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Angela Korra'ti

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread, Part 2

For those of you just joining in, I’m geeking out yet again about The Silmarillion. We’re reading it in the weekly book club I go to, and since I’ve already read it multiple times, the group agreed I’d read it in French while everybody else reads it in English.

But since I need to doublecheck the English while I’m reading the French, this is a bilingual reread! Here I’ll talk about the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta, as promised in my last post. Both of these strike me as good straightforward translations, as with the front matter of the book.

There aren’t any changes to the names of the Valar, or to the structure of the overall story of Arda’s creation. Nothing in these two sections stood out for me going through the French edition. I’ll have more linguistic comments to come for the Quenta Silmarillion, though!

Ainulindalë

As is the case every single time I read The Silmarillion, I’m amused about how much shit goes down in the world just because Melkor got initially pissy about not having a solo.

In our reading group, though, we got a bit more into Melkor’s characterization. Mind you, this whole story operates at such a big-picture level that none of the Valar really get much characterization. Just a lot of “this Vala really likes water” and “that Valië really likes trees”.

With Melkor, though, you glimpse a bit more than that. Particularly here:

Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: ‘Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.’

Then the Ainur were afraid, and they did not yet comprehend the words that were said to them; and Melkor was filled with shame, of which came secret anger.

There’s a heaping helping of “sit the fuck DOWN, son” from Ilúvatar here. And a re-interpretation of this story could easily work this smackdown into a more sympathetic portrayal of Melkor.

Valaquenta

We noted repetition between the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta, regarding identifying the Valar and their various domains. This, we felt, was certainly appropriate for the kind of Bible-like, mythic flavor Tolkien was going for. But on the other hand, as modern readers, the others found it repetitive to read. Stylistically appropriate, perhaps, but still repetitive.

This time through, I noticed how the Valar are very gender-essentialist. I proposed the amusing thought exercise of which ones would be good to gender-flip or make completely non-binary in a fan remix of this tale.

Opinions we discussed:

  • Definitely flip Melkor to female.
  • Do the Valar really need gender at all?
  • Non-binary Valar genders would be things like “my gender is I Really Like Water”.
  • Although Ulmo would be pretty nifty non-binary, it’d also be amusing to see Ulmo be female, with lithe mermen attendants.

I’d be tempted to gender-flip Manwë and Varda, while keeping them a couple. And since Tolkien’s legendarium involves so much depth of language detail, I imagine their names shifting too. Manwa and Vardë, maybe.

It’d also be interesting to gender-flip Yavanna, just because she is a traditionally feminine archetype. Dara brought up that Redlance in Elfquest is an example of a character you could get by such a gender-flip.

One more thing I can say: I’m torn about Nienna. I like that she gets to be solitary. Yet particularly in this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I cannot help but notice that she is essentially the goddess of emotional labor. To wit: feh.

On the other hand, I also like what this says about Gandalf–who did after all begin his existence as Olórin, a Maia of Nienna. It makes him a Maia of emotional labor, and that’s actually kind of in keeping with what we always see Gandalf doing in The Lord of the Rings! It even gets called out right in the Valaquenta:

But of Olórin that tale does not speak; for though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts. In later days he was the friend of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and took pity on their sorrows; and those who listened to him awoke from despair and put away the imaginations of darkness.

Both sections

Since I can’t read this book as a new reader, I asked for the group’s thoughts on whether these sections worked for them. This is because when I hear people talking about how hard a read The Silmarillion is, these are the bits they’re generally meaning.

The overall census was that the huge infodump of “here’s the creation of the world, and here’s all the Valar and what they do” is problematic. Plus, there’s a lot of tell vs. show: i.e., “Yavanna sure did like trees and animals, so she made those”, vs. actually showing Yavanna making those trees and animals.

Group member Alexis (hi Alexis!) noted that the infodump would have worked much better for her as an appendix to the main story. And that, if a story hooks her on characters and action, she’ll happily go read acres of infodump about them later. But not at the start of the story.

Next post: however many chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion will give me enough notes for a good post!

Books, Other People's Books

Opening 2019 book roundup, with bonus extra 2018

It will probably surprise none of you that I didn’t get too far into 2019 without getting more new books. 😀

Ebooks

This is technically a book I bought at Orycon, but I didn’t actually go download it off the publisher site until this month. So I’m counting this as a 2019 acquisition: Soul Born, by Kevin James Breaux. This is a fantasy novel put out by Azure Spider Publications, who had a table at Orycon right near the one I was sharing with fellow NIWA members Madison Keller and Jeffrey Cook. I liked the look of the cover, and had a pleasant chat with the lady at the table. So I bought a download code for the book!

