Monday, November 27, 2017

Meanwhile, Back in 'Birmingham

So, news of the upcoming Tolkien Amazon tv series has somewhat overshadowed the Tolkien biopic, where the big news is that filming has apparently actually begun. Here are some stills purportedly taken on location:

The actress shown interacting with young Tolkien is Genevieve O'Reilly, presumably during a break while young Tolkien is playing rugby. Interestingly enough, the character she plays isn't named, even on the imdb site (where the actress's name is given but the character name left blank).*

My guess? Aunt Jane.
Though that's just a guess, and it cd just as easily be some reimagined version of Jenny Grove (Edith's cousin and later companion) or that favorite easy-out of 'based on a true story' biopics: composite (i.e. fictitious) character.

Here's another link (like the one above, taken from the Tolkien Society's site), showing some on-location setting (this time in Cheshire) said to feature in the film:

One significant bit of casting since I last posted on the topic is Colm Meaney (Mr. O'Brien, Transporter Chief on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) as Father Francis. I wonder if this means they're making Fr. Francis Irish or if Meaney will be assuming a Welsh/Spanish accent.

Another interesting casting annoucement, for reasons having to do with the character rather than the actor, is the addition of Sam to the list of characters -- no, not the hobbit Samwise Gamgee but apparently Tolkien's batman (aide) during the war.

--John R.

* There's now a wikipedia page for the film, which also omits the character name

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Alt-Right Embraces Tolkien

So, on Monday the NEW YORK TIMES ran a piece on Judge Roy Moore, the Alabama Senatorial candidate, in which the report, Katherine Steawart, devoted several paragraphs to Moore's supporters using Tolkien imagery in support of their cause:

 . . . [they believe] Roy Moore is the hero who will lead the Republican Party to glory.

He stood there with his staff and he pushed back against the forces of secularism and he said, just like in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘You shall not pass,’ when they were going after the Ten Commandments,” Dana Loesch, an N.R.A. spokeswoman, said. Roy Moore, she added, is “the Gandalf of Alabama.”

Steve Bannon was also in Tolkien mode as he exulted over Mr. Moore’s victory in the Republican primary in September. “The hobbits are going door to door in the shire, and they’re getting everybody out,” he gushed.

. . . But they [McConnell & Ryan, et al] haven’t said — and they won’t say — a word about Mr. Moore’s theocratic agenda. Because in their hearts, they know that Mr. Bannon is right about one thing: They need to keep the “hobbits” happy.

It's another sign of Tolkien moving mainstream and finding new fans in new places -- in this case, among gun-lobbyists* and arch-conservative politicians in Alabama -- while at the same time being embraced by fringe groups among the white supremacists (something that's also happening to Taylor Swift, of all people, and to Norse sagas). Maybe Tolkien can at some point form common ground between deeply divided groups. In the meantime, I think we're going to see a lot more in the way of strange bedfellows.

--John R.

*or 'merchants of death', to evoke a name from another era

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Should Tolkien Be Canonized?

Question: Should Tolkien be canonized?
Short Answer: No.

So, I was asked by not one but two people at Thanksgiving what I thought about the move to have Tolkien declared a saint. What movement? was my reply. The next day a few minutes on google reminded me that I'd heard the first rumblings of this a while ago when a group of Tolkien's admirers in Brazil decided to take the first step back in 2015: contact the bishop of Tolkien's own diocese, Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley, who replied that he was hesitant to act on his own authority until the church had officially begun the process.

Accordingly, the pro-canonization group has studied the actual process and are now officially launching their campaign, with a website ( ).  Thanks to Mike Glyer's FILE 770 for his report ( ), "Tolkien: An Unexpected Sainthood" (Oct 25th 2017). For those of us (like myself) who know little about how the church operates in such matters, here are the four stages in the official recognition:
 (1) Servant of God, (2) Venerable, (3) Blessed, and (4) Saint
The current effort is the first step in getting Tolkien declared a Servus Dei (Servant of God).
I'm personally skeptical (coming from a denomination that doesn't do saints), but we'll see how it goes.

