Blogging A to Z Day 23: Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892 and lived part of his childhood in India. He served as an infantry officer during World War I and went on to become one of the leading philologists of his time. He held professorships at Pembroke and Merton Colleges, Oxford. He died in 1973.tolkien2

Tolkien is far and away my favorite author, and I doubt I’ll ever let an April go by without writing at least one post about him. This year I did three – I also wrote about The Lord of the Rings for L and the One Ring for O. I read The Hobbit, LOTR, and The Silmarillion at least every three years. I blog about Tolkien’s work often at Part Time Monster, and my ongoing series for that blog is so long I have it collected on a page for easy reference.

If my mother hadn’t read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was a child, I might still have become a writer. But I doubt I would have developed a passion for fantasy fiction nor become a world-builder. I enjoy Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien almost as much as I enjoy the books themselves, and I’m glad the adaptations weren’t made until the special effects were good enough to make Middle Earth live and breathe.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of talking to a professor who actually met Tolkien on a trip to England. He said Tolkien had the manuscripts and notes for The Lord of the Rings in his office, and it was several six-foot-high stacks of paper. How cool would it be to have actually seen those manuscripts and talked to the man himself?

I recommend giving Tolkien a try if you’ve never read him. He’s equally good at humor and tradgedy.  He is Victorian and Modern at the same time, somehow. His descriptions and characterizations are excellent, and he has much to say about the nature of evil as well as the nature of good.

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can.

Blogging A to Z Day 9: The Hunger Games

I first read The Hunger Games just after they released the U.S. paperback editions. I had some time over the summer to do some light reading, and I’d been hearing so much about the series that I decided to buy the set. I read them in less than a week, and I probably would’ve read them all in one sitting if I could’ve–I’m a sucker for dystopias and for well-rendered, badass female characters.

I knew from the second page of the book that Katniss Everdeen was going to be One of Those. She’s is stalking around outside her district, trying to hunt food without being caught. She is followed by a mountain lion, and she thinks of this creature as a friend for a while. But then the creature starts making too much noise, and she kills it. This is on the second page of the book.

This is a girl that we do not often see the likes of in literature. She is flawed, but she is strong. She’s strong enough to be a little frightening, and we know this immediately.

And then there was the society itself. A post-apocalyptic world with a vaguely familiar geography an exaggerated class stratification, a place where children fought one another in a frightening arena. The class differences were so obvious when they were pitted against one another, when children who’d gone hungry all their lives and never held a weapon had to fight children who’d trained like Spartan warriors for the day they’d volunteer for the battle.

And then it was televised. The death of 23 children every year, forced to fight one another. And all this a reminder  Panem, we find out in Mockingjay, is derived from the Latin panem et circenses-literally bread and circuses, but figuratively the cultural exchanges that happen when elaborate entertainments are used to pacify and to distract citizens from major problems.

Katniss changes things, though. She doesn’t do what the ringleader demands of her, and the circus begins to fall apart. The beauty of The Hunger Games lies in being in the center of the ugliness without actually being there. You’re looking in from outside—and then you realize that you’re in the place of a Capitol citizen, watching (or reading) vicariously while the horrific action unfolds around you.

Advertisements for the films, especially for the two-part Mockingjay conclusion, are very conscious of this framing. Fashion ads for the districts were published in magazines as promos for the film. Trailers aired in first-person-shooter. The marketing reinforced the panoptic feel of the series, and with stunning effect.

Mockjay Part 2 is due out November 1, and since I missed seeing Part 1 in theaters because it came out during my exams, I’m making sure to see this one in theaters. (And I’ll probably read the books before then, too!)

This post is by @parttimemonster of Part Time Monster and Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Part Time Monster!

Blogging A to Z Day 2: Batman

Good day, everyone! It wasn’t easy coming up with something to say on this topic today, given how much I’ve already said about Batman over the past year or so. That said, I decided to go broad, give an overview of Batman’s appeal to me personally, discuss the Batman of my heart (as we’ve spoken of our personal versions of Batman before), and open up discussion. Let’s dive right in!BatmanKungFu

Since 1939, Batman has gone through dozens, if not hundreds, of creative interpretations under hoards of comic book creative teams and film producers. Extrapolating from that, there may be as many personal views of Batman himself as there are fans of the character. My own view of the character is manifold.

In his youth, he was as Frank Miller presented him in Year One, and as he grew older he became Denny O’Neil’s adventurer of the late 60s and early 70s. As he approached middle age, he became Grant Morrison’s version of the character, and that is roughly where he stands in my mind. I prefer to imagine Batman as gruff and angry, perhaps in his early to middle 40s, still possessing the strength of his youth but tempered by experience and the harsh education of his mythic role. His later years, to me, have always been a convoluted mixture of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Beyond. Oh, and through all of this he always speaks with Kevin Conroy’s voice.

While all of that is well and good, why do I attach myself to Batman with such fanboy enthusiasm? No, he does not have any superpowers. No, I cannot identify with his wealth or the depth of his early personal tragedies. So what is it?

I believe it is his fearlessness, his ability to direct his own fate. For someone of meager origins, those aspects of the character are enough, but everything else on top of that makes Batman effectively godlike. He is the example to strive toward, the dark and troubled soul with the means to do so actually fighting back against the night itself. How could that not stir that little bit of heroism that lives within all of us? It’s certainly worth thinking about.

***

Thank you for stopping by during your A to Z Challenge perusals. I am honored that you chose to read some of my work. Please come back later in the month to hear more from me on fear and fearlessness. Be sure to strike up a conversation in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

.ed — Read more Jeremy! 

Batman image by Chip Kidd, from Death by Design, via KungFuKriticism. Characters, their likenesses, and images thereof © DC Comics or original authors.