Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Mount TBR - On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos

Title:  On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis
Author: Louis Markos
Genre: Fiction
Publication Year: 2012

I thank Louis Markos for re-awakening my imagination with On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis. I've had this book in my library for 5 years now, but have never read it until now. I hate that I waited this long, but perhaps I needed to wait for such a time as this.

It's so easy to get bogged down in the cares of this world, of the corruption and evil we see around us every day. We live in a cruel and sinful world and it's a simple thing to be disheartened by it, but even though Louis Markos touches heavily on corruption and evil in his book, he doesn't stay there.

Instead, he draws the readers attention to Tolkien's masterful use of the classical virtues in The Lord of the Rings. To a lesser degree, he also chooses examples from C.S. Lewis' remarkable Chronicles of Narnia. He asks the question of why so much modern fiction is not fulfilling on an intimate level like it once was. The answer is simple; as a society, we no longer believe in "universal" virtues. Some of our knee-jerk reactions might be to deny this, but how can we? Everywhere we turn, people are encouraged to define their own truth, their own lifestyle, and their own virtues. Our world is chaos and there is no universal virtue to be found in chaos.

But that doesn't mean we're without hope.

In fact, Markos' rallying cry is that we return to literature that holds to the classical universal virtues because they are eternal, being: wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice.

This book was a return to my English literature classes for me. And, in many ways, a return to my Christian development classes, which were a requirement for my degree, and which ended up being some of my favorite courses during my college education.

I forgot how much I love literary analysis from a spiritual perspective. I actually miss that aspect of college. I was so steeped in literary analysis for so long that graduating from college and joining the workforce full time negatively affected me.

Somewhere in the last 5 years, I misplaced the ability to reason and discern from the literature I read. And that's where I have to praise Louis Markos for reinvigorating my interest in literary analysis from a Christian perspective. Because that's how I read, that's who I am, and that's how I need to approach life and the books that I read. There are reasons why some books powerfully impact us and others disgust us. What virtues are they holding to?

It's time to read On the Shoulders of Hobbits. It's time to demand something more profound from the stories we read. Stories can be fun and profound at the same time, without talking down to us or compromising the virtues we should hold dear.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Mount TBR - Henry Tilney's Diary by Amanda Grange

Mount TBR 2019
Title: Henry Tilney's Diary
Author: Amanda Grange
Genre: Fiction
Publication Year: 2011

If you read or watch Jane Austen, then you know Henry Tilney is the hero in Northanger Abbey. It's funny, but I was never really a fan of that story until I listened to THIS radio drama set from Audible. I absolutely adored their Henry Tilney, decided to re-read the book, and have been a fan of the story ever since.

Amanda Grange does a fair job of bringing the characters in the Tilney household further to light than Austen, simply because Jane focused on the heroine instead of the hero, per the usual with all of her works. I appreciated getting to know a young Henry and Eleanor Tilney before their mother died. Henry's inner dialogue is charming and quirky, just like him.

I don't always agree with Amanda Grange's interpretations of certain characters. I hate Captain Tilney, Henry's older brother, and always will. No, I don't think his heart had been destroyed by an early love that left him. I believe him to be utterly selfish, with no thought whatsoever given to proving to Catherine's older brother that he was in love with a fickle woman and would be better to find out now than later. Captain Tilney is a cad, there's no other description for the man.

I'm not sure how whimsical Eleanor would have been as a child, but anything is possible since her mother was still alive at that point. One thing I did love was getting to know Mr. Morris, the man who eventually was permitted to marry Eleanor. He's just this random name in Northanger Abbey but is given a character in Henry Tilney's Diary and I liked that a lot.

I've owned 5 or 6 of Amanda Grange's Austen retellings since May 2018 so I'm thrilled to finally buckle down and get at least one of them read. This book truly is charming, effortless escapism for the anglophile who craves Austen, but maybe from a slightly different perspective.