Issue 20

Reading in the modern age / Tolkien / Byeeeee!!


It's Issue #20, another "season" of this blog finished, I'm taking a long break from the strenous business of infrequently writing a short newsletter to friends and strangers (hi guys!!) on stuff I think about anyway. Time for a new hobby, current candidates are fishing, sitting silently on a milkcrate outside a fruit & veg market alongside a pair of elderly Greek men, and getting really good at Patience.

'patience' refers a family of solo card games, they are really popular in Russia. ideally a game is accompanied by sunflower seeds, salted fish, and crushing 1am loneliness in the kitchen. i think 'solitare' is one type of 'patience' game, but i'm not going to look it up because i don't care.
source: photo by Achim Raschka

Actually I have a hobby already, it's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I fucked up my knee doing it the other day, now I can't walk. Please picture me floating above my laptop like Baron Harkonnen. Last time I got a bad jiu-jitsu injury I was on a Thailand training trip, and I spent my bedridden time writing poems, and two of them became the first two poems I ever got published. Let's take my newly-useless knee as a sign of future literary success.


This one blog I read recently did a confusing post about "wet-bulb temperature", which is a complicated "function of heat and humidity" that it did a terrible job at explaining, the important bit is that if the "wet-bulb temperature" in the air is too high your body can't cool itself properly (no I don't really get it). And the blog then claimed that it's difficult to tell stories in 2022 because, if you can imagine a metaphorical "narrative" web-bulb temperature made of not heat/humidity but "weirdness in the air", then that is too high for our minds to process. There is so much strange stuff happening in society, the blog said, that people can't tell (or maybe receive?) stories properly (it actually used the words "psychophysically impossible", I'm sorry to inflict that phrase on you).

So I reckon it's 80% a pile of wank but 20% there's something there maybe. Because e.g. in recent months I've had an aversion to fiction that's too 'close to home' (and I'm listening almost exclusively to classical & techno, I suspect this is from the same malady). Like, I just happily devoured another Mishima novel set in pre-WWII Japan, & that Halie Selassie book I discussed last issue was tops, but if I see anything remotely contemporary, I hiss like a darkness-beast in sunlight. TS Eliot resonates but I give the bookshop's New Releases section the berth I'd give a radiation dump (I do read new books, I just don't talk about them on this internet book blog).

I don't need any books anyway. I'm having the greatest time reading this brick:

the metaphorical brick on the right, i mean. the real one on the left is for scale. source: me

It has a cool red string bookmark, and the font is wonderfully large for my mole-sighted self. It's nuts how pleasurable it is to read this book, and how unwieldy it is. I took it on a fifteen-minute cycling commute and I might as well have worn a concrete backpack. I wonder if, as the March of Progress continues, we'll finally grow tired of screens and value/fetishise such unwieldy objects. Books like this will be a sign of prestige! We'll either stick little levitation robots to them so they float behind us while we run errands, or we'll regress to the horse & cart and stick Dostoyevskies between our cabbages. I'm still unsure as to which is the better future.

Anyway, you don't need me to say this, Lord of the Rings is actually very good. In fact its so good there's nothing else like it, only pale imitations or successors that go their own way (and no-one seems to understand Tolkien's elves). The short answer to what the book's about is probably hope/sorrow, but its true power is in being a complete world in itself: such a living world that attempts to analyse it with modern fantasy terminology ("check out the 'world building'", "what is gandalf's 'magic system") feel like trying to describe A Midsummer Night's Dream with belches: not without creative merit, and playfully engaging for the belchers, but ultimately a bit disgusting.

drawn by Sergey Lukhimov, this art is from the soviet translations of the lotr books!

I once read this withering polemic review of the Jackson Lord of the Rings films (which I reckon are ace) claiming that they "sabotage all the most noble and unworldly elements of Tolkien's story"; Tolkien's world and ours, the review said, are "enemies" and "Jackson's sin is reconciling them". It's incorrect but there's insight, you utterly lose the soul in the film translation — you can't adapt a book like this as much as make an inferior thing inspired by it and with the same name. Lord of the Rings is sublime and elegiac and I've never seen anything get that mournful sublimity across.

i hope you, too, had this poster in your bedroom when u were 14. artist: Jimmy Cauty

Re-reading Lord of the Rings is reminding me how much I love it, but is also chasing away the shadows of the "cartooning hyperobject/cultural concept of Lord of the Rings" that crept into my head by osmosis. Because 1 month ago maybe if you caught me at the bar and whispered "Lord of the Rings" wetly into my ear, I'd have thought of a funny CGI-man going "my preciousss". Now I will (I hope) again think "O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!", and also of that song about the wind's tidings Aragorn and Legolas sing when Boromor dies and Gimli doesn't join in because it's no good to sing of the east wind. And that is loads better because it goes deeper into the soul and makes it think and move and wonder.

I hope you find some stuff that makes your heart/soul move in agreeable ways. For this year I wish you a rediscovery of stuff you love and you forgot you loved. Thanks for reading this blog!!


lockdown came and then it went.
wrote a blog. somewhat content
with the quality of it,
i'm retiring (for a bit).

early internet was cool,
fantasy is fetish fuel,
eating boreks to stay sane,
christmas went and then it came.

reading nietzche is a drag,
pc zone's a funny mag,
cs lewis's scared of tech,
oh god, what if he's correct.

read some books and had a laugh.
in our pockets, paperbacks.
in my mouth, some nicrotette.
is this season over yet?

It is. Bye!

Previous article: Issue 19

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