Hello all! It’s been a few days since I wrote, and I have quite a few interesting links I’d like to share.
– Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Check out her lovely new website to mark the occasion. I especially love the banner at the top which features the various covers of the book, from different decades and countries. (For the record, mine is in the top row, third from the left. Yes, the outrageously pink early 90’s one with the well-chiseled centaur). This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I highly recommend it for any who’ve not yet read it. Ms L’Engle is also a great literary theorist, her book Walking on Water being one of the best works on the nature of writing fiction I know. She says wonderful things like, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children” and “When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.” She also had the brass to start A Wrinkle in Time with the most notoriously bad opening line in all of literature, as if to say, “I dare you to really read this book, to take it seriously.” A children’s fantasy/sci-fi adventure story with heavy doses of theology and speculative quantum physics that opens with a huge cliché? The fact that anyone gave it a shot is a miracle, and one I’m very grateful for. If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading it, go pick up the beautiful new 50th anniversary edition and give yourself a treat one of these dark and stormy nights.
– I’ve seen a few references lately to this fantastic talk given by author Neil Gaiman at Mythcon 35 in 2004, newly posted to his blog. As it turns out, Mr Gaiman and I have the same taste in books! This doesn’t surprise me, given the kind of books he writes. What’s surprising and touching is the amount of respect he has and his sensitivity towards Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton:
You see, while I loved Tolkien and while I wished to have written his book, I had no desire at all to write like him. Tolkien’s words and sentences seemed like natural things, like rock formations or waterfalls, and wanting to write like Tolkien would have been, for me, like wanting to blossom like a cherry tree or climb a tree like a squirrel or rain like a thunderstorm. Chesterton was the complete opposite. I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.
Ugh! It simply doesn’t get better than that.
– The trailer for season 2 of HBO’s surprisingly good Game of Thrones has arrived. Check it out here. The season is due to premier in April. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of despising these characters, check out season 1 which comes out on DVD in March.
– I’ve checked The Descendants and The Help off of my pre-Oscar must-see list this past week. Neither was, in my opinion, as good as the critical acclaim and multiple nominations have made them out to be. The Descendants told a moving story, but felt forced and over the top at times. George Clooney, who for me has a Tom Cruise factor (i.e. I buy him only when his character is a little bit smarmy) was ok. I felt he was much better in Up in the Air. It was also hampered by the fact that a girl behind me got the giggles during the emotional climax of the movie, and I’m not sure whether it said more about the movie or the girl. The Help featured some great acting (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) and some not so great (everyone else). In conversation with my parents afterwards, we couldn’t decide exactly what it was that bugged us about the movie, and might have all been bugged by different things. There was some x-factor that didn’t feel true to the emotion of the situation, or the period, or something. Who knows. Not having read the book, I can’t say whether this a fault of the writing or directing. Any thoughts from those who have read it?
– Finally, and most exciting, I will be attending Dr Verlyn Flieger’s talk “Oo! Those Awful Hobbits! Tolkien Versus the Academy” at the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, Maryland. Professor Flieger is one of the leading scholars of Tolkien and comparative mythology in the world (her website is listed in the links on the right of this blog). I heard her give two lectures this past fall for the Mythgard Institute, and can testify to her awesomeness. For newbies, check out her website and her seminal book of Tolkien language studies, Splintered Light. Her talk will (it seems) discuss Tolkien’s antagonistic relationship with the academic institution, and plays on Edmund Wilson’s infamous classic essay of Tolkien-bashing, “Oo! Those Awful Orcs!” which is worth a read for its historical importance, if not for its careful literary criticism (“Gandalph”?!). The question of Tolkien’s inclusion in the canon and his enduring popularity (and the reasons for and against each) is a fascinating one, and strangely relevant these days with the foundation of Mythgard. The talk is free and open to the public. I am so excited to finally meet Professor Flieger in person, as well as several Mythgard regulars including The Tolkien Professor Corey Olsen himself. Also, my mom and aunt are tagging along to check out the college town of Chestertown, MD set on the Chesapeake Bay, so that should be lovely. Any recommendations for things to see and do while we’re there, leave a comment below.