Two drastically different books by the same author, but sprung from the same driving force: here is a world she loves, with the addition of female characters. In neither case is it necessary to have read the original works (Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, respectively). Johnson’s two short books stand on their own feet. In the meditative, exquisite novella The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, Professor Vellitt Boe must retrieve one of her students from the waking world, or else risk the closing of the Ulthar Women’s College. In The River Bank, Beryl the Mole (an authoress) and Lottie the Rabbit take a summer cottage on the bank of the River, which throws the inhabitants for a loop. Picaresque adventures result, with a delightful mix of ridiculousness and a more subtle wit. Both books are absolutely wonderful and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
She was going to be seen by an old lover, now a king. It was impossible to assume she would not be considered against the Veline Boe that had been. She hadn’t loved Randolph Carter. He had been a man like many, so wrapped and rapt in his own story that there was no room for the world around him except as it served his own tale: the black men of Parg and Kled and Sona Nyl, the gold men of Thorabon and Ophir and Rinar; and all the women invisible everywhere, except when they brought him drinks or sold him food–all walk-on parts in the play that was Randolph Carter, or even wallpaper.
–from The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
Beryl smoothed her skirt. “I might say the same, alas. Before we came here, Lottie was–I cannot say a sensible Rabbit, for there are hardly any such–but more sensible than she is now, in any case. But ever since she has met your Mr Toad, she has gone quite adventure-mad. We came to the River Bank for a quiet life, a pleasant life where I might work and she might keep me company, with none of this wilding about. Yet here is the Toad, encouraging my friend in every sort of excess. Yesterday”–she lowered her voice–“I heard from Lottie that they have been discussing motor-cycles, in a very concrete and specific way.”
–from The River Bank
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