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Posts tagged ‘books’

The First 70: A Look Back

I usually conduct this little exercise after every 10 books, but I completely forgot after book 70. So I’m a little late this time around.

It’s been nearly 4 years, 70+ books, and 30,000 pages since I started this project. So let’s take a look back. Here are some of the best and the worst from the first 70 books I’ve read this time around. Read more

Tolkien’s Tips For Writing Complex Heroes

Who’s the “hero” of The Lord of the Rings?

Is it Frodo? Aragorn? Gandalf? Even Sam?

You could make an argument for each of those characters, I think. And they all have a lot of traits in common.

Last year, a blog called Writing is Hard Work broke down Tolkien’s 5 tips for writing complex heroes.

Here they are:  Read more

12 Signs You’re Addicted To Reading

Before I start today’s post, I’ve got to give credit to Thought Catalog—who inspired me with a post on this topic a couple of weeks ago.

So I’m totally stealing the idea, without stealing any of their specific points, and hopefully we can have fun with this.

The premise is simple: How do you know if you’re addicted to reading?

Here are the signs: Read more

Samwise’s Stirring Speech

This is one of my favorite scenes from the three Lord of the Rings movies. This one comes from The Two Towers, and I know it has a little Hollywood screenwriting trickery here.

Though a good portion of Sam’s speech does actually appear in the novel, this particular scene does not. In fact, Sam’s monologue about stories happens in Shelob’s cave–correct me if I’m wrong.

But, still, it’s such a great scene. And a lot of the dialogue is actually in the book.

Such a great, great film. Enjoy this classic scene from The Two Towers. Read more

A Comma Splice Walks Into A Bar…

If you get these jokes, you’re a true English major.

I think my personal favorite is #6: “The bar was walked into by the passive voice.”

Grammar jokes…they get me every time. If you haven’t seen Weird Al Yankovic’s amazing parody, “Word Crimes,” then take a few minute to watch that today too.  Read more

Here’s Minas Tirith, Made Out of Toothpicks

Again, another example of fandom at a whole new level. Lord of the Rings fans are incredible.

In the photo to the left, you see what Minas Tirith (the capital of Gondor) looked like in the Lord of the Rings films.

Impressive.

In the photo below you’ll see a replica of Minas Tirith, created entirely with toothpicks.

Toothpicks. Read more

The Tolkien-Lewis Friendship Hits The Big Screen

It’s a dream come true for a love of LOTR and Narnia fans—that is, if the movie turns out to be good.

That movie is an upcoming drama called Tolkien & Lewis. The film will cost around $18 million to make and will be a “drama fantasy set in war torn Britain in 1941 revealing the faith, friendship and rivalry between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.”

The film will be directed by Simon West, who also directed The Expendables 2 and Con Air. Um, what? How many explosions will be in this film? Let’s just hope he doesn’t cast Nicolas Cage. Read more

10 Amazing Lord of the Rings Tattoos

One thing is true about Lord of the Rings fans: They really, really love the Lord of the Rings.

So much so that they get tattoos, big tattoos, beautiful tattoos, tattoos even better than the Great Gatsby tattoo in this post.

Jason, one of the editors on my team (not Brandon, the editor who guest-posted yesterday), has dedicated his entire left arm to Lord of the Rings tattoos. It’s impressive.

This is what it looks like. Read more

A Game Of Thrones Can Suck It

Today’s post is a guest post from my friend and co-worker Brandon Brison. He’s a copyeditor on our content team, my local Lord of the Rings expert, and he studied medieval literature in a graduate degree program.

I’ve neither read A Game of Thrones nor watched the television show, but I’m interested in hearing what you guys think about Brandon’s take on the comparisons that are made between AGOT and LOTR.

If you’d like to read more from Brandon, you can’t—because he’s not on Facebook, Twitter, and doesn’t have a blog. But he is a real person, I promise.

***

A common criticism directed against Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings is that Tolkien didn’t (and/or couldn’t) write characters of any great complexity or depth.

Critics who focus solely on Aragorn’s apparent one-dimensionality or Frodo’s uninspired character arc are, in my opinion, missing the bigger picture. Those critics are applying modern tastes to something decidedly and purposefully un-modern.

The Lord of the Rings can properly be considered a mythopoeic, thoroughly medieval epic, in contrast to a modern novel with quasi-medieval elements like George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

The difference between a truly medieval story and a story with medieval elements is largely one of aesthetics. Modern novels, in a very broad sense, focus on character development and the relationships between characters.

But this concept would have been alien to the medieval reader. Back in ye olde day, people didn’t want to hear made-up stories about people you just invented—they wanted to hear about King Arthur and Sir Gawain and Beowulf.

The skill that was prized, and the skill Tolkien focused on in the book, was innovative and artistic manipulation of language, not character. How the story was told was far more important than how innovative the plot or characters were.

In fact, in his letters, Tolkien said The Lord of the Rings was “largely an essay in ‘linguistic aesthetic’” and his work, like Greek mythology, relies “far more on the marvelous aesthetic of its language [. . .] and less on its content than people realize.”

And just like the medieval bards and authors he spent his life studying, every word Tolkien used was metered and intentional. In a letter that Tolkien wrote to a reader who was critical of Tolkien’s archaic style in The Two Towers, he expands on a single phrase (“Thus shall I sleep better.”) and explains to the reader at length exactly why he chose to use those exact words and that exact syntax.

Ultimately, as he wrote, Tolkien spent far more time meditating on how to tell the story of Middle Earth beautifully than how to showcase Frodo’s character arc. For him, The Lord of the Rings was as much an exercise in the beauty of medieval storytelling as it was a fulfillment of his personal vision to create a national mythology for England.

However you choose to read The Lord of the Rings—as a distinguished scholar or merely a hobbit enthusiast—it’s helpful to understand that, aesthetically speaking, The Lord of the Rings has far more in common with Tristan and Isolde and Beowulf than it does with the A Song of Fire and Ice series.

And comparing the two (though it’s tempting because, like, they both have swords or whatever) is like comparing a beautifully polished apple with a spikey blood orange that kills off a main character every 15 pages—it’s just not accurate.

If you’re interested in reading what smarter people than I have to say about Tolkien’s work, check out books and lectures by Tom Shippey, Verlyn Fleiger and Jane Chance.

(Also, A Song of Fire and Ice is just okay. Also also, “random crap happening” is not the same as character development. Come at me, Martin-ettes.)

What say you, AGOT and LOTR fans? 

Weird Al Yankovic Has A Message For Grammar Snobs

And it’s that you’re awesome!

Grammar snobs everywhere should unite over Weird Al’s latest song, released yesterday.

It’s called “Word Crimes,” sung to the catchy tune of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and this might be the best four minutes you’ve spent on learning grammar in your entire life. I know it will at least be the best four minutes you spend today.

Take it away, Weird Al. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Read more

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