­sid­ered one of the best ever con­ceived. After the pub­li­ca­tion of the revised ver­sion of the game in 1940, he wrote that “wives and girl­friends of male par­tic­i­pants dropped their roles of observers and soon became fear­some tac­ti­cians.” He was, like de Camp, a man of broad inter­ests. He wrote mys­ter­ies, Civ­il War his­to­ries, culi­nary his­to­ries and cook­books, and a con­sid­er­able amount of well-regard­ed poet­ry. While look­ing for a pho­to to illus­trate this post, I found one of him at his New Jer­sey home gam­bol­ing on its lawn with the poet John Cia­r­di and rock­et sci­en­tist Willy Ley.

Fletch­er Pratt

Of the two fan­ta­sy nov­els, I’ve just read The Well of the Uni­corn, first pub­lished in 1948. Three things are strik­ing about the book.

One is the style, which com­bines the clean and crisp sen­tence struc­ture and imagery you would have found in the era’s Sat­ur­day Night or New York­er with some of the pur­ple con­ven­tions of pulp fan­ta­sy nov­el­ists, and a dash of Lord Dun­sany. He delight­ed in insert­ing antique and ana­gog­ic words into this slick matrix, but unlike most of the pulp writ­ers, he actu­al­ly knew what they meant.

Anoth­er thing that struck me is the social, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and polit­i­cal real­ism. The soci­ety depict­ed is actu­al­ly plau­si­ble, resem­bling very close­ly what you would find read­ing the Twelfth Cen­tu­ry Ges­ta Dano­rum of Saxo Gram­mati­cus. The inter­play of local kings and feuda­to­ries with pirate raiders and inde­pen­dent jarls on the fringes of a world pre­vi­ous­ly dom­i­nat­ed by an urban empire is pret­ty much what you would have found in ear­ly medieval Jut­land. Unlike most fan­ta­sy nov­els, Prat­t’s imag­i­nary world is one where peo­ple have to eat and make a liv­ing, and peo­ple get hurt when they fight. The pol­i­tics is real­is­tic. Much of the text is con­cerned with the hero Airar strug­gling with com­pet­ing ide­olo­gies, forced into unpleas­ant com­pro­mis­es, and find­ing no social arrange­ment that does­n’t cre­ate some injus­tice. By the end of the book, he comes across some­thing like Duke Louis II de Bourbon.*

There is, of course, mag­ic in Prat­t’s world, but there is an under­ly­ing mes­sage: mag­ic sucks. It does­n’t work very well, does­n’t pro­duce the desired results, and at its best is rather lame. This is what allows the book to main­tain its real­is­tic feel­ing, and also cures the most irri­tat­ing prob­lem of fan­ta­sy fic­tion. Since at any sec­ond some­one might pull out a spell or sum­mon some pow­er that makes what­ev­er hap­pen that the writer wants to hap­pen, the mag­i­cal ele­ment of fan­ta­sy fic­tion essen­tial­ly inflates the cur­ren­cy. The read­er just trudges through the set-pieces and bat­tles, wait­ing for the mag­ic ring or the cos­mic woo-be-doo to do its stuff. Pratt could see this per­il, and instead used mag­ic more as a source of irri­ta­tion and irony than a dri­ving force in the nar­ra­tive. The only oth­er fan­ta­sy writer that I know of tak­ing this approach is R. A. MacAvoy.

This is an enjoy­able old fan­ta­sy, if you know the con­ven­tions of pre-WWII pulp fic­tion estab­lished by Robert E. Howard, and even more if you’ve read a bit of Dun­sany or A. Mer­ritt. A mod­ern read­er might not quite “get it” or see its charm.

* whose life sto­ry has recent­ly been trans­lat­ed by my friend Steven Muhlburg­er (pri­mar­i­ly) and myself (assist­ing). [Chron­i­cle of the Good Duke by Jean Cabaret d’Orville (fl. 1429), trans­lat­ed by Steven Muhlberg­er and Phil Paine]