_The Hero from Otherwhere_, Jay Williams

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Andrew Plotkin

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Oct 28, 2001, 11:59:45 PM10/28/01
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I picked this up at last weekend's trip to the used-book pile. (A very
comforting trip it was, too. Sometimes I feel like I already own every
work of science fiction published in the 20th century that I will ever
want to read. But I have once again proved this a delusion.)

Anyway. _The Hero from Otherwhere_ was published in 1972, and where
did I know the name Jay Williams from? As the co-author of Danny Dunn,
of course. But I'd never heard of this book.

(The Danny Dunn books were earlier, '56 to '67, and the other author
was Ray Abrashkin -- who, according to one web source, was almost
completely paralyzed and basically communicated with Williams through
a ouija-board. Things you learn. Huh.)

Anyway. _THFO_ is fantasy. Two middle-school kids are yanked away from
their long-running feud to another world, where they have to save the
world. Both worlds, in fact. Fenris Wolf has come unbound, and he's
about to eat everything. So it's quest time, and Jesse and Rich had
better figure out how to pull together.

Elements of this book will look familiar. The two wizards (pardon me,
*scientists*, see below) who summon our heroes -- well, one is fat,
mild, and genial; the other is tall and snappish. One gets the idea.

Other elements are familiar, but -- the use of poetry as magic is
*straight* out of Pamela Dean. Only, um, more than a decade earlier.

With a stubby forefinger [Mr. Crump] drew a complicated sign in
the air, and muttered, "Welcome the wine, / whate'er the seal is; /
and sit you down and say your grace / with thankful heart, whate'er
the meal is."
At once a small table appeared. On it were a tall silver pitcher,
a platter of little cakes and four silver goblets. Mr. Crump poured
wind from the pitcher into the goblets.
"Magic!" said Rich. "How'd you do that?"
Mr. Crump laughed fatly. "Not magic, Richard. Magic is the work
of poets in our land. This kind of thing is merely simple science,
using a mild and ancient spell composed by Makepeace."

The air is a nice balance of whimsy with a seriousness and joy that
the Danny Dunn books never quite had. The fun is in sneaky puns (Mr.
Crump *does* travel by broom, but it's a Whisk Broom -- it whisks him
from one place to another, you see) and the occasional line of pure
delight:

"That little kid?" Rich said. "How can he be a king?"
"We always have three princes," the Prime Minister replied, "and
of course the youngest always becomes king."
"That sounds like a fairy tale," said Jesse.
"Dear me, no," the Prime Minister said. "It's politics. Fairy
tales are stories about merchants and bankers."

There's more going on here than fantasy-adventure tropes or even
fantasy-adventure self-mocking. Bits of Norse mythology swim to the
surface. The love of reading, the love of stories, and the love of
poetry are very much present. (Jesse is the viewpoint character, and
he's the budding poet. And he's more convincing than sad Joe ever was;
he may not be *good* yet, but he's passionate about wanting it, and
the author's younger self shines straight out of him.)

So you get magic, encounters, trickery, battles, and (eventually)
poetry again, and Fenris the Wolf.

The morals are blatant (when the Prime Minister promises two boys who
can't stand each other a reward which is "worth more than a king's
ransom, yet no king can buy it; ... you yourselves do not know you
want it, and yet when you have it you will know how precious it is,"
it's not hard to figure out where the book is heading). But I'm
not thrown out of the story by this stuff, because the story is strong
enough to carry it.

I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
honest) but because it touches a few strings right.

I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Mark Jason Dominus

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Oct 29, 2001, 12:06:19 AM10/29/01
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In article <9rino0$ofv$1...@news.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
>if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?

It was my favorite book when I was eleven.
--
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@p{"r$p","u$p"}=(P,P);pipe"r$p","u$p";++$p;($q*=2)+=$f=!fork;map{$P=$P[$f^ord
($p{$_})&6];$p{$_}=/ ^$P/ix?$P:close$_}keys%p}p;p;p;p;p;map{$p{$_}=~/^[P.]/&&
close$_}%p;wait until$?;map{/^r/&&<$_>}%p;$_=$d[$q];sleep rand(2)if/\S/;print

Pete McCutchen

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Oct 29, 2001, 12:51:07 AM10/29/01
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On 29 Oct 2001 04:59:45 GMT, Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com>
wrote:

>I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
>its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
>ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
>honest) but because it touches a few strings right.
>
>I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
>if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?

