The Third Annual 2019 Book Blogger Awards: Voting!

Hail and well met! The gracious ladies at Pages Unbound nominated me for Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Blog at Forever and Everly’s Third Annual Book Blogger Awards. They have always been supportive of me since the very early days of our blogs, and I do highly recommend them.

Please check out all the nominees and vote for the ones you like!

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Stop dismissing the Tolkien biopic

My review of the J.R.R. Tolkien biopic, Tolkien, is in progress. There has been a lot of great discussion about it across various forums, and I hope I won’t be too late to engage some of my readers in discussion about it here. However, I’ve noticed a trend of responses among some Tolkien fans that disturbs me: that of smug dismissal.

A Feanorian response if there ever was one; finding a perceived flaw in something, whether by experience or hearsay, real or imagined, and dismissing the entire thing out of hand without careful, gracious consideration. We must take pains to avoid this. And yet I see this happening with Tolkien fans in regards to the movie Tolkien. They see a review or hear a comment about it that says something they don’t like, and they decide they can safely dismiss or even condemn the movie without even seeing it themselves.

Please don’t do this. It is an intellectually dishonest attitude. It also does a tremendous disservice to a film that many people came together to make, out of a sincere love for J.R.R. Tolkien and a desire to convey to the world just what is beautiful and wise about his life story.

So don’t dismiss the movie, no matter what you have heard. Regardless of whether the movie is good or bad, it deserves not to be ignored. If you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, then it is absolutely worth your time to see the movie Tolkien and discuss it in some depth with others.

And I hope you will find my forthcoming review/discussion worthwhile! Meanwhile, you can find other excellent discussions of the Tolkien film in these places:
“My Defiant Appreciation of the Biopic Tolkien” by Brenton Dickieson (a longtime blogger who once participated in my Hobbit Read-Along)
Dr. Corey Olsen’s Movie Discussion: Tolkien
Movie Review: Tolkien (2019) by Pages Unbound
“Tolkien” Film: How Christian Reviewers are Getting it Wrong” by Father Andrew Stephen Damick

Baymoot Approaches

I too will be at Baymoot, which promises to be a great gathering of Tolkien and Lewis fans. Let me know if you are going! There’s still one week of registration left.

Luke Shelton

As many of you already know, I have been responsible for organizing Baymoot for Signum University this year.

The event takes place at Mills College in Oakland, California on Saturday, August 18, 2018. The theme is “breaking boundaries and crossing borders.” It is a one-day literature symposium. It is $40 to attend, and a light breakfast and lunch are provided.

I am very excited about the schedule we have been able to pull together, including our plenary speaker: Corey Olsen, a.k.a The Tolkien Professor!

The Baymoot organizational team has already been an invaluable help in making sure the event runs smoothly!

I just wanted to post here that there is only one week left to register for the event, where you can meet me and the other excellent speakers and share your ideas with other Tolkien and speculative fiction fans!

For more information about the event, and to register,

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“Men must endure their going hence”: The Idea of Death in C.S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet”: Guest Post by Levi Nunnink

“Men must endure their going hence”: The Idea of Death in C.S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet”: Guest Post by Levi Nunnink

“Men must endure their going hence”: The Idea of Death in C.S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet”: Guest Post by Levi Nunnink
— Read on apilgriminnarnia.com/2018/07/24/osp-levi/

This is a great discussion of CS Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet” by Levi Nunnink of the Culturezoo podcast. I should probably feature their podcast here, as I’ve been enjoying it for some time. But for now, I turn you to this guest post and encourage you to seek out Culturezoo for yourself!

Luke Shelton’s Tolkien Experience Project

Tolkien fans of all ages will want to participate!

A Pilgrim in Narnia

One of my fondest early memories of TheHobbit was when a storyteller came to my elementary school and recited the entire book (from memory) to my fourth grade class in installments. This was a marvelous feat. I must have read the book shortly before then, because I remember following along in my head to make sure that he remembered every single word!

I went on to read The Lord of the Rings a few years after this. I vividly remember sitting in my seventh-grade science lab with the tall, black tables that were always icy to the touch and pouring over the final chapters in Return of the King.  This would mean that I finished the trilogy about a year before the Peter Jackson adaptations came out. Mind you, I was a fairly unconnected kid, so I did not realize that the movies were upon me at the…

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Classic Remarks: Favorite Picture Book – Saint George and the Dragon

What is your favorite classic picture book? Or you can tell us about a picture book you think will or should become a classic.

I have written of this once before, but one of the most magical books from my childhood was Saint George and the Dragon, retold from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene by Margaret Hodges, and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.

Please permit me the indulgence of quoting from my old post on the subject (linked above), as that post was answering essentially the same question as this.


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This is the knightly quest told in its purest form…

…the true attraction is really the art by Trina Schart Hyman…The weather is present in her images, whether wind or blue sky, clouds or boiling dragon-smoke. Her Fair Folk are wispy, like they might blow away at any moment, her Red Cross Knight (George) exudes strength and pure-heartedness, and her Princess Una is a vision of loveliness, quiet strength, and deep feeling.

…The battle of the dragon and knight is exciting and well-paced. You really feel the energy that both of them exert, and when after the first day of fighting the Red Cross Knight falls exhausted and wounded to sleep by “an ancient spring of silvery water,” and Una comes up to cover him with a cloak, in the picture you can hear the brook bubbling and the crickets singing as cool nighttime descends.

…It’s a fairy tale given the breath of life.


