So, Thursday evening I watched the virtual book launch for Holly Ordway's new book TOLKIEN'S MODERN READING at the Wade Center. They had a three-way set up with Dr. Downing, the Wade's co-director, as host; Archivist Laura Schmidt as moderator; and Ordway as guest. For those who missed it (e.g., anyone in the UK who didn't want to get up in the dead of night) the whole thing is now up on YouTube at any individual's convenience.
Having been on deadline all week I still haven't read more than a fraction of the book in question, so all I can give here are scattered observations and comments.
First, I'm impressed by her meticulous research. She spends a lot of time at the start of her book explaining her criteria for establishing that Tolkien knew and read a particular book, and it was a major theme of her presentation. A lot of the value of her book is her decision to err on the side of exclusion --if the evidence seems iffy to her, she leaves that item out.
Second, she's better in print than in oral presentation. The book has the advantage of carefully chosen words in the most advantageous structure, which is hard to beat in an extemporaneous format.
Third, she's hard on Carpenter. She blames him with having badly distorted the truth by his statement that Tolkien felt English literature pretty much ended with Chaucer.
She is also highly critical of LETTERS for not giving the complete text of each letter.
She considers Scull & Hammond three-volume set "the gold standard" for its reliability as a resource.
A few misc. points:
--She is certain that JRRT read Newman but cannot prove that he read any specific work of his.
She made some odd remarks on Morris which made me think she was confusing the Romans of THE HOUSE OF THE WOLFINGS with the Huns of THE ROOTS OF THE MOUNTAINS.
Finally, it's dun-SANE-ee (rhymes with rainy) not dUN-sin-ay
--More when I've had time to delve into the chapters that explore specific writers and works.