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The Disappearing Dwarf (1983)

de James P. Blaylock

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: Balumnia Trilogy (2)

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289489,893 (3.8)2
Second in the fantasy trilogy set in "a magical world, magically presented . . . Having journeyed there, you will not wish to leave, nor ever forget" (Philip K. Dick).   Jonathan Bing, Master Cheeser, has been growing a bit bored in Twombly Town. So it's no surprise that when Professor Wurzle suggests a trip downriver, Jonathan jumps at the chance. A visit to the Evil Dwarf Selznak's abandoned castle leads to a treasure hunt but also to the discovery that Jonathan's old friend the Squire has vanished, and that Selznak may be involved.   Jonathan--accompanied by his wonderpooch Ahab, the Professor, and Miles the Magician--will have to set off to darkest Balumnia, to the city of Landsend, to find the treasure and the Squire. And to make matters worse, Selznak will be there, too . . .   The delightful sequel to The Elfin Ship by World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick Award-winner James P. Blaylock, The Disappearing Dwarf was first published in 1983.   "If you have any love for Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, or mouth-watering descriptions of all sorts of food and drink, then these books are for you . . . It's filled with Blaylock's nearly trademarked bits of whimsy . . . and characters driven by strange monomanias." --Black Gate… (mais)
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review of
James P. Blaylock's The Disappearing Dwarf
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 14, 2017


I just read Blaylock's 1st bk, the predecessor of this, The Elfin Ship, less than a mnth ago so one might think that reading this now means that I'm enthusiastic about Blaylock's writing & just cdn't wait to get more of it but it was more of 'house-cleaning' activity. reading this one meant that I cd finish w/ Blaylock & have all of his bks in my collection up on the shelves & out of my piles-of-bks way. That's not very flattering, eh? But, don't get the wrong idea, I enjoyed it.

As I've explained in probably far-too-many other reviews: I have a tendency to read stuff-that's-important-to-me slowly & to intersperse stuff-that's-easier to give myself some slack. The Disappearing Dwarf is definitely in the latter category.

I'd read that Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy is one of Blaylock's favorite bks & he quotes from it at the beginning of this. The quote is about imbibing "radical moisture" in order to "know not what it is to fear death", in other words, potomania - alcohol-induced 'bravery' (or foolishness). I like that Blaylock likes Sterne but I must admit to finding none of Sterne's formal inventiveness & playfulness in Blaylock's writing.

I read The Elfin Ship less than a mnth ago but the action since then has advanced more than that: ""We've been back six months," the Professor said, "and you've got an air of boredom about you.["]" (p 5) It might be interesting to read a series of bks during the seasons that they take place in & taking a break between them equivalent to the time lapsed in the stories. That wd've meant that I wdn't've read this one until July. Oh well, too late.

As I mentioned in my review of The Elfin Ship ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1920169154 ): "There's the peaceful small village that the reluctant humble hero hails from. There's the magician & the elves & the dwarves n'at. The evil creeping over the land." In other words, the standard tropes of fantasy. Add to those the door-into-an-alternate-world-or-some-such:

""This notation here," the Professor continued, "hasn't anything to do with dogs, I'm sure of it. It refers to a door, I think."

""A door to where? To the center of the earth?"

"The Professor perked up at the idea. "Quite possibly so, Jonathan. There are theories about it being hollow, you know."" - p 15

Indeed, there are & I once enjoyed reading those theories enuf to even organize the "Sinnit-Nut Hollow Earth Symposium". A digitized recording of Side A of the original cassette release from this can be heard here: https://archive.org/details/noise-arch_sinuthes/sinuthes_1.mp3 Please read the comment that I added if you go there.

Blaylock's wonderworlds are reruns of sorts, images from a pre-existing image pool imagined slightly anew by him. That's ok, I like this neo-Verne world, this world w/ caves filled w/ antiquities & oddities (if not treasure):

"In the dim shadows of one corner stood a collection of stuffed animals, a sort of taxidermist's wonderland, that looked as if it had stood just so for two hundred years. An elephant with long curving tusks and tufts of wooly hair along his back watched them through green glass eyes. Beside him stood a great long hippo and three crocodiles that had to have been twenty feet from head to tail. There were zebras and antelope and great cats and a weird hollow-eyed buffalo that was almost as big as the elephant. Four white apes stood in a cluster further back in the darkness. Pushed in among these strange dusty creatures were more chairs and wardrobes and tables and candelabra and such, heaped together in disarray." - pp 34-35

What? No stuffed humans or elves or dwarves or trolls or linkmen or goblins? Wassup w/ that?!

