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Reviewer: Lyra Signed [Report This]
Date: November 24, 2017 - 06:15 am
Title: Drop Everything and Read, Part One.

Oh, so random: I'm so disappointed that Garth identifies the "hemlock" as Anthriscus sylvestris! I always thougt hemlock was a great choice for the Girdle of Melian (and might have actively contributed to its efficacy), since it's seriously poisonous, and if people err through that forest for days and get hungry, they might be tempted to eat it (it smells like mouse piss, but it looks a lot like wild carrots!). Oh well, maybe it was actual hemlock in Doriath and just cow parsley in RL. ^^

Concerning your question to Dawn below, according to the Carpenter biography Edith was in fact somewhat isolated during the Oxford years. IIRC, she felt out of place in the academic environment/ hadn't been brought up to move in that sphere and was too shy to make up for her lack of experience; at any rate, people knew that "Mrs Tolkien never calls back" and so they stopped initiating contact. There must have been acquaintances but by no means a circle of friends as tight-knit as the Inklings. Tolkien seems to have felt guilty about it, which is why after his retirement they moved to Bournemouth which he hated but where Edith felt happy and well-integrated. So he may have been aware of the problem enough to work it into B&L, too. A sense of isolation would be as good an explanation as any for why Lúthien would fall so deeply for some straggly human that crosses her path! And also why she'd tell her plans of trying to rescue Beren to Daeron of all people. On the other hand, she may also simply have been bored or frustrated, and perhaps she really was oblivious to Daeron's feelings. Not every detail in the story has to be autobiographic, I suppose!

I really appreciate your thoughts on the new B&L, btw! I have still not bought it and I'm feeling a bit guilty about it, but the way you describe it, I figure I genuinely don't need it.

Oh dear, this is more a ramble than a review! I apologise. It's cool to have the beginnings of your research here - both to guilt me into action myself (hopefully!) and to see what's going on before you get to the actual writing. Spying on your trade secrets! ;) Oh, and also to get me think some more about the unmentioned stuff in B&L, like Lúthien's social life. ^^

Author's Response:

I was feeling grumpy when I wrote that! I might have been a little hard on Tolkien. On the other hand, I myself have always considered that I needed friends who shared my intellectual interests and, coming of age into the period in which I did, I had no guilt about making my family adjust to that. Laura dad--we were married for over two decades--shared the same interests--intellectual and political. Which might have been why I never encountered anyone else I was willing to marry after he and I split up.

Tolkien seems to have felt guilty about it, which is why after his retirement they moved to Bournemouth which he hated but where Edith felt happy and well-integrated.

Yes. He did do that and she had earned it in my opinion!

Not every detail in the story has to be autobiographic, I suppose!

True, but I think the dancing and musicality in his description of Luthien reflect Edith; and she certainly was beautiful. I love that famous portrait of her as a young woman--striking eyebrows, dark hair, and truly lovely bone structure. And she was enough older than him at that age that she must have seemed a reach for him on many levels--so he fit the Beren role when they fell in love. I think he felt lucky in love.

I really appreciate your thoughts on the new B&L, btw! I have still not bought it and I'm feeling a bit guilty about it, but the way you describe it, I figure I genuinely don't need it.

I am happy to have what is collected into the book in one place, but I admit I have to admit there were some unfinished texts and more of sense of continuity (like Children of Hurin). I have other Kindle books with lousy reproductions of illustrations, but I was truly hoping they would surpass that very low standard for graphics in this one. For a Kindle Book it is not in the lower price range. I am happy to have it, just not thrilled.

Oh dear, this is more a ramble than a review!

The tenor of your remarks makes youe thought interesting and provocative to me. Make me think. I have a lot of contradictory feelings about their marriage. I would have been pulling my hair out at that distance from the city center without more companionship and home alone with kids while he was out forming such close bonds and getting constant intellectual stimulation and support at the Eagle and Child (!), while I did not even have a refrigerator! I got around that issue by bringing our collaborators into our home. There was no division of intellectual and personal life. (My kids love to talk about our constant "open house" and all of the intense discussions they listened to growing up. It was great for their vocabulary and their manners!)

