Tuesday, September 26, 2023

 So, for those interested in fantasy as a whole rather than Tolkien's expression of it,  the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic is hosting an event on Thursday October 5th you might want to check out. I'll certainly be going (online) unless something unexpected pops up on the schedule.

Brian Attebery and Matthew Sangster --authors of FANTASY: HOW IT WORKS and AN INTRODUCTION TO FANTASY, respectively-- "discuss the affordances of Fantasy". 

I don't have nor have read either book. Which is a pity given how they're right up my alley so far as  topic goes.

Here's the link:


Also I'm looking forward to the talks and presentations from Oxonmoot being made available online. It's always nice to see one of my pieces be published, but soon I'll be able to see papers by other speakers I cdn't see at the time. I'm really looking forward to that.  --JDR

will be good to see my piece up and for anyone who missed the in-person even buy still wants to hear the piece.

--John R.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Holly Ordway at the Wade

 So, for those interested in JRRT's faith, Holly Ordway (author of TOLKIEN'S MODERN READING, 2021) has a new book out. This time she focuses on Tolkien's spiritual life (with a number of side-steps into CSL). For a quick way to get an overview of the whole book, check out the hour-long talk she gave today at the Wade Center: 

Lecture & Book Signing

"A Hard-Won Faith: Tolkien's Spiritual Journey"
Lecturer & Author: Holly Ordway, Ph.D.

Monday, September 25, 2023 | 7:00 PM
Bakke Auditorium, Marion E. Wade Center
Tolkien is well known as a Christian, but what is less well known is that the story of his spiritual development reveals a dramatic tale of a hard-won faith, involving sorrow and suffering as well as joys and consolations. A devout Catholic, Tolkien also had a deep spiritual friendship with the Anglican C.S. Lewis. Both of these aspects of Tolkien’s faith provide insight into how Christians today can grow in their own spiritual lives.

Join us in-person after the lecture for the book signing. Tolkien's Faith will be available for purchase at the Wade Bookshop.

Sponsored by the Stephen and Marjorie Mead Endowment for Spiritual Formation.
Join Live Stream

And if you want more, Ordway gives a second lecture, again at the Wade, tomorrow:

Join Live Stream

Afternoon Lecture

"Tolkien's Faith and the Formation of Middle-earth"

Lecturer & Author: Holly Ordway, Ph.D.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | 4:00 PM
Bakke Auditorium, Marion E. Wade Center

Tolkien declared, “I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories).” His writings were not allegories, so how, then, were his faith and his fiction related? We will explore this question biographically, looking at some of the ways that Tolkien’s dramatic life story, including his being raised by a Catholic priest at the Birmingham Oratory, and his experiences in the Great War, shaped his faith and found their way – in a subtle and complex manner – into his writings. 

Co-sponsored by the Stephen and Marjorie Mead Endowment for Spiritual Formation and Wheaton College Tolkien Society.
Join Live Stream

--John R.

--current reading: still THE NIGHT LAND.

Monday, September 18, 2023

2023 Calendar

 So, having learned my lesson, one year waiting to order my next year's Tolkien Calendar and having a scramble to find out, this time I've gone ahead and gotten the 2024 calendar well ahead of time.

The art is by Alan Lee, who over the years has become if not the official artist of Tolkien's estate and publisher then certainly their preferred one. His somber landscapes have become the standard by which Tolkien art is judged. And if I occasionally feel wistful for a lighter pallet, I think back on the day when the Brothers H. represented JRRT's world and am grateful for how lucky we are.

As for the calendar itself, the theme this year* is Numenor and the Fall of Numenor, with accompanying text provided by Brian Sibley (who goes back in Tolkien studies as far as the 1981 BBC Radio adaptation). And I have to say that it was good to see brighter images in the pictures for March (Aldarion sets forth) and, ironically enough, June (Moria)--the later having the ambiance of old stained glass made up of patterns, not images.

All in all, I'd call this calendar has few surprises but stands as a worthy continuation in its series.

--John R.

--current reading: THE NIGHT LAND

*a good idea to have, by the way

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Cat Report (Sept 15th)

 So, there's been a complete turnover in the cats in the Renton cat room since this time last week. Farewell to ROCKET, our skilled walking cat, and ANA his sister (who desperately wanted out of the room to explore the store but cd never bear to have harness or even collar-and-leash in-room on her). 

 Today we were expecting to find two adult cats and five kittens: JOHNNY (orange two-year-old) and SEAN (Siamese) with the younger generation: SHERBET, MOUSSE, SORBET, BROWNIE, and S'MORES (all four-and-a-half month old kittens). I got these thoroughly confused in my head, not to mention this report, as to who was who.

One kitten, a white calico, was already adopted and gone without our ever seeing her. Sean, the other adult cat (not sure his age, but assuming it was about the same as Johnny's , i.e. two years) was also off to his new home.

Johnny was terribly shy. We tried letting him out first, made cat burritos, tried to interest him in games, and generally give him some socialization, with little success. Looking at his paperwork it sounds like he was originally a stray, and he acts like one when forced into a situation outside his own territory where he doesn't know where he is or what's going to happen to him. There was a lot of defensive growling but no nips or swats. And no games; he just wasn't interested.