--John R.
current reading: A TIME OF HARVEST (CoC), still

The Tolkien Canon just took on a new meaning.

Friday, November 24, 2017

More on Tolkien TV

So, in the week following news of the upcoming (or at least planned) LotR tv series broke, there were a lot more signs of what a big deal this is being seen as, and not just among the more-or-less captive audience of diehard Tolkien fans. It only took a matter of days for the news to move from VARIETY and THE ROLLING STONE to THE NEW YORK TIMES and NPR, with lots of discussion on Tolkien-devoted sites like The Tolkien Society's news page, The One Ring forum, and the MythSoc list.

Why such interest? Well, for one thing it's yet another sign of Tolkien looming ever larger in our cultural zeitgeist. There's a reason for the current struggle to claim JRRT as 'one of our own' going on between the alt-right white supremacist groups and traditional Tolkien fans; everybody wants to claim a popular and influential figure like Tolkien has become. *

For one thing, there's the sheer amount of money involved. It's been a while since I reached the sad conclusion that nothing impresses our culture more than money, and this wd seem to be a case in point. According to THE GUARDIAN, Amazon is putting a billion dollars** into this deal: $250 million to secure the rights, and then another $750 million to actually make the show. Which is apparently projected to run for six seasons.*** Which at more than $100 million per season makes it "the most expensive TV show ever" ****

For another, without my quite being aware of it until recently, the Peter Jackson movies are taking on iconic status. Indeed, reading down into the comments of some of the discussions of the various news stories reveals that there are fans of the Jackson movies worried about the new show spoiling their memories of what are for them classic films they grew up watching. So now the old guard, for purposes of this discussion, is people who watch and re-watch the Jackson movies, for whom New-Zealand-as-Middle-earth is as much a default as ruby slippers and emerald cities*****

I'm starting to notice more and more anecdotal evidence re. the iconic status. Case in point: on Wednesday I picked up THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FANTASY: 50 GREATEST FANTASY FILMS EVER!, one of those special-issue theme magazines that come out from time to time. Their number one choice? THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Here's a list of their top ten, to get a better sense of where they're coming from: THE LORD OF THE RINGS (#1), THE WIZARD OF OZ (#2), WINGS OF DESIRE (the original; #3), LABYRINTH (#4), MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (#5), THE PRINCESS BRIDE (#6), PAN'S LABYRINTH (#7), PRINCESS MONONOKI (#8), SPIRITED AWAY (#9), and JASON AND  THE ARGONAUTS (#10).

And what am I to make of a book I saw on the remainder shelf at Barnes and Noble,  a big beautiful book named LEGENDARY MOVIES (2013)?  This is a substantial work of 600 pages, with text by Paulo D'Agostini, preface by Franco Zeffirelli. ( ). And for the cover they chose not Bogart or Orson Welles, Vivian Leigh or Audrey Hepburn, but Ian McKellan, as Gandalf (the white).

As the songwriter once sang, times are a'changing.

--John R.

current viewing: the Japanese adaptation of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (quirky, but better than -- and more faithful than -- the version currently in theatres).

current reading: A TIME TO HARVEST (Call of Cthulhu adventure).
*more on this in another post; it's too big a topic to deal with just in passing

**this is a pretty good investment when you consider that the three Jackson films between them made about ten billion dollars. And presumably Amazon can make their show more economically than Jackson's perpetual reshoot.

***though I haven't seen anything yet to indicate how many shows would be in a 'season'.


*****neither of which appear in the original OZ book.

p.s.: Aunt Jane?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tolkien TV

So,  Monday last week rumors that'd been circling around for a few days became official when the likes of The New York Times (Monday) and NPR (Tuesday) weighed in: had purchased the rights to make a new tv show based on THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Who knew that this wd be the second-biggest Tolkien-related story of the week? But by Wednesday word had spread, and since been confirmed, that Christopher Tolkien had retired as a director of the Tolkien Estate several months back.

It's hard to overstate Christopher's importance for Tolkien scholarship: the amount of material he has made available and the uniformly high quality of his editions. Having seen firsthand some of the work that went behind the proper sequencing of the LotR papers for HME Volumes VI through IX, I remain deeply impressed, as well as grateful, for the work he's done.