Yes!

Not only did I read it at a "tender age," but it all came totally back
to me, as you synopsized it. I thought it was a wonderful book, at
the time I read it. It absolutely worked for me. Maybe not quite on
my Important list, but it was a library book, and, for whatever
reason, I only read it once or twice. But it obviously made an
impression, since I immediately knew what book it was as you began to
describe it, and details came flooding back.

Oh, and thank you for bringing it up -- I remembered the book, but I'd
forgotten title and author. I'd considered doing YASID, but never
gotten around to it. Now I don't have to. I'll definitely put it on
my "buy if I see it in a used bookstore" list.

Oddly enough, I do remember reading at least one other book by the
same author, and, while I remembered the plot but not the name of _The
Hero From Otherwhere_, this book I remember the name, but not the
plot. It was called _The People of the Axe_, and I sort of vaguely
remember that it was reminiscent of John Christopher, though I
couldn't now tell you why. I do remember liking it, though, if that
helps.
--

Pete McCutchen

Mike Simone

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Oct 29, 2001, 1:30:01 PM10/29/01
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<9rino0$ofv$1...@news.panix.com>...
<much snippage>

>
> I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
> its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
> ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
> honest) but because it touches a few strings right.
>
> I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
> if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?
>
> --Z
>

I was about 14, but I loved it all the same.

Mike Simone

Charles Frederick Goodin

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Oct 29, 2001, 3:31:41 PM10/29/01
to
In article <9rino0$ofv$1...@news.panix.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>I picked this up at last weekend's trip to the used-book pile. (A very
>comforting trip it was, too. Sometimes I feel like I already own every
>work of science fiction published in the 20th century that I will ever
>want to read. But I have once again proved this a delusion.)
>
>Anyway. _The Hero from Otherwhere_ was published in 1972, and where
>did I know the name Jay Williams from? As the co-author of Danny Dunn,
>of course. But I'd never heard of this book.
>
>I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
>its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
>ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
>honest) but because it touches a few strings right.
>
>I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
>if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?

Hmmm...I'm not sure. It was really good, but I think I was actually too
young to realize how good. I liked the Danny Dunn books and _The Magic
Grandfather_ (which I just reread a few weeks ago -- I'm 31 now) better.
I do recall it fondly, but more as "one of Jay Williams' books" than a
really good book on its own.


--
chuk

Ashland Henderson

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Oct 29, 2001, 5:14:05 PM10/29/01
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<9rino0$ofv$1...@news.panix.com>...
> I picked this up at last weekend's trip to the used-book pile. (A very
> comforting trip it was, too. Sometimes I feel like I already own every
> work of science fiction published in the 20th century that I will ever
> want to read. But I have once again proved this a delusion.)
>
> Anyway. _The Hero from Otherwhere_ was published in 1972, and where
> did I know the name Jay Williams from? As the co-author of Danny Dunn,
> of course. But I'd never heard of this book.

Snip stuff

> I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
> its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
> ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
> honest) but because it touches a few strings right.
>
> I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
> if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?

I was 28 when it came out and I thought (and still think) that
it was very well done. I still have my copy on the shelves (after
numerous cullings).

Karen Williams

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Oct 29, 2001, 6:04:42 PM10/29/01
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
> its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
> ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
> honest) but because it touches a few strings right.

I read this book at eleven, and adored it. It's the one with the line,
"One and one is always two. Each alone, here's me, there's you. The
mathematics of the heart adds together what's apart. The sum of being
friends is done to prove that one and one makes one.", right?

--
Karen Williams
bra...@ix.netcom.com

Kate Nepveu

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Oct 29, 2001, 6:39:34 PM10/29/01
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

[...]


> Anyway. _The Hero from Otherwhere_ was published in 1972, and where
> did I know the name Jay Williams from? As the co-author of Danny Dunn,
> of course. But I'd never heard of this book.

