Lord Of The Rings

Pan & Puck Cover Art


THE DAY IS HERE AT LAST!!!

I give you the final cover artwork for my new adventure fable Pan & Puck, available in e-reader and paperback formats on Black Friday, my birthday!

 

IMG_2217

 

If you’re a fan of…

— Action-packed high fantasy for all ages

— Tough, multi-faceted female characters

— Terrible monsters

— Hidden ruins

— Witty banter

— Pipe smoking

— Mediaeval castles

— Errant heroes in search of adventure

— Nymphs, Dryads, Cyclopses, Fauns, Mermaids, Ogres, or Sylphs

— Unexpected plot twists

— Magical worlds that lay unseen all around us

…then this book should be bumped up to next on your list!

Order yourself a copy and one for all of your fantasy-addicted friends and family members on November 24th! It will make the perfect Christmas present for any bibliophile or bedtime story fanatic in your life. Look for it in e-readers and paperback formats on Amazon!

Long live the bedtime story!

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55 Classics Review #3 – “Brothers And Friends: An Intimate Portrait Of C.S. Lewis” by Major Warren Hamilton Lewis


Upon reflection it seems a very gracious decision for The Classics Club to allow me to include my 55 list among the ranks. This book in particular is, beyond any stretch of the imagination, definitely not a classic. There is simply no way to spin it as such. It is the diary of a mostly obscure man who was the brother of a famous author. It is really a very great read, but it is more a specialty reading for certain enthusiasts.

Warren Lewis and his brother “Jack” (C.S. Lewis lifelong nickname) were inseparably close. They purchased a house together when they were in their 30’s and spent the rest of their lives under the same roof. While Jack was undoubtedly a devoted brother, it seems that Warren was far more attached to Jack as the only person he really felt he had maintained a deep connection with throughout his life.

The book is broken into 3 oddly-timed, untitled sections, but I would break it into 4 chapters based on the various lifestyles and tones portrayed in seasons.

Early Adulthood – Warren stayed in the army after WWI as a career soldier. He did not enjoy army life but felt it would be an easy way to retire as an early pensioner, which he did before his 38th birthday. The first section of the book covers his tours of duty in China, weekend visits to the home called the Kilns which he was already jointly purchasing with Jack and the old Mrs. Moore (Minto, as they called her, was the mother of Jack’s dead WWI brother-in-arms, Paddy Moore) in Oxford, and general army life.
Pre-WWII Retirement – From the end of 1932 to the start of World War II probably marked the highlight of W.H. Lewis’ lifetime. He had retired young, moved into the Kilns with Jack, was able to start taking annual “walking tours” with his brother, and was not yet plagued by alcoholic tendencies. He found delightful ways to keep himself busy both at home in Oxford and in frequent and long holidays. He owned a river boat, which he lived on for seasons at a time. At this time all his earlier plans had come together.
Post WWII – Lewis was called back to duty during the Second World War. He did not see combat but was promoted to the rank of Major. He stopped writing in his journal for the majority of the war and there are a number of subtle differences in the way he writes afterward. He frequently makes discouraged remarks about food rationing, destruction, and rebuilding efforts. He begins to really loath the housing situation at the Kilns. While he expresses constant dissatisfaction about his and Jack’s home life with Minto, the group of friends known as the Inklings really flourishes in this era. In these days he begins to have a very serious and sometimes de-habilitating alcohol problem.
Post Minto – The brothers lived with Mrs. Moore for nearly 40 years and while everyone else seemed to universally acknowledge that she was a singularly unfair sapping and discomforting force in Jack’s life, he seems never to have complained or swayed in his devotion. They endured domestic horrors that taught Warren to stay away for months at a time. By the time she passed the brothers were getting to be old men themselves and the post-Minto years are marked by C.S. Lewis’ short and painful marriage to Joy Gresham Lewis and by general decay. This section is defined by the sicknesses and deaths of many friends and eventually Jack himself, whom Warren feared outliving his entire life. He lives beyond his younger brother by nearly a decade, and his loneliness without him is highlighted by his entries about technological modernizations, spiritual shortcomings, and thoughts on his own weakening and coming death.

I would really highly recommend this book to a few certain groups of people.

