The Fall of Arthur

THE FALL OF ARTHURfallarth
J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien
HarperCollins, May 2013

Guinevere will always remain the Yoko Ono of Arthurian romance. For men of a certain bent, she summons to mind the new wife or girlfriend of their old friend, who now threatens to intrude upon the Round Table of their male camaraderie. What if she doesn’t just stay at home and darn his socks? What if she wants us to see her as a person, not just our friend’s possession? Already, she’s changed him. Remember the good old days when he slapped you on the back and denounced all women as whores?

Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur continues the ungenerous tradition of presenting Guinevere as a figure of treacherousness, not just discord. On those occasions where she rises from the role of disputed possession, she becomes a manipulative temptress towing men to their deaths. From her first entrance, we hear of her remorselessness, Continue reading

Grendel’s Mum

BEOWULFbeo

J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien

Mariner Books, August 2015

 

A thousand years on, the sharpness of Beowulf‘s images still strikes us. Longships cruise amid icy spray. A king stares with fear amid the riches of his hall. Then comes the fiend Grendel stalking across the moors. Tolkien’s translation weds to these visions the rhythm and grandeur of language that rumbles even as it exults, which rolls like the swells of the sea. Continue reading

Alternative history: Prophet, 999

PROPHET, 999mrblo

Current Affairs: With Pope Gregory V dying, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III seals the Sacred Palace. As Christendom awaits the end of the world, rival Cardinals plot their ascendency to the papacy.

Divergence Point: 974 A.D.: A Christian prophet in Rome introduces toothbrushes, proper sanitation and a form of the underarm deodorant. Continue reading

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      THE QUIET AMERICAN Graham Greene (William Heinemann, 1955; Vintage, 2004) ISBN: 9780099478393 So, ah, have you ever started reading a book you thought was about something completely different than it turned out to be?  Because I was under some kind of misapprehension about The Quiet American before I started it.  All … Continue reading