That means Happy Halloween y’all — in Irish. Why Irish? I don’t know. Maybe because I’m listening to the great Irish composer John Field right now. And I was reading around in the Acallam na Senórach earlier this morning as part of my usual distraction from distraction (in this case, the essay on the Inferno — which I really am writing! I swear!).
Anyway, it is Halloween, so I guess it’s appropriate enough to mention that this morning I received in the mail this wonderful new volume.
I played D&D in the 90s — that would be the 2nd edition. For a good five years, I’d say from about the ages of eleven until maybe sixteen, I devoured novels set in the various TSR gaming modules: Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and so on. I was always conscious that those books were not of the same caliber — or perhaps I should say they served a different purpose — in comparison to the other epic fantasy I was reading that didn’t have anything to do with TSR (which, by the way, ceased to exist in the late 90s — the current publisher of D&D in all its trappings is Wizards of the Coast — but for those of us who grew up on this stuff in the 80s and 90s, the acronym TSR will always have a certain nostalgic connotation). But it was all of a piece, and it all hugely affected my later study of literature, and my later thinking about the supernatural, metaphysics, etc.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that formation, I guess you could call it, in fantasy writing and (to a lesser extent) gaming, and so I may post a bit about Art and Arcana as I go through it. I’ve also been thinking about D&D again for the first time in many years, as over the past two summers I’ve had the opportunity to do a few campaigns. There are undeniably decadent and kitschy aspects to the TSR fantasy series and to D&D. But that’s not necessarily bad, and it’s a big part of why I find it all so interesting. I would even go so far as to say that this kind of fantasy can be an excellent propaedeutic or heuristic for deeper reflection on fantasy, and on literary art generally and even — yes — visual art. That visual quality of fantasy is very important, something I want to think more about. The idea of something seen is in the very word fantasy, after all. Dante will prove illuminating here, because his Comedy — one of the most descriptive works of literature ever crafted — is essentially about what Dante can say that he saw, and so it ends just when the powers of speech and memory fail that high vision — alta fantasia.