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Archive for the ‘Escapist Reads’ Category

dome darkling“The dead also do not see, unless they look from a brighter place
than this darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night.”

These words leapt off page 439 of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, as they are almost an exact quote from Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach (see below). In that poem, Arnold is standing on the shale of the beach looking out at the light of the moon as it reflects across the English Channel and on the distant coast of France.

Similarly, the residents of Chester’s Mill are gazing up at the stars which have been distorted by the haze of the Dome, giving them a pink, streaked appearance, as if the stars are raining down upon them. In both instances, celestial phenomena prompt an observation on how small, and somewhat insignificant, people are compared to the greater world at large.

Arnold’s poem deals with a crisis of faith, and King’s narrator also seems to have lost faith in the society under the Dome. The Dover Beach quote is followed by a list of those who have died since the mysterious barrier came down, and then (spoiler alert!) cuts to the town’s first Dome-driven suicide.

Arnold seems to be searching for faith in human intimacy (“ah, love, let us be true to one another!”) despite a melancholy world that “hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light.” The people in Chester’s Mill appear to personify and magnify this outlook on humanity. Those who connect and support each other eventually become the only ones who have a chance. (A bit like “live together, die alone” from LOST—a quote which I kept expecting to appear in this book.) Dover Beach hints at dystopia and then King brings this to fruition Under the Dome.

The ‘darkling plain’ is also a loaded reference to Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act I Scene 4. Arnold certainly understood this, and I feel that King too is alluding to the Fool’s observation: “We were left darkling.”

The Fool has realized that Goneril is betraying her father, though Lear can’t bring himself to accept this, asking “Are you our daughter?” This is the moment when Lear begins to question his new situation and his new reality—the moment which ultimately kicks off his descent into madness and rage. Like Lear, the people of Chester’s Mill are going to face new unhinged reality and widespread madness.

Dover-Beach-bookDover Beach must be a favorite of King’s as he also references it in The Shining. Jack wanders around the Colorado Lounge thinking what it must have been like there celebrating there in 1945, “the war won, the future stretching ahead so various and new, like a land of dreams.” Here King is juxtaposing this hopefulness against Jack’s own Lear-like descent into madness.

Finally, it must be noted that in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Dover Beach is the poem that Guy Montag reads aloud in a desperate attempt to reach out to his wife and her friends. King was an unabashed fan of Bradbury’s, having stated “without Ray Bradbury, there would be no Stephen King.”

Dover Beach has long been one of my favorite poems for its complex tension of hope and despair—also the words are beautiful. It’s thrilling to think after more than a century, nearly two, a Victorian poet (who ironically was known for his concept of “sweetness and light”) could exact such an influence on writers like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;–on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain;
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Under the #DomeAlong

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Under-the-Dome-tvFrom the first pages of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, I started to feel that tingly thrill of anticipation that I used to get from watching LOST. Maybe it’s the fact that (spoiler alert!) both stories begin with a plane crash. Or maybe it’s because I knew that King was a big fan of the show. Like LOST, King’s novel offers an amalgam of mystery, supernatural wonder, and suspense—brought to life by a group of indelible characters who mix it up in their new isolated world.

Uncle Stevie also tosses in some overt nods to LOST. Reverend Lester Coggins describes God, as “he who traveled as a pillar of smoke by day” (p. 159). When Rusty can’t sleep, his mind wanders to Desmond, whom he misquotes as saying: “Don’t mistake coincidence for fate” (p. 285). It was actually Mr. Eko who said that. Later Locke repeats the phrase, and Jack says it again in the final season. (Still, Losties will note that Desmond played several very key and ‘fateful’ roles in the LOST journey.)

This crux of coincidence versus fate was a driving force in LOST and a major point of friction among the characters, notably Locke and Jack. With this quote, King sets this up nicely as a similar theme in Under the Dome. By small circumstance, people got trapped in or outside. Barbie just missed a ride south, the Fire Department was away at a parade, and even families are divided.

LOSTI also jumped each time Lissa the librarian fiddled with her ankh necklace (p. 430). The Egyptian ankh (known as the key to life or the key to the Nile) is a repeated symbol in LOST (the Hatch counter; the statue; Jacob gives one to Hurley). However, I couldn’t quite figure this reference out in Under the Dome. Unlike Jacob or Hurley, Lissa doesn’t play a significant role in the fate of those trapped, nor is she one of the more developed characters.

Also, and this may just be me, I wondered if Horace the corgi was named for Horace on LOST? The story is being told from Horace’s point-of-view when we get the most tantalizing LOST tidbit, that Andrea often sat “watching shows like The Hunted Ones (a clever sequel to Lost)” (p.694). I dropped my book (really!) and immediately began to Google, hoping Uncle Stevie had some intel on more LOST. But alas, this is only a fiction, a wish perhaps, on his part.

But now we get Under the Dome on TV. Could this be the heir apparent to LOST? Creator Brian K. Vaughn and Exec Producer Jack Bender are both LOST alums. King is also deeply involved and has cited Game of Thrones as an example of their approach.

