Monday, November 28, 2011

The New Arrivals

So, one of the problems about not-blogging when I get busy or just bogged down is that the things I want to blog about (books arriving, the 'Occupy' movement, unnecessary surgery) tend to pile up, so that the longer I wait the bigger the log-jam.

Case in point was the most recent post about the new book arrival, wh. was also my newest publication; finally got this off a day or two ago, after having begun a week before. During that time, another three packages with books arrived on the door step. So in the interests of playing catch-up, the following descriptions may be briefer and brisker than wd otherwise be the case.

In any case, this current lot represent books I ordered to fill in around the corners, mindful of the difficulty that can result if I wait too long (e.g., the ridiculous prices some books on Tolkien shoot up to when they go out-of-print).*

New Tolkien Book #1: Martha C. Sammons' WAR OF THE FANTASY WORLDS [2010]. This is one of two books I've been meaning to get for a year or so but kept putting off month by month because of the expense (in this case, $45 for a text that sans notes &c. runs less than 200 pages).* I'm interested in this one, because books on Tolkien and Lewis tend to conflate the two, which I think does an injustice to both: they were v. different men, with v. different ideas and aesthetics; more alike perhaps in their goals than in how they tried to reach them. Sammons, by contrast, looks to stress the differences between their writings. We'll see if she's able to do justice to an interesting thesis.

What shd have been New Tolkien Book #2, Alison Milbanks' CHESTERTON & TOLKIEN AS THEOLOGIANS, was also fairly pricey ($40 for a 200 page paperback), and while quite interested to see what she had to say about Tolkien as theologian (a topic about wh. not much has been written), I admit to being put of by the fact that what I've read of Chesterton's theology (ORTHODOXY) didn't make me inclined to read more if I cd avoid it. In this case, looks like I hestiated too long: Amazon cancelled this book from my order, claiming the book is no longer available. I can still get it used, but again there's the dis-encouragement of now having to pay $40+ for a secondhand book

Book #3 is Oliver Loo's A TOLKIEN ENGLISH GLOSSARY ("2004-2009"). That title might cause some confusion, given that Tolkien is writing in English, but the subtitle clarifies things: A GUIDE TO OLD, UNCOMMON AND ARCHAIC WORDS USED IN THE HOBBIT AND THE LORD OF THE RINGS. So, if you were a bit puzzled by words like "eyrie" and "furrier" when first read THE HOBBIT, this is the book for you; Tomnoddy, Attercop, Lob, and Cob all make an appearance. On the other hand, it's cluttered with words that are far from exotic, like "rug" and "toe"; Loo seems to presuppose that his target audience is a bright ten-year-old. Which is all well and good, but it means that practically anybody who'd buy his book wdn't need it, having already mastered difficult words like Glossary and Archaic. I'm sure his inspiration must have been the (v. useful) glossary of archaic words Christopher Tolkien appended to THE BOOK OF LOST TALES, but Loo sets the barrier much, much lower. I suspect his book wd be of most help to non-native speakers reading LotR in English but not entirely conversant in the large vocabulary Tolkien delights in using.

--John R.

current book: 1948
current e-book: THE HOUSE OF SILK

*Frederick & McBride's WOMEN AMONG THE INKLINGS being a case in point, having only attracted minor attention until it went out of print, whereupon prices soared.


David Bratman said...

Does Loo's book include an explanation for the one word that baffled me on my first reading of The Hobbit? That was "chestnuts," by which Gollum means "that's an old and stale joke," but I had never heard that usage and was trying to figure out how chestnuts, the nut, could be the answer to the riddle, "Thirty white horses on a red hill."

Jason Fisher said...

I reviewed Loo's book in Mythprint (you can read the review here). I was going to review the Sammons book but declined after taking a good long look at it. Suffice to say it's one of the worst books I've seen in recent years, possibly ever. I know that sounds harsh, and believe me, I feel a little guilty saying it, but I think people deserve to know before shelling out big bucks. When I returned it, David reviewed it instead (read that one here).

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David. Hi Jason.

David: Yes, Loo does cover 'chestnut'. Having myself been puzzled by this usage back in 1973, I thought his gloss wd have been helpful then. Here's his entry.

Chestnuts [page] 85 "An old or stale joke, anecdote, etc. (slang). Hence, in extended use, anything trite, stale, or too often repeated."

Jason: Thanks for the links to the two reviews. I appreciate David's point, but since I HAVE read the materials Sammons covers, I might be able to get more out of it than some readers. As for the Loo, in retrospect I think I was probably a bit hard on it. If I'd come across this as a labor-of-love website I'd have been more likely to recommend it to beginning readers than I am in its book form.

--John R.