More later.
--John R.

current (second) reading: BEREN AND LUTHIEN (2007)


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Man Who Didn't Like Tolkien (Roger Highfield)

So, thanks to Bill F. (thanks, Bill) for drawing my attention to (and providing me with a copy of) the recent obituary of longtime Merton don Roger Highfield, who died on April 13th at the age of ninety-five. A historian of medieval Spain, Highfield was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford  for sixty-eight years -- and thus a colleague, in his younger days, of J. R. R. Tolkien. He was not, however, a fan.

We've long known that some of Tolkien's academic peers disparaged his work (a prominent example being Ida Gordon). I think we can now safely add Roger Highfield's name to that list.* Here's what his obituary has to say about Highfield and Tolkien:

One of the secrets of his longevity may have been his powers of discretion. At one stage he had rooms above JRR Tolkien, one of the college's most illustrious fellows, and he knew him well, not least as a squash partner.

However, when approached by a television producer to discuss his memories of the author of The Lord of the Rings, Highfield played down his connection and suggested that they speak to Bruce Mitchell at St Edmund Hall, who had been taught by Tolkien. After the producer went away happy, Highfield was heard to mutter that Mitchell was a rare bird indeed, because Tolkien was "very lazy and supervised few". His deflection also avoided him having to admit that all he could say of Tolkien was that he was "the worst sub-warden ever", and that Tolkien-mania left him "baffled".

Consulting the Hammond-Scull Chronology, with its many entries detailing Tolkien's work at Oxford, tutoring and lecturing and attending many meetings of many different committees, pretty well refutes Highfield's claim here. But there's more: Highfield's 'favourite anecdote' about an embarrassing incident:

At his funeral at Merton chapel, old dons remembered his favourite anecdote about the time that Tolkien offered to bequeath to the college his original (and therefore highly valuable) manuscript of The Hobbit

Champagne was ordered to mark the occasion, and Tolkien duly handed the thing over to Highfield to the sound of popping corks. When Highfield untied the string and opened the brown paper he found that the great man had wrapped a work in progress up by mistake. He duly asked for it back. "Waste of good champagne." Highfield was heard to mutter as the party gloomily disbanded.

--I've heard this story before, albeit different in the details, but think this is the first time it's had a name assigned to it (Highfield's) or found its way into print. We know from the Ready-Rota letters that by the late 1950s Tolkien's memory of the HOBBIT draft material had grown dim. I suspect that what was in that envelope was what we now call the 1960 Hobbit, material he had drafted after the sale to Marquette in '57-58 but then put aside; given that it was still unpublished at the time of the Merton incident, it's not surprising he needed it back.

As for 'waste of good champagne', I find it hard to believe the college staff, if not the departing dons, wouldn't have taken care of that on their way out.

To leave on a lighter note, Highfield's cheerful malice cd sometimes be v. funny when it hit the mark:

[a friend recalled how] "Roger once told me that in Oxford, if you find yourself talking to a stranger at a party, you have only to ask, 'And how is the magnum opus?' for the floodgates of conversation (or monologue) to be opened. A couple of years later, when he had come on a visit, I inquired, 'How is the magnum opus?' All unsuspecting, he immediately entered into details of what he was working on."

--John R.
current reading: DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE by A. Merritt (1932; so far, mediocre)

*which, I'd like to point out, is far shorter than that of his colleagues who thought v. highly indeed of his works.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Inklings that Aren't (Chesterton and Percy Bates)

So, last week I had recourse to Wikipedia's entry on The Inklings to quick-check something and found some interesting errors in its list of Inklings.

For one thing, it includes someone I've never heard of before named "Percy Bates" as a member of the group. Checking Bates' own Wikipedia entry, I find he was a shipping magnate and director of the Cunard Line (whose most famous ship was probably the Lusitania). There's no mention of the Inklings under his entry, nor in the Inkling entry is there any justification for including him in the list of second-tier members. So this seems to be an error, pure and simple.