The title itself is misleading because huge portions of the entries have nothing to do with Jack Lewis. It is much more of an honest insight into the mind of his brother regarding all aspects of his own life. That being said, it is still one of the best texts I have read for intimate thoughts on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings in general. Any scholar can write a thousand pages on a man’s life and a group’s dynamics, but to have one from among them providing a small collection of situational anicdotes and circumstantial ponderings on the men themselves is far more revealing as to their personalities. Anyone who enjoys their works will probably find this a worthy endeavor.

I would also recommend this book to fiction lovers, war history buffs and Anglophiles. The book is full throughout of W.H. Lewis’ thoughts and mini-reviews of the books he was reading (constantly and voraciously) and descriptions of wonderful places he has been visiting in China, both U.S. coasts, Scotland, England, Ireland, and his own back garden. The man loved books (reading and re-reading everything from Homer and Wordsworth to Dorothy Sayers), walking, and the seaside, and his descriptions of landscapes in both wonderful and rough weather can be quite poetic. As I mentioned before, his general attitudes and thoughts here and there give the reader a very interesting and unique insight into the life of a middle class, British man whose adulthood was forged by WWI and rocked to its core by WWII. These things obviously are peripheral, but they are some of the most consistent material throughout.

Overall, this book does provide a thoroughly unexplored side of C.S. Lewis’ life, but, to a greater extent, it displays the admirably honest reflections of a man growing, sometimes poorly, in a world in total upheaval. It ends in gradual and extensive loneliness and decay, perhaps not easy reading for the faint-of-heart.

I have summarized a couple of the most fascinating entries here:

What the Lewis’ bros. knew about Hitler’s Nazi Germany and when they knew it.

What is most likely the first review of The Lord Of The Rings ever written.

Author Quotes: W. H. Lewis’ First Impressions of Lord Of The Rings


Long before The Lord Of The Rings reached publication it was read aloud, chapter by chapter as completed, to Tolkien and Lewis’ little band of creatives, the Inklings. A group of mainly scholars and professors from the Oxford area, the Inklings met on Tuesday mornings and Thursday nights for a pint of beer or cider, a good debate over whatever subjects came to minds, and often a reading of someone’s poem, essay, or story. It was to this group that Tolkien, or more often his son and fellow Inkling Christopher, first read what was then referred to simply as “The new Hobbit”.

Here is the diary entry of Major Warren H. Lewis following his reading of the completed manuscript.

Saturday November 12th, 1949

“I have just finished the MS. [of Tolkien’s] sequel to The Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings. Golly, what a book! The inexhaustible fertility of the man’s imagination amazes me. It is a long book, consisting very largely in journeys: yet these never flag for an instant, each is as fresh as the one before, new colors available in profusion, whether the journey be beautiful or terrible. Some of the scenes of horror are unsurpassed, and there is wonderful skill in the way which the ultimate horror–the Dark Lord of Mordor–is ever present in one’s mind, though we never meet him, and know next to nothing about him. The beauty of Lothlorien, and the slightly sinister charm of Fangorn are unforgettable. Frodo’s squire, Sam Gamgee and the dwarf Gimli are I think the two best characters. What is rare in a story of this type, is that there is real pathos in it; the relationship between Sam and Frodo in the final stages of their journey moved me greatly. How the public will take the book I can’t imagine; I should think T will be wise to prepare himself for a good deal of misunderstanding, and many crits. on the line that ‘this political satire would gain greatly by compression and the excision of such irrelevant episodes as the journey to Lothlorien’. Indeed, by accident, a great deal of it can be read topically–the Shire standing for England, Rohan for France, Gondor the Germany of the future, Sauron for Stalin: and Saruman in the ‘Scouring of the Shire’ for our egregious Mr. Silkin, the town planner (and destroyer)! But a great book of its kind, and in my opinion ahead of anything Eddison* did.”

*Referring to E.R. Eddison, author of The Worm Of Ouroboros(1922), a similar mythological work. Eddison met Tolkien and Lewis before his death in 1945.

Author Quotes: J.R.R. Tolkien On Creativity and Death


There are many obvious reasons to love J.R.R. Tolkien. As the years go on his son Christopher Tolkien, who is now quite an old man himself, continues to publish the nearly completed works to which his father was devoted. Just when we assume that everything great has been revealed, the author who has been dead for half a century is revealed to have written another riveting tale to add to his impressive cannon.

Aside from his fiction work, however, I am brought back time and again to the philosophical moorings upon which the author founded all of his creative thinking. His essay “On Fairy Stories” is, in my opinion, a breakthrough and little-rivaled treatment of the nature of inspiration and the mystical and supremely natural traits inherent in human creativity.

