Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Introduction

The Egotist’s Club was not necessarily founded to be strictly a literary blog.  Sure, we love Dorothy Sayers and Lord Peter enough to own them as godparents of sorts, and we do read, write, and talk about reading and writing a great deal.  But we also blog about the movies we watch, our observations of society, food and drink, music, and craftsmanship.  Anything pertaining to humanity is fair game: its feats, its fascinations, and its foibles.

And yet…we have, perhaps, given ourselves a rather bookish reputation.  This creates certain impressions, such that every once in a while, there comes a conversation wherein a friend will edge near me, glance about furtively, and then confess that she never got all the way through Lord of the Rings.  Or he’ll say “You’ll judge me for it, but I never did read all of the Narnia books.”  Or “I know everyone’s read it, but I just haven’t finished Hamlet.”

Then I have to tell them how after reading The Hobbit, I started The Lord of the Rings, got to Bree, and stopped.  And then I started again, got to Weathertop, and stopped.  I started again, got to Moria, and stopped.  There was just so much walking, guys.  Eventually I was a sophomore in college, where (seemingly) everyone loved Tolkien with an undying passion, and I had that exact same anxious twinge because I had never made it all the way through.  It came to pass that I befriended the Scrupulously Exact Physicist, who, on hearing this confession, urged me to repentance, saying “You have to read them!” (and moreover, penance: “And then read The Silmarillion!”)  Have been so commanded, I finally muscled through the entirety of  Fellowship, and in fact the entire trilogy – partly by reading during an extremely dull class; never let me claim that Science 101 profited me nothing.

My point is, sometimes you just haven’t read a book, or you feel like it’s too late for it, or sometimes you try reading it and then stop, and far be it from me (or from any of us, really) to make you feel bad about that.  I think the xkcd approach is the best to take:

Randall Monroe, you are totally right about the Yellowstone supervolcano.

Randall Monroe’s right: it’s cool to be around the first time someone picks up that book you love so much.

So this week is for confessing the ways and reasons we are the antithesis of a book club.  To wit, this is the week we (or, well, I, at least) tell you Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet.

Feel free to join in!

Happy Birthday to J.R.R. Tolkien!

Today, being the Twelvity-First birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien, must be celebrated. So get out your tankards, pipes, and dragon-related paraphernalia (a word hoard word my students gleaned from The Hobbit) and prepare to party!

Today is a genuine Hobbit-Approved feast day. It is also the last official day of Christmas break, which means that you need no other excuse to have fun.

Some suggestions for activities (best done in a gathering of kindred spirits):

  • Read “Leaf By Niggle“, one of the most intriguing little myths written by Tolkien. It is not set in Middle Earth, but is fascinating none the less.
  • Go to the local pub, smoke a pipe, and make a new friend.
  • Pour beer (or prefered beverage) into a tankard, and raise a glass to the Inklings.
  • Make and eat a seed cake! (I cheat and just add poppy seeds to a cake mix.)
  • Read aloud from the Hobbit, favorite chapter of LotR, or other Tolkien work.
  • Have everyone share their favorite Tolkien quote.
  • Bring in a piece of poetry/story to share with everyone.
  • Everyone brings a written work of their own to share and discuss a ala The Inklings.
  • Everyone toasts Tolkien with afore-mentioned tankards.
  • Organize a treasure hunt base loosely on a Middle-Earth quest.
  • Just go on a quest in your neighborhood. You never know what adventures will befall you.
  • Take a walk on a local road. You never know where it will take you.
  • Play Middle Earth Risk/Trivial Pursuit etc.
  • Smuggle whiskey into the theater to watch The Hobbit, and take a drink every time something non-canonical happens.
  • Grow a beard.
  • Braid said beard in a dwarf-approved pattern.
  • Read Beowulf in the original Old English. (OK, you can read a translation, if you must.)
  • Say a prayer for the repose of Tolkien’s soul.
  • Do something similar to my plan for seeing The Hobbit but with the Lord of the Rings and in your own living room.

