So, between my current deadline and time spent sorting out yet more stuff, I haven't made much progress with the Ordway book yet -- though I'm looking forward to her presentation on it at the Wade later this week.
Her essential thesis is that Tolkien read and was strongly influenced by authors who were modern (1850-1970s) rather than medieval. It's a little odd to be told no one thought of this before if like me you're part of a number of scholars who have been working on just that for years. To be fair Ordway is much more nuanced in the book itself than she had been in descriptions of it while it was in the works.
What has caught my eye is the amount of careful research that's gone into this book. For example I learned that Tolkien spoke at the opening of a local library in Deddington, a village between Oxford and Banbury, as reported by the local paper on December 19th 1956.
The wealth of books to be found here is food for the mind,
and everyone knows that for the stomach to go without food
for a long time is bad, but for the mind to go without food
is even worse.
("Professor Tolkien's Whimsical Talk", Ordway p.22)
So that's a new quote, and a nice one, to add to our collections.
More when I've had a chance to read more.
Thanks to Doug A. for the news that this event was reported on Morgan Thomsen's Mythoi blog back in 2012. Here's the link.
Among the admirable amount of detail M.T. includes is that Tolkien closed his remarks by reciting a poem in Elvish ('the musical fairylike language that he invented').
I'm intrigued and a bit puzzled by one quote:
'I have seen visions through the wormholes
of books printed before Caxton died, and
from the paintings of skins of animals which
roamed that Country we don't speak of
at Wantage before Alfred was born'
--So I wonder: Is 'that Country we don't speak of' the Land of the Dead (home of the Great Majority)? Or does he mean Faerie, a realm which folk are traditionally reluctant to name?
In any case, thanks to Morgan T. for the good work and to Douglas A. for pointing me in its direction.
--Now back to reading the Ordway.