"Most puzzling of all the notations on the map was the legend scrawled across the top—merely the word "Balumnia," the name, possibly, of the city along the river or of the country where the river lay." - 44

""I once read a book about this Balumnia," he said. "It must have been twenty years ago. It was a wonderful book by the elf author, Glub Boomp. A fantasy novel."" - p 63

If only Jonathan read my review of The Elfin Ship it wdn't've taken him 19pp to remember Balumnia b/c I wd've reminded him that he knew what Balumnia was a mere 6 or 7 mnths ago:

"""Fine," Jonathan said, picking up an empty wooden crate and putting the pirate book in the bottom with a few others by the same author. Then he ran across a shelf of books by Glub Boomp, the elf author from the White Mountains who wrote about lands way off in space and about the Wonderful Isles and a country beneath the sea called Balumnia that was peopled by mermen. Needless to say, Jonathan stacked these away in his crate too."

Then again, according to that version of the story Balumnia is "a country beneath the sea" "that was peopled by mermen" wch ain't the case here. Get yr stories straight people. Some of us DO pay attn (sortof).

Selznak was the evil dwarf magician in The Elfin Ship who was defeated in the end but whose life was spared b/c our heroes aren't bloodthirsty sorts n'at. Surprise, surprise, he's back in the sequel & up to no good AGAIN:

"["]I promised Twickenham in a way that I'd keep an eye on Selznak. Of course he was up to no good, but it was pretty common stuff—murder and the like—and it was clear he knew I was there. In April he disappeared. I had it on authority that he was off downriver, so I moseyed along down to the Wood, where I lost track of him. You can't track evil through the Wood. There's too much of it already.["]" - p 48

Blaylock seems to be of the school of untamed-nature-is-evil-nature's-ok-when-it's-being-harvested-in-sleepy-hamlets-but-not-in-its-full-vitality. I doubt that I'd survive a night in the Amazonian jungle but that doesn't mean I want to turn it into grazing lands for McDonald's cows-bred-for-slaughter. Blaylock even imagines his obese character eating singing squid. I guess it depends on what they're singing.

""Well," said Gump, sticking in his two cents worth, "we don't have to worry about any squids. The Squire would just eat the things. I've seen him eat squid sandwiches that would turn your head. They were marvels. And he wouldn't care if they sang either; he'd eat them anyway. A singing sandwich is right in the Squire's line."" - p 65

If he ate a squid that was singing Cathy Berberian's "Stripsody" wd my head turn around 360 degrees & keep on turning? Wd I get head if the squids were singing the "Ode to Joy"? Things like this cd be important y'know.

I recall that Blaylock likes the work of Robert Louis Stevenson too so it's no surprise that shades of Treasure Island appear:

"If books could be believed—and it was beginning to look as if they could—then it seemed as if pirates spent their lives amassing great chests full of emeralds and gold for the purpose of burying the lot if it away on some goat-populated desert isle, only to sail back years later and fight over it and make up songs about it and bury it again, finally, somewhere else. He had never heard of pirates spending any of it." - p 67

What the piratical HEY!, I like Treasure Island so much I even watched a sequel movie called Return to Treasure Island recently. The main moral I got from that is: don't-get-married-if-you-still-want-to-have-fun & The Disappearing Dwarf does seem to echo that somewhat, too, by having our heros be bachelors.

The back cover of this edition has the following copy: "Into darkest Balumnia", wch strikes me as spin-off of the old "Into darkest Africa" but Balumnia isn't made out to be the least bit like Africa. UNLESS Africa's like this:

"Bomb or no bomb, Sikorsky or no Sikorsky, he'd had enough of being on the lookout. As he straightened up he caught a glimpse of a pair of eyes, milky eyes, watching him from the darkness of a recessed doorway not three steps away. There was a whispering in the doorway and the faint cackle of something laughing weirdly to itself, at a joke that no one else could hear or wanted to hear. From the shadows of the doorway, a thin, pale, skeletal hand reached out toward him, beckoning to him with a bent finger. Tattered lace hung round the wrist." - p 128

That's not the way I remember darkest Africa but, then, I've never been there. I've never even been there w/ Jonathan, the fictional character, but he & I are like 2 peas in a pod anyway:

"They pushed in through the doors of the inn and booked two rooms for the night from a lad in enormous spectacles who read a thick book behind a wooden counter. Jonathan cocked his head sideways to read the title on the volume. he had always been compelled to discover what it was that anyone he met was reading." - p 149

Well, ok, we're not really like 2 peas in a pod but I do the same thing when I see someone reading. Such as Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop or Theophile Gautier's The Mummy's Foot:

"When they did, they were presented with the sight of a hippopotamus head, mouth agape, staring back out at them. In among his teeth sat a small, satisfied-looking pig with his mouth open too. And in the pig's mouth, peering out as if through a window, were the head and shoulders of a mouse. A price tag dangled from one of the hippo's teeth: Two hundred dollars."

