Tuesday, July 7, 2009


So, today Hastur was sitting peacefully in my lap -- a rare occurrance -- when she suddenly sat up and growled. I looked out and, sure enough, a Post Office van had just pulled up outside in our driveway (there's no visitor-detecter as good as a nervous cat). By the time I'd gotten disentangled and all the way downstairs and out to the porch, the mail-carrier was gone, but she'd left behind two promising book-shaped parcels.

One, which came all the way from Belgium (first time I've ever ordered a book from Belgium, I think) is Andrew Warn's CONSTRUCTING NATIONS, RECONSTUCTING MYTHS -- the T. A. Shippey festschrift and the last of the books I ordered at Kalamazoo. This is a non-Tolkien-themed volume which focuses instead on 19th century philology, with what look to be interesting essays on MacPherson's OSSIAN and The Four Branches of THE MABINOGI and of course Grimm, and titles like "How Elvish Were the Alfar?" and "What is 'Middle-Earth'?: Origin, Evolution, and Mythic Function". The latter, by Paul Battles, looks to be one of the two in the collection devoted in whole or part to Tolkienian themes, the other being the always interesting Jonathan Evans' "Worter, Sachen, und Wahrheit: Philology and the Tree of Language in Tolkien".

It's the other new arrival, however, that's captured my attention, since I have the lead article in this year's TOLKIEN STUDIES: "A Kind of Elvish Craft: J. R. R. Tolkien as Literary Craftsman". It's a great honor to appear in Tolkien Studies at last, and as the lead piece, complete with a John Rateliff Checklist of my scholarly works. This is the written version of the speech I gave at Marquette back in October 2007 as that year's Blackwelder Lecture, and I'm glad to see it in print** to see what folks make of my argument (that Tolkien deliberately crafted his style to evoke participation in the subcreation on his readers' part). I also make a case for Tolkien's prose being so interwoven and carefully constructed that it's difficult to change any detail without unintended consequences somewhere down the line -- something I've more recently been looking at in another piece (just finished) on the various films and radio adaptations. And of course I love seeing a page from the HOBBIT manuscript on the front cover of this year's volume, thanks to Marquette and the Estate.

Actually, I'm in this issue of TOLKIEN STUDIES twice, since I wrote a review (of the Walking Tree Press collection TOLKIEN'S SHORTER WORKS, this topic having been a longstanding interest of mine*) as well. Looking over both pieces now, there are passages I like, places where I'd tinker with the wording a bit, a comment there I'd moderate, a point here I'd emphasize -- but on the whole I'm relieved to find I'd essentially say the same thing if I were writing it today.

So, if you come across and read this, let me know what you think.


*cf. my contribution years ago to the Tolkien Society's little volume LEAVES FROM THE TREE

**I understand it's been available online through Project Muse for about two weeks, but I don't have access to that -- and, besides, there's great satisfaction in getting an actual copy of something you wrote in print and making a new place for it on your shelves.

1 comment:

David Bratman said...

We call Pippin the early-warning cat. "The early-warning cat went off," we say, and know someone is coming to the door.