July 30th, 2004

Burrahobbits, 07-27-04, “The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.”

On Tuesday evening, the Burrahobbits fantasy reading group met at the home of Dave Hoose. We enjoyed the summer evening in the Hoose’s yard, sipping lemonade and working our usual rambling discussion around to this unusual work by John Steinbeck.
Steinbeck is better known for his works of realistic Americana, such as “The Grapes of Wrath.” In introductory notes to the work, the author indicates that he had always loved the works of Thomas Malory, and with the discovery of the Winchester Manuscripts that expanded upon the Arthurian canon, decided to make use of this new resource to update Malory for modern times. The work was not finished in Steinbeck’s lifetime and was only published as an unfinished work. Steinbeck declared his intention was not to re-write T.H. White or “Camelot,” although, ironically in the later portions of the work he does mimic White in that he introduces very modern ideas and sensibilities, although he avoids the satirical elements that mark “The Once and Future King.” The collection of letters dating during the writing process that are appended hint that he may have become more expansive in reaction to negative comments on the first sections, which follow Malory most closely.

The intriguing thing about the work is wondering what it might have been like had it been finished. The book ends just as the Lancelot-Guinevere-Arthur triangle is on the horizon, and before any mention of the Holy Grail. It would have been very interesting to see how Steinbeck approached these important Arthurian subjects.

Reactions to the book were, as usual, mixed. Some of us preferred the more elaborated chapters (as I did), while others preferred the clean purity of the early chapters.

Donald Senzig, Jr., R.I.P.

It seems I'm becoming de facto keeper of the rolls of fans gone up yonder.

Don Senzig, husband of Dorothy Dean a/k/a Grace O'Malley, died suddenly at his home on Tuesday, July 27. He was just 53. An obituary appears in the Thursday Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

I knew Don chiefly from conversations at WisCon and at Sue Blom's annual parties. I was always struck by what a gentle and wise man he was; he was modest, kind, generous, and courteous: nevertheless, he possessed a great fund of knowledge and skill that he shared joyously and without condescension. Men of his caliber are far too rare and he will be sorely missed.

Don learned electronics working with his father in a TV repair business. He built on of the early home computers from a kit, which eventually lead into a long-standing engineering career, in which he excelled although he was largely self-taught and never had a college degree. He used his skills and a natural talent as a teacher to help innumerable people and organizations become computer capable.

He was regular panelist on all sorts of subjects, literate as well as technical, at local SF cons including the various Milwaukee conventions and WisCon. In fact, he met his wife-to-be at a Milwaukee SF con. He supported liberal and feminist causes, and supported Dorothy's public and political career.

Damn, what a tragedy. Dorothy had announced that she was going to retire after the end of her current sucessful term as County Treasurer. On Tuesday, she came home and found Don dead of a brain anurysm. Friends who saw him in the last few weeks said he was feeling fine.

It's things like this that remind me there is no Cosmic Justice this side of the grave. Men like Don die untimely while S.O.B.s like (many public figures I could name but they don't deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph) go on and on despite their long careers engendering misery and vice. Oh, well, if only the good die young, I should have a good few years left to me--.