Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Arrivals

So, times when I visit Marquette, I almost always find out about new books on Tolkien that have come out since I was last there. And this time was no exception. Having ordered some of said books while I was there, I found some of them waiting for me when I returned home, and others came in one by one over the following days. Haven't had time to read these yet, but here's a quick listing, in case there are others out there who might be interested if they'd come across them.

TOLKIEN AND SANSKRIT by Mark Hooker (cf. the review of same that had just been published on the online JOURNAL OF TOLKIEN RESEARCH).

DEEP ROOTS IN A TIME OF FROST: ESSAYS ON TOLKIEN by Patrick Curry. I've read Curry's first book but hadn't seen this collection, put out by Walking Tree Press in line with their earlier Shippey collection.

Renee Vink's WAGNER AND TOLKIEN: MYTHMAKERS. This one came a few days before its companion volume, Christopher MacLachlan's TOLKIEN AND WAGNER: THE RING AND DER RING. I've started reading the Vink, which is even-handed and helpful so far.

Gareth Knight's THE MAGICAL WORLD OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN. I have Knight's book on JRRT, CSL, CW, & OB but hadn't read it, and hadn't known about this little Tolkien-focused spin-off (one of four, apparently) until I saw it on the Marquette shelves in the old Memorial Library. It's a quick read, and while I think the Golden-Dawnish magical ritual based on Tolkien's legendarium included in it might well have given Tolkien fits the author gets points from me by at one point saying that just because he sees a resemblance between something in Tolkien and something he's interested in doesn't mean Tolkien intended any such echo.

ON THE PERILOUS ROAD: AN UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY by Elizabeth Currie & Alex Lewis. Having already written one imaginary biography, Currie & Lewis (aka 'Elansea') now seem to be shifting their focus to presenting Tolkien's life against world political events of his time (like the Cuban Missile Crisis).

JOHN RONALD'S DRAGONS by Caroline McAlister (text) and Eliza Wheeler (art): a picture book children's biography of JRRT. There's been one of these before that came out a few years ago; this is a far better book. Not only does it accurately depict Tolkien's life without any errors that I noticed and has a certain elegance (e.g., in the picture of young JRRT standing in the church). The authors also know their stuff: I was impressed by the number of specific details the artist worked into the backgrounds; these people actually know their stuff. So far it's my favorite of this whole set of new books.

Three more books aren't focused on JRRT but have their Tolkienian connections:

BUILDING IMAGINARY WORLDS: THE THEORY AND HISTORY OF SUBCREATION by Mark J P. Wolf (a serious look at a subject that's getting more and more attention. This one isn't Tolkien focused or D&D focused but casts its net wide, everything from Yoknapatawpha County to computer gaming. Probably the most accessible part is an extensive (56p) Appendix listing subcreated worlds from Homer to 2011. This one will provide much food for thought when I eventually get around to reading it.

IRELAND'S IMMORTALS: A HISTORY OF THE GODS OF IRISH MYTH by Mark Williams. Someone had sent me a link to a highly favorable review of this* just as I was heading out to Marquette. It's just the kind of book I like, and I've been trying to locate something along these lines ever since I read Lady Gregory's retelling of the Tuatha de Danaan myths back in high school. The author describes his purpose as "to determine how the multitudinous medieval Tuatha De Danann slimmed down and came into focus as the pantheon of one of the world's great mythologies" (Preface, p. xvii). This will be one to read slowly and savor.

ROD OF IRON: THE ABSOLUTE RULERS OF ENGLAND, by Milton Waldman (1941). I've never known anything about Milton Waldman other than he was the recipient of Tolkien's Letter to Waldman and that he delayed our getting THE LORD OF THE RINGS by three or four years (and risked our getting it at all). Finding out that he was a historian, I tracked down his book on the three figures he considers the tyrants of England: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Cromwell; he also devotes (less) space to less successful tyrants like Charles the first. I dipped into it while down and out with the pneumonia and discovered that it reads well: Waldman has the gift of holding a strong point of view which he is able to express memorably and unambiguously (e.g. his description of Charles' queen: "daughter of Henry IV of France and consequently of that House of Bourbon whose capacity for learning nothing and forgetting nothing was to shape its destiny along lines so curiously parallel to the Stuarts" [p. 109]).

In addition to all these, there were several more I'd have liked to pick up but didn't:
(1) TOLKIEN'S THEOLOGY OF BEAUTY: MAJESTY, SPLENDOUR, & TRANSCENDENCE IN MIDDLE-EARTH by Lisa Coutras (Palgrave, 2016), a beautiful-looking book (appropriately enough) that I'd somehow failed to hear anything about until I saw it on the Archives' shelves.

(2) TOLKIEN, SELF & OTHER: "THIS QUEER CREATION" by Jane Chance (Palgrave 2016); this looked like a collection of Chance's essays, which it'll be nice to have all in one place.

Both these I'm going to look for at the Palgrave booth at Kalamazoo: who knows, maybe they'll bring a few along for the show.

(3) CRITICAL INSIGHTS: THE HOBBIT, ed. Stephen W. Potts (GreyHouse 2016). This is a promising looking collection of essays on THE HOBBIT, w. contributors including figures like Jared Lobdell, Kris Swank, and Jason Fisher. Unfortunately this one is really expensive: $105 new and almost double that ($208) used. In fact, it's so expensive that in the end I decided I simply cdn't afford it. Alas. Consider this the one that got away.

--John R.

current reading: Wm Morris, THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END (just finished)**
current audiobook: DOWAGER EMPRESS CIXI by Jung Chang (just finished)**

*which link I've misplaced, it now being buried among notes from the trip. Thanks to whoever sent it; sorry to have not acknowledged it properly at the time.

**both worth a post by themselves, if I have time to write them up.

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