[..]

"Too bad this place isn't open," Gump said. "I'd like to talk him down fifty or so and buy that thing. I've always wanted one."" - pp 165-166

Gotta have one, simply gotta. Although it wd be even cooooler to have the mummified piece of Nearchus's ear that Zeno bit off:

""If there are three north-south streets between Royal and Oak that aren't on the map, and six east-west cross streets . . ."

""And no end of alleys," Gump interrupted.

""And, as you say, no end of alleys, then how many blocks do we have to explore in that one section?"

"The Professor ticked off streets on his fingers. "Let's see, that's . . . eighteen square blocks altogether."

""Multiplied by no end of alleys," Jonathan said.

""How do you multiply something by no end?" Gump asked.

"Jonathan shrugged. "You'd have to have a lot of zeros."

""More than we have time for," the Professor put in. "It all has to do with the study of infinitudes. Very complex affair."

""We studied those in school," Gump said. "It was fascinating. You take a line and divide it in half. Then you cut it in half again . . ."

""What do you cut in half again?" asked Bufo. "Both halves or just one? Seems pretty sloppy just to cut one half in half and leave the other one half alone. What does it do with himself?"" - pp 175-176

I'd never heard of fishing w/ kites before but I like the idea (even if it shd be called 'birding w/ kites'):

"Not far from the road two dark gypsys were fishing for seabirds with kites. Jonathan was tempted to stand and watch for a bit, as now and again a big gull or heron would swoop down and lunge at the bait dangling at the tail of the bird-shaped kite." - p 212

I HAVE heard of John Sheehan's "balloon fishing" where you go to a fishing spot before any of the other fisher-folk arrive & attach a balloon to your hook, submerge it underwater somehow, & then bring it up casually as if there's nothing abnormal about snagging an inflated balloon w/ a fishing line & leave w/o explanation. So, that's kinda normal to me - but what I want to know is what were the gypsys planning to do w/ the seabirds's credit info?

Sometimes it helps the plot to have the characters be considerably slower on the uptake than the reader:

"he barely gave a thought to the strange fact that the girl's hand was very cold and was dry as dust. For a moment, just as she stepped out into the moonlight, Jonathan had the strange thought that her hair wasn't blond, as it had seemed to be in the lantern light. It seemed momentarily to be gray, like old ashes in a grate, and her face, rather than being pleasantly thin, appeared skeletal just for the slip of an instant." - p 220

Some guys never learn - but don't feel too bad, Jonathan, computer dating services tend to pair me w/ women who look like they'd been left for dead in a body of water & bloated out to twice their living size.

This, predictably enuf, is the 2nd bk of a trilogy, it has to be a trilogy, right?!. the 1st 2 parts were only published a yr apart but the next one, The Stone Giant didn't come out until 6 yrs later in 1989. Maybe by then Jonathan managed to hook a live one. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Definitely a fine sequel to The Elfin Ship. I really enjoyed Blaylock's style of writing. It's very comforting. ( )
  beatbox32 | Sep 4, 2008 |
A fine sequel to the Elfin Airship. It allows the reader another excursion with Bing, Ahab, and the Professor. ( )
  mawoodward | Jun 24, 2007 |
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Second in the fantasy trilogy set in "a magical world, magically presented . . . Having journeyed there, you will not wish to leave, nor ever forget" (Philip K. Dick).   Jonathan Bing, Master Cheeser, has been growing a bit bored in Twombly Town. So it's no surprise that when Professor Wurzle suggests a trip downriver, Jonathan jumps at the chance. A visit to the Evil Dwarf Selznak's abandoned castle leads to a treasure hunt but also to the discovery that Jonathan's old friend the Squire has vanished, and that Selznak may be involved.   Jonathan--accompanied by his wonderpooch Ahab, the Professor, and Miles the Magician--will have to set off to darkest Balumnia, to the city of Landsend, to find the treasure and the Squire. And to make matters worse, Selznak will be there, too . . .   The delightful sequel to The Elfin Ship by World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick Award-winner James P. Blaylock, The Disappearing Dwarf was first published in 1983.   "If you have any love for Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, or mouth-watering descriptions of all sorts of food and drink, then these books are for you . . . It's filled with Blaylock's nearly trademarked bits of whimsy . . . and characters driven by strange monomanias." --Black Gate

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