A Princess in Theory

A Princess in Theory

Meanwhile, acquired from Kobo, because both of them were on sale for $1.99 at the time:

A Princess in Theory, by Alyssa Cole. I don’t normally buy contemporary romance. But Alyssa Cole has been on the Smart Bitches podcast a couple of times, and she’s delightful. Plus, a) I liked the previous thing of hers I read, An Extraordinary Union, and b) the cover on this title is beautiful. I really like how it’s dynamic and romantic without having to rely upon either person being scantily clad.

Plus, the color scheme stands out to my eye as well. Cole even talked about that on the podcast, and about how the heroine’s dress and the hero’s tie were both patterns she came up with herself, inspired by traditional African ones.

And since she’s an author of color I am happy to explore more of her work!

And #2: no lie, I will totally be reading this thing and mentally casting Chadwick Boseman as the hero. 😉

A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell. This one is SF, and came across my radar last year as a new Sherlock Holmes pastiche. The thing here is, the Sherlock and Watson analogues here are both black, queer women. Which strikes me as rather awesome. I’ll be intrigued to see how the author handles keeping core recognizable “Sherlock” and “Watson” characteristics while diverging so hugely from the original characters, as well as so blatantly different a setting. I.e., a futuristic SF dystopia.

Print Books

This actually was a book I acquired in 2018, but which I never mentioned: Cracking the Coding Interview. I ordered this from Amazon last month because I need it for job hunting purposes. And I’ve started slowly working my way through it. It came highly recommended to me by one of my former Big Fish teammates, and so far, a few exercises in, I’m already finding it valuable.

And, since my household always does a gift exchange when Paul returns from Virginia, this also counts as a 2018 acquisition: the hardback edition of The Fall of Gondolin! Which I’ve already read in ebook form, but which I also wanted in hardback.

This bumps my 2018 total up to 59. And so far for 2019, we’re at 3!

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread, Part 1

Back in the summer of 2017, just before I went to Quebec for Camp Violon Trad, I put up a couple of posts about rereading The Silmarillion: this initial post, and then this one.

Y’all may notice I never finished those posts. You may further notice that I’d said at the time that I wasn’t going to do a full series of reread posts about the book, but that I would reserve the right to change my mind.

That change of mind has now come! And it’s brought about by how the little book club Dara and I are in with a few friends of ours has decided to actually read The Silmarillion.

And, since I’m the only real Tolkien nerd in the group, and have of course read the thing multiple times already, we agreed I’d read it in French while everybody else read it in English.

So here’s an initial post about that. I’m not going to get into as much detail as I have on the posts I’ve done for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings*, but I will talk some about interesting quirks of the French edition as I find them. And I’ll talk about things I notice this time through in general, as well. But mostly I’ll be keeping it pretty high-level. Since I’m doing this for book club as opposed to just doing it on my own time, I need to move through this pretty quickly! But I’m taking notes as I go, and those notes will form the bones of the posts I’ll put here.

About my editions

Le Silmarillion, the Pocket edition published in 2002, is the French edition I’m using for this. And it is, in fact, a copy I bought on that 2017 trip to Quebec! Fun story about that: I bought it at an Archambault in downtown Montreal. Told the guy at the counter that I liked to practice my French, so I was working on rereading a lot of Tolkien. He gave the book a look and said, “That’s a hard book to practice on!” I told him I knew it was hard in English, never mind French.

For comparison, this is the ebook edition I have, and this edition is my original paperback copy. Which would have been the one I snarfed once I read through the Lord of the Rings, and then got all big-eyed and WAIT THERE’S MORE?

For purposes of this reread, though, I’ll be dealing with the ebook version in English. My paperback is one of the few I have that I have specific sentimental attachment to! So I don’t get it out often.

The front matter

A few other notes about the French edition, meanwhile. It’s notable to me that unlike my English copies, the French edition has only Christopher Tolkien’s original Foreword. It doesn’t have the Preface that appears in the English editions, or the full quote of the letter J.R.R. Tolkien sent to his publisher to describe his intentions for the work.

I’m a little sad that the French edition doesn’t have that letter, in no small part because it does have one of my favorite Tolkien quotes.

I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.

I swear, it’s like he was hoping for fanfic. 😉 (And at any rate, that quote right there is part of why I’m a lot more patient with Jackson’s Hobbit movies, as I’ve said before.)

Plus, it’s just nice to see Tolkien’s own thoughts included in the English edition. So, yeah, a bit sad those thoughts aren’t in the French. I must presume that the French translation was done off the first English edition and that they didn’t bother to swing back and translate the additional front matter, for whatever reason.

There’s not much more than that I can say about the front matter here. It’s maybe valuable to read through once for Christopher Tolkien’s commentary. But when I’m trying to work my way through the French, it’s less interesting.

So let’s proceed on into the Ainulindalë, shall we? I’ll talk about that and the Valaquenta in the next post.

—–
*And in case any of you are going, “hey Anna, what about your Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter rereads? We notice you haven’t finished those, either!”, stand by on that. I haven’t forgotten them. And one silver lining in the whole cloud of being between jobs is that at the moment, I’ve got more time to blog! I will be re-awakening those rereads, too.

