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Archive for September, 2012

September 22 is Hobbit Day!  Here are 10 ways to celebrate:

1.) Read or reread The Hobbit. Or share it with a friend.

2.) Go barefoot, as hobbits rarely wear shoes.

3.) Eat Heartily, and don’t miss Second Breakfast at 11:00 am. Hobbits eat six or seven times a day and are particularly fond of apples, blackberry tarts, ripe cheeses, mushrooms, hot soups, cold meats, bacon rashers, scones, potatoes (Samwise Gangee’s favorite) and fruit or meat pies. But, perhaps avoid roast mutton, as that is frequent food of Trolls.

4.) Argue with other Tolkien geeks over whether Hobbit Day actually fell on September 12 or 14, since the Shire Calendar varies from the Gregorian.

5.) Noodle some riddles. Hobbits adore riddles. Bilbo used them to get the best of Gollum in the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter. He later wrote “all that is gold does not glitter” in a telling riddle about Strider, which Gandalf gave to Frodo.

6.) Check out the latest trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hitting theaters December 14, 2012. Or, look behind-the-scenes via The Hobbit movies official blog.

7.) Log onto HobbitDay.com for an all-day online festival with Tolkien experts, readings, and events.

8.) Read about The Hobbit‘s 75th Anniversary:

Bio Close-up: The 75th Anniversary of J.R.R.  Tolkien’s The Hobbit

The Hobbit: What Has Made the Book Such an Enduring Success? (via the Telegraph)

The Hobbit Second Breakfast (via the Wall St Journal)

Why J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit isn’t Just For Kids (via the Wall St Journal)

9.) Have that “Unexpected” or “Long-Expected” Party! Hobbits like to socialize. Well, except Bilbo of course.

10.) Raise a glass of wine (preferably Old Winyards red), “a good deep mug of beer,” or perhaps a restorative cup of tea, and drink “to The Shire!”

September 22 is Hobbit Day!

Bring on The Hobbit Movie Triple Play!

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It’s a big weekend in The Shire! Today, September 21, marks the 75th Anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, first published in 1937. The book, which has never been out of print, has sold over 100 million copies and been translated into 50 languages. In 1954, the poet W.H. Auden called The Hobbit, “one of the best children’s stories of this century.” So many decades later, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and the fiesty band of  rogue dwarves continue to fascinate readers of all ages. Indeed, Tolkien’s “re-creation of Middle-earth has affected every fantasy writer since.”

Then tomorrow, Saturday, is Hobbit Day, observed every year on September 22. Tolkien fans around the world will celebrate with Second Breakfasts and toasts the Shire. This is actually the birthday of both Bilbo and his nephew Frodo Baggins, aka the two ring bearers. This date takes on even greater significance because it kicks off the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, opens with Bilbo’s birthday party on September 22, after which he passes the One Ring on to Frodo, and trouble follows fast.

Earlier this week, a tantalizing new trailer was released for the upcoming movie The Hobbit: An Uexpected Journey. I must say that I am triply excited that there will be three films instead of one.

We have to wait until December for the film, but this weekend all things Hobbit can occupy our thoughts. Here are 10 Ways to Celebrated Hobbit Day!

September 22 is Hobbit Day

10 Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

Bring on the Hobbit Movie Triple Play!

The Hero is a Hobbit: W. H. Auden in The New York Times

The Hobbit: What Has Made the Book Such an Enduring Success?

The Hobbit Second Breakfast (via the Wall St Journal)

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Hello?! Am I the only person who is excited—thrilled, actually—that Peter Jackson is turning The Hobbit into three movies?! (FYI, the book celebrates its 75th anniversary on Friday, September 21.) Seriously, I don’t understand all the snarkiness. Genius director: check. Passionate about the source material: check. Proven track record: double and triple check. Jackson won countless awards and honors for The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy, including the 2004 Best Picture Oscar for The Return of the King.

Heck, The Lord of the Rings legendarium by J. R. R. Tolkien could have easily been four movies, or six! There were actually six volumes to the series—two per book. So much was left out! The Rangers of the North; the Hobbits’ Second Breakfast (mentioned only in the Fellowship Extended Edition); Mirkwood Forest and its mischievous elves (though we know we will get this in The Hobbit films); the Scouring of the Shire; the true reach and power of the insidious Palantír; the tenuousness of Aragorn’s position as the ‘heir of Isildur among the fiefdoms of men; the storied history and strategic importance of Osgiliath; and also Minas Morgul, which in the book (but not the movie) is one of the ‘Two Towers.’

The mystery and tense uncertainty as the Fellowship wound through the Mines of Moria had me so gripped reading the book, but the The Fellowship of the Ring movie reveals the fate of the dwarves straightaway. I must give Jackson major props, however, for including my very favorite line from the trilogy in both his first and second film. It’s in Moria, when Gandalf is dangling from a precipice in the clutches the Balrog. The rest of the Fellowship hesitates, turning back to help him. “Fly you fools!” he barks, just before he plunges into the abyss.

