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As I said in my 52 authors post on Tolkien, I, like Mac, don't much care for most of the backstory books. There are a few exceptions. This is what I said in 52 authors:

Much of Tolkien’s vision is dark—as dark as any modern novel, but never without some hint of far-off possibility of redemption. One of his darkest works is The Children of Hurin in which the self-will of a gifted man with a sense of high purpose and destiny leads to greater and greater tragedy that brings woe to everyone he encounters. There’s not much light in this one. The need for human redemption is written very large in much of Tolkien’s work.
I would recommend this book highly, unless you are struggling to get out of a deep depression.

I just got a little more interested in the backstory stuff, but I don't know how far it will go.

Here is Robert's excellent 52 Authors piece:


I've never read Tolkien, simply because I don't "get" elves and suchlike -- never have, not even as a kid; obviously something defective in me :). But I was just reading about the romance of Tolkien and his wife Edith and that captivates me. They were both orphans and lodgers in the same boarding house, where he fell with love with her when he was 16 and she was 19; they married eight years later. The characters of Beren and Lúthien are based on them, and those names are inscribed under their own on their shared gravestone. All simply lovely.

Yes, he was inspired by watching her dance in a woodland glade. Better than fiction.

I thought I might be able to get B&L from Audible, but no. Then I thought I could get it from the library, so I was in the process of saving it when I realized I have got so many things I have to read that I can't begin to start reading anything else. And then I remembered that I have an overdue book, so I can't reserve anything anyway.

I thought this was a good piece until you accused me of having a mysterious and odd gap in taste.


Now, I went out of my way to try to be non-judgmental about that. I mean, what would you think about someone who didn't like coffee?

Yes, the Tolkiens love story is very sweet. He says a little about it in his letters. I seem to remember something about how their early struggles had really bonded them.

B&L is certainly not something of which I'd say "You MUST read this." But I think Tolkien fans would at minimum enjoy it.

I would say, "Why are you always so tired and grouchy?" ;-)

I have struggled so hard to like beer.

That's a beautiful picture. One day I'm just going to leave work, get in my car, drive to the nearest beach and stay there.


Until there's a hurricane. Then I'll just ow away.


"Ow! Ow! Ow!" as the debris hits you.

Actually I think I had intended to say "or coffee" in that sentence and got distracted or something. Maybe I'd had too much beer.

I'm not sure which is sadder, not liking beer or not liking coffee.

Into each life a little beverage sadness must fall.

However, the good thing about not liking beer is that if I did like beer, I would probably weigh 350 lbs.


I don't think Paradise Lost is getting enough love...I recall enjoying that in some college course decades ago!

Not enough love is very apt. It seems that relatively few people really love PL the way they love, for instance, Shakespeare. Though it's not really fair to compare anybody to Shakespeare. Johnson's essay is admiring on the whole, if I remember correctly. But he does have that little reservation.

I guess my indifference to wine is a little like your dislike of beer, Janet. I don't dislike it but don't really get the enthusiasm. And the good thing about that is that it's a potentially expensive taste.

Does anyone have strong opinions on Don Quixote translations? I think it is the one big hole in my "classic literature not yet read", but then you get into the big discussion of which translation does it justice, etc. etc. We've been over this ad nauseum with the Russians, but I can't remember us talking about Cervantes?

I apologize if this should have been placed elsewhere, Mac! It is easiest to click on the most recent link ... so we'll just say the connection is Milton>Shakespeare>Cervantes

No problem, this is as good a place as any. But as to Cervantes, I have no opinion on translations. It's a classic not yet read for me, too. I have a copy and considered starting it some months ago, but I think that was when I decided Dante was higher priority.

My copy is an old Harvard Classics edition, translated by Thomas Shelton. I'm sure there are newer ones.

I think have I have tried to read it at least twice, but it's been a long time.

Maybe if I drank some wine first.


I will admit that after reading a few pages I wondered if I really wanted to invest the time. That is, I could see it wasn't going to be easy reading, and was not sure it was going to be as enjoyable as it was demanding.

I read Don Quixote five or six years ago and really enjoyed it. I did it over the space of several months, reading a couple chapters a day. I forget whose translation I read -- I'll have to go back and check.

Maybe a better translation?


I'm a little disappointed, I figured Janet would have read at least three translations of Don Quixote! :)

I have Tobias Smollett and Edith Grossman at home. The Grossman one is recent, and all the rage at the moment. Smollett was of course an 18th century English novelist. As much as I enjoy novels from that period (well, Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy) I will probably go with Grossman and hope for the best.

The translation I read is the one from 2000 by John Rutherford, published by Penguin. As I said, I liked it, but don't really have anything to compare it to.

Thanks, Rob. I am always very interested in lit translations and what people think of different ones. It would be wonderful to read Les Miserables in French, or Don Quixote in Spanish, but alas. It is really amazing how many times the very famous books are translated. I read on Wikipedia that there have been two or three more Don Quixote translations since Edith Grossman, and there seems to be a never-ending flow of Anna Karenina ones (I've read four of those). Why do publishers keep paying, do they make back their money? Is it all a game of chance to see which colleges might suddenly list their translation on syllabuses? These are all rhetorical questions, of course.

And it is also fun...I'll probably do this with Don Quixote also, to read one translation in book form, but tote my Nook around with an older translation on it and read passages from that one too, and compare them. I did this several years ago with Madame Bovary (where the two were very different).

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