Friday, September 9, 2016

Scattershot Updates

Let's have some updates!


Reading

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.


Watching

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.)


Listening

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.


Writing

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.

8 comments:

Joseph J said...

I love My Soul Among Lions! These guys are great! they write very catchy songs, and the lyrics are almost incongruously profound (those robust, manly psalms). It reminds me of the Christian roots of American folk. I'm always glad to hear truly enjoyable Christian music that can be sung by any music ministry.

They remind me of John Michael Talbot who I grew up listening to. He used to be a country folk-rock musician before he had a conversion, became a monk of sorts, and recorded 53 albums of hymns and Scripture set to music. He has been going strong since the seventies. Currently he looks like Gandalf without the hat, but he has the most soothing male singing voice you'll ever hear. The quality of his youtube videos are poor since he is from the ancient times of my parents generation, but here are a few you may like:

God Alone is enough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVdGEPA-Nxc

Holy is His Name:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TEL_7TS5FE&list=PLbArARBRiCo-N9d3xf9tzSJi4keVprmS8&index=4

I am the Vine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYKl1F4z0L8&index=17&list=PLbArARBRiCo9BT84G3wcn2vHkC7sRVCJS

Joseph J said...

Actually he is very different from MSAL, but my point is that they both sing Scripture and come from American folk roots...

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

We're all brimming over with secrets, aren't we?

I meant to mention this to you back when you were live-tweeting The Hobbit—I'll bet you would really enjoy Dorothy Sayers' The Mind of the Maker, which is basically all about making and art. Some of the Twitter observations you made reminded me very much of the ideas Sayers discusses in that.

Hayden said...

*runs to look up My Soul Among Lions*

Margaret said...

Crazy co-incidence, but I encountered My Soul Among Lions just a couple of weeks ago when they did the special music as guests at my church in Tennessee.

Suzannah said...

Joseph, the more I listen to recordings of the Psalms the less satisfied I am with about 90% of the songwriting out there--nothing is as profound or moving as Scripture, or does me more good to listen to. I don't usually get much chance with Youtube videos on account of our terrible internet, but thanks for the recommendation :).

Elisabeth, oh, I MUST read THE MIND OF THE MAKER sometime; it's been on my list for such a long time and so many of my friends love it. Now that I'm taking a hiatus off OUTREMER, I have more time for reading non-fiction than I did previously. So thanks for the reminder and I'll put it on my list!

Hayden, I hope you enjoy them :)

Margaret, did you? What fun! I'm a Tennesseean myself when I'm in the States :)

Margaret said...

I check in to your blog from time to time and have for several years and enjoy your insight and seeing what you're reading. I don't read all that much fiction since biographies and histories are more to my liking, but I recommend your blog to my fiction-loving friends.

I had never heard of My Soul Among Lions, but enjoyed them when I had the opportunity. Psalm singing has certainly caused strong opinion over the years in reformed circles and been the cause of many Presbyterian splits. I agree that Psalm singing is profoundly edifying. It seems especially so after hearing so much modern song-writing.

Glad you have Tennessee connections. It's a great state and my life-long home!

Suzannah said...

Well, I'm so glad you've enjoyed my blog; and thank you so much for recommending it to your friends :).

Ha, what won't the Presbyterians have a church split over? Lord love us. I'm not an exclusive psalmodist at all, but I like their way of doing it better than everyone else's way of not doing it at all.

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