Tuesday, May 4, 2021

When the Books Came a-tumbling Down

So, sometime during the night the bookshelves holding my more or less complete set of all TSR/WotC 3e +3.5 D&D books and modules* came crashing down. Luckily the bookcase itself stayed upright when the shelves came down and a lot of the books stayed more or less in place in relation to each other, as you can see in the picture below:

To which I shd add that the top shelf shown here (including Forgotten Realms/Eberron) came down as well while I was clearing away the fallen books.

 I'd just reaching the stage where I'm sorting out these books, along with my modest holdings of 4th edition,* in the ongoing cull. I guess they just anticipated me.

--John R.


All those years of marking up those books; this was the books' revenge, to have a go at marking up me. 

*most of what I have of the current, fifth edition I expect to keep

Friday, April 30, 2021

What is This, and Why do I have it?

So, I was doing some more sorting yesterday when I came across the following:

I have no memory of ever having seen this before. It was in a box with a lot of miscellaneous papers, mostly (but not all) associated with the initial d20 boom. Anyone want to claim it, before it goes into that great big sorting box in the sky? 

--John R.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Finished but not Done

 So, unfortunately I was right that just because I'd reached the end of a piece, it didn't mean I was done working on it. In this case, the problem came when I did a practice reading of my essay and found that it took me twenty-four minutes to read aloud. That's a problem, given that each of us on the panel at Kalamazoo has about fifteen minutes.

So I've been trimming, trying to excise sections yet keep the argument as a whole coherent (and, hopefully, persuasive).  Fortunately  a practice reading of the Short Version today came out at sixteen minutes. That's much better. Some more polishing of the new transitions and another practice reading between now and then and we shd be good to go.

Oh, and I've changed the title of my piece, from "Valinor in America" to "The Lost Road as Faerian Drama".

Tarkus's contribution to all this is to prove the old adage that nothing makes a cat want to be in a room than a closed door keeping him out. Or then closing it to keep him in. Or not leaving it open after letting him out again. 

--John R.

current reading: the latest Murderbot book by Martha Wells (good so far but not  as engaging or gripping as most in the series). After I'm done with it (shdn't take long) I plan to go back to Carpenter's book on The Lost Generation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Flieger on Earendel

So, thanks to A. and D. for sending me to the link where I cd watch Verlyn's talk to the Tolkien Society on the 10th. 

It's basically a look at Tolkien's use of negative space in his mythology. Taking Becket's WAITING FOR GODOT as her touchstone, with its characters on stage constantly awaiting the arrival of of someone who never shows up, Verlyn suggests the lack of The Tale of Earendel may be intended. A real mythology needs gaps, lost material, and Tolkien's failure to provide any full text of Earendel's story looks to her as deliberate, particularly (she notes) because Tolkien put in a number of references that shd lead up to the tale but stop short just where the Tale (or Lay) shd start.

I don't think I agree, at least not without going away and mulling over the argument for a good while.* As so often with Verlyn, who asks the difficult questions, it's thought-provoking and very well written. I conclude that we're going to need a third volume of her collected Tolkienian essays, to go with GREEN SUNS and ALWAYS BE A FAIRY TALE, somewhere down the line.

Here's the link:


--John R.

--current reading: Bebergal's APPENDIX N

*I think it's more a matter of ambition on Tolkien's part: he had the habit where he'd no sooner start a Tale than he'd stop and re-plot it as part of some vastly expanded schema (cf. The Lay of Earendel, THE LOST ROAD, &c), after which the original tale in-progress tended to languish.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Happiness Is a full draft (and a Found Reference)

 So, I've now finished the draft of my Kalamazoo piece. It's due to be delivered on the 14th, so I have the better part of four weeks to polish and practice it. 

Plus I wanted to read one of Verlyn's essays that pertains to the same topic. Her piece came out before I'd come up the idea for mine, but was published after. So I held off reading it until I'd finished my own, since I didn't want my piece to be in reaction to hers. Now that I'm reading it I'm glad to find (a) that it's v. good, as expected, and (b) it takes a significantly different tack than I do. So it shd be fine if I just insert a note in the proper place noting (and recommending) her essay.