Most egregiously, however, they cut the wonderful romance of Faramir and Éowyn. Seriously, how could they have left that completely out?! It’s barely referenced even in the Extended Edition. (Yes, I own the Extended Editions of all three movies.) Two of my favorite characters, individually, actually end up together. All in all, there was simply not enough of Faramir in the films.

Still, there is only so much of this epic that could be squeezed into just three movies. If only the extendo craze (which made two films out of the final volumes of both Harry Potter and Twilight) had happened pre-LOTR. I did like the first three Twilight flicks, but Breaking Dawn – Part One was a low point, painful really. If you haven’t subjected yourself, skip it and rewatch Vampires Suck.

I don’t mean to knock or diminish Jackson’s achievement with the LOTR trilogy. All three films are amazing, brilliant, seminal—truly among the best ever made. But, The Return of the King felt to me a tad rushed and left me a teense unsatisfied. I wanted more.

There is so much to cover in The Hobbit. Did I mention that Friday, Sept 21 is the books 75th anniversary? I am so eager to see all of it—every minute! After all, the past few holiday seasons have seen a dearth of blockbusters, with Harry Potter done and James Bond mothballed by MGM’s bankruptcy (until this November 9th—eureka). It’s been a real let down. I am savoring the whole fevered run-up to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which hits theaters on December 14th. Check out the awesome latest trailer! Even better, after that we have two more movies to look forward to … bonus!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Latest Trailer

The Hobbit Movie: Original Announcement Trailer

The Hobbit Movies (Official Website)

The Hobbit (background on the book via Wikipedia)

Tolkien’s Hobbit Celebrates 75th Anniversary

September 22 is Hobbit Day!

Ten Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

The Hobbit: What Has Made the Book Such an Enduring Success?

The Hobbit Second Breakfast (via the Wall St Journal)

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I happened upon Death in August by Marco Vichi as I was browsing about for an Indie Thursday purchase. I couldn’t resist the cover, a vintage Florence streetscape with the famed Palazzo Vecchio clock tower in the distance, all diffused by a red-orange sunset. The cover, and the title, seemed perfect to me, as it was of those sultry days in late August.

This is the first of several mysteries based in Florence, Italy, featuring Inspector Bordelli, and I’m psyched (as always) to have discovered a great new detective series. I’d like to compare the inspector to Hercule Poirot, but Bordelli is not at all fastidious or dignified. He actually reminded me more of an Italian Columbo: rumpled, ruminative, and tenacious. Although the victim looked to have died in an asthma attack, Bordelli “couldn’t get the image of the woman’s corpse out of his mind. Murder, he thought. Leaning his back against the wall, he breathed deeply and looked up at the sky, seeking the moonlight behind the thick clouds.”

Like Columbo, Bordelli circles around a few key suspects, playing a sort of cat-and-mouse game as he closes the trap around the guilty party. This is a slow-burning potboiler, and Vichi keeps the thread of suspense going. But, there are no formulaic cliffhangers or gratuitous ‘evil-twin’ plot surprises—phew.

The book also reminded me of P.D. James‘s works, in that it is well written and heavy on atmosphere. “The sky had opened and the moon was visible. [Bordelli] stopped in front of the gate and looked at the villa from a distance, fascinated by the decay wrought by time. It pleased him to see that things, and not only people, suffered the wear and tear of age.”

Vichi gives us wonderful glimpses of life in Florence, as Bordelli attends a funeral in the famed Santa Croce, lunches at his special table in a trattoria’s kitchen, and drives about the hilly, circuitous streets. “Reaching the Lungarno, he crossed the Ponte alle Grazie and turned, as always to look up at the church of San Miniato al Monte, his favourite. Its white façade always had the same effect, whether from up close or far away.”

Set in the 1963, the book captures a time when Florence was quiet and deserted in August, and those who remained lay awake swatting mosquitoes amid the fumes of zampironi coils. “It was almost nine, always the most melancholy time of the day for Bordelli. Down on the street, somebody called after his dog. The swallows were gobbling up insects, flying low and screeching between the buildings.”

Also, as it’s the 1960s, Bordelli has vivid and troubling memories of his time fighting the Nazis in World War II, some of which are shared in flashbacks. These memories are fueled by the real-life experiences of the author’s father who regaled him with vivid accounts from when Vichi was a little boy. In fact the Inspector’s eager and dogged protégé, Gavino Piras, turns out to be the son of one of his comrades-in-arms. Upon first meeting him, Bordelli “felt at once very sad and very pleased.”

From Sicily, Piras is one of the many compelling characters we meet in Death in August. However, there aren’t any developed women characters. They are either decorous, aged signoras or lusty gals whom Bordelli oogles. There are a few awkward, and pretty icky, moments. Inside joke, the inspector’s name is translated as ‘Commissioner Brothels’ on the author’s website.

Notwithstanding, I highly recommend this read. I’m eager to delve into book two, Death and the Olive Grove. I know there are UK paperback editions out there. But, I just loved the look and feel of the Pegasus Crime hardcover (the U.S. debut) so I hope it won’t be long before they publish the next one.

Death in August: Spotlight in Publishers Weekly

Marco Vichi Interviewed by Publishers Weekly

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