For those just joining us, most evenings (Australian time) I'm on Twitter sharing my continuing thoughts on my long-awaited Tolkien re-read, hashtagged with #JRRTandMe. I worked my way through The Hobbit in July/August, and then started on The Lord of the Rings just three weeks ago. So far I've only made it to Book II of Fellowship, but I'm loving it more than ever this time around--the years have given me some new insights, especially as an author.
I considered writing a whole post containing my fresh thoughts on The Hobbit, but I wasn't sure that it would merit a complete post. So I'll just mention a few highlights here. This time around I was deeply impressed by how closely The Hobbit focuses on the whole concept of making and art. Almost every time a new character or culture is introduced, there's a little aside on their attitude to art, beauty, and wealth--in fact, it's notable that in The Hobbit, the concept of wealth is closely linked to that of beauty. Things are precious because they're beautiful. Some characters have more of an eye to beauty than they do to wealth, and vice versa, but the two things are inextricably linked, which is actually a quite decent economic point--part of the reason why gold, silver and precious stones are precious, even today, is because of their beauty.
This then, of course, parlays into the theme of lust for gold, and maker's jealousy. Tolkien was keenly aware as a sub-creator of the temptation to make oneself the lord and god of one's own creation. And this is a theme that runs through The Lord of the Rings too--just remember the temptation the Ring represents, for example, to Sam. I didn't expect to identify with this theme so much, but it's actually a really powerful point. And it seems that Tolkien's solution is for makers/owners to be generous with their made possessions: it is Dain and Bard's generosity that breaks the dragon-curse on the gold.
As part of the research for Death Be Not Proud, I dipped into some opera, and got hooked. Turns out our library has a whole collection of opera DVDs, which I've been working through steadily. So far, my favourites have been Turandot, Tosca, and Carmen.
I can't imagine why it's taken me so long to look into opera. Years ago, I read Kobbe's Complete Opera Book cover to cover, and thereupon thought I knew opera. Of course, opera is a musical, dramatic medium, and you really have to watch it performed *shakes head*.
Opera is an odd genre; it requires a lot more suspension of disbelief than we're used to, since opera characters tend to be sylph-like eighteen-year-olds, while the people playing them tend to be well-fed forty-five-year-olds. It also requires a longer attention-span than does, say, the latest Marvel movie; and I don't pretend to be highbrow enough to take it as patiently as it deserves. What keeps me coming back for more is the uncanny level of dramatic power opera is capable of. No matter how silly the costumes or unconvincing the performers, there's something incredibly powerful about the alliance of drama with great music. It's a whole different form of storytelling to what I'm used to, and I've been loving it.
(Truth: I have not yet written a story in which people do not burst into song.)
I guess you all know I'm a psalm addict--I never tire of listening to and singing settings of the psalms, and I usually have some psalm album or another in whatever mix I'm currently listening to. Well, recently I discovered My Soul Among Lions, an American folk group with the ambition of recording all-new folk settings of all 150 Psalms. Their first album, containing Psalms 1-10, was released last year, and they're currently running a Kickstarter to fund the next album.
I've been thoroughly impressed by their catchy tunes, poetic paraphrasing, and production values. I could listen to these guys all day. Their second album is already funded, but will still be open for funding for the next few days--which gives you the opportunity to get digital recordings of both their first two albums for just $20.
It was the good folks at Reconstructionist Radio who put me onto the My Soul Among Lions project, and speaking of them, they also deserve a plug for their inspiring and encouraging podcast network. I particularly recommend this two-part interview with Stephen Perks, on building covenant community.
Since finishing the first draft of Outremer, I've been working on a few other projects.
I'd like to confirm that Never Send to Know has now been re-titled to Death Be Not Proud. I applied a few more tweaks to that story, and it's currently out for more beta-reading--pretty soon I imagine I'll be able to move into the publication process. Meanwhile I've been lazily brainstorming and researching the next novella I want to write.
What has me tied up at the moment, however, is actually something I can't tell you too much about :). Two somethings, in fact. I'm really looking forward to sharing with you when I can--but for now suffice it to say that there are some exciting projects on the horizon!
The Sophie Nugent-Siegel Poetry Prize
Before I sign off, here's something that may be of interest to young Australian writers (under 30). Sophie Nugent-Siegel was briefly a pen friend of mine, during her final illness. Now, Macquarie University is awarding a $5,000 poetry prize in Sophie's memory. You can read about Sophie here and learn about the prize here.