Recent Online Reading – Dec 2018

While we meander toward the end of the year, wrapping up projects and shopping for the holidays, here are some links that you might appreciate:

That’s it for today!


Review: In the Land of Giants

One recent evening when the commotion at home grew overwhelming, I escaped for an hour to the Medford Public Library. It’s a modest collection, but on a rainy weeknight the place was well populated — there was a t-shirt upcycling activity going on in the young adult section, and I had to hunt around to find an unoccupied table quiet enough to work at. I was ostensibly there to figure out what I was going to do with the fairy book revision, and I jotted down a few thoughts. I also wandered through the stacks, remembering other libraries I have known.

In my aimless travels through the British history shelves, I happened across Max Adams’ In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages. The subject dovetailed too neatly with the recent Arthurian research for me to overlook this bit of serendipity, and even though my “to read” pile is more fond aspiration than achievement these days, I optimistically checked it out.

I’m not done with yet, admitted, but I am greatly enjoying the read. It’s a quirky book, part history, mostly travelogue, and potentially very dangerous to the pocketbook, because if you don’t immediately want to book a plane and go hiking through the quiet back country of the islands, I consider your humanity suspect. Given that I am already prone to looking at hills and lakes and wondering what the people who lived here a thousand years ago thought about them, I am entranced by the prospect of having so many clear physical markers of ancient human presence dotting the landscape.

The only real negative is that my knowledge of early British history is spotty, and my grasp of the landscape on the kind of intimate scale showcased here is nonexistent; it’s easy to get a bit lost in the names. Expert readers will not suffer from that problem. Even then, however, there is an abundance of physical detail to immerse oneself in, to bring one’s mind to focus on the simple, immemorial experience of walking long distances. It can be difficult sometimes to connect with the minds of those who lived so long ago, but by literally putting himself in their footsteps, Adams gives our imaginations a map.


Recent Online Reading

Most of what I read in any given day is for my day job, but sometimes I come across things that might be interesting for a wider audience. So, on this chilly Friday, a selection of what I’ve been looking at lately:

Going to be a little bit of a strange week ahead chez Stevenson – spouse is away helping as support staff for Viable Paradise again, so I’ll be spending a lot more time at home than usual, putting kids on buses and trying to find ways to use all of the apples we picked last weekend!

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Maybe I’ll even get some writing done….



A Few Thoughts on Re-Reading “The Hobbit”

I can’t remember how long it’s been since I read The Hobbit — one of those books where I feel comfortable in my assumption that I remember everything about the story, and am wrong.

First of all, whenever I read Tolkien I am brought up short by the contrast between his work and countless imitators. How many people writing a genre story today would have the dragon killed by some random guy who isn’t even introduced until almost the end of the story? Bilbo is hired as a thief, and he’s braver than he thinks, and he gets a little more into that role with every adventure, right up to the Arkenstone, but there is never any glory to be had in it.

Second, there was that post that went around a while ago about someone reading the story aloud to their child who made Bilbo a female character. Well done with your life choices, whoever you were, because honestly my dude, the overwhelmingly monosexual landscape comes across as intensely weird. I can’t even imagine writing anything with this many characters in it and just… never even thinking about this, apparently.

Thirdly — this is such a modest story. I found out that I had forgotten so much of it — Bilbo taunting the spiders, most of the Beorn stuff, the Laketown shenanigans — but more than anything else the tone struck me as surprising. It’s just a fun little story, not Timeless Literature incubating. It doesn’t take itself particularly seriously. The narrator’s voice is one of your older relatives. It’s a story for which I have very warm feelings, partly because it doesn’t put on airs.

Now as autumn is finally here, I’ll be rereading The Lord of the Rings. This is something I do every few years, usually in the darker half of the year.