Tolkien 101: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey

Tom Shippey believes J.R.R. Tolkien is the author of the century and does not care who knows it.  After laying out the case against—the opinions of literati and the intellectual elite, many of whom obviously never read Tolkien—Shippey moves on to the case for—facts regarding The Lord of the Rings sales figures and its dominance of pretty much any reader survey.

Written by one of Tolkien’s academic successors, Author of the Century is not a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Rather, it takes a critical look at each of his major works of fiction (with a particular emphasis on The Lord of the Rings), with more cursory looks at his minor works of fiction.  Shippey’s academic background allows him to do so in the context of Tolkien’s professional life, his academic work, and the Anglo-Saxon mythical tradition.

The Hobbit, each volume of the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion each get their own chapter, with more cursory looks at his minor works of fiction.  Shippey addresses substantive criticism of Tolkien as relevant along the way.

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Television: Ozark season 1

A little too hot for you outside? Netflix and Jason Bateman have some country noir television with Ozark that might be more your speed.

Hillbilly Highways

There isn’t a lot of country noir on TV.  Justified may not quite be country noir, but it is more than close enough for a show that good.  I haven’t seen it, but Hap & Leonard probably qualifies (the first book certainly does).  But Netflix has recently expanded our country noir options with its new show Ozark.

Ozark is a show about a money launderer who gets in way too deep, a show about trying to muscle into new territory, and, er, a show about family.  It is very dark, and very good.

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June 2018 Month-in-Review and Mid-Year-in-Review

June was another crazy month, even if I have no one but myself to blame.  no-angel continues to expand at a startling pace, we dragged a two-month-old halfway across the nation to visit family, I started back teaching, my wife went back to work, I continued my Tolkien 101 blog series, and I launched a new (intermittent) blog series, The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive.  Oh, and I launching an entirely separate blog, Hillbilly Highways (check out my announcement post here).

Between all of that I didn’t get a lot of actual, you know, reading done.  I only finished two book.  Against all evidence, I have better hopes for July (although putting away The History of the Hobbit will go a long way toward freeing up valuable reading time).  I also did suffered majorly from the Bloggers’ Lament—my TBR grew in the wrong direction.  I got several books at a conference for cheap or free.  I also brought two boxes full of books home from my mom’s house.  (Hey, I went through five boxes.  Only walking away with two was a win.)  I didn’t even bother to try to list those books, but I plan on doing a #bookhaul post in the nearish future.

If you aren’t following Hillbilly Highways, I encourage you to do so.  I have been reblogging my Hillbilly Highways posts here, but I will stop doing that this month.  (I will use these month-in-review posts to highlight the top posts at Hillbilly Highways as well.)

I only managed to post two non-Tolkien reviews.  But I had a good blog month nonetheless.  After a very slow first half of the month (people traveling after the school year ended?), things really picked up in the second half of the month and I wound up having my second best blog month ever, measuring by views.

The end of June also marks the mid-way point for the year.  I am on pace for roughly a 50% bump in blog viewership over last year.  This is my 72nd post in 2018, and I am on pace to publish more posts than any previous year.  But my words per post are down to just 532, off of my high of 798.5 in 2017 (reversing a trend of my posts getting longer).  I’ve read just 29 books read in 2018 so far, although 11,997 pages read isn’t quite as bad.  But, still, I am looking at my third-worst reading year in the last eight.  I blame no-angel.

no read only play

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Music Monday: Luckenbach, Texas by Waylon Jennings

Looking for something patriotic in anticipation of the Fourth? It doesn’t get more patriotic than a lawn mower parade on the Fourth of July.

Hillbilly Highways

After a couple heavy music posts, talking about my dad and my sister, let’s go with something a little lighter.  But not too light, because it is almost the Fourth of the July, and that means it is time to double the ‘Murica, fuck yea!

Thankfully, country music has never lacked for patriotic verve.  [/scribbles note to address a certain controversy around patriotism involving artists with the initials D.C. and T.K.]  So I have a lot of grist for my patriotic mill.  But, while it may not be overtly patriotic, there is only one country song intimately related to an annual tradition of lawn mower parade on the Fourth of July.

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The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive – J.R.R. Tolkien

I introduced this new, intermittent series here at Every Day Should Be Tuesday in this post and attempted to define both “pulp” and “superversive.”  In this post I will try to flesh out what I mean by those terms by applying them to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien.  My focus is on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s best known works by a wide margin.

In his own words, Tolkien explained that, in writing The Lord of the Rings, “[t]he prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.”  Thus he had both pulp and superversive aspirations.

In the end, Tolkien wrote stories that are extraordinarily good, extraordinarily superversive, and perhaps more pulp than you may suspect.  In any event, I think they are useful continuing to flesh out just what I mean by pulp.

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Country Noir: Savage Season by Joe Lansdale

Today’s post at Hillbilly Highways is on Joe Lansdale’s Savage Season. Lansdale has a long, storied career as a speculative fiction writer, but Savage Season (the first Hap & Leonard) is pure country noir.

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Take two crazy S.O.B.s, add one simple plan, and, well, things go about as well as expected from there.  Savage Season is Lansdale’s first novel featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.  He would go on to write nine more novels, three novellas,  and three short story collections and get his work adapted for TV as Hap and Leonard (recently cancelled after three seasons).

Hap is a white ex-hippie who did time for draft dodging.  Leonard is a black gay Vietnam vet.  (Savage Season was published in 1990.)  They share a job working as field hands, a love of martial arts, middle age, and one hell of a friendship.  Things go to shit when that ex walks back into Hap’s life and offers him a chance at easy money.

Lansdale might disagree,[1] but Savage Season features several quintessential country noir elements.  There is a strong sense of place, in this…

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The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive – Introduction

Today I introduce a new, intermittent series here at Every Day Should Be Tuesday: The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive.  With each post I will look at the work of a particular author or at a particular series and discuss how good it is, how pulp it is, and how superversive it is.

There is a basic human tendency, when you come across a label you find very useful, to start slapping it willy-nilly on everything you like.  The terms “pulp” and “superversive” get thrown around a lot by a lot of people who run in the same circles.  But, at the same time, they are distinct aspects of storytelling with a certain amount of tension between each other.  So I think it is useful to both attempt to define them and to attempt to distinguish between them.

A story can be good but be neither superversive nor pulp.  A story can be pulp but be neither superversive nor good.  A story can be superversive and good but not pulp.  A story can be all three (easier said than done).  A story can be none of the three (easy enough—the real trick is figuring out how to win awards for it).  And so on.  Think of it as a Venn diagram.

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