December 2012

Return to Middle Earth: The Hobbit


Detail from a painting by J.R.R. Tolkien

December 29, 2012, OTTAWA — Believe it or not, Peter Jackson's latest film is only indirectly responsible for my decision to re-read The Hobbit (again). The proximal cause was Tor.com's (no-doubt entirely commercial) decision to ask the redoubtable Kate Nepveu to lead a weekly, chapter-by-chapter "re-read" of the novel in conjunction with the release of the first (of three!) movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 300 page children's story.

My intention had been to follow along at Nepveu's chapter-a-week pace and, perhaps, to contribute to the ongoing conversation she was (and is!) sure to inspire, but Tolkien's deceptively simple prose and thematically complex fairy story swept me away (as it has a number of times before). I finished the book in a couple of days.

The short version is that The Hobbit remains a delightful adventure story and fairy tale, even if it is the work of a writer who has yet to reach the full extent of his creative powers.

That said, it also a very strange book, that strays very far indeed from a typical heroic path in favour of wandering the fields of moral complexity and (relatively) complex characterizations. The protagonists are far from perfect and even the villains show surprising signs of humanity.

A lovely book to read aloud to a child, there is every chance that you will have to read it twice, since you'll likely treat yourself to the whole thing before you sit down for Chapter Two with said youngster.

The long version lives inside. (As usual, there are spoilers.)

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How to defeat piracy and keep your readers happy

December 14, 2012, OTTAWA — I'm more than halfway through the new novel by the excellent story-teller Kristine Kathryn Rusch. As I fully-expected, Blowback is proving to be a hell of a page-turner — or rather, a hell of a screen-changer.

"Screen-changer"? Okay, I'm sure there's a better term out there. What I mean is, I bought Blowback as an electronic book, not paper book.

I pretty much fell in love with e-books from the moment I bought an reader just over a year ago, but it's been a problem getting books for it. Too often, new books are either not available in electronic versions in Canada or else they are available but encumbered by Digital Rights Management systems that don't play nice with my Linux-based operating system.

So it felt almost revolutionary to be able to simply buy, and then read Rusch's new novel without either stealing it or jumping through a myriad of electronic hoops in order to do so.

Defeating Piracy: Kristyne Kathryn Rusch is doing it right.

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Neil Young, Crazy Horse and Me (then, and now)


Neil Young and Crazy Horse in Ottawa, November 24, 2012. Screen-shot lifted from a video posted to YouTube by Tom Kelly.

December 10, 2012, OTTAWA — I did something I swore I'd never do again a couple of decades ago: saw a concert at a big venue.

The band was Neil Young and Crazy Horse, on whose film, Rust Never Sleeps, I walked out in outrage when I was a kid.

I've written about that memory here.

As for the concert (and what a concert!) itself, my review lives at Young and Crazy: The alchemy of defiance.

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