Er, your should probably replace the suggested whiskey in the above activities with tea. Or at least alternate drinking tea and whiskey. Or put whiskey in your tea.  Also, if you cannot grow a beard (like me and my sister muses, for example,) you can get an awesome beard hat on Etsy. So enjoy every part of today to the fullest, and be as awesome as would be if you were partying with Tolkien!

And if you are as shackled as I am, (grading Finals is worse than taking them,) we can have an online party here! Post your favorite Tolkien quote, story, or photo below, and be ready to discuss and party!

Gnat-Voices in Unbridgeable Dark

The Jolly Company
by Rupert Brooke

The stars, a jolly company,
I envied, straying late and lonely;
And cried upon their revelry:
“O white companionship! You only
In love, in faith unbroken dwell,
Friends radiant and inseparable!”

Light-heart and glad they seemed to me
And merry comrades (even so
God out of heaven may laugh to see
the happy crowds; and never know
that in his lone obscure distress
each walketh in a wilderness).

But I, remembering, pitied well
And loved them, who, with lonely light,
In empty infinite spaces dwell,
Disconsolate. For, all the night,
I heard the thin gnat-voices cry,
Star to faint star, across the sky.

Reading this, I picture Bilbo looking up at the night sky where the Silmaril shines on Earendil’s brow as he sails alone.  Then I read it again and think of Yvaine and Tristan, lighting the Babylon candle to journey to the sky: shining forever, but always that distance apart.  Then I read it again and think of every creature that was lifted out of terrestrial distress to be set, forever unchanging, in the heavens.  There is a sharp poignancy there, in the unbridgeable dark between the stars.

But perhaps it is more sensible to pity those walking in their own hidden desert of despair here on Earth.

This post was some of a response to the Daily Prompt, though not really in answer to it, as I’m disinclined to say much of my last bout of loneliness.  

The Hobbit Read-Along: A Warm Welcome

Hot food, comfortable clothes, soft beds, and happy cheers.

It seems that Thorin & Co have finally reached a safe stage in their travels. Even, dare we say it, a peaceful stage. A nice chapter.

It sets my teeth on edge.

This entire chapter is eerily unsettling to me.

I feel much more at home in the Mirkwood chapter, even though that is rife with deprivation and danger. As Jubilare points out, there is something in that perilous umbra that appeals to our aesthetic sense.

But somehow the juicy comforts this chapter echo the unease of Riddles in the Dark.

Although the chapter opens with the awkward position of barrel-riding, it seems that thing are getting better: the day is getting warmer, it becomes clear that the adventurers could never have traveled by any other way, and we the readers are given the privileged information that Gandalf is heading back.

But all that is very quickly – in the second paragraph! – is overshadowed by the Lonely Mountain. Both actually and metaphorically. Just as the solitary dominates the landscape, it start to dominate the atmosphere of the story.

Both Bilbo and the narrator (ahem! *cough cough*) seem to feel that something is  . . . not well. The sleek present town squats in the remnants of the rotting “greater” town. The lore of ancient days does live, “but this pleasant legend did not much effect their  daily business”.

And so our first encounter with Men finds them sadly prosaic.

The newly released dwarves seek and find a warm welcome in the town. At least, from the common people. The good Master of the town is dubious, but indulgent.

Thus far, all the untruths that our heroes tell have been fairly excusable. Sympathetic, even. What good would telling Gollum the truth do?

And when the people of the Laketown assume that the legends will come true literally, it does seem a waste of breath to correct them. But when the more practical townsfolk assume that part of the recovered treasure will belong to the town, the dwarves shuffle their feet and look the other way.

This is an omission that promises, at the very best, a very uncomfortable return journey.

And then, the dwarves continue to take advantage of the hospitality of these people. This is something that they would never have dared done with Beorn.