I was a bit surprised that the format is a not a miniseries, but an ongoing show. After all, it was King who challenged the LOST team to end the show at its peak—regardless of ratings. They took that message to heart and worked out a deal with ABC to conclude LOST at the end of the sixth season.

UTD dogHopefully, King, Vaughn, and Bender will ultimately follow King’s own advice. Meanwhile, there were approximately 500 pages cut from the original draft of the  novel, so there are plenty of new story lines to explore.

Indeed, the pilot opened with so many changes from the novel that those of us who read the book found ourselves ‘lost.’ (I’m intrigued, but there has been such an outcry, that King has written a response to his Constant Reader.) Extra fun though, imho, Frank Lapidus is reincarnated as Sheriff Duke Perkins. My hopes are high for Under the Dome on TV. Now if only they would somehow bring in Desmond!

Are you watching Under the Dome on TV? What do you think?

#DomeAlong

Under the #DomeAlong

Under the Dome Update: Left Hanging

I’m Going Under the Dome for a Summer Readalong!

Under the Dome Readathon Sign-up

#DomeAlong on Twitter

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under the dome paperbackArgh! I am totally hooked on this book … but stopped right in my tracks owing to the fact that I don’t actually have a copy in hand. Oops! I’m trailing the pack in the Under the Dome readalong, aka the #DomeAlong.

I’ve gotten to the end of the free digital preview, which is page 138 on my iPad. Although, turns out that is only, er, page 82 of the actual 1,072 page printed book.

I have been top of the list for Under the Dome at the library for three weeks. They had two copies, which seem to have also disappeared “under the dome.” After prolonged searching, the library has now told me they must order the book.

I’ve cracked and ordered the book myself. I know I could download it, but I prefer real books for long reads. (Yes, illogical as they are so heavy!)

Now, I am left hanging all weekend until Under the Dome arrives. If you’re thinking of reading Under the Dome, why not join us?! This book is addictive! The readalong runs through July 27th—click here to sign up!

I’m Going Under the Dome for a Summer Readalong!

Under the Dome thnailUnder the Dome Readathon Sign-up

Under the Dome, the book

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Stephen King Website

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other typistThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell is a twisty, noir page-turner. Fans of Gillian Flynn will definitely enjoy this book, which feels like Gone Girl set in the 1920s. Actually, strike that. The plot is totally different, nor is The Other Typist so dark. It’s snazzy!

What I mean is that Rindell also offers us an unreliable (and rather unsettling) narrator, Rose Baker, who spins out an alluring, slow-boiled plot.

Rindell sets the story in a New York City police precinct in 1923, when women have only recently been brought in as typists. I won’t divulge any other plot details, as the reveals will be best enjoyed firsthand.

The writing crackles with a sort of stylized, art-deco feel:

“We were headed into the long black nights of winter, and although it was only four o’clock, outside a cloudy sky was already turning from ash to soot. And yet inside the office there was still something vital, the peculiar sort of kindling that comes from human activity buzzing away in the falling dark of dusk. The electric lights still glowed, and the office thrummed with the sounds of telephones, voices, papers, footsteps, and the syncopated clacking of many typewriters all being operated at once.”

I was a tad concerned when I saw The Great Gatsby cited in the author’s acknowledgements page. That is sacred text. However, this is not an overblown attempt at replicating Fitzgerald. (Phew.) Though this would be a good pick for those who enjoyed the new film version of The Great Gatsby.

The Other Typist reads much like a paean to film noir classics of the 1940s and 1950s. At one point Rose says of another character, “Gib and I were building up a slow tolerance for each other, the way some people slowly build a tolerance for a specific kind of poison.”

Overall, The Other Typist is clever, atmospheric, and unpredictable. There’s a lot of buzz online about the ending—so avoid the spoilers!

The Other Typist

Suzanne Rindell

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Under the Dome roundedI’ve just started Stephen King’s Under the Dome and I’m hooked! I’ve joined the #DomeAlong—a two-month readalong organized by Natalie aka Coffee and Book Chic. This group read runs through July 27thSo sign up and join us!

I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read much King lately … partly because his books are just so darn scary that I can’t sleep afterwards. This book, however, has been billed as more of a psychological thriller, hopefully not too gory.

I will say that Under the Dome is pretty intriguing right from the start. I’m only about 20 pages in, but already I have that tingly thrill of anticipation that I used to get from watching LOST.

No matter how much I love a book (Harry Potter, A Song of Fire and Ice), I tend to get antsy when books stretch over 1,000 pages. I start to crave that feeling of satisfaction you get when you finish.

Enter #DomeAlong, with fabulous reading tweeps who will keep up the energy and fun with blog posts and banter on twitter as we slog through this together. Even before I cracked the book, I totally got into the spirit by reading all the tweets. Come on Under the Dome and join us!

Under the Dome comes out in paperback on June 11 (not too late to join us) and the CBS mini-series debuts Mon June 24th.

