Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ordway at the Wade

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.

--John R.


David Bratman said...

Speaking of pronunciations, I've been working up the courage to tell you this:

It's Fritz LYE-ber. Not LEE-ber.

I had that from the man himself.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear David
As they say, it's a fair cop.

I'd been saying it 'LEE-bur' for decades before I learned it was LYE-bur and my brain tends to default to the familiar but erroneous.

I have similar trouble with CABELL, where my pronunciation wanders between CA-BELL (which is what I was mistakenly taught) and CA-bull. On the bright side, I find his name far less likely to come up in conversation.

Worst of all, I say TOLK-in when it shd be TOL-KEEN with equal emphasis on both syllables.

--John R. (who's always grateful when people get the silent 'e' in my name right)