It used to be rare that WW and I would speak by phone – it is not an easy process and he prefers the written word of course – luckily, as the joke goes, his amanuensis (Rogers Pettigout-Smythe II, taking over in his father’s role after the latter’s death) one day pulled swapped out the old fifty-kilogram typewriter and slid in a computer keyboard in its place, one attached to email, and my grandfather never noticed.
Anyway: in the early days of gathering the manuscript pages for possible publication (there were very many of them, for all different stories, as I said in the interview with Books Forward) he would only email or snail-mail. Once we were putting the finishing touches on Dwarf Story – the first book – we started speaking by phone, and then did so often. I don’t think he trusted the phone at first – remember he is very old, and some memory of technology gone haywire during a World War haunts him – or maybe it’s two things, it is hard to tell. Very strange – but I have gotten used to an abundance of strangeness and a corresponding lack of full explanations.
(There is also always a challenge in that I am not the voracious reader that he is – I have a college degree, and will be going for my Masters, but it is in Biology, not in English Literature or Philology or Classics. I am more like Arty in Dwarf Story than WW Marplot, though I do like fantasy adventure – to escape from the science world, and for fun, not to study for a hundred years or wonder where it all comes from.)
What follows are some of our interactions, on topics readers have asked about. Some I am presenting in script form, and all of it edited – sometimes these conversations tend to ramble into unconnected areas. And note they are mostly from memory…mine, not his. If it were based on his memory part of it would be in Morse code.
From these you can get an idea of what it’s like to talk to him: it is quaint and charming and goes where he wants it to go, though he essentially wants to go where you want to go. It’s like when a dog on a leash follows you from in front.