C.S. Lewis on the Right Way to Read Classics

Love and Mercy

You probably know C.S. Lewis for his imaginative Narnia fiction or perhaps for his non-fiction works on Christianity, but many are unaware of the groundbreaking and brilliant work he did within his scholarly field. Lewis was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford and the premier professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge, so his knowledge of greater literature itself was deep and profound. His students and colleagues were frequently amazed by his astonishing recall of minute detail in obscure works. He would play a game with you when you came to his office where he would have you pull down any book off his shelf and read a random passage out of it. He would tell you the work, author, and quote the surrounding context. Suffice it to say, the man knew his stuff.

CS-Lewis-on-the-Reading-of-Old-BooksBeing that Lewis had his ears to the ground with his students…

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Classic Remarks: A Much-Read Childhood Classic

Which children’s classic couldn’t you read enough of when you were growing up?

Several books could probably be mentioned here, especially given a loose definition of “classic,” but the ones that stand out to me are the Picture Classics graphic novels Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, adaptations of Mark Twain’s famous novels.

As I flip through them now, I’m impressed by how detailed and faithful they are. Twain’s novels deserve to be read unabridged, but their size and age can sometimes be intimidating to younger readers. The Picture Classics adaptations zip from adventure to adventure and an avid young reader can easily finish both in a day—perhaps more than once each!

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Much of the flavor of Twain’s prose is also kept. Characters speak with Twain’s dialects, and the bits of narration in Tom Sawyer reflect Twain’s third-person prose, while Huck Finn preserves the boy’s distinct first-person narration.

In some graphic novels the art doesn’t always make clear what is going on, but in both of these the art is easily readable. It also complements the text well and does a good job of evoking stories’ settings.

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These adaptations were my first introductions to Mark Twain’s famous heroes, and I’m glad of that. While nothing quite compares to reading the full novels, Picture Classics did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the stories. Even though the focus is on action and adventure, Twain’s deeper commentaries still linger in every frame. Characters drive the action on every page, rather than merely reacting. These books thrilled me as a young boy, letting me imagine I was a fellow-adventurer with Tom, Huck, and Jim on deserted islands, creepy caves, cool woods, and the long, storied Mississippi River.

Classic Remarks: My Favorite Jane Austen Adaptation

Which Jane Austen adaptation is your favorite and why?

I am again at a disadvantage. My familiarity with Regency-era literature is so poor that my only Austen novel is Emma. I do have a general understanding of Pride and Prejudice, however, and it happens that the only Austen adaptation I have fully seen is one of that novel. And I must admit I like it a lot.

It’s a very…streamlined production. Lower-budget than most, and far from anything Hollywood would produce. Certainly it fails to capture the breadth and texture of Austen’s work. Nevertheless it wears a charming directness that manages to get to the heart of Pride and Prejudice. Using a clever modern-day framing device, it makes the tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy immediately relevant to young people of our day. With a nicely balanced mixture of gentle humor and disarming sincerity, it manages to entertain while still driving home the story’s moral. Additionally, its severely abridged nature and short length directs the interested viewer to the source book.

Which adaptation is this?

I speak, of course, of the Wishbone adaptation.

wishbone

This was one of the best children’s shows produced by PBS in the 1990s. In it Wishbone, an adventure-loving Jack Russell Terrier, accompanies his boy, Joe, through adventures in middle school and literature. Whenever Joe faces a particular situation in his life, Wishbone will find a similar situation in a work of classic literature and relate the story to the audience. The audience gets to see Wishbone’s own imagination of the classic story interspersed with Joe’s modern-day story playing out in parallel. The result was a children’s show that was highly literate, thoughtful, and empathetic to older kids, and just happened to star a cute and energetic dog.

Wishbone DarcyThe episode entitled “Furst Impressions” is no exception! It’s truly the only Austen adaptation I’ve seen all the way through, so I can’t argue that it’s among the best. But this isn’t completely a joke answer. While the half-hour show only has about fifteen minutes to spare for the Austen sections, it boils the Elizabeth-Darcy relationship down to its essentials, and then takes those essentials quite seriously. Despite the ever-present humor of seeing Mr. Darcy being played by a Jack Russell Terrier, Austen’s story itself is never made fun of nor spoofed.

wishbone-dog-ep-1-furst-impressions-youtube-2012-05-15-22-14-23We see Elizabeth and Darcy both make snap judgments about each other and allow themselves to believe false rumors. In time, through humility and honesty, they sort out their prejudices and discover their mutual love, and end up happy and healthy. Parallel to this we get a story of Joe and his friends, Samantha and David, who are agonizing over a school dance. False rumors set Sam and David against each other, and it looks like the chance of a fun, drama-free dance is gone. Feelings are hurt, tempers flare, and Joe finds his two best friends are unable to be near each other without shouting and accusing the other of lying. Finally, honesty and humility bring about forgiveness and understanding, and their friendships are restored. And just as in Austen’s book, the source of the rumors can be traced to an envious socialite who ends up lonely.

Far from the most nuanced or complete adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the Wishbone episode “Furst Impressions” nonetheless entertains with a direct, honest paraphrasing of the book’s most essential relationship. By showing Austen’s story side-by-side with a situation any modern kid can relate to (and adults too), it gives its audience a wise message of forgiveness and honesty, while quite possibly arousing interest in the source novel.

And it also stars a cute, energetic Jack Russell Terrier!

What’s your favorite Jane Austen adaptation? And did you ever watch Wishbone or read the Wishbone book series?

Next up on Classic Remarks: What children’s classic couldn’t you get enough of as a child?