In the biography, Carpenter notes that they did have joint friendships also, but gives an example of "Ronald discoursing on an English place-name apparently oblivious that the same visitor was simultaneously being addressed by Edith on the subject of a grandchild’s measles." I question that impression and, if it is true, how that dynamic might develop. I have some theories.


Reviewer: Dawn Felagund Signed [Report This]
Date: November 22, 2017 - 12:57 pm
Title: Drop Everything and Read, Part One.

Awww ... you're kind. I worry I am sometimes not supportive enough. I have missed too many stories over the years that you've written. I will catch up someday (and that constant assurance feels increasingly like an excuse as time goes by. Meh.) So anyway--not feeling like a failure = awesome! :D Thank you!

I am also supposed to be working on that paper. ;) I shared it with your Google account. I'm just pulling together stuff from the NYTC paper right now and angsting over the 7000-word limit. (JTR was like, "We're digital--fuck it! Make it as long as you want!" I loved that.)

But the reason I commented again ... I seem to recall (from Tolkien's letters? Cindy would know too because most of what I know about Edith I learned from her ...) that Edith felt unhappy at Oxford because she didn't fit in with the other wives? I don't think I'm wholly imagining this. But that strikes me as someone who ends up in a place where it is hard to make friends. Which I can appreciate because I've lived most of my life in a place where it was almost impossible for me to make close "IRL" friends (probably part of the reason this website exists LOL*cry*) because I felt like such a weirdo and people frankly weren't interested in what I wanted to do/talk about. The difference in moving to a place where there are other weirdos like me has been transformative--kind of the opposite of what I expect Edith experienced.

Of course, JRRT was in his element at this point, making friends left and right if the Inklings are any evidence. Which probably made it hard to relate (and probably all the more galling for her, stuck at home, friendless, while he cavorted about with his buddies).

It occurs to me that a fun little numerical/statistical/infographical investigation would be friendships in the Silm. Who has friends identified in the text and who doesn't? My hypothesis would be that the "elevated" characters--the Valar, Luthien--would have few attested friendships.

Author's Response:

I know from what I have read that she did not like the faculty wives' teas and also was physically isolated in the suburbs without a car. I would have probably felt estranged from those wives' gatherings myself at that time, although considerably more comfortable sitting around in pubs pontificating about my interests and avocations with the "boys." I had very few girl friends myself growing up--although I did have four sisters (so I did have intense connections with them, which continue). Most of my closest buddies in high school were nerdy intellectual boys (while my boyfriends were jocks). In college I had more women friends (the 1970s' women's movement changed that balance for me--women with similar stories!), but the balance still favored men, which continued throughout my life until I encountered fandom! That certainly tipped the scales overwhelmingly in the other direction.

I've read numerous tidbits by authors who visited Tolkien and they found Edith welcoming, a good conversationalist, and fairly outgoing. An introvert? who knows--those cough, cough can be quite talkative also. And she produced what Tolkien called fair copies of his early manuscripts until she started having kids. We've read a lot about Tolkien's famous bedtime stories, but I bet he did not change many diapers. Also, they were short on cash all the time, which means (I know because I grew up that way and am in a similar situation now) that the woman at home throws time into balancing the lack of money. Keeping a household running without a lot of money has always been more expensive in effort expended.

I've read too many Dorothy Sayers novels and too much Virginia Woolf not to have picked up upon the not-so-subtle looking down the nose on women as primary caregivers vs. women following academic pursuits. But my mother, even in those benighted days, was a good example of how one did not have to make an exclusive choice as a stay-at-home mom between intellectual discussion, literature, and politics, and keeping a house. But, unlike Tolkien, my dad carried out those pursuits not in a pub, but in our home. Which meant everyone profited from being exposed to those kinds of friends and also hearing polemics amongst my father and his frenemies! (He had a few of those--fur and feathers flew in some of those discussions and my mother always participated.)

Edith played piano well enough that she had been expected to pursue a career as a concert pianist. She did not grow up thinking, 'Oh, I wanna clean my house from my hubbie and chase babies! Yay!'

Research on attested canon friendships--I could crawl all over that idea! I think you are right about who had and did not have them. I think the one's among the Valar who did have attested friendship just happen to be the one's I like the most--Aulë, Oromë, and Ulmo and Ossë.

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