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Tolkien is not exactly known for his brevity: The Lord of the Ring ranks with War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo and Gone With The Wind as the butt of jokes for its length; whilst Tolkien beats the Bard in terms of word-count. Without even including The History of Middle-earth or academic texts, the works of the Professor surpass over one million words. It may seem strange that I would wish for some more, but I do. (more…)

Every now and then I stumble across a Web discussion about some fictional world where someone, attempting to explain the inexplicable points of the fiction, sums up their argument with a variation of, “And as always, in a fictional world the author’s logic always works.”

That’s an important lesson for people who want to hold their fiction to a rigid scientificist realism: the author may not have the science down right, but (s)he sees the story unfolding and makes a best effort to write it all down before the facts slip away.  We the readers must accept and infer from the author’s efforts what seems like a reasonable supposition: in a fictional world, if the author says eggs bake themselves, then eggs bake themselves. (more…)

April 2015

April has been a rather busy month, and I have been away for much of the first couple of weeks of May, only getting down to work on these transactions on May 15th. All of this is intended to lead up to the point that, if I am to post this before the end of May (and get at least a couple of days of calm before getting started on the next issue), I have to list a lot of the links with little or, more often, no comment. Therefore you will find this issue somewhat shorter and having rather less commentary than usual. Given my normal grumpiness and difficult-to-satisfy standards, I suppose that this is all to the best … and in any case, I hope you’ll forgive me.

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This is the latest of several e-mails I’ve gotten from Symphony Silicon Valley:

After the breath-taking, sold-out presentation at Lincoln Center in New York City, Peter Jackson’s film trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkein’s epic of Middle Earth and one small hobbit’s quest to destroy the Ring of Power comes to San Jose, with Howard Shore’s immortal score performed live by over 250 all-local musicians. Never before has an American orchestra attempted this monumental feat, and the results are stunning. This is not an event to miss.

You know I’m a lifelong Tolkien fan. (I even know how to spell his name.)

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If you should ever wish to confuse and confound your friends (or enemies), challenge them to identify and explain the five main sub-plots in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”.  It’s a very complex movie that was widely criticized for being too simple.  Such is the way of fiction.

In order to be successful and popular every story, no matter how short, must include some complexity.  Complexity is a good word to describe what we cannot describe succinctly.  It is also a smokescreen word we use to hide our distaste for things.  A story is too complex if we don’t like it and it is not complex enough if we don’t like it. (more…)

This was the second year that the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference has had a track in Tolkien Studies, now an official study area of the Association under the chairship of Robin Reid of Texas A&M-Commerce. This year’s conference was held at the Marriott Hotel on the edge of the colorful French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Tolkien track – just one set of items in a huge four-day conference with hundreds of presentations on all manner of pop culture topics – ran all day on Friday, April 3, in one small meeting room with a usual audience of about 20. Here’s my impressions of attending much of it, taken from my personal blog:

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