Under the Dome Readathon Sign Up

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books as clockI don’t know what it is about ‘Spring Forward,’ but I always find myself reshuffling my TBR pile. During winter, the early darkness and the cold winds prompt me to reach for heavier, atmospheric tomes. I started off November with Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel’s study of Thomas Cromwell versus Anne Boleyn. I followed that with mostly moody fare like G.R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, and one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, Richard III (after they found him in a parking lot in Leicester). Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies feel like winter reading, but the comedies seem more apropos to spring and summer—except of course, Twelfth Night and A Winter’s Tale, which I should really put in my rotation next December.

Now, the changing of the clocks and all that extra daylight are teasing me with spring fever. I’m aching for sunnier, lighter reading. I particularly enjoy reading Jane Austen in the spring. I love the brightness and delicacy of her writing. Over the weekend, I reread Pride and Prejudice (for the 200th anniversary!), which Charlotte Brontë decried as “a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers.” But, that’s exactly what I am craving right now: literature that can fill the flower gap while my daffodils inch out of the ground.

One of my ritual spring reads is usually the newest No 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel. Alexander McCall Smith’s descriptions of, “the clear and constant sun,” the acacia trees, and Botswana’s dry, dusty plains work almost like a few hours in front of a sunlamp—a literary jolt of vitamin D. I am so vexed that the latest title has been pushed to November. I got a similar escape to desert heat, when I read The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad, which takes place in the tribal regions of Pakistan.

The LacunaThis spring, I plan to finally reach for The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver’s novel about Diego Rivera in Mexico. I’m embarrassed to admit that I will be digging into the hardcover, which I bought ages ago. (Sigh, the perils of the TBR.) Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, The Bean Trees, and Pigs in Heaven are also great reads for the sun-starved.

Finally, spring fever makes me crave page-turners, so both Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and the new Sophie Kinsella, Wedding Night, will be at the top of my pile. If only I didn’t have to wait until April for Sophie!

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Hobbit movie image crop etcSomehow, with the bustle of the holidays, I did not make it to the The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey. We had a collection of extended family—cousins, grandparents, in-laws—almost like a gathering of the Bagginses, Brandybucks, and Tooks. Our festivities kicked off the Thursday before Christmas with people coming-and-going, so it was nearly the six-day hobbit Yule celebration.

After Christmas dinner, when things had finally settled down, I was feeling rather like Bilbo Baggins, ready for a quiet night by the fire with a cup of tea. Then, the phone rang. The family fun was not over, and an evening trip to The Hobbit was proposed. Much like Bilbo with the dwarves, I declined the adventure at first. But my 14-year-old nephew talked me out of this moment of temporary insanity. Just like Bilbo, when I saw everyone leaving, I realized I did not want to be left behind.

There were eight of us, heading off like Thorin Oakenshield’s merry band of dwarves. Among us were three Tolkien geeks (moi aussi), including my brother-in-law who quoted to us impressively from The Silmarillion. Our company also included a couple of people who hadn’t “gotten into” The Hobbit, another way of saying “I just stopped reading.” And, we actually brought along someone who’d never seen The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy. (I know, but you cannot pick your relatives.)

Everyone, from the neophytes to the Tolkien-obsessed, loved The Hobbit movie! As with LOTR, Peter Jackson mined Tolkien’s detailed notes and his history of Middle-Earth, The Silmarillion. Jackson starts his story before the novel does, with the exciting tale of the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor and the Lonely Mountain. Also, in the first few scenes, we get a cameo of Frodo—and the whole theater cheered. There were more cheers when Bilbo’s pen scratched out the book’s first words: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Later, there were gasps and some hisses when Saruman showed up in Rivendell.

Thanks to this Star Wars-esque reverse filming of LOTR before The Hobbit, many viewers learn about Saruman’s treachery before they see him as an important force for good in the first book. It’s like watching young Anakin Skywalker, knowing he will grow up to be Darth Vader. Though here it’s a pity, because the Saruman story unfolds with some great twists in LOTR that have much more punch if you’ve read (or seen) The Hobbit first.

Without anymore near spoilers, I’ll add that keen observers will note that the dreaded three Trolls from this film make a brief cameo in LOTR: The Fellowship of The Ring. Finally, I’ll admit that I teared up when Bilbo first reaches for Sting.

My favorite part of the movie, however, is when Frodo heads out to greet the arrival of Gandalf. Yes, this film starts on the very same day as the LOTR trilogy, Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday—now celebrated around the world as Hobbit Day. We will next see Frodo at the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring, on the road waving down Gandalf. This circular approach is a brilliant move by Jackson, and I feel will ultimately weave the two trilogies together perfectly. The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey is worth the trip!! I just wish, per Saturday Night Live’s trailer above, there really were 18 more sequels.

Bring On the Hobbit Triple-Play!

Happy Hobbit Day! Happy Hobbitversary! 75 Years On

September 22 is Hobbit Day

Ten Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (official site)

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

Lord of The Rings Wiki

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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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