There is so much in this fantastic book that not only would never have occurred to me, but is completely outside of my ability to conclude for myself.There is so much in this fantastic book that not only would never have occurred to me, but is completely outside of my ability to conclude for myself. I have not read the vast majority of Austen's contemporaries and predecessors. I've read some Scott, some poetry, but mostly non-fiction. I've never looked at a conduct-book in my life. Mary Waldron, however, has done exactly that. And as a result she is able to place Austen and her fiction in relation to Austen's reading material in a way that opens up enormous avenues of interpretation that had never even crossed my mind. This is one of those Austen books that all lovers of her fiction should read....more
I would never have believed I could disagree so profoundly with Deirdre le Faye. There are numerous interpretations in this book that I disagree with.I would never have believed I could disagree so profoundly with Deirdre le Faye. There are numerous interpretations in this book that I disagree with. There isn't even any space for, 'that's not what I think, but it's possible', most of the time I think the authors are just wrong. Occasionally there is one where I think they're being insightful or suggesting something that I've never thought of. But most of the time, I disagree with their interpretations....more
This seems like a really interesting study. I want to read it. But I just can't bear the writing (nor all the references to Freud - I don't mind some,This seems like a really interesting study. I want to read it. But I just can't bear the writing (nor all the references to Freud - I don't mind some, but not every page or so). I don't generally have a problem with academic texts, so I have to assume that this one is either badly written, exceedingly dry, or ... something else....more
I cannot understand people who think that Jane Austen had no idea what she was doing. Her plotting is almost perfect and there is always something newI cannot understand people who think that Jane Austen had no idea what she was doing. Her plotting is almost perfect and there is always something new to notice, a new connection to be made, a new detail to appreciate. This book is full of them and is highly recommend to anyone who enjoys (re)reading Austen. I feel as if I want to read this alongside the novels, to get the greatest benefit from the insights offered....more
An excellent look at some of Jane Austen's genius. There are points I very definitely agree on (Mr Woodhouse is insidious and dangerous (for Emma, atAn excellent look at some of Jane Austen's genius. There are points I very definitely agree on (Mr Woodhouse is insidious and dangerous (for Emma, at least), rather than harmless), but others that I'm less inclined to agree with his opinion of (I think Sense and Sensibility is supposed to show that everyone unites most characteristics to some degree and thinking of people in black and white, rather than nuanced grey, is the problem that needs to be overcome). I adored the ways in which he contrasted and compared Emma and Mansfield Park - more similar than different, and in my opinion her two best works. Of course, I find Emma too painful to read and love Mansfield. His description of Sense and Sensibility's second chapter as one of the finest passages in all literature ever, is undeniably correct. I found his analysis of Pride and Prejudice interesting, and it actually revived my opinion of the book (which, to be frank, is my second least favourite). I wish he'd taken the time to deal with Persuasion (I have some ideas about the 'large, fat sighings' myself that are not quite in line with his, but it's hard to tell because he didn't really talk about this one). I didn't miss the neglect of Northanger Abbey, because I like it least of all. All in all, an excellent book....more
I really don't know what to say about this. The topics of the essays jumped about all over the place, making it a very interesting, but rather disjoinI really don't know what to say about this. The topics of the essays jumped about all over the place, making it a very interesting, but rather disjointed collection. I really enjoy Chesterton's writing (at least, I think I do, every now and then he says something that makes me rethink that assessment a little), but if you don't I wouldn't recommend this....more
This is a very interesting collection of essays. I don't know much about the literature of the Middle Ages and it was interesting to see how much of TThis is a very interesting collection of essays. I don't know much about the literature of the Middle Ages and it was interesting to see how much of Tolkien's work can be understood in that context. I enjoyed all the essays in the volume, though I could have done without Ted Nasmith on himself. I may be a little biased though, since I don't particularly like his paintings....more
This is not the worst biography of Tolkien I've ever read. It's not very good either. There were some interesting points (particularly the jealousy anThis is not the worst biography of Tolkien I've ever read. It's not very good either. There were some interesting points (particularly the jealousy and possessiveness displayed by Tolkien towards his friends and Lewis in particular), some jarring mistakes (Bilbo and Frodo are actually two completely different characters, in case you were wondering) and some rehashing of the same old themes that are covered in every biography (allegory! Catholicism! Edith = Luthien!). I'm not sorry I read it, but I would never recommend it....more
This is a fantastic book. I love Tolkien, particularly LotR, and everything I read just makes it clearer and clearer that a truly amazing piece of litThis is a fantastic book. I love Tolkien, particularly LotR, and everything I read just makes it clearer and clearer that a truly amazing piece of literature was created. I could go on about it, but I'm not going to. I enjoy books about his work, almost as much as I enjoy his actual work. I like it because it makes me think about the meanings and nuances that abound and causes me to read it more deeply every time that I do read it (and I read it a lot).
This particular book is about Gandalf's purpose in LotR, about Tolkien's Christianity and the effect that had on LotR (as well as his other writings) and about war. I've always found it interesting that Tolkien considered his work to be fundamentally Catholic. I knew it was Christian, for the simple reason that I know Tolkien was Catholic and I've read the Silmarillion. However, I've never found there to be much in the way of Christian imagery in LotR, despite all the talk about Christ-like figures and so on. This book, however, makes it much clearer to me. I can see why the book is not Christian, as well as what it is about it that made Tolkien consider it to be fundamentally Catholic. The idea that it's a Christian telling of a pre-Christian era is not new to me, but makes far more sense now that I've read this. The themes of salvation and hope that pervade the book are far clearer and far more meaningful now.
Gandalf, and the other maiar present (pretty much Saruman and Sauron, despite Radagast's brief appearance) have always interested me. Sauron was a servant of Morgoth's from quite early on. Saruman, however, fell from being an agent of the angelic Valar to a servant of Sauron's and hence Morgoth's (and hence evil). Gandalf, however, does not actively fight them. This is not to say that he's passive, Gandalf is extremely active. However, both he and Saruman have had their powers curtailed by the Valar when they were sent to Middle Earth to aid the Children of Iluvatar, which is why they do not appear to have as much power as Sauron. Perhaps together they could have vanquished him (especially if the other 3 istari had helped). But Gandalf would never have agreed to do that. Gandalf is not there to fight, he's there to help. He's not there to be a great general and lead the armies of the world, whatever Saruman may have decided to do. Gandalf is there to help the humans and elves to make the right choices - to fight the far more important moral battles. And he does it extremely well. I had never noticed that Gandalf does not appear to actually fight any of the military battles, though he's clearly capable of it and, as Dickerson points out, fights the spiritual battles made manifest in the forms of the balrog and the nazgul. I will never look at Gandalf quite the same way again.
The third theme of the book is the matter of war. Dickerson does not consider the book to be about the military battles, though they make up a large part of the narrative. There's been a lot of debate over whether or not Tolkien glorifies war and it's clear to me that he doesn't. How anyone could read the passage after Faramir and his rangers ambush the Easterlings, where the identity of the 'enemy' is concerned, and consider that Tolkien glorifies war is beyond me. How anyone can read Gandalf's reaction to Frodo calling Gollum 'just an enemy', and believe that Tolkien glorifies war is beyond me. And yet, Dickerson convincingly makes the case that this book is about war. Specifically it's about the war between good and evil, hope and despair, the Christian heaven and hell. Because consistently throughout the book it is the moral battles that are emphasised. It is the decision of characters to make the right choices, rather than the easy or obvious choices, that is the underlying framework of the book.
LotR's about objective morality in a way that I've never noticed before and I can't wait to read it again with this perspective....more