The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

Whisked away from his comfortable, uncomfortable life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon.  Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

By now, I am assuming that The Hobbit is well known to pretty much everyone, so I won’t go too in-depth into the book. After the terrible film adaptations, it was always going to be a bit of time before coming back to this story. Now, with the memory of the stretched-out trilogy dulled enough to appreciate the prose again, the road well-travelled, was once again traversed.

The tale is rich in detail and full of adventure. Middle Earth is full of song – interestingly most are Dwarfish – and feels ancient, it’s impressive for a world to be established so quickly in the reader’s mind.  As the journey continues on through the seasons, and months are counted off, it feels appreciatively real, and the characters’ weariness becomes a lot more believable.  For a short book, it really does a stand-up job of an exhausting, if pleasurable trek.

The best part for this reader were the tantalising hints at things happening in distant locations, those were stories I wanted to hear, as well.  The world felt vast and lived in, and this is enhanced with the addition of maps.   I’ve always hankered for those stories Tolkien never wrote about, the ones suggested by places mentioned on his maps.  This sense of mystery always keeps the world pleasingly incomplete and open to my imagination’s wondering. Continue reading “The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien”

Right Night Light

Recently I have been reacquainting myself with reading in low light. I spend an inordinate amount of time getting the illumination exactly right for my nightly reading forays. During my experiments, I have found that the best light is that which is almost too dark, but just bright enough to make out the words with a bit of concentration.

My reasoning is simple, to truly connect with the book, quite literally in hand, there needs to be complete immersion.  With less light, the world beyond the page in my peripheral vision becomes just a black abyss, and visual distractions are extinguished, except for what my imagination conjures in that murk. Add to this the near silence (Amelia permitting) and complete escapism is fully achieved.

I spent most of my 20’s engaged in doing this as I didn’t go out clubbing or whatever else was ‘hip’ back then. The plethora of books I first enjoyed in this way varied, and of the calibre which was thus: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, The Woman in Black, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous With Rama, Phaedo, The Wind in the Willows, The Stand, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Complete Hercule Poirot short stories, The Midwich Cuckoos, The castle of Crossed Destinies, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, The Island of the Day Before,  Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Peter Pan, and Endymion Spring.  Continue reading “Right Night Light”

Circus Bewitchery

It’s always enjoyable when, on occasion, reading a book can recall other books and times since past.  This afternoon I’ve been getting close to the finale of Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I stopped my race to the conclusion specially to write this.

The sun is shining here, and this together with the carnival setting, took me back to a time in 2016, when I spent some time, with Tom and fellow blogger Morgan, in which we wandered around Boston and stared at things.

This particular time we headed out to Salem by boat, appreciating the planes coming into land as they passed over, the island where Shutter Island was filmed, and then passed into the sometimes creepy, sometimes tacky Salem.

At one point, we three sat on the park for a bit of a rest.  The sun – coincidentally the same one as today –  was shining down on us, Tom had fallen asleep in the faintly sinister way that some people have of sleeping with their eyes partially open, and I was engaged in The Book of Speculation, picked up, speculatively enough from the Barnes & Noble near the hostel. Continue reading “Circus Bewitchery”

Treasure Hunting

Throughout the last week I’ve been on a quest following rabbit trails like an intrepid adventurer.  Trawling through sources, hunting for names and locations, it was an unexpectedly exhilarating romp through a wealth of riches.

Recently, I unearthed my much-prized DVD boxset of The Mysterious Cities of Gold (based on Scott O’Dell‘s novel, The King’s Fifth), which happens to be my favourite ever cartoon.  The blend of history, adventure, and an atmospheric soundtrack have stayed with me since first watching in the mid 80’s, as does the beautifully realised scenery which never fails to make me happy and in a creative mood.

Originally, the BBC cut out the mini documentaries at the end – presumably for the bits of mild nudity – which is a shame as we children watching could have been further inspired by the real history of the Conquistadors and the native peoples of South and Mesoamerica, their myths, beliefs, and culture.

Watching this again brought back many memories.  The first, the excitement of picking up the DVDs in my mid-to-late 20’s and wondering if it would be as I remembered (it was and so much more).  The surprise discovery and fascination of seeing those documentaries for the first time, which although looking very outdated, struck a chord and further encouraged me to fill out my knowledge of the subjects mentioned. Continue reading “Treasure Hunting”

In Which Gods, Hairy Feet, Mortality, The Art of Queueing, and Vampires Are Alluded

We love mountains and hiking in our house,   and in the days when we can’t do much more than potter around the local field, we miss those adventures the most. It was this yearning which drove us to discover new perspectives and stunning scenery via YouTube.