For another error, more understandable but just as wrong, the Inklings entry includes G. K. Chesterton's name as someone who visited the group (along with Eddison and Campbell, who really did attend at least a time or two*). While they no doubt wd have been delighted to have had him (and he might have enjoyed this meeting of the minds as well), he never attended even a single meeting.

It's not really an error, but so long as it's going to mention guests, the article might be improved with listing some folks we know did occasionally visit, like George Sayer or Roger Lancelyn Green,

At least they don't make the old mistake of listing Dorothy L. Sayers as a member or visitor.

--John R.

*interestingly enough, T. H White was once invited to visit but never seems to have done so.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

John Wain (IV) -- Havard, Warnie, Tolkien

(continued from previous post)

In addition to his portraits of Lewis, Williams, and Dyson, Wain also gave brief depictions of Havard and The Major:

Of the other Inklings, only his brother and Dyson struck me as sharing Lewis's taste for the ordinary pub, though I am sure Williams, who had beer and sandwiches for lunch every day of his life, had no sort of objection to it as a convenience, as it is to any London man of letters . . . Havard, to be sure, was always expressionless and imperturbable, the man of healing who has looked on life in all its forms and its extremities, and Warren Lewis ('Warnie'), the seasoned officer, much travelled, unsurprised by anything, was gravely courteous and affable, like a Major who has been invited to take a glass in the Sergeants' Mess.

He immediately follows this with more about Tolkien:

Only Tolkien seemed mildly though attractively odd: slight in build beside the bulk of either Lewis, his utterances almost sotto voce by comparison with their deep, measured tones* or the manic sea-lion roaring of Dyson, he stood looking round him with a gnomish, lop-sided grin, irresistibly suggesting a leprechaun that has unexpectedly wandered into human company. He had no objection to conviviality, quaffed his pint of draught cider willingly enough, and yet he always seemed to me to bring with him an atmosphere too fey for the prosaic cheerfulness of an English beer-house, something that belonged in the Hall of the Mountain King.

It's a tribute to Wain's skill as a writer that this exact smile can be seen on Tolkien's face in a surviving clip of film in which Tolkien describes his glee at finding that blank sheet of paper among those he was grading and writing down the first line of THE HOBBIT. Elsewhere I've seen Tolkien described as almost birdlike, by which the writer meant his conversation hopped around from topic to topic, rather than proceeding by measured steps in a logical progression like CSL, which may be part of what Wain is getting at.

In the end, sadly, it was their very own leprechaun, who had wandered from some cleft of the wooded mountainside into their snug haven, who ruined it for them. Without consulting the others, Tolkien went to Charlier Blagrove and asked if they might have the use of the private sitting-room, regularly, every Tuesday. Glad to meet what  he thought were the group's wishes, the landlord opened up the room the next Tuesday and always thereafter. There was no going back. Jack Lewis confided to me, sadly[,] that it had spoilt his Tuesdays for him. 'I miss the sense of meeting in an open tavern.' I was very sorry. He had many problems in his life at this time,** and it seemed needless to rob him of one of his few remaining pleasures.

Personally, I can easily see that the loudest members of the group, like Lewis and Dyson, could prefer the loud outer room, while the quieter ones like Tolkien and Havard might have liked the inner room where they cd be heard. Taken with his earlier comment about Tolkien's being "almost dementedly solipsistic" (I take him to mean that Tolkien was one of those professors who taught his subject rather than his students), I get the sense that Wain is trying to be fair to Tolkien but finding it a bit hard (that 'leprechaun . . . wandered from some cleft of the wooded mountainside' seems to me to include a touch of parody).

One small corrective: Wain says that upon Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman,  CSL 'made no attempt to introduce his wife into the circle in the bar-room'. This is in error: Lewis did bring Davidman to some of their meetings in the pub, but it was not a success and she stopped coming after only a few attempts.

--John R.
current reading: THE PROUD TOWER (chapter on the Dreyfus Affair)

*surviving recordings show that Lewis's voice sounded a good deal like Alfred Hitchcock, but with a different accent. Imagine Hitchcock being impersonated by Sean Connery and you'll come pretty close.