Apart from this (or perhaps as a part of this), there is one other area of thought that constantly brings me back to considering Tolkien’s creative works, thoughts on creativity, and thoughts on life in general. He was obsessed with everything being layered upon a recognition of death. Death surrounds us. Death defines our lives. Around 1951, Tolkien wrote a 10,000 letter to Milton Waldman of Collins Pub. in hopes of convincing them to include The Silmarillion in their decision to print The Lord Of The Rings. In the midst of explaining the value he sees in what really was his entire life’s work, he makes this clarifying statement

“In the cosmogony there is a fall: a fall of Angels we should say. Though quite different in form, of course, to that of Christian myth. These tales are ‘new’, they are not directly derived from other myths and legends, but they must inevitably contain a large measure of ancient wide-spread motives or elements. After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear. There cannot be any ‘story’ without a fall – all stories are ultimately about the fall – at least not for human minds as we know them and have them.”

Tolkien always returns to contemplate the extremes of falleness against sheer natural beauty, death against the irripressable joy of living. In Tolkien’s work many find that the escape of the good story actually leaves them ready to enjoy their own life more fully rather than longing for a different world. I think Tolkien’s tragic personal history and the closeness of death throughout his formative years built a resilience and awareness in him that ultimately directed his creations and provided that almost indescibable beauty and familiarity which captures his readers.

Tolkien does himself and his work justice when he summarizes his work with a Simone de Beauvoire quote on the mysteries of dying and living.

 

*Althought I find the writing and editing quite odd, I highly suggest watching the entire Tolkien episode of the BBC’s In Their Own Words, available here in part 1 and part 2.

J.R.R. Tolkien Tells Off the Nazis


I have read all of this before and would have been eager to do a post myself if someone else hadn’t summed it all up so wonderfully already!

Many thanks to The Bully Pulpit!

The Bully Pulpit

J.R.R. Tolkien

When J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit; or, There and Back Againon September 21st, 1937, it was met with critical acclaim and popular demand.

Naturally, in the ensuing months, publishing houses around Europe contacted Tolkien to inquire about translating the acclaimed popular novel into their respective tongues. The Berlin publisher Rütten & Loening was on the verge of printing its own German-language version of The Hobbit, when they requested written documentation of Tolkien’s Aryan heritage. This request so infuriated Tolkien that he penned a letter to his publisher and friend Stanley Unwin. It read:

I must say the enclosed letter from Rütten & Loening is a bit stiff. Do I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of arisch (aryan) origin from all persons of all countries?

Personally, I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestätigung (although it…

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The Hands Books Must Endure


Library books.

Library books come and library books go.

First to the New Releases shelving out front for six months or so, then on to the regular section for a few years or decades. Eventually, once a book has stopped circulating for a good while, it’s pulled to make way for more old New Releases. Depending on its luck in retaining its original shape, it might migrate to another library’s shelf or it might get donated.

Through all this, any desirable title is also constantly passing between many, many hands. Clammy, chubby hands, sun-tanning hands, and rigid, knobbly old hands with forbidding, precise nails. Chocolatey junior hands and fidgety hands with dangling bangles and too many rings.

Some of these hands, many of them, belong to various library staff. Librarians, circulation specialists, and shelving staff. Often the books overhear bits of their conversations, much like this one.

“Our school has like zero budget for theatre. We don’t even have a real stage!” said someone with soft, cucumber-lotioned hands.

“Where I went to high school, back in Indiana, they had great arts programs. The principle’s wife was into the theatre big time, so that stuff got top priority. I was only ever in one play. A version of The Producers they put on, we put on, my junior year. It was okay, I guess.” someone with thin, freshly painted nails and a Fibonacci spiral tattoo at the base of their right thumb was placing three books at once on a cart as they spoke. “I never liked the old one. The film version I mean, the original.”

“Well, you know what movie I thought was sooo boring?” asked cucumber hands, holding up a DVD example of where things were headed. “Schindler’s List! Nothing happens in the entire movie!” Cucumber hands tossed the DVD down and stacked 5 more behind it.

“Yeah, it’s so depressing and all you see throughout the entire movie is these crowds of starving, dying people. Even the ending, when Liam Neeson has been a jerk the whole movie but somehow saved this little portion out of all these people, and they’re showing the families that came from those people. Still depressing. The people still look morbid. It could have been written so much better.” This was stated as fact by the Fibonacci spiral.