Janice rigged up a cat-blanket around three sides of Johnny's cage to give him a little privacy and Safe Place. We also sprayed down his cage with some Feliway. I shd mention that he was sitting in his dirt box when we arrived and under his small in-cage kuranda when we left, which counts as some progress. And while he was on his own he got an impressive amount of his cat-litter scooped out of his dirt box and onto the floors of both parts of his cage. He's learned how to get under the cat litter cupboard in the corner, which is pretty impressive given his size.  

Well, it turns out the kittens must have been watching from their cage from the far end of the room, since three of the four of them got under there today despite our efforts to block it up.

When it was the kittens' turn they made the most of it. One seemed less energetic than the rest and a touch shyer too, and retreated to the topmost shelf of their tall cage, coming down to join in games once in a while when a game attracted his attention. The other three played pretty much non-stop for their entire turn (about an hour and a half).    

And before I forget to put this down: the little orange kitten several times engaged in defensive purring. It was adorable.

--John R.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Dunsany Question #1

So, in my dissertation I made large claims to Dunsany's importance --not just that he was hugely influential (both directly in his own time and secondarily through writers he influenced like Lovecraft and Tolkien) but his work deserves high praise in its own right.

The question arises: if Dunsany is the best of the best when it comes to the fantasy short story in English, who are his peers or near-peers?

--John R.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Time for a New Project

 So, now that my presentation at Oxonmoot is behind me, and I've had a little down time for reading and straightening up the desk a bit, it's time to dig in on the next project(s). 

One (CLASSICS OF FANTASY) is essentially done, though I don't know how long until it's done with.

The other, which I started work on today, is to convert my dissertation into a monograph: BEYOND THE FIELDS WE KNOW: THE SHORT STORIES OF LORD DUNSANY. Here my first task is to re-familiarize myself with the text. Next comes the process of catching up on new Dunsany scholarship from the intervening years (my first impression: there's surprisingly little of it). Then to incorporate the newer material into the older core.  It'll be a lot of work, but to get to work again on a major project centered on one of my favorite authors is something I'm really looking forward to.

So, we'll see how it goes.

--John R.

--current (re)reading: THE BOATS OF THE 'GLEN CARRIG' by Wm Hope Hodgson*

*an author whose work I was introduced to by my friend Jim Pietrusz, who bought (and read) books at a prodigious rate.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Tolkien Fifty Years On

 So, thanks to Janna S. for the following link, a thoughtful musing over Tolkien fifty years after his death. 


As someone who's been reading smug snippy pieces attacking Tolkien by newspaper and magazine critics on occasions of significance to JRRT for decades now,* it feels slightly unreal, though welcome, to see the tone being oddly respectful. 

--John R.

*notoriously in the case of the 'Author of the Century' polls

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Nerd Nyron

 So, while we're waiting for the recordings of my various Oxonmoot presentations to become available, I thought I'd share the Coda that wrapped up my piece.

Finally, we have a short text, written by Dr. Havard at the request of Taum Santoski

and named by him  "Professor J. R. R. Tolkien: A Personal Memoir". More a short collection of memories than a full-length article (it fills but a single page of Mythlore), it ends with the baffling statement



"In conclusion,

 I would add that my experience

has resembled or echoed Nerd Nyren's, 

who woke up one day, he tells us, 

to find himself famous. I woke up one day 

to find two of my friends famous,

in many ways a happier discovery."


[Mythlore volume 64 (winter 1990), page 61]


Most of this is clear enough, but what of 'Nerd Nyron'? This little puzzle results from a literary allusion combined with a simple typo. What Havard had actually written was I woke, and found myself famous. This is the famous line of Lord Byron's reflecting his delight at waking up to find himself famous as a result of the runaway success of his new book, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812ff). I myself find Havard's handwriting difficult: apparently Glen GoodKnight, the editor of Mythlore, found it impenetrable. 

—John D. Rateliff


Oxonmoot 2023 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

I Wander from Room to Room

So, my talk went well. Neither Dr. Tarr nor Professor Fether put in an appearance. Now I'm decompressing: catching up on email, jotting down notes of things that came up during the actual delivery, awaiting the chance to find out what people said in the Q&A, and the like. Soon I'll be getting the materials from this project filed away, to clear the deck for the next project.  

But for now it's do a lot of reading and pace about the place, sipping many cups of tea* and petting the cats even more than usual (who are vaguely suspicious of any change in behavior) while recharging and to enjoy the rare feeling of being off deadline.

--John R.

--current (re) reading: THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLANDS by Wm Hope Hodgson. My fourth time reading it, I think: this time as a mix of audiobook and hardcover. 

*Yunnan, mostly; some Keemun

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Last Full Day of Oxonmoot

So, today I gave my keynote speech at Oxonmoot 2023, "Writing to Inklings", in which I presented letters and excerpts from letters in which various members of the Inklings and other, 'Inkling Adjacent' folks, discuss the group (e,g. when they started meeting, what other groups influenced them, books they liked and disliked). It seemed to go down well --at least I got a lot of positive comments posted in their online Zoom meeting's CHAT. Hope I'll have a chance to look at that to get some idea of who was in the audience and what questions they had. It all goes by so fast when you're doing the Q&A.

Tomorrow, the last day of the Moot, features the pilgrimage to JRRT's grave -- appropriately enough: I had forgotten, but today marks the anniversary of J.R.R.T.'s death (in 1973). 

More tomorrow.

--John R.