Sunday, March 02, 2008

Equal Opportunity Obsessive

I never know from one day to the next what's going to grab hold of my synapses and refuse to let go. If you think I'm in full-blown Doctor Who mode these days, consider this: I've written two entire Wikipedia articles this week, neither of which even mentions the Doctor. One is based on the writing of Madeleine L'Engle, and the other is A Thurber Carnival.

The book that started the trouble

It was probably in early February that I noticed the disappearance of the Echthroi article from Wikipedia. Digging around in the ex-article's history, I discovered that it was sitting in something called "TransWiki," waiting to be evaluated and cleaned up for possible use in Wiktionary. On the Wikipedia side it had turned into a "redirect." This means that clicking on a link for "Echthroi" took the reader to the article for A Wind in the Door, in which the Echthroi first appeared. This happened even if the link for Echthroi was in the article for A Wind in the Door itself!

What are Echthroi? They're the supernatural baddies in two of L'Engle's books, sort of demon agents of depersonalization and nihilism. A number of people have written about them in connection with L'Engle's work. I spent a couple evenings this week digging up those references and adding them to the article. Meanwhile, it turned out that the term also appears in books about the Bible and about Greek Tragedy. It's Greek for Enemies, you see, which is why L'Engle called her evil uncharacters by that name. Someone on Wikipedia felt the article would be one-sided if I didn't mention all that, so I did. Basically the Bible connection is about people parsing the original Greek text to determine what is meant each time the word or its singlular form (Echthros) appears. As for those ancient Greek thespians, they tended to see the non-protagonist characters in three categories: philioi (friends and loved ones), echthroi (enemies) and medetoeroi (neithers).

As of last night I had that article more or less under control, and was getting a little bored with it. So I did my blog entry on Gallifrey One (part Whatever) and went to bed. Ten hours of sleep later, I got up and checked my email, my Doctor Who Forum subscriptions and my Wikipedia watchlist. It happened that someone updated the Peggy Cass article a little, so I clicked on that to make sure it wasn't vandalism (e.g. "I like cheese."). That's when the article taunted me, with its picture of Cass with Thurber, and its redlink for the nonexistent article on A Thurber Carnival.

So I wrote it. Beginning to end. Took me about ten hours. It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good for a single day's work, if I do say so myself.

Why did I do it? Why do I even care that much? Well, I suppose it's because I grew up with that play, and with Thurber's writing in general. My mom directed A Thurber Carnival in Syracuse circa 1967. There's a mildly amusing story connected with that, in a you-had-to-be-there sort of way; I commend to your attention my previous write-up of the subject. Somewhere around the time I came across my mom's copy of Thurber's Alarms & Diversions, and loved it. By high school I was collecting Thurber books, and reading them when I supposed to be doing something else. My friend Howard and I used to play word games based on Thurber's writing, and I've discussed Thurber with William Windom, whose career has included a lot of Thurber stuff - a tv series and a one man show. Attending A Thurber Carnival on Broadway is even on my list of things to do when I get my time machine, but only if Thurber is on stage that night, playin himself in one of my favorite Thurber pieces of all time, "File and Forget."

Does this mean I'll spend tomorrow rereading Thurber Country, which has some great pieces I lost track of yours ago? Or will I get on with reading my L'Engle-related non-fiction, as I've been threatening to do for years? Could be both or neither. Maybe I'll go back to mapping northeast Mâvarin and counting out the number of hours it takes Jamek to get to his next scene. Or I'll resume watching every Doctor Who story from Rose through Voyage of the Damned, with the commentaries turned on.

Or, considering how late it is right now, maybe I'll go back to bed as soon as I get home from church. Yes, that seems more likely.


No comments: