Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Ring Goes Ever On: Proceedings of the Tolkien 2005 Conference, edited by Sarah Wells

This book doesn't count as one I've read. I don't own it. I've never held a copy of it. Hell, I've never seen a copy of it.

But I have read part of it, because I wrote part of it. And I'm putting it on this blog, because I think that's pretty darn cool.

These proceedings were a long time coming. The conference was in August 2005, and the proceedings weren't published until September 2008... although I didn't learn of it until recently.

I expect no one -- not even you diehard Tolkienists -- to buy this book, because frankly, it's expensive, even for a nerd. But feel free to go admire my name (not this name -- let's call it my "nom de milieu universitaire") on the author list or the contents page. (I wrote and presented the paper "Satan and The Silmarillion: John Milton's Angelic Decline in J.R.R. Tolkien's Melkor," so you can find it.)

It's definitely a special privilege to be listed with some of the Tolkien scholars on this list. So if anyone from the Tolkien Society or the Mythopoeic Society should read this, thank you once again for putting on such a great conference. And thank you for including me in the proceedings -- it's an honor I'm not likely to forget.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Bro Code, by Barney Stinson

Dude. This book is not only essential, it is legen...

... wait for it...

... wait for it...

... dary.

That is all.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

Yes, I finally read Cormac McCarthy. I don't know what took me so long.
What makes us human?

There's a million answers. And almost none of them satisfactory, definitely none of them comprehensive.

The better question might be, what makes you, as an individual, human? When you strip away all these things surrounding you, and not just the pesky things like cars and Nintendo and ethnic cuisine, but the big things like society and higher purpose, when those are eaten away like the grime on an old penny, what is left? What is there that makes us human when most of the things we use to define our humanity are no more?

Like a penny, are we completely pointless without civilization?

I don't know as The Road settles what we are when we have almost nothing left. But despite being absolutely post-apocalyptic in almost the scariest of ways, it gave me hope that there is something more to us than our strength in numbers. Hope that humanity is something intrinsic, something that still exists even when we no longer remember or care about our names, as long as we are willing to hold onto it.

Humanity will exist as long as there is an individual who refuses to let it go.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Other Hand, by Chris Cleave

This book was very well-written -- so well-written, in fact, that the ending could not match the buildup of the characters. I was disappointed with it; but, to be fair, I knew that there was probably no way the ending could satisfy me. Unless it involved some glorious act by Batman. (Seriously. He's in the book.)

But here's what I'm wondering (and this isn't a rhetorical question, a springboard off which I plan to jump into some diatribe or some cultural, philosophical musing; I really want to know what you think): Why must so many of our books, especially those considered "literary" or "good" books, deal with foreign cultures so extensively? Is there some reason that staying domestic (from an American perspective) isn't considered good enough?

Before I get jumped on, let me clarify: I don't think this is, in itself, a bad thing. I don't think that western, natively English-speaking cultures are in any way better, superior to, or richer sources for literature than other places, peoples, and cultures. But nor do I think that they are in any way worse, inferior to, or poorer sources for the same types of literature.

Maybe it's just what I've been reading lately. Look down the blog -- so many of the books involve German, Middle Eastern, Ukrainian settings and characters and themes. Obviously the books are in English (either originally or translated), and many of them involve the collision or blending or some other form of meeting between these cultures and American or English ones. But I feel like this isn't just a falsely perceived trend, nor do I think my observation is a result of my spending a year in Europe.

(And although this article isn't about what authors include in their works, but rather where they come from, I think it's relevant. If Americans aren't good enough for the Nobel Prize, maybe they aren't good enough to be written about, either.)

I said this wasn't my chance to jump into speculations, so I'll leave it to you all -- and I will continue the conversations in the comments section.
UPDATE: I just discovered that this book was released in the United States as Little Bee. Apparently I bought the British release in Germany. Go figure.