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August 14, 2009

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Shmikey

It has been years since I read the Silmarillion, but my favorite character is Tom Bombadill, and is a great reference for this odd character as he appears in the LOR

e.

"With Orthodoxy, in particular, I had read it cover to cover, thought it was a good book and that I got the gist of it pretty well, until I picked it up a couple of years later and new insights and connections seemed to leap off the page. It was much more profound than I had gathered from my first reading."

I believe this is true with almost any book; when reading something months or especially years later, the person you once were when you first read the book is an entirely different person years later when reading the very same book again.

All your thought processes and even your experiences months or even years later when you read it the other time will have nurtured an entirely fresh and even different perspective the next iteration around.

Tim J.

Good observation, e.. As the old Chinese proverb goes, "You can't step into the same river twice."... or something like that.

Shmikey, I don't have anything much to add to your comment, I just like to say "Shmikey". It's fun... reminds me of Mikey the kid from the Life cereal commercial, or Tommy Boy; "Holy Shmikeys!".

Will Duquette

Great post. I agree fully with your thoughts about Chesterton. The first time I read St. Thomas Aquinas, I was much taken with him (Thomas) and with his sanity (and this is, in fact one of the things that led me back to Rome a couple of years ago). But I retained almost nothing else. I was surprised when I read it again, how much there was that I'd forgotten.

Chesterton's rather like an intricate tapestry. At first glance, all you can really taken in are the broad outlines.

A quibble: from what C.S. Lewis wrote about allegory, the opening of the Silmarillion isn't one. To be an allegory, you have to be telling a story in entirely symbolic language: everything in the allegory represents something else that's very different, but also alike in some significant way. Tolkien's not doing this; he's simply re-telling the story of creation in his own terms. It's no more an allegory than if I told my kids the story of how I met their mother like this: "Once upon a time there was a boy in high school...."

As I say, a quibble; and I gather that Lewis was rather a purist on this topic.

Paul S.

A response to an artist who says he creates ex nihilo:

"Really? You snapped your fingers and made the canvas appear out of thin air? And your brushes and paints as well? Wow."

The way to the invisible is through the visible. If this is so, then the more submissive the artist is to the visible (which has in itself a kind of built-in "open-endedness" that awaits our formation) the more the artist's work will have in it that originality of the beginning of Iluvatar's music.

Time also figures into it. We come to eternity through time, and through no other way. The first act of creation has already been established, ex nihilo; therefore whatever art recognizes this and builds on it, the more real that art will be. The more the art attempts to recreate that first moment (by which I do not mean envisioning that moment, which could suitably be a good subject to paint) through the "purity" of abstraction (which at that point could no longer be said to be truly abstract, for what are you abstracting from?) the more false it will be; for one, out of sheer comparison with the actual first moment of creation ex nihilo; for two, it will be only that, a "re-creation", or a replication.

So, essentially the artist who wants to garner something of the convincing power of that first moment of creation, ex nihilo, must gather up and keep in tension all the variables of visible reality that have been part of his experience, and order them, re-see them, lie fallow with them, mythologize them, endure them, bind them and silence them in the face of some inspiration or something holy; all of the above and more, but *not* reject them, or put them aside.

And expressionism is just another feeble way out of this. If our personal emotions and experience our worthwhile subjects then they are subjects that have to be purified, *through* art.

I love the Silmarillion by the way. It simply blew me away. It tided me over. It renewed me. And yeah, there are parts that require some effort, like one chapter in which Tolkien writes of nothing much else but the layout of the land and the landscapes. I agree with what Will Duquette says above. Tolkien does not deny the actuality of where his story is coming from, but he does not allegorize it in the Lewisian sense. For all the wonderful depths and complexities, Tolkien's "approach" is surpisingly direct and down to earth.

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