Saturday, August 4, 2012

Postponing the Inevitable ~ a Literary Encomium

Have you ever read a book so good you hated to reach the end?


I've been re-reading The Lord of the Rings, and have reached a point in The Return of the King (Chapter 5, The Ride of the Rohirrim) which is so poignant, so pregnant with drama and pathos, so perilously and almost unbearably beautiful, that I can't bear to put it down - OR to continue, knowing the end of the book is near (and the death of a favourite character even nearer).
"Now is the hour come, Riders of the Mark, sons of Eorl! Foes and fire are before you, and your homes far behind. Yet, though you fight upon an alien field, the glory that you reap there shall be your own forever. Oaths ye have taken: now fulfil them all, to lord and land and league of friendship!"
One of the marks of a great book is its ability to grip the reader through multiple readings, and LOTR never fails to grip me. Mr. Tolkien's world is so completely engaging, his poetry and prose - now elevating, now homely - so endlessly appealing. With every reading I feel as though I've tumbled headlong into a pool of wonder and delight, in which I could happily swim forever.
"Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!"
Gripping

In an effort to postpone the tearful day when Frodo sets sail for the Undying Lands, leaving a bereft Sam to go home without him (which, now that I think of it, perfectly represents how I feel when the story is finished and I'm forced to return to the mental humdrum of real life), I've lain the book aside for a bracing gallop through two of Angela Thirkell's hilarious Barsetshire novels.
"With that he seized a great horn from Guthlaf his banner-bearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains. Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!"
But I can't escape the inevitable. I've got to finish LOTR sometime.
"Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane, and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them."
Why, oh why, must the best stories always come to an end? (Perhaps they wouldn't be so wonderful if they didn't.)
"For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was upon them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City."
I must ride now to Gondor with the Rohirrim, for death and glory on the Pelennor Fields; from thence to the Black Gate, following Aragorn and the host of the West. Then (sigh) back to the Shire for that final, deeply-to-be-regretted sunset.


And from there? Ah well - there are always the Appendices.

What are the books you hate to put down?

~

P.S. to Marigold: Know anything about those "hoofs of wrath"? :)

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23 comments:

  1. I have always loved LOTR too, I have a complete blank at the moment and can't think of any others that match it. I do love Salman Rushdie but I'm not sure his work is quite so epic. Actually, I've just remembered another series that always totally grips me - Patrick O'Brien's Master and Commander series, the books are wonderful and I find myself completely drawn into the world of Jack and Stephen. Juliex

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    1. I have yet to read the M&C series ... so many great books out there! :)

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  2. Oh this makes me want to read again...or at least watch the movies. :-)

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    1. The movies are very addictive, aren't they? :)

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  3. Okay, you already KNOW how I feel about the LOTR! But as for those hoofs (or is it hooves?) of wrath...they probably belonged to an Alpine. I'm just sayin' ...

    "On the one hand, the whole world is going to the war; the story rings with galloping hoofs, trumpets, steel on steel. On the other, very far away, two tiny, miserable figures creep (like mice on a slag heap) through the twilight of Mordor. And all the time we know that the fate of the world depends far more on the small movement than on the great. "

    - C. S. Lewis

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    1. Thanks for another great quote, Marigold! I love C.S. Lewis.

      They could have used a few Alpines at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields - just the thing to combat the Mumakil.

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  4. I was sad to finish the epic "Gone With the Wind" a few weeks ago. This was a book that was part of a classics reading challenge and I just dreaded reading it because it was so big (900+) pages and the film was so melodramatic in that awful 1930s way. Plus I am not a fan of romance. But the book definitely earned its Pulitzer. Well done Margaret Mitchell, you gave me something to look forward to for about 4 or 5 evenings. I've never read such a large book so fast.

    I am currently reading "Snow Falling on Cedars." Reviewers said it was boring and pointless. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the book is superb in writing quality. It's like reading poetry in some parts. Not boring or pointless at all. I am captivated by the way the author describes Washington State's islands. Just beautiful.