I'm going to have to put this on my list; thanks.

Kate
--
http://www.steelypips.org/elsewhere.html -- kate....@yale.edu
Paired Reading Page; Book Reviews; Outside of a Dog: A Book Log
"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jason Bontrager

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Oct 29, 2001, 10:02:18 PM10/29/01
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Charles Frederick Goodin wrote:
>
> Hmmm...I'm not sure. It was really good, but I think I was actually too
> young to realize how good. I liked the Danny Dunn books and _The Magic
> Grandfather_ (which I just reread a few weeks ago -- I'm 31 now) better.
> --
> chuk

Ah, _The Magic Grandfather_! That was a great book. I remember
that one and _Alan Mendelsohn(sp?): Boy from Mars_ as two of my
favorites in Junior High (well, those and Lord of the Rings of
course:-). I'm going to have to track those titles down again.

Jason B.

Andrew Plotkin

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Oct 29, 2001, 10:16:29 PM10/29/01
to

Yes.

I am somewhat elated to discover that my offhanded guess of "eleven"
was correct -- both for you and for Mark-Jason Dominus. :)

Liz Broadwell

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Oct 30, 2001, 10:09:12 AM10/30/01
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Andrew Plotkin (erky...@eblong.com) wrote:

: Karen Williams <bran...@home.com> wrote:
: > Andrew Plotkin wrote:
: >
: >> I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
: >> its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
: >> ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
: >> honest) but because it touches a few strings right.

: > I read this book at eleven, and adored it. It's the one with the line,
: > "One and one is always two. Each alone, here's me, there's you. The
: > mathematics of the heart adds together what's apart. The sum of being
: > friends is done to prove that one and one makes one.", right?

: Yes.

: I am somewhat elated to discover that my offhanded guess of "eleven"
: was correct -- both for you and for Mark-Jason Dominus. :)

I found this one at age 10 or 11, too, IIRC. It didn't make it onto my
Most-Important list as some other books I read at the same time (the
Prydain Chronicles, the Dark Is Rising sequence) did, but I did acquire a
copy at a book fair that I still have and still reread occasionally.
One of my favorite scenes was the one in which Erd's daughters face the
wolf; I was turned on to _Beowulf_ by the small excerpt they used as a
war-song: "Hold now, thou earth, the hand-gift of heroes / What from
foemen was wrested, death wrung from their grasp ... " Reading Rosemary
Sutcliff's _Beowulf_ adaptation a few years later hooked me for life.

Peace,
Liz "harp's joy, swift hawk, and hound at my heel" B.

--
Elizabeth Broadwell | "The true servants of the Merciful are
(ebro...@dept.english.upenn.edu) | those who walk humbly on the earth and
Department of English | say, 'Peace!' to the ignorant who
at the University of Pennsylvania | accost them." -- Qu'ran (tr. Dawood)

Kevin Eaches

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Oct 31, 2001, 12:57:31 AM10/31/01
to

Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> I picked this up at last weekend's trip to the used-book pile. (A very
> comforting trip it was, too. Sometimes I feel like I already own every
> work of science fiction published in the 20th century that I will ever
> want to read. But I have once again proved this a delusion.)
>
> Anyway. _The Hero from Otherwhere_ was published in 1972, and where
> did I know the name Jay Williams from? As the co-author of Danny Dunn,
> of course. But I'd never heard of this book.
>


<snip>


> I think if I'd found this book when I was eleven, it would have worked
> its way into my Important list. Not because it was the greatest book
> ever (too many candidates, of which not all are by Daniel Pinkwater,
> honest) but because it touches a few strings right.
>
> I'm curious if anyone else around here read this at a tender age, and
> if so, did it work as well as I imagine it might?
>

I read this around 11 or 12 as I recall. Had to be sometime in that time
frame, anyway - I was in middle school. I loved it - I've had a thing
for poetry or music magic, and the story was fun. In fact, years later I
picked up a copy of the book because I still remembered enjoying it so
much. It's on the bookshelf that's in the room I'm currently typing from
, in fact. I'll have to reread it now.

Kevin Eaches
kea...@columbus.rr.com

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