This marks what seems to be a change in the dwarvish attitude, and the first indication that Thorin’s pride might be something more dangerous than simple haughtiness.

So, helped along by the equably false Master, they depart on the last leg of the journey. They are sent away with provisions and songs, and only little Bilbo is “thoroughly unhappy”.

Not just, I believe, at the prospect of  facing a dragon, but also false hopes arisen from this “warm welcome”.

 

Happy Hobbit Day!

A Happy Belated Hobbit Day to you!

And, I extend felicitations to one Mr. Bilbo Baggins on the occasion of his natal day.

I hope that you all had the opportunity to partake in a healthy Hobbit Second Breakfast yesterday. Since it was the 75th anniversary of the publication of the Hobbit. As well as International Hobbit Second Breakfast Day.

Amazing how those two days coincided.

My pupils and I had a loverly Second Breakfast party in the morning, consisting of seed cake, fruit, and juice. And we followed it up in the afternoon with a few rousing games of “Hobbit Go Seek”, and “Dwarf, dwarf, HOBBIT!”

But, in case you missed it and now feel left out, fear not! We have 3 months to advent of The Movie . . . er . . . . I mean, The Birthday of Christ. But part of His gift to us this season is a movie version of The Hobbit.

I know, it is by the same guy who ruined Lord of the Rings. And who has characters staring off into the dreamy middle distance for hours on end. And who is crassly commercial enough to make one book into three movies. (Count ‘em. 1, 2, 3. WHY?????)

But all the same, I want to see it. It has Martin Freeman. And Richard Armitage, whose strong jawline character and noble love stole my heart in the miniseries North and South.

So to celebrate, and to refresh our memories of the book, David from The Warden’s Walk has organized a Hobbit Read-Along. Various bloggers have agreed to post about certain chapters every Tuesday and Thursday.  As one of the bloggers is your truly, I thought it within the realm of Egotism to share the schedule and bloggers.

 

David of The Warden’s Walk
Taliesintaleweaver of Lights in the Library
Brenton of A Pilgrim in Narnia and Princess Madison Jayne
Mary of Grimmella
Emily of WanderLust
Krysta of Pages Unbound
Rob of The Old Book Junkie
novareylin of MySeryniti
Jubilare
Melpomene of The Egotist’s Club

Chapter 1 – An Unexpected Party → 9/25 Tuesday
David (Me!)

Chapter 2 – Roast Mutton→ 9/27 Thursday
Emily

Chapter 3 – A Short Rest → 10/02 Tuesday
Krysta

Chapter 4 – Over Hill and Under Hill →10/04 Thursday
Taliesintaleweaver

Chapter 5 – Riddles in the Dark →10/09 Tuesday
Brentondickieson

Chapter 6 – Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire →10/11 Thursday
Mary

Chapter 7 – Queer Lodgings →10/16 Tuesday
Rob

Chapter 8 – Flies and Spiders →10/18 Thursday
Jubilare

Chapter 9 – Barrels Out of Bond →10/23 Tuesday
Novareylin

Chapter 10 – A Warm Welcome →10/25 Thursday
Melpomene

Chapter 11 – On the Doorstep →10/29 Tuesday
Emily

Chapter 12 – Inside Information →11/1 Thursday
Krysta

Chapter 13 – Not at Home →11/6 Tuesday
Taliesintaleweaver

Chapter 14 – Fire and Water →11/8 Thursday
Brentondickieson

Chapter 15 – The Gathering of the Clouds →11/13 Tuesday
Mary

Chapter 16 – A Thief in the Night →11/15 Thursday
Rob

Chapter 17 – The Clouds Burst →11/20 Tuesday
Novareylin

Chapter 18 – The Return Journey →11/22 Thursday
Jubilare

Chapter 19 – The Last Stage →11/27 Tuesday
Melpomene

Ready for some awesomeness? Have a sneak peek!