Whilst searching YT, I began reminiscing about the wonderful book, Mountains of the Mind, which dealt with so many facets of mountains from art, geology, and exploration. I also remembered the mountain scenes from books such as, The Hobbit, Dracula, and James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.

Somewhat disconcertingly Crissy was telling me how she would love to end her days on Everest, which given the queues for the top in recent years is a distinct possibility. Slightly more worryingly was her insistence that I join her in this endeavour of finality were her dream of going there ever to become a reality.

This short documentary that we found, shared below, is beautifully filmed, perfectly capturing the epic panoramas, whilst delving onto the lives of the Sherpas, porters, and their families, those so often forgotten but who are the real climbers, teachers and pack carriers.

The harshness of their way of life, and that of their families left at home makes for powerful viewing, the appalling risk of the work done through necessity –  and the whims of foreign climbers – as well as their need to survive and make a better life for their children, is extremely impactful.

The mountains of the Himalayas may overshadow its inhabitants, but it is important to be reminded how much is given by those whose relationship with the mountain is more akin to that of deity and worshipper, than the I’ll climb it ‘because its there’ attitude of so many abroad. This is well worth its fifteen minute runtime.

The Past, Present, & Future: A Book of Poetry – Cody McCullough

Cody McCullough’s debut collection of poetry, THE PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE, delves into the fleeting nature of life viewed through the prism of time. Separated into three main collections, the work touches on topics ranging from the essence of life, to family relationships, to the natural world. Featuring poems such as THE TALL FIRS ARE DANCING TODAY and THE COOL MORNING AIR, the entire collection includes a total of 73 poems written in free verse. Through his unique style, McCullough takes the reader on a journey from the beginning of existence, to the end of time, and everywhere in between.

It’s a great pleasure today to introduce, remind, or reacquaint, the reader with Cody McCullough’s blog, and new book of poetry.  I’ve been a fan of Cody’s writings for a while now, and always enjoy my visits over at his site.  This collection written in free verse is his usual intriguing work.

As with the title, it seems only fitting to break down each part in turn, beginning, adventurously, with the Past:

Here, we have a considered look at childhood memories, of a fleeting time which the author does well to encapsulate the feeling of time passing.  This section is an exploration of the learning experience of the formative years, and of the memories that we hold all our lives.  There is something melancholy and a feeling of the lost, or perhaps lostness.

These poems – as with the other two parts – are mixed with writings of history, of past generations and a thoughtful look at a perspective of a universal past as well as the personal. The passing of time into history, the temporary, and how that, as well as the personal, is recalled, and remembered differently. Continue reading “The Past, Present, & Future: A Book of Poetry – Cody McCullough”

Coal Black Mornings – Brett Anderson

Back in 1996 I fell in love with the pop rock album, Coming Up, by Suede, said music used to keep me company when working nights a few years ago (and also whilst writing this review).  Combining elements of bouncy pop, glam rock, and melancholy laden tracks, to give it a good balance, the album teeters between throwaway music and the poignant atmosphere of emptiness layered tunes.

Seeing this book in the shops, it was a matter of chance that I chose to idly browse through – as well as hum one of the tunes from yesteryear – whilst waiting for the missus to finish shopping for makeup. Owing to a lack of blurb, and viewing the usual positive quotes with suspicion, I was pleasantly surprised with the writing style and how Anderson conveyed his story.

Although Coal Black Mornings stops short of the those commercially popular times for the band, this is a still very much worth the read even for those who have never heard of the band.   Normally I wouldn’t pick up a book such as this but after having a brief peruse through, I was taken with the way Anderson expresses himself and his critical self-awareness.

The majority of the book is about the author’s early life which takes place in the poverty of a working-class English suburb.  The band only begins to form towards the end of the book so there is plenty of insight into Anderson’s childhood and the way his experiences would go on to inform his lyrics and musical style.

The way this is approached was very effective, with honesty, and a lack of manufactured drama that so many memoirs of this ilk provide.  I found it a compelling read due to its simplicity and erudite literary style.  Although it is fair to note that as this is a book written for his son to understand his father more, there is little reference to the more showbiz part of the story with all its assorted vices. Continue reading “Coal Black Mornings – Brett Anderson”