“For good times and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more. That’s what friends are for…” Don’t mind me singing Dionne Warwick over here.
It’s a lovely song for an even lovelier friendship, indeed. Legendary authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were two young professors that just so happened to cross paths in a faculty meeting at Oxford back in 1926. Common interests were discovered and soon those interests were brought into the world for readers of all ages. These two guys pretty much defied the odds.
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Now, we’ve recently discovered the most beautiful review an author could write. As a fan of The Lord of the Rings and someone who wrote a persuasive letter to their fourth grade teacher to let the class watch The Two Towers on the last day of school…I needed to share this.
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In a 1937 review of Tolkien’s The Hobbit in 1937 by C.S. Lewis, the author describes his comrade’s work with the utmost respect and admiration:
To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone. The author’s admirable illustrations and maps of Mirkwood and Goblingate and Esgaroth give one inkling–and so do the names of the dwarf and dragon that catch our eyes as we first ruffle the pages.
Lewis’ praise and support for the mystical novel is touching and quite powerful. He explains that Tolkien’s work “admits us to a world of its own–a world that seems to have been going on long before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable to him.” He goes on to describe the character maps, saga-like plots, and more vital bits in order to fully grasp the vast story and present it the way it deserves.
Their mutual respect, hard work, and passion are visible in Lewis’ words and it has me thinking of this friendship like the stuff of myths and stories. Check out the full review here to get the true sense of reverence. Lewis ends it with: “Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.” Spoken like a true friend.
Every Halloween inspires a new wave of sexed-up costumes, many of which are inspired by literary characters and to that we say: stop. Just stop. We’ve compiled a list of sexy Halloween costumes that we definitely did not want to see. Number 2 is hilariously horrific.
While we wait for the robots to take over most cumbersome tasks, a brave few still take it upon themselves to tackle books that defy easy absorption or explanation. These classic works of literature are no walk-in-the-park. You may even find your self questioning your sanity. But if you stick it out, you may just end up with a truly transformative experience. Might be best to put a ‘no entry’ side on the door, ’cause you’re gonna be out of commission for the next few days/weeks/months…
Joyce’s final novel, ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ is also the Irish modernist’s most complex work. The narrative tools Joyce had been finessing for years, from stream-of-consciousness to sudden changes in perspective, all culminate in a work so dense that there is still no absolute consensus on what the plot even is. Enter this mad house if you dare…
Back when Chaucer wrote ‘Tales’ way back in the 1390’s, Middle English was the common language of the English people. Things have changed a bit since then. Though modern readers attempting to absorb the text in it’s original vernacular must confront a bizarre sense of simultaneous recognition and alienation while parsing out expired words and spellings, modern English translations still present their own challenges when it comes to understanding syntax and the social mores of Chaucer’s day.
In 1972, Ishmael Reed cut mainstream American society–and its appropriation of black culture–down to size with this epic work about an “epidemic” of blackness called “Jes Grew” spreading into white America. Reed takes his world building to the extreme, incorporating a jam-packed cast of historical figures and nobody misfits, and entire sections that veer completely away from the main plot. It’s crazy, it’s frightening, it’s mesmerizing—just like America, it seems.
Woolf, one of the early twentieth century modernists who helped changed the way novels are written, aims to explore nothing less than the very nature of human consciousness in this expressionist take on the journey of one large English family over a tumultuous period of personal and political history. The lighthouse is the least of our worries…or is it?
Though praised for its frank exploration of homosexuality when such depictions were extremely hard to come by, this very autobiographical 1936 novel’s gothic prose style makes it yet another modernist masterpiece with capacity to slowly melt your brain.
And to think it all started with a madeleine cake! One taste of the dessert is all it takes for The Narrator (heavily based on Proust himself) to descend into a spiraling rabbit hole of emotions, regrets, and involuntary childhood memories of life in the prosperous but repressed wealthy French milieu. At 4,125 pages, this probably isn’t the kind of book you should tote to the beach.
For Tolkien-ites, ‘The Silmarillion’ is where it all begins: it is the story of how Middle-Earth itself came to be, and it was the first LOTR-related writing Tolkien—who started work on the project while recuperating from injuries sustained in WWI—ever did. Those who thought the LOTR trilogy and ‘The Hobbit’ contained more than enough background information and weird fantasy names would be best to avoid this book. If that isn’t you, happy reading!
In the tradition of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, Stein crafts a multi-generational epic about the fortunes and failures of two prominent American families. Though she doesn’t include maddeningly tedious-to-translate French like Tolstoy does, Stein does make a specific choice to repeat certain phrases over and over that makes it quite easy to totally lose your bearings in the already-dense universe of the Hersland and Dehning clans.
What to the nineteenth century South Pacific, 1970’s California, and the post-apocalyptic future have in common? You tell us! Mitchell’s foray into re-incarnation and the unchangeable components of human nature is at turns exhilarating and, well, exhausting. Take snack breaks.
Paul Atreides is your average 15-year old boy. He likes swords. He is the heir to a Dukedom. He lives in space—specifically, on a desolate desert planet where giant worms roam and the locals take drugs that turn their eyes blue. Oh, and he’s probably the intergalactic messiah. Sorry, did we say he was average? What we meant was “balls-to-the-wall insane and profoundly complicated.” Dune offers much to those who accept its challenges, but do not expect a story that one can just consume without quite a bit of digestion afterwards.
Whimsical magic and brutal historical realities make strange bedfellows in this look at one very messed up Colombian family’s experience of love, violence and colonialism in a small backwater town. If nothing else, Márquez makes abundantly clear that “the truth”—or the rationalizations and pat stories we convince ourselves are the truth—are not what he’s aiming for here. And we are (mostly) grateful for it.
“The Lord of the Rings” may be the most fully-fleshed out fantasy series of all time. J.R.R. Tolkien’s attention to detail is famed. He constructed usable languages and maps to make the world as immersive as possible for readers. Botanist Walter Judd and artist Graham Judd have taken that level of immersion a step further in the new book “Flora of Middle-Earth.”
Judd uses the real-life origins of Tolkien’s flora to examine how the plants fit into Middle-Earth. When the book examines coffee, for example, Judd writes:
[Tolkien] considered the presence of coffee in Middle-Earth as representing an independent, and earlier, introduction from the mountains of northeastern Africa — a plant brought into lands controlled by Gondor as a result of its trade with Haradwaith and Khand … Additionally, he may have thought that coffee (in contrast to the tomato) was more in keeping with the essentially English nature of the Shire.
So Tolkien considered the climate of each region he invented, what flora might grow there, and how that flora might be traded to different regions in Middle-Earth. These entries will be joined by Graham Judd’s drawings, which demonstrate the flora in the world. This book will break fun facts down, and will assuredly make your next read through of the series that much more gripping!
Halloween is a time for spooky monsters like the well-known Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Headless Horseman. It’s also a time for scary books. After all, every monster we just mentioned shares one thing in common: a literary heritage.
Books are full of creepy ghouls, ghosts, and monsters, so it’s no surprise that a lot of our Halloween horror inspiration comes from the scary stories on our bookshelves. But how well do you know the scariest monsters in all of literature?
Get into the spirit of Halloween with this awesome infographic from the folks at the UK’s Morph Costumes. All of the classic creeps are there, and they’re all helpfully labeled with a “Scream Score,” which is calculated by evaluating their creepy appearance, supernatural powers, and evil intent. Morph Costumes says that Pennywise, from Stephen King’sIt, is the creepiest one of all. Do you agree?