Books, Other People's Books

End of year ebook roundup

I was going to post this sooner, but I got smacked upside the head by an end-of-year cold. So let’s open 2019 by talking about the last few ebooks I grabbed during 2018, shall we?

Acquired from Kobo:

Blood Orbit, by K.R. Richardson. K.R. Richardson is a.k.a. Kat Richardson, and as y’all know, I loves me some Greywalker books. So this, her first outing into SF, was something I’d had my eye on to get for a while. Finally picked it up during Orycon, when I chatted with Kat there.

Head On, by John Scalzi. This is book 2 of his series that began with Lock In, and which I quite enjoyed. Finally snagged this when it went briefly on sale in ebook form.

Solomon’s Seal, by Skyla Dawn Cameron. Saw this one talked up on the Smart Bitches site in a roundup of ebook sales. And it sounds like potential Big Silly Fun, for which I’m willing to plunk down 99 cents. The sample I read on Kobo’s site seemed promising, too!

That puts me at 57 for the year.

Site Updates

And this is me testing the WordPress block editor

I am pretty sure I’m not a fan of the block style editor that WordPress 5.0 has now by default. But I’ve also discovered that the WordPress team has released a “Classic Editor” plugin to bring back the previous UI if you need it for whatever reason. Or if you just like it better.

This plugin also includes the ability to switch back and forth between the editor styles. So right now I’ve got annathepiper.org set to dealing with the classic UI, because apparently the new one is cranky at the photo gallery plugin I’m using. But I’m playing now with using the block style editor on angelahighland.com, just to give it a fair shake and see if it shows its worth to me.

I will say that I like that this UI looks more like a word processor. But I don’t think I like the “block” concept much yet. It feels clunky to me and I’m not sure why yet. Perhaps specifically because it makes WordPress look more like a word processor–but no word processor I’ve ever used does this block-level formatting thing. I don’t like the formatting bar following me around from paragraph to paragraph.

But of course, yeah, this might also just me being older and set in my ways now, computing-wise. 😉 So yeah, I’ll play with this a bit more and see what I think.

About Me

The ongoing quest to get my avians aligned

It’s been a while again since I’ve posted on angelahighland.com. For those of you who haven’t seen my recent annathepiper.org posts (or my posts to social media), here’s a quick overview of what’s been going on in my life lately.

Day Job: I got laid off from the day job at the end of September. I’m still sad about that, as I really loved that job! Since then, I’ve been working on a short-term testing contract while I search for other full time employment leads. This contract job is still in downtown Seattle, but it’s a bit farther south in downtown than I’ve worked before.

It’s also meant that my hours have been somewhat wacky, and I’ve been pretty fried by the time I make it home in the evenings. So I’ve barely had any time to keep up with regular adulting-type things like paying bills. Never mind actually writing anything. That said…

Writing: I’m still working on the next print edition of Faerie Blood. This is something that HAS to happen, given that the espresso book machine I’d been previously using at Third Place to do my print editions is no longer available. Once the day job situation stabilizes, I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to resume work on this. Right now, working on an edit pass seems like it’s more without my power than writing anything new.

(I know I haven’t written anything new in a while, and that DOES stress me out, you guys. But I gotta get my writing mojo back with baby steps, apparently.)

General Site Housekeeping: I had previously tried to spin up sub-sites of my annathepiper.org network, a dev site and a photo site, only to discover that trying to maintain two many different WordPress sites is annoying. So the dev and photo functionality I wanted to do is getting rolled into the general annathepiper.org site.

Angelahighland.com will retain its focus on my books.

For the time being, the bulk of my blog writing will remain on angelahighland.com. Annathepiper.org will get posts specifically related to that site. (This is only relevant to y’all if you’re following my sites directly. If you’re following me on Dreamwidth, you’re going to get both sites’ posts regardless!)

Any questions? How are y’all anyway?

Books, Other People's Books

Another quick clearing of the inbox ebook roundup

There’s some new Julia Czerneda in my near future, but until THAT happens, behold! A few more books I’ve picked up lately, all from Kobo:

Within the Sanctuary of Wings, by Marie Brennan. The final book in the Lady Trent series, which I’ve finally been able to pick up as the price came down some more. VERY much looking forward to savoring this.

Chapel of Ease, by Alex Bledsoe. This is I believe the fourth book in his Tufa series, which started with the wonderful The Hum and the Shiver.

To Guard Against the Dark, by the aforementioned Julie E. Czerneda. This is the third book of her Reunification trilogy, and I’m looking forward to savoring this too!

The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin. The second and third books of her Broken Earth trilogy. VERY much enjoying this. Plowing through Book 2 right now and should be charging into Book 3 in the next week or so.

This brings me to 54 for the year.