Saturday, February 13, 2016

They're Reading My Review in Kathmandu

So, one of the nice things about publishing with THE JOURNAL OF TOLKIEN RESEARCH (JTR), I've discovered, is the after-publication reports they send out every month or so letting authors know where their pieces have been downloaded. In this case, my review of Witte & Richards' THE HOBBIT PARTY,* it's been downloaded about 180 times (though of course not everybody who downloaded it has necessarily read it; some may have saved it for a never-to-be-gotten-to 'later'). Still, nice to know it's getting out there.

This kind of feedback is particularly welcome because authors of scholarship usually get only anecdotal evidence of what people thought of their work (people telling you in person or by email that they liked/disliked it). The usual way to know if a piece went over well or not is in the short term seeing whether anyone comments on it (for example, what kind of comments it gets from members of the audience if its been delivered at a conf, like Kalamazoo or MythCon. In the long term, it's whether it gets cited by subsequent authors working along the same lines -- for example, my piece on Tolkien and women seems to be getting cited a fair amount, which is gratifying; by contrast, there's v. little feedback on book reviews unless the reviewee takes offense (as has occasionally been the case).

Looking at the information provided to me by the Valpo folks who maintain the JTR site, it's been downloaded by fifteen institutions. Some of these might have been expected -- for example, that Valparaiso and Wheaton College are on the list, given their deep interest in JTR and all things related to the Wade Center's Seven Authors, respectively. MIT and Apple Inc. are a bit further afield, though the roots of Tolkien fandom lie deep in smart-computer-people culture.  I admit that Johannes Gutenberg-Universitaet Mainz took me by surprised, but then I'm not v. plugged into the diverse and vibrant Tolkien field in Europe (aside from the UK, of course). And who wd have thought there were Tolkien fans among the USAISC (US Army Information Systems Command)?

More interesting than the institutions are the individuals (as individuals are usually more interesting than institutions). Apparently 68 downloads have been in the US (a little over one-third of the total). Not surprising the UK is next, with 31, but I was surprised that third place (17) went to Portugal, rather than France (11) or Germany (8) or Canada (6). The Netherlands and Poland tied for seventh place (5 each), followed by Denmark (4), After this we have a smattering of downloads from all over: 2 each for Austria, Switzerland, Iran, Italy, Japan, and Norway, and a single download each from Australia, Finland, Israel, India, Lithania, Luxembourg, Malta, Nepal (that's the one in Kathmandu), Pakistan, Romania, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and Taiwan. There's a similar break-down for the US, but I won't go into that, other than to note my bemusement that the most recent US download seems to have been in Redmond, Washington, which is here in the greater Seattle area only about a half hour's drive from here (depending on traffic: it's a north-east suburb while Kent is a south-central one).

So, in a few cases I think I know who a particular reader might be, but for the most part this information shows me how much of a writer's audience might differ beyond what he or she imagines, and in a really interesting way. Even though I'm a late adaptor,** this is a bit of technology I can really appreciate.

--John R.
just finished: RAISING STEAM (another late DiscWorld novel; disappointing but readable) and a short antiquarian piece by Major Hayman Rooke from 1777. resumed: LONDON FOG and the 1932 Wheeler & Wheeler report re. excavations nr Gloucestershire.

**THE WIFE SAYS: "I wouldn't be describe you so much as a late adaptor as a reluctant one"


ATMachine said...

This isn't exactly related to the above post, but I have a comment about a few lacunae in Tolkien's drafts for Return of the King.

In the early outlines from 1944 for the first chapters of ROTK, Tolkien mentions at one point (War of the Ring p. 264, US edition) the "ale of Hama", meaning his "funeral ale" or funeral feast in Rohan. However, he crossed this out immediately afterward, and wrote "...ale" instead, apparently intending to use compound noun, partly in Old English, that CJRT was unable to decipher.

I suspect the word written here was something like "birg-ale" -- meaning "burial-ale" with reference to the OE word "birgels". "Els" is just an Anglo-Saxon noun suffix, equivalent to "-ing," thus "a burying" or burial. I doubt Tolkien would've kept the suffix in this particular csae, since it wouldn't be very euphonious.

Equally, there are a few gaps in the initial draft for Pippin's speech to Bergil son of Beregond, which I think I might be able to clear up.

Pippin talks to Bergil (then named Gwinhir) about his exploits so far (p. 285), saying that he "was a member of the Company of the Nine of whom your lord Boromir was one, the ... of the Nine I should say."

The intended here was probably "Band", as in "Band of the Nine." The lacuna is short enough that this might be plausible -- and, since the word was often applied to medieval outlaws and mercenary groups, it would certainly fit with the overall tenor of Pippin's speech, which is designed to impress on Gwinhir that hobbits can be dangerous.

Bergil, not overly impressed, afterwards "... up his fists." This probably read as "balled" or "bunched."

Later on, Pippin says, "Will you not let him walk with me a while, and be my guide? For I am new come and I would make haste while the sun shines. ....." A pencilled addition to Gwinhir's reply -- "But do not speak so darkly!" -- evidently refers to the contents of this lacuna. Presumably Pippin's concluding words were something like, "However long that [might] be," a foreshadowing of the Siege of Gondor when Sauron sends clouds from the East to cover his armies advancing towards Minas Tirith.

Andrew McCarthy

Magister said...

Seen this?

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear ATM:
Thanks for the suggestions. I've printed out a copy and will be taking it with me on my next trip to Marquette (which shd be this summer) and will try to look these up if there's time. In general, though, I've discovered that if Christopher Tolkien can't read something in his father's hand, illegible it will remain foreverafter: he's that good. No harm in trying, though.

--John R.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Magister:

Thanks for the link. Quite a find, isn't it? Even if the actual discovery took place the year before last, it's great to have a fuss be made even about a minor Tolkien piece such as this. Plus, of course, it's great to have "Noel" reprinted for the first time in eighty-odd years.

--John R.