**since Blagrove died in 1948, this must refer to about that time or slightly before, in the period when Janie Moore's health was failing due to encroaching Alzheimers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

John Wain (III) -- from a tadpole to a young frog


So, the single thing I found most interesting in Wain's account is that at one point he gives the very words with which Lewis invited him to join the Inklings.*

. . .  my getting a First and being elected to a small . . .  Fellowship must have seemed to Lewis to turn me from a tadpole to a young frog, because he beckoned me into the inner bar one Tuesday noon and said, kindly (he was always kind)** but rather formally, 'We meet here every Tuesday at mid-day and in my rooms at Magdalen every Thursday evening: I desire your better acquaintance.' I liked and admired Lewis, though I knew already that his approach to life, and therefore to literature, were not the same as mine, and I thought then and think now that it was a striking piece of good fortune to have one's better acquaintance sought by such a man. . . my relationship with him is not the least of the gifts that Oxford has given me.  

Personae Inklingis
Given my interest is the history of the Inklings, I found this piece a valuable snapshot of the group as it was in its latter days (specifically 1945-1948). For one thing, there's Wain's list of members as they were just before he joined: Lewis himself, Tolkien, Williams, Dr. Havard, 'a couple of Magdalen dons' (whom he leaves unnamed), and Warnie. After Williams died the most significant newcomer was not Wain but Dyson, so the roster wd then have run CSL, JRRT, Harvard, Warnie, Dyson, and Wain.

Wain was deeply impressed by Williams, second only (if indeed it was second) to Lewis.*** Although Wms died before Wain started attending meetings, both here and in his 1962 autobiography Wain asserts that Wms was the most important member of the group and that his absence took a lot out of their discussions. Here's how he phrased it in the Eagle and Child piece:

. . . its personnel underwent two significant changes in the time I observed it. The first was the death of William in 1945. I was, of course, not yet formally admitted to the circle, but I registered the shock it inflicted, particularly to Lewis. Williams was the genius of the group; an unresolved genius, perhaps; a genius, if you will, that never quite came to its real achievement; though on the other hand it could be said that the genius of Williams lay not in what he did so much as in what he was. After he died, something went out of the Inklings.  I think I knew, even at twenty-one, that the group I joined there had a light and warmth rather like those of a gas fire after it has been switched off. The sustaining fuel had been the imagination of Williams. 

Wain then goes on to offer a memorable portrait of Hugo Dyson:

The second change was that Hugo Dyson, an old friend of all the group, came to a Fellowship in Merton in 1945 after twenty years at Reading University . . . and immediately added his presence to the gatherings. No circle of which Dyson was a member could be said to remain the same. He was a raconteur, a barnstormer, a wit if your definition of wit includes knock-down-and-drag-out, a performer to his fingertips. I always felt that he was driven by inward nightmares into an endless routine of conviviality, and indeed his experiences in the First World War trenches had been enough to give a man nightmares for life if he lived a hundred years. The removal of Williams dimmed the radiance of the Inklings' meetings; the accession of Dyson rekindled it, but with a smokier light.

next up: Wain's brief descriptions of Havard and Warnie, and his someone lengthier thoughts on Tolkien

(to be continued)

--John R.
current reading: more of the same three books.

 *or the closest approximation his memory can make of them

**The statement that Lewis was 'always kind' no doubt held true for Wain's relationship w. Lewis himself, though it's not how others of CSL's tutorial students remembered it (e.g. Lawlor, Betjeman, Stanley)

***elsewhere he said he considered C. S. Lewis and Edmund Wilson his role models as critics.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

John Wain (II) -- Lewis's 'Absurd Delusion'

(Wain, continued)

In addition to describing the place and the people who ran it,* Wain devotes most of his piece to talking about the Inklings. I've been wondering for some time why, of all the pubs  in Oxford, did Lewis and Tolkien fix upon the Eagle and Child rather than some place nearer to Tolkien's or CSL's colleges (Pembroke then Merton and Magdalene, respectively). Wain gives as his opinion that Lewis et al chose the Eagle and Child for their weekly meetings for two important reasons. First, that it was an ordinary place, not fancy. In a memorable phrase, Wain writes of Lewis that "He liked ordinary men, and indeed was under the absurd delusion that he was one himself.' I think this might become one of my favorite lines describing Lewis: both insightful and touching.