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    1. Wow, I haven't read GWTW in decades - but I loved the quote you put on your blog recently. The book was definitely better than the movie. Haven't read "Snow Falling" yet....

      Everything I know about those islands I learned from Betty MacDonald's "Onions in the Stew" - really hilarious.

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  5. I am an LOTR fan but haven't read it in a good long while. I must remedy that. I love any book that takes me to that magical place where reality disappears and I can fall into the story and be a part of it. I have decided that I need to read the classics. I have read very few of them but I know about them in the way that you know history even if you haven't read it. I think that will be my new goal.

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    1. Thanks, Grammy - that describes it perfectly: "reality disappears and I can fall into the story and be a part of it."

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  6. I love The Lord of the Rings, and I think that the Silmarillion is even better. :) It's difficult to keep track of the characters, but the story is just amazing.

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    1. Yes, the Silmarillion is truly amazing. I once heard someone say that reading it was too much like reading the Old Testament ... which is exactly why I like it. :)

      Thanks for commenting!

      P.S. Have you read C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy?

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  7. It is late here, well not really. But it is hotter than all get our for us.
    I have to say that I loved Snow Falling on Cedars.
    There are so many to love...Cry the Beloved Country, Waiting For Snow in Havana, The Kite Runner, on and on and on.
    I would encourage every one to read Cry the Beloved Country and Too Late the Phalarope. (sp?)
    Loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies..so much, so much.
    Am reading, How Georgia Became O'Keefe..Lessons on the Art of Living. I love Karen Karbo for her sense of humor.
    It is all good, is it not? What we read and tho. the books maybe so different, it is the loving of books and the written word that gives us such joy. To clutch a book to one's heart and feel bereft at the ending, what a joy.

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    1. Wow, e, I haven't heard of half those titles ... will have to order some of these up from the library. I tend to get into a reading rut and read old favourites over and over again. Time to expand!

      Hot? In Washington State? :)

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  8. LOTR has been a perennial favourite here ... we've been known to fight over who's reading it again next ... not with hubby, but with all the kids, and that's with about three copies in the house! Will have to return with my recommendations for equally gripping titles, that's a hard one. Or equally affecting titles anyway. Only one comes to mind just now, In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje. The later The English Patient is in part a sequel to it.

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    1. I can just see you all grappling for Volume 2....

      Thanks, Annie! :)

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  9. I know what you mean by not wanting a book to finish! I have just read two that I wanted to continue and tell me what happened afterwards! One is called "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett and the other is called "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith. I can recommend both!
    I just love the trilogy of "The Lord of the Rings"! Have you read "The Hobbit" by the same author? It's wonderful!

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    1. Oh yes (to "The Hobbit"). Also ATGIB, but not for some years. I remember reading an expurgated version of ATGIB as a child, then being quite surprised the first time I read the whole original - much grimmer and grittier than I had realized. But a very good book. Yes, what did happen to Francie?

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    2. Loved "The Help" as well as the movie. I also loved "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." I've read it twice and I rarely do that. "A Tree..." remind me of "Angela's Ashes" (my favorite book of all time).

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    3. Okay, that's 2 recommendations for "The Help" - must put that on my library list. :)

      Thanks Lolly!

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  10. This post and all the comments brought back so many wonderful memories for me. I used to be such a bookworm; you could never find me not reading a book or magazine. Now it seems I never get to read much more than blogs. I've bought at least six books and about the same number of magazines this year that I haven't even opened yet. Guess I need to stop doing needlework aboard the train and get back to reading!

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    1. My reading time has dropped too, Deb - crochet and yes, blogging, have really cut into it. But I'm still an incurable bookworm. :)

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  11. I just found your blog. My favorite book is "To Kill a Mockingbird". I want to keep on watching Scout growing into a woman. Another favorite is a child's book "The Ravenmaster's Secret" The children and I were full of tears at the end of that one.

    Ruth

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