 

Mel’s Meme: Ye Olde Monikers

It is tempting – oh, so tempting! – to announce that I would name my children things like “Eomer”, “Lothirial”, “Idril”, “Beren”, “Eilonwy”, “Gwydion”, “Alighieri”, and so forth.

But sadly, I could never do such a thing.

This is not mere cowardice on my part – although I cringe to think of the looks I would receive for naming a child that – but what I would like to think of as “humanity”. As much as I love Middle Earth, my children will have to live on this earth. And deal with the societies of this earth. So, I prefer not to make it too difficult for them.

And I have long since come to the opinion that some names qualify as child abuse. Therefore, there must be rules in naming children.

Rule #1: The name must not be too cumbersome for the poor, defenceless babe who must go through life bearing this name.

 

Some more obscure characters do tempt me to use their names. In particular, Miss Anathama Devyce from Good Omens, whose parent chose her name based more on sound than meaning. The thing is, it is a pretty sounding name . . .

My given name means “ready for the harvest”, which is pretty prosaic. My siblings all have cool name meanings, like “grace”, “beauty”, “womanly”, “bold protector”, “strength” and “elf army”. So not fair!

My children must have name meanings that are awesome.

Rule #2: The name must be examined for both sound and meaning.

 

Aside from the fantastically named literary figures, there are few who would make decent patrons for baby humans.

Susan Sto Helit. Anne Eliot. Gabriel Gale. Rupert Psmith. Sam Gamgee. Princess Irene.  Sebastian Flyte.

Er, maybe not the last one.

But none of the names on their own resonate with the associations of that character. I could name child Susan, and no one know who I was naming her after.

This works the other way too. What is it with villains having nice names? I love the name Margaret, but Shakespeare’s histories have ruined that one for me.

Also, the end of the character makes a difference. Desdemona is such a pretty name, but I would prefer to lessen my child’s chances of strangling.

And authors themselves make wonderful role models, but so often their own names are strange, or ugly, or dull!

John Ronald Ruel? No thank you. Clive? Ugh.

And while I like the names “Agatha” and “Dorothy”, (although I do prefer “Dorothea”,  or even “Theodora”: they all mean “gift of God”!) I am not soooo fond of Ms. Christi or Ms. Sayers as to claim their patronage for my offspring.

And though t’would be delightful to name a man-child after Chesterton, that is a moniker of such determined presence that it would require an equally strong surname. So I cannot exactly plan on using it.

Rule #3: The name must be clearly associated with figures whom I can respect, who are decent patrons, and who do not have horrible fates.

 

Oh, the naming of a child is already a fearful and wonderful responsibility!

See, I am also working on a theory that names affect character.

For instance, think of all the people to you know who are named, (or go by,) “Ben”. Aren’t they all fun, odd, unique, quirky, smart people? I would not mind having a “Ben” for a child.

But I would mind having a “Fred”. All the Freds that I have known, in either fiction or real life, tend to be . . . . annoying.

Rule #4: The name must in of itself recall excellent character and personality.

 

These all being the case, there are very few literary characters for whom I would actually name my children.

After much thought and consideration, (and conferencing with my dad,) I managed to pull the Pevensie children to mind. And I can say with complete certainty that I would enjoy having a Lucy and an Edmund.

Also, perhaps, a Miranda, an Andromache, a Gareth, (or Gawain,) a Cúchulainn, or a Gertrude.

But in truth, there are only two characters for whom I would absolutely name my children. These I did not have to think about; they have long been lurking in the corners of my imagination, awaiting only the child.

 

So, unless my husband vehemently (very vehemently) objects, my first son will be named “Benedict”.

After Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. (But with a slight spelling change.) I love this name not just for it’s association, and the hope that my child will become as smart, manly and sweet as his namesake,  but for the fact that it means “Blessed”.

And, oddly enough, one of my daughters will be named “Beatrice”.

Not, shockingly, after the Shakespearian counterpart. But after Dante’s Beatrice, who guided him in Heaven.