Second, it was convenient for Havard, whose office was just up the street, and also to the Taylorian, where Wms lectured.

I had known about Dr. Havard's clinic, and for a while now have considered it likely to have been the deciding factor, but not connected the dots about it being so close to where Williams wd be lecturing. Wain is helpful here, as after speculating on why they chose where to meet, he reveals discovering, when still an undergraduate, why the when as well:

Only gradually did I come to realize that there was a regular pattern to these Lewisian visits in that they always took place on a Tuesday at noon. What focused this fact for me was a sense of annoyance that I could not attend Tolkien's weekly lecture on Beowulf without missing Charles Williams on Milton, or Wordsworth's Prelude, or Shakespeare -- these were his three usual subjects. I wanted to attend Williams's lectures because I found them torrentially stimulating; I wanted to attend Tolkien's because I thought they might provide me with something to write down in my Schools paper on Anglo-Saxon literature, a hope that in the end was disappointed, for he was largely inaudible beyond the first row and, if one did manage to catch a few words, almost dementedly solipsistic.

'It's a nuisance', I remarked to Lewis at one tutorial, 'that Tolkien and Charles Williams always seem to lecture at the same time.'

'Yes, Tuesday at eleven,' he replied composedly. 'It's so they can meet at the Bird and Baby at twelve.'

I was evidently meant to gather from this that the requirements of civilized conversation among men of letters had legitimate priority over the requirements of pedagogy, a lesson that was not lost to me. All the same, I noticed that Lewis himself did not lecture on Tuesday at eleven. He took a lot of trouble with his lectures and I believe the capacity audiences he drew were a gratification to him, surely a legitimate one. He had no wish to clash with a crowd-puller like Williams.

Leaving aside Wain's dismissal of Tolkien as a teacher, which I think unfair, this does give some idea of Williams at his peak at Oxford,** and an interesting juxtaposition of Wms vs. Lewis as lecturers, a subject I'd like to know more about.

(to be continued)

--John R.
--current reading: THE PROUD TOWER by Barbara Tuchman (my first time reading one of her books); THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS (re-reading for a project); and A WALK IN WOLF WOOD by Mary Stewart (a gift long ago from Jim Pietrusz).

*One interesting miscellaneous detail: Wain reveals that Blagrove had originally been a horse-cab driver, in the days when such things, now remembered chiefly for their appearance in the Sherlock Holmes stories, still existed.

**Wain was a great admirer of Wms and had little use for Tolkien either as a writer or, it seems, an academic.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

John Wain (I) remembers The Eagle and Child

So, last year when I was at the Archives I got to look through a box of Taum's material that had recently come there by a circuitous route. And among the items of interest* was a 1988 piece from the OXFORD MAGAZINE by Inkling** John Wain called "Push Bar to Open". It's essentially a paean for the Eagle & Child (Wain prefers not to use the nickname 'Bird & Baby', thinking it rather silly). He describes the physical layout of the place (something not I think evident from the much-expanded building it is today) and how the family that ran the place (Mr. & Mrs. & Miss Blagrove) lived upstairs for the most part, though they did have a parlour downstairs that they sometimes allowed customers from the bar to use. Since this is the most detailed description I've come across of the place as it was in the Inklings' day, I thought I'd quote it here:

. . . a few of us, who naturally thought of ourselves as the cognoscenti, preferred the simplicity and quiet of the Eagle and Child. It was a beer house, not licensed for wine or spirits,*** with scrubbed wooden tables and linoleum on the floor, and two rooms, both small. On entering from the street, you were faced with the end of the bar, because you were sideways on to its main length, though 'length' is hardly the word in such a doll's house of a place. This oblong of bar was slightly to your right as you stood inside the door; slightly to your left a door confronted you, habitually closed but occasionally opening to reveal a flight of stairs which led to the family's quarters. Geometrically straight ahead, then as now, was the space left between the wooden partition wall of the staircase and the bar, which ran along this narrow space for some six or eight feet before emerging, less obstructed, into the second room. This had two doors. One, on the left, led into an alley-way at the side of the house from which the street could be gained; the other into a long, open backyard of the type usual in working-class houses, flanked on one side by a brick wall and on the other by a wash-house and, no doubt, in the original design of the place, all the plumbing of whatever description.

