It’s the last Sunday Sum-Up of 2020. Here’s to hoping that 2021 is a better year than 2020 was.
I had a good Christmas, as far as Zoom Christmases go. We got online together around 9:30 on Christmas morning, and once my parents got their laptop oriented so that they weren’t silhouetted by the sun’s death rays beaming in through their front door, we started opening the gifts we had mailed each other. Fortunately, the Postal Service managed to get everything delivered in plenty of time, and the gift exchange went off without a hitch.
It was quite strange, though, and while I’m not a fan of the three hour drive through often dodgy weather to my parents’ house, I prefer it when we can all get together in person.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
This kid is pretty sure she had the best Christmas ever. She got fancy treats and boxes and best of all…
She got the pull-tab off the treat bag.
The treat bag is resealable, and to open it I had to pull the tab and the little liner off the seal. It’s a strip about five inches long, curls on one end, and is apparently better than any toy I’ve ever bought her. She spent about four hours playing with it on Christmas day, and just hearing her happily chasing it around the apartment made me smile. After a while, though, she wasn’t chasing it around anymore. I went to look for her and found her curled up and asleep on the bedroom chair. After all that playing, she had worn herself out.
That sounds like it’s par for the course on Christmas day.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Dogversations : Conversations with My Dogs by David Leswick
- Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Every time I read The Lord of the Rings, I’m struck by how quickly it goes by. It seems like I’ve no sooner read about Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli crossing into Rohan when Pippin and Gandalf are riding to Minas Tirith, and then suddenly Faramir comes striding out of the trees of Ithilien. For a volume that’s 350 pages long, it feels much shorter. But my favorite quote from the whole work is in The Two Towers: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” Tolkien hated war, but he acknowledged it was necessary to fight monstrous men like Hitler. But he wasn’t interested in a vainglorious sort of warrior culture. Weapons were necessary, sure, but what should be valued were the lives they defended. It’s the sort of perspective more people need to have.
I’ve been following David Leswick on Instagram for a few years, and I’ve always loved the beautiful and charming photographs of his dogs that he posts. The ‘dogversations’ he imagines the dogs engaging in are clever and hilarious, too. Each of the dogs– Eva, Bruno, and Agnes– have their own personalities and their own preferences of activities and treats. Dogversations is a collection of photos and conversations between the dogs and their people, starting when Eva was a puppy, through Bruno’s adoption, and going on through the time that Agnes joined the family. They’re hilarious, and the photographs are fantastic. I definitely recommend this book, and suggest that you check out Leswick’s Instagram, which you can find at instagram.com/thedogwearspantlers.
On Christmas Eve, I did my annual reread of Letters from Father Christmas, which is a collection of the letters and drawings that J.R.R. Tolkien gave to his children each year for nearly twenty years. The story of Father Christmas, North Polar Bear, Ilbereth, Paksu, and Valkotukka grows more elaborate over the years as Tolkien expanded on the world up at the North Pole. They also get funnier, showing Tolkien’s trademark humor and worldbuilding genius. If you’re a Tolkien fan, this collection is not to be missed.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price (400/624)
- The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (526/894)
- The Crystal Cave (The Merlin Trilogy #1) by Mary Stewart, audiobook narrated by Derek Perkins (39%)
I am loving Children of Ash and Elm so far. It provides an in-depth look at the Scandinavian cultures the Vikings came from and puts the comparatively small group of vikingrs within the context of the much larger culture they existed within. Price also discusses the horrifying (and disgusting) reality of the stereotypical Viking funeral (where the king and his wealth are sent out into the water via boat and burned) as documented by the Arabic writer, Ibn-Fadlan (who you might remember from the movie, The 13th Warrior), as well as describing the incredible importance and scale of the wool and fabric making industry that allowed Viking warships to leave their home harbors. Once Price discusses just how many sheep, people, and sheer time it took to make the millions of square feet of sailcloth the vikingrs used through the centuries, it makes you look at the Viking Age differently. I love it when a history book can open up new perspectives onto a time period you thought you knew so you look at it in an entirely new way.
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion continues to provide new insights into the text of The Lord of the Rings. Though it is a collection of notes and minutia about another book and not a text you just sit down and read like novel, I’ve found it to be so informative. I’m looking forward to seeing what Hammond and Scull have to say about the appendices, as they have more notes for them than they have for The Return of the King.
I’d been craving another reread of my favorite literary interpretation of Arthurian lore, so I checked out the audiobook of The Crystal Cave through my Libby app. Stewart’s writing is just lovely, and I think she really captures that imaginary age of Britain between the Roman occupation and the arrival of the Saxons. And I have to say that this mystical version of Merlin is my favorite version of him. I’m to the point where Merlin is about twelve and has learned a truth about his family. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
Part three of my favorite book of all time. It will probably be the book I finish out the year with. I can’t wait.
What I’ve Been Watching:
The Mandalorian (Season 2)
Created by John Favreau
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito
I finished up the latest season of The Mandalorian, and I loved it. From Din Djarin’s arrival on Tatooine in the first episode of the season to that last, desperate battle in the finale, I thought the whole team stepped it up a notch. And sure, maybe I have some sentimental reasons for thinking it’s better than the first season, seeing as how my friend is on the second and third season crew (half the reason I’ll be watching the Behind the Scenes show is to spot her at work), but I really do think that I will revisit season two far more often than season one. Regardless of the weird Uncanny Valley effects in the finale. It’s also making we want to go and read some Star Wars novels while we wait a year for the next Mandalorian story to premier.
About that Writing Thing:
Continued, steady progress on that front. I’m nearly to the end of part five, and I’m thinking I will need to revisit earlier parts of the story to incorporate new things I’ve learned about the Early Medieval cultures I’ve been writing about since I started this story back in September or so. While I wouldn’t need to add the little details I’ve picked up for the story to make sense, I think adding them will add a greater sense of depth and realism. And it will help flesh out the motives of the bad guys. Hooray for using the things you learn!