Both these characters are ones whom I admire and respect and even love.

And, for Heaven’s sake, they both just have awesome names!

Thursday Dances: Book Crushes

Goodness gracious me.  Something, dear friends, must be wrong with my head.  There have been days to spend in ponderings and contemplation, days to light upon the men of fiction who have strolled off with my heart in tow.  And yet, for all that my mind would ruminate on these characters and their respective qualities, the strands of thoughts melt.  It’s like chewing gum only to find that one’s gum is candy and has already dissolved.

Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

This ought not be.  I must have a serious problem with memory.  My ill-regulated memory, as that great detective might say, has finally gone on strike altogether.  Maybe something’s trying to tell me somebody…

Perhaps I need someone with great power: someone who could draw me out of my hole of forgetfulness with laughter and song as he draws Frodo and company from the Barrow-Downs (no knives needed here!); someone who “sets ringing with his singing all the fields and lanes,” and delights in beautiful things; one who can command the very trees but is not swayed by any temptation to greater power.

Someone rather like Tom Bombadil, with his golden boots and his flowers for the River’s Daughter and his enigmatic role in Middle Earth, so cryptic that the movies left him out to go somewhere else.  These are the sorts of things that make my heart flutter a bit.

None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: His songs are the stronger songs, and his feet are faster!

But since Tom is the Eldest and the Master, he may be a bit much, even for a Muse.  And so my thoughts turn to a fellow who is sturdy and strong, an able cook, and an elf-friend.  He is the exemplar of loyal, loving devotion to one’s master.  He is the hero who carries on through the darkest places, no matter the burden and despite all temptations.  He is the poet who finds consolation in stories and the hope of what tales may be.  And when evil has been beaten back, Samwise the Stouthearted journeys back to the friends, family, and homeland he defended so courageously.  He does not grow restless, but puts down his roots and plants his trees and guards the history of the War of the Ring.

In short, certainly a figure worthy of all the affection my heart gives him…though his fictitiousness might be a problem…to say nothing of his height.  Not that I’d swoon over any man solely on account of his height.  Hardly.  …but if I did, it’d be over Julian Delphiki – better known, perhaps, as Bean.

That might be the most crushlike of these book crushes, because I cannot explain what it is about Bean that draws me to him.  His intelligence is without bounds, his memory eidetic, his wit cutting, and his understanding of the world around him in all ways solid.  Perhaps that attracts me because, despite all the evidence of reality, I hope that someone with a very fast mind could understand the actions of those around him.  Or perhaps his intelligence creates the illusion that he can protect those he loves, though no lover or parent can keep the world out or death at bay – not the death of others, nor their own.

Beyond all reason, Bean delights me because of his weaknesses.  That is, insofar as he is vulnerable, it is because he is a human who loves.  It may have taken him years to learn it, and it really may not sound like much, but that is what makes Bean hard to resist.

Happy Tolkien Day!

It is a little late, but we just have to say . . . . .

Happy Tolkien Day!

(Or week. Or two weeks!)

Technically, March 25 is the day that the One Ring fell into Mount Doom, and both it and Sauron were destroyed.

 

And how do we celebrate? By reading Tolkien, of course!

The Tolkien Society has declared this day to be “Tolkien Reading Day”, and encouraged any all Peoples to visit or revisit Middle Earth on March 25.

(Or, perhaps, any other of Tolkien’s work that does take place in Arda. I suggest “Leaf By Niggle“.)

And, naturally, this has been picked up by fellow bloggers and turned into something of a more Organized Event. To that end, the book review blog “Pages Unbound” – comprised of a few generous and clever ladies – is hosting two weeks filled with guest posts about Tolkien! The first post is a lovely review of The Hobbit. You should go check it out.

We muses, as well as our friend David, were asked to participate, so keep checking back to find our contributions!

Now go forth, and read something by Tolkien!