“Did I ever tell you guys about Ester?” cucumber hands blurted out, dropping a book onto a cart at the realization of had a great and necessary story to share.

“So in the eighth grade my class went to the holocaust museum in DC. You know?”

“Yeah, I went once” said someone wearing a thick tungsten thumb ring.

“So I got this girl Ester, and that’s my name, and she’s the only one that survived in my entire class!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” said the Fibonacci spiral slowly.

The tungsten and Fibonacci spiral laughed together as cucumber hands hurried on.

“So when you go there they give everyone a little profile, like of someone who was actually in Auschwitz or wherever. And it tells you the name and age and about their life and stuff. Then at the end you find out if they survived the war. Well, I got a girl named Ester who was 13, and I was 13 then. So it was really weird that I got someone with my name and who was my age, right? Then we go through the whole museum and see all this crazy stuff. Just unbelievable, like horrible stuff. Everyone kept saying they wouldn’t eat lunch afterward, but I don’t think anyone actually didn’t. We went to some food court. So we get to the end of the tour and my Ester is the only person in my entire class, like thirty-something kids, who survives! Everyone else’s person died in the camps, but Ester lived! And she had my name and was my age! Isn’t that crazy?” Cucumber hands finished with a book lifted up in each hand, begging for response.

“Well, I guess. I mean, I’m sure they reuse those profiles like every day, and almost everyone who was in a camp died. But yeah, that must have been a pretty wild coincidence, huh?” the tungsten reasoned.

“It was!” Cucumber hands rested in the validation.

“I would love to go to Europe! I would want to visit one of those camps.” said Fibonacci spiral thoughtfully.

“I want to go to every single one of them! I want to go to Auschwitz and Darchow or whatever and all the rest. I don’t even want to do the tours they have. I just want to go in and be silent and just be there.” Cucumber hands’ hurried speech ended in a moment of silence.

“I went to Buchenwald, when I spent a semester in France. I went to Germany for a few days with choir friends and we did the tour there.” said the tungsten. “After the tour, we were walking up these stairs and this man and this woman were coming down toward us, and I kinda had to brush up against them. I looked at the guy and it was Josh Brolin.”

“Really?!” Cucumber hands savored and thoroughly enjoyed this twist.

“Yeah. We just kinda looked at each other for a second and I didn’t want to say like ‘Hey, you’re Josh Brolin!’ because we were in Buchenwald. But it was him. The only time I’ve ever run into someone famous, and it was halfway across the world in a concentration camp.” The tungsten had been holding on to a single title throughout the telling of this tale and, as if awoken from a daze, set back to sorting.

“Have you read this?” Fibonacci spiral held up a well-exercised paperback.

“1984? Yeah, of course! I liked it but I really love Fahrenheit!” the tungsten replied.

“Ugh, I did not like Fahrenheit 451! And you know what book I hated? Lord Of The Flies!” Cucumber hands moved hastily at their work just pondering the name.

“Whether you like it or not doesn’t matter with literature. It’s not about enjoying it, it’s about what it means.” responded the tungsten sagely.

“I thought you were going to say The Lord Of The Rings, and I was going to be like ‘we can’t be friends anymore!'” said Fibonacci spiral.

“I haven’t read that. The movies were pretty good. Way too long though and really drawn out. Anyway, I hated Lord Of The Flies because someone told me that they eat a kid in it before I read it. So then I read it, and they don’t, and I was so annoyed. I think maybe they eat someone in the movie version.” cucumber hands continued.

“No, they talk about eating someone but then a wild pig runs by and they finally catch that instead.” corrected the tungsten.

“Were they gonna eat that fat kid with the glasses? Piggy, right?” asked cucumber hands.

“Yeah, I think that’s probably right.” said the tungsten.

“So yeah, see? I kept on thinking they were gonna finally eat this kid, and they never do! Then he dies anyways, which pretty much had to happen either way. Any anyway, I definitely liked Jack better than that main kid, the one who is always trying to be nice to piggy even though he’s an idiot. Jack is a survivor, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes. That’s the point, I think. He would have killed to survive, and I respect that. Doing whatever it takes to survive. Survival is all that mattered.”

And with that thought, cucumber hands placed the last book on the last cart.