Sunday Sum-Up: September 25, 2022

After one last summery blast (it reached 103°F on Tuesday), Fall weather has finally arrived! Wednesday morning brought a cold front, which gave us some lovely cool temperatures and much-needed rain. We had a couple of days of gloomy weather, which I loved. Cloudy days are some of my favorite days, especially when it involves a gentle rain. After a relentless summer, it’s been a relief to have this autumnal weather at last. It’s supposed to be sunny most of the rest of the week, but the heat is gone- hopefully for the rest of the year.

I have my pumpkin candle, soft yarn for new crochet projects, and my boots at the ready. I’m ready for Fall.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Mina seems to be choosing marginally softer things to rest on lately, though I’d prefer she didn’t sleep on my clothes. I suppose I can’t blame her, though. I did leave the jeans out rather than putting them away. I think one of my projects will have to be to make her a nice, big, fluffy bed to put on top of the drawers. She enjoys being up there, as it’s the highest point in the bedroom I let her get to. She doesn’t get to be on top of the bookcase. It’s quite tall, and I worry that she would hurt herself by jumping down from it.

I have some wool yarn I bought a couple of years ago for a project I never started, so I suppose another cat blanket is in the cards for me.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Tail of the Blue Bird was interesting. I know there are a lot of references and other things that I missed on account of my not being familiar with Ghanaian literature and culture. I followed the story and enjoyed Kayo’s perspective, but I feel like there was a lot of story I missed. That said, I’m glad I read it, as I’ve read very little African literature in general. I think one of my goals for next year will be to seek out more books by African authors.

The Black Prince of Florence is a biography of Alessandro de Medici, though much of the book deals with other members of the Medici family, such as Ippolito and Lorenzino, Alessandro’s cousins. I can understand why there was so much side information, as Alessandro was assassinated (by Lorenzino) at the age of 28. Still, I would have preferred the focus to be more on Alessandro. He had an incredible rise from relative obscurity from being a Medici born out of wedlock to being the first Duke of Florence. His nickname for centuries has been ‘Il Moro’ due to his dark complexion, and while many historians have brushed this off, Fletcher states that Alessandro was a mixed-race man whose mother, Simunetta, was a Black servant in the Medici household. This would make him the first Black ruler of a European state, though it’s hard to use contemporary sources, as they had a different understanding of race in the early modern era. I’d like to find out more about Alessandro, but I have a feeling that current biographies might be hard to come by.

What I’m Currently Reading:

My reading time has been a bit wonky this week thanks to distractions and errands. I also DNF’d a book I wasn’t really into, so I’m not very far into anything I’m reading. But so far, The Marriage Portrait is as beautifully written and compelling as I thought it would be. I’m looking forward to getting farther into it, and will definitely set aside some time to read today.

Dame Hilary Mantel died unexpectedly last week at the age of 70. I was rather devastated by this news, as she was (and is) one of my favorite authors. Her insights into history and people have made me look at history and the genre of historical fiction differently, and her brilliant prose always makes me want to work harder on my own writing. I’d been considering rereading at least Wolf Hall sometime soon, but with the news, I decided to just go ahead and get one of the audiobooks from the library. Bring up the Bodies was the only one available when I checked yesterday, so I got it and listened to it for a bit. I’m a whole 3% through, but it’s a favorite, so I will be continuing, and I will love it again, because it’s Hilary Mantel’s writing, and I have yet to find someone who outdoes her historical fiction.

I started my annual reread of The Lord of the Rings early this year, as one of my book groups is doing a project where we paired off and are annotating our favorites to trade with our reading partners. This means I’ll be going through the book quite slowly, as I’m pausing to make notations or look things up, but that’s okay. Anytime I’m reading The Lord of the Rings is a happy time, and looking up bits of trivia and whatnot often deepens my experience of what’s going on. The hobbits have just reached Crickhollow, and Frodo is anxious about telling the others that he has to leave the Shire because he doesn’t know they already know about the Ring. As I was writing this, I realized that I haven’t utilized my copy of Hammond and Scull’s reader’s guide, so I’ll pull that out and set to work again.

What I’ve Been Watching:

The Rings of Power
Amazon Prime

Showrunners: Patrick McKay and John D. Payne
Starring: Morfydd Clark, Nazanin Boniadi, Robert Aramayo, Benjamin Walker, Lenny Henry, Owain Arthur, Markella Kavanaugh, Sophia Nomvete, Maxim Baldry, Charlie Vicker, et. al.

(spoilers for Rings of Power, episode 5)

First off, I’m utterly in love with Poppy’s walking song, ‘This Wandering Day’ from the latest episode of The Rings of Power. It’s been in my head since I watched episode 5, ‘Partings’, on Thursday night:

Otherwise, I loved this episode. The visuals were phenomenal as usual, as was the music. The pace is picking up as the story builds to the clash of cultures that is coming next week. Pharazon revealed his political plans to Kemen, Isildur seems to be finding his purpose at last, and Miriel’s certainty has been shaken by her father, Tar-Palantir’s, plea for her to not go to Middle-earth.