Speaking of notes, I have one substantial and substantive one I need to add to address a point Janice came up with during one of the many times she let me run parts of the essay by her.

As for 'found reference', I realized as I was wrapping up the piece that I was going to have to search through some twenty pages of Tolkien's late tangled metaphysical writing to try to find a specific point he made, probably somewhere in 'Laws and Customs among the Eldar'. And opening my copy of HME.X I found the passage I was looking for in some ten minutes. And I'd not only remembered the passage correctly, so that it actually made the point I wanted to make, but I'd made a mark next to it in the book way back on 7/16-05 to draw my attention to the passage when I needed it. I'd like to say this is good timing -- it's really serendipity --but whatever it is, it's welcome.

And tomorrow it's back to revision.

--John R.

current reading: APPENDIX N resumed, midway through the Moorcock (which I disliked) and then on through the Lovecraft (in his Dunsanyist mode, but not v. successfully).

Tomorrow will probably be, of all things, Hemingway's poetry.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Who Is 'the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth'?

So, re-reading the Foreword to THE LORD OF THE RINGS last night I was struck by a familiar passage I realized I haven't fully thought through before. After pointing out that his book is not a roman-a-clef allegory of wartime politics of the World War II era, Tolkien gives an alternative summary of how things wd have gone in his book had that been the case:

The real war does not resemble the legendary war

 in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or 

directed the development of the legend, then certainly

 the Ring would have been seized and used against 

Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but 

enslaved,* and Barad-dur would not have been 

destroyed but occupied.  Saruman, failing to get 

possession of the Ring, would in the confusion

 and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor 

the missing links in his own researches into 

Ring-lore, and before long would have made 

a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge 

the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth.  In that conflict 

both sides would have held hobbits in hatred 

and contempt: they would not long have survived 

even as slaves.


Although Tolkien does not name this 'self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth', he offers some clues as to who he, or she, might be.

First, we know that it's not Sauron, who has been defeated and imprisoned.

Second, we know it's not Saruman, since he's acting in opposition to the Ruler as his or her rival.

To this I wd add that the Ruler wd have to have (1) an opportunity to seize the Ring and (2) the stature to be able to wield it**

I therefore come up with a list of seven candidates:***








Of these, I think Boromir and Denethor are the likeliest: the ones most in favor of using the Enemy's weapons against him. Plus of course Boromir actually attempts to steal the Ring, and Denethor makes it quite clear that he wd have used the Ring had it been in his possession. 

On the other hand, that not even Isildur cd master it cd be used to build an argument that sufficient stature requires the new owner of the Ring to have been Maiar, not Mortal. If so, the list of candidates shrinks to just three: Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel -- all of whom are already Ringbearers of the Three Elven Rings.

Set against this is the fact that Sauron seems to most fear Aragorn, once he learns of his existence, and you'd think the Dark Lord wd know better than anyone else who posed the greatest threat to him in terms of pure power politics.

So, though I cd make a case for any of these seven, Denethor gets my vote of likeliest to turn into the next Sauron, with Boromir close behind.

--John R

*This of course wd have been repeating Ar-Pharazon's mistake

 **or it wd just wind up (briefly) in the possession of another Gollum. 

***I exclude Bombadil from this list, for reasons I assume will be obvious

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Her Pet Bee

So, occasionally I like to check out The Dodo, a website largely devoted to stories of people finding and rescuing animals (esp abandoned kittens). Occasionally they do stories about someone helping a wild animal. But I hadn't seen a segment on rescuing a bumble bee before. Here's the piece:


And just because it's good from time to time to revisit the classics, here's the saga of Potato Cat


--John R.

current viewing: HEMINGWAY by Ken Burns (up to 1929). One-third of the way through, and I'm baffled why they didn't do this on The Lost Generation (Pound, Joyce, Fitzgerald) rather than just Hemingway. Might dig out and skim Carpenter's GENIUSES TOGETHER, his book on postwar Americans in Paris.