Saturday, January 8, 2022

Greece Gets a Foot

So, the Greeks have just taken a small but significant step towards their longtime goal of regaining the Elgin Marbles. While the British have stood firm on their refusal to return the pieces of the Parthenon they made off with more than two hundred years ago, the Sicilians have stepped up and are willing to loan, probably on a permanent basis, what little they have from the site: a single foot from the statue of a goddess (possibly Artemis).

I was reminded of another foot, this one from Haggard's SHE, which at one point lovingly describes a beautiful woman's foot, the only part of her mummy to have survived.

And then of course there's Dunsany, who wrote so eloquently of loss in so many of his tales, who first describes a Nebuchadnezzer-like city of long ago, then ends his little tale

And only the other day

 I found a stone that had undoubtedly

been a part of Zaccarath, 

it was three inches long and an inch broad;

I saw the edge of it uncovered by the sand. 

I believe that only three other pieces 

have been found like it.

—"In Zaccarath" A DREAMER'S TALES (1910)


--John R.

--current reading: LITTLE, BIG (like speed-reading in slow motion)

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Number Two Is Pretty Good!

So, thanks to Janice for sharing with me the results of another 'best books' poll, this one looking for the best book written in the last one hundred and twenty-five years.

Here's their list:

Harper Lee




George Orwell


Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Toni Morrison


I feel a bit shy confessing that I've only read two of their top five, plus two of their subsidiary books: DRACULA (best horror) and WATERSHIP DOWN (misplaced, I wd say, in the best children's book section).

The big news is of course THE LORD OF THE RINGS' appearance in the #2 position. Significant, I think, that Tolkien and Orwell are both writers who gave the dominant contemporary mode, Modernism, a pass.

--John R.
--current reading: Kipling's KIM, and wondering if I shd do a little reading up on the Sepoy Rebellion.


Monday, January 3, 2022

Tolkien's Birthday

 So, Happy Tolkien Day, everyone.

It's been a weekend of a  lot of reading* punctuated by cold medicine.

I no sooner finished reading the entire LotR than we finished up watching all three Peter Jackson LotR movies (the theatrical releases, not the expanded versions). I've now embarked on the Serkis audiobook. A bit disappointed by his Gandalf, but on the whole a credible adaptation.

Today's music was Beatles-themed; yesterday's was THE FIREBIRD by Stavinsky. I'd had this for years but not paid much attention to it: it fills out the space left at the end of an album following THE RITE OF SPRING, the work I got the album for. I'd been working on Cabell lately and only now noticed that  'King Kashchei',  a major character in THE FIREBIRD (1919), is Starvinsky's version of the folklore villain who inspired Cabell's Kashchei the Deathles, who appears in Cabell's JURGEN (1919).

These occasional bouts of intense reading do me good (I just finished reading book #3671). I wish I cd say it does my deadline(s) good as well

--John R.

*not only Tolkien but John Crowley and Kipling. I'd only ever read STRANGE DEVICES OF THE SUN AND MOON of Crowley's works, while Kipling I find harder and harder to read as time goes by. Then I've also resumed the Edith Bratt book

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Re-reading My Favorite Book

 So, 2022.  And true to form 2021 had one more surprise waiting for us on its way out (more on that in a later post).

I did manage to complete my project of re-reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS straight through from title page to the endnotes on the final Appendix, omitting only the Index.

Have to say, I enjoyed it immensely. Over the years I've become so familiar with this book that when I sit down to read it my memory of the book gets in the way of my actual reading (do Shakespeare scholars and Austenians have the same problem?). I come across a favorite passage that reminds of something, so I turn to elsewhere in the book, then on to another spot, then to a section in another of JRRT's many other books (e.g. HME and LETTERS), then to something in one of the many books about Tolkien (such as Wayne & Christina's CHRONOLOGY), and so forth.  It's like trying to listen to all the Beatles' albums in order: I keep wanting to skip around, repeat favorites, get distracted in the lesser bits, and so forth.  Reading it slowly also had the effect of letting me notice passages I must have a tendency to skip over when I get caught up in the narrative. 

And then there's the sheer achievement. Instead of  'it took him fourteen years to write', with the implication that he shd have gotten through it with less dilly-dally,  it's now more like 'all this in only fourteen years?' Or to put it another way: How long does it take a genius to write a masterpiece? Answer: fourteen years, more or less, it turns out.

One result I was not expecting is that taking in all the Appendices had the effect of normalizing the material in THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH and I suspect will make it much easier to re-read Carl H's book.  In any case, it makes plain how fringe a lot of the material that made its way in was, not so very different from the slightly later material that didn't.

I know I'm already looking forward to the next time, which will probably take the form of listening to Andy Serkis' recent unabridged audiobook*

So, so far as reading goes, 2022 is off to a very good start.

--John R.

*I know listening to an unabridged Bible on audiobook a good many years back was a revelation: first in that it prevented me from skimming through all the begats, second in the revelation of how carefully the average church service edits scripture, and third just where important ideas first make their appearance.