There were bigger events, though:

Galadriel and Halbrand have stopped lying to themselves. Halbrand has accepted that he does care what happens to the people of the Southlands, and that running away won’t bring him peace. He has to go and confront his past before he can be at peace with himself. Galadriel, too, has realized that using people won’t help her find peace, either, and that her pride and drive to avenge her brother has brought her closer to the darkness than she has been willing to admit. This is a turning point for both characters, and I’m excited to see where their characters go from here, especially Galadriel. Her characterization has been controversial (though I think that if she’d been a man, people would have fewer problems with her relentless desire for vengeance), but we’re at the beginning of her character arc, not the end of it. There is a lot of history between now and the end of the Third Age. There are a lot of things that happen to Galadriel and the rest of Middle-earth between now and then.

Another controversial story decision is Gil-Galad’s characterization. So far, he has come off as a somewhat authoritarian king, who seems to hold the keys to Valinor (or he just owns all the boats) and has manipulated Elrond in order to get the information he needed about mithril. Many fans are upset about this, too, because we know Gil-Galad as this heroic figure who sacrificed himself on the slopes of Mt. Doom to help destroy Sauron during the Last Alliance. But again, we’re seeing him at the beginning of his character arc, rather than at the end of it. He has foresight and is acting the way he feels is necessary, given that he thinks that the death of the entire Elven race is at hand. I have a feeling that Sauron is already at work in Eregion, and has deceived both Gil-Galad and Celebrimbor to bring about their defeat.

Last week, Elrond swore an oath to Durin not to reveal what he knew about mithril. Oaths are a deadly serious matter in Middle-earth, and I was so nervous both when that happened and in this episode, when Gil-Galad was pressuring Elrond to break his oath and tell him everything. But Elrond held to his oath and refused to say anything– but then went to Durin and confessed that he’d been manipulated from the beginning. Durin’s response was fantastic. I was a little “hm” about this plotline at first, but now I’m just curious about what’s going to happen next. Are the Elves really in danger of dying out, or is this one of Sauron’s gambits? I can’t wait to find out.

And last but not least, the Harfoots are in the midst of their migration. The Stranger is picking up the language, thanks to Nori, and the Brandyfoots have been able to keep up with the others despite Largo’s injury. After Nori teaches the Stranger the meaning of ‘peril’, he’s afraid that he’s a danger to them because he accidentally killed the fireflies, but Nori insisted that he was still a good person– which he proved by saving Nori, Poppy, and Malva from the wolves. But later he accidentally hurt Nori (not badly) and frightened her badly enough that she ran away. So now I’m desperate to know what’s going to happen with them. I’m also curious to find out if Malva will change her tune regarding the Stranger, as she’s reminded me of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, except turned up to 11.

And lastly, in Ostirith, Bronwyn is despairing because half the people left to follow Waldreg as he goes to pledge himself to Sauron (their ancestors survived by serving Morgoth, he declared). Arondir tried to lift her spirits, but I’m not sure he managed it. They’re badly outnumbered and unprepared for what’s coming. I loved the interaction between Arondir and Theo, and I’m glad that Theo came to trust Arondir enough to reveal that he had that strange and frightening sword hilt. I don’t know what the hilt portends, but it can’t be anything good.

If you’re interested in a deep dive into the lore behind the episodes and where the storylines could be going, Tolkien scholar Dr. Corey Olsen created a YouTube channel, Rings and Realms, devoted to examining the episodes. He is extremely knowledgeable, and I’ve enjoyed his commentary so far. I can’t wait for the next episode, and I’m sad that there are only a few episodes left in the season.

11 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: September 25, 2022

  1. I hadn’t heard about Hilary Mantel, but I did recently pick up both Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. I remember reading such great things about them from you so I look forward to trying them. Your mention of your yearly reread of The Lord of the Rings reminds me I’d begun a reread using both the latest audiobook and a paper copy, but I’d put it aside after The Fellowship and need to start it back up again, hopefully before the year is out.

  2. I love when they do screenings with live music. I wish they’re do more of them. I know they’re popular because when Lincoln center did raiders last year, they sold out two nights rather quickly. I’d tell you to come see it, but the show is in February and no one should ever visit nyc in february

  3. I still can’t believe Mantel is gone. Her writing is miraculous. Wolf Hall and the others blow my mind every time I come back to them. I highly recommend the audiobooks, too.

    I’ve been listening to Serkis’ narration of The Lord of the Rings lately– just bits and chapters here and there. It’s so good.

  4. I actually thought of your blog when I heard the news about Hilary Mantel’s passing. I seem to associate her books with your blog. I was surprised at the news.

    I’ve been enjoying Rings of Power as well. A lot of Lotr fans seem not to like it, so I kept thinking maybe my enjoyment is due to being unfamiliar with the source material, esp since I’ve heard they’ve had to deviate from it a bit due to not having rights and all.

  5. You’re not the first person who thought of me when they heard the news about Hilary Mantel! I was so shocked to find out about her death. It seemed so out of the blue.

    I’m quite familiar with the source material, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. Thanks to Corey Olsen’s commentary for each episode on his Rings and Realms channel, I’m finding just how close to the actual source material the show is. It has less to do with hair length and color, and more to do with themes interlaced throughout the series. There’s so much foundational work that’s being done in this season, and I’m here for it. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, too!

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