The family, Mr and Mrs Bladrove and their daughter, lived their domestic life mainly upstairs, but they must also have lived some of it in the area of the backyard, and in addition they had a parlour, which faced you when you entered the second bar-room. This room was not part of the licensed premises, but during the years immediately following the war, when the clientele increased in number, the Blagroves would occasionally, out of good nature, allow select customers to take their drinks in and sit there, if chairs were scarce or if they wanted to have an interrupted conversation. 

. . . continued in next post

--John R.

*which included, among other things, a photocopy of my second of two letters from Christopher Wiseman, which I must have given to Taum and long since forgotten that I had done so.

**and Angry Young Man, though it made him mad to be called that.

***I take this to mean you cd order beer or hard cider but not whiskey or wine. Wain is explicit that Lewis always ordered cider.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tolkien TV Series?

So, I may have been wrong about predicting that the next Tolkien-on-film we see wd be a biopic. VARIETY at any rate is reporting that a LotR miniseries is in the works, possibly to be made by Amazon Studio. Details are lacking, but Jeff Bezos himself is said to be pushing the deal. THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and ROLLING STONE also each have a piece on the project; the former is pretty good  but I take the latter's account less seriously since they seem unable to tell the difference between the movie people (Tolkien Enterprises, an American firm formerly run by Saul Zaentz) and the Tolkien estate (Tolkien's family, often backed up by his publishers).

Here's the VARIETY piece


And here's the ROLLING STONE version.

One thing I was glad to learn, whatever comes out of this, is that the studios have finally settled their lawsuit with the Estate, who objected to Tolkien slot machines, online LotR/H-themed gambling, and other excessive forms of movie merchandising -- following what has now become the established pattern that the studios have only paid up money they owed on the previous project when they've decided to go ahead on a related project.

--John R.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The White Car


In May 1992 (2 months before we got married) we bought a white Nissan Sentra. This morning we donated it to Purrfect Pals. More than just the garage is a little empty tonight.

Evil Prayers

So, I was appalled to read in a recent essay on the GUARDIAN site that there are church officials in the Roman Catholic hierarchy praying for the death of Pope Francis.

That some of the same faction are trying to bring an official charge of heresy against Francis seems quixotic by contrast, given the pope's ex-cathedra powers.* But praying for his death because they disagree with the direction in which he's taking the church? That crosses any number of lines.

If I had to come up with a rule of thumb to cover this, it'd be something along these lines:

    Unless your boss is Charles Manson, praying for his or her death is an evil act. 

Here's the piece -- disturbing, but interesting.

--John R.
current reading: memoirs of Clark Ashton Smith (the final section in the new CAS artbook)

* I have to say, though, that I'm bemused by the discovery that the teaching in question appears in a footnote -- footnote number 351 to chapter 8, to be specific.

unknown territory

So, my doctor is retiring.
Does this mean I won't get sick anymore?

--John R.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Art of the E-quel

So, this week I learned a new term I hadn't come across before: the E-quel. A follow-up work that is neither a sequel (written after and published after) nor a 'prequel' (a work written after but taking place before) but a side-story.

It's a useful concept, but I have doubts about its sticking, if only because it sounds too much like 'equal'. Plus we already have side-story, which pretty much does the job.

Here's the link.

Having enjoyed the GOLDEN COMPASS movie and been disappointed that naysayers helped stop the second and third films in the series from being made, I was glad to hear that a tv miniseries is currently in the works from the BBC. Let's hope it's a similar quality and fares better.

--John R.
current reading: IN THE REALMS OF MYSTERY AND WONDER (Clark Ashton Smith artbook).