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Category Archives: Literature

Wigtown podcast with Ken and Astrid

Here at the abbey in April 2020, at the baby’s six-month-old half-birthday party. For some years now, Ken and Astrid have been regulars at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland. This year, because of Covid-19, the book festival will be virtual. As one of the virtual events, here is an excellent 30-minute podcast from Wigtown […]

The Door Into Summer

Heinlein with (I believe) Pixie, c. 1953. Wikipedia photo. The Door Into Summer, by Robert A. Heinlein. Original publisher: Doubleday, 1957. When I can’t find any newer science fiction that seems worth reading, a classic Robert A. Heinlein is always a good bet. The Door Into Summer is delightful. I’m certain I’ve complained here before […]

Oxford, Tolkien, and the fair speech

From my visit to Oxford, August 2019 A few days ago I finished my third reading of The Two Towers, and now I’m on book 3. The landscapes of Middle-earth are lucid in my imagination. And yet I find myself thinking again and again about Oxford. This story (the best story, I believe, in English […]

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer. Simon & Schuster, 1959. 1,252 pages. If I had read this book five years ago, I would have read it pretty much purely as history. Barack Obama was still president of the United States. Having elected its first black president and experienced eight years […]

The Fellowship of the Ring

I first read The Lord of the Rings almost 50 years ago. Subsequently I have reread it at least twice. I often have wanted to do another rereading, but as Bilbo is preparing for his birthday party, I realize that I can quote many of the next lines before I turn the page. It could […]

Two Years Before the Mast

“A Clipper at Sunset,” Edward Moran, 1829-1901. Whenever I have one of my fits of despair that writers can’t write anymore, I look for a classic to read. This led me to Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. My main interest in this book was Dana’s account of sailing around the Horn from […]

Sixth Column — Robert A. Heinlein, 1941

Once again, unable to find any new (or newish) science fiction that I wanted to read, I turned to an oldie — Robert A. Heinlein’s Sixth Column, which was first published in 1941. Of course it’s dated, but part of the fun of old science fiction classics is the nostalgia. It’s recognizably Heinlein, though — […]

ᚱᚢᚾᛖᛊ : Escaping with Anglo-Saxon

With Lily. We escape together. Among the teetering stacks of books by my bed, I always keep some books for what I call fill-in reading. This is light reading for short reading sessions — for example, when I know that I’m going to fall asleep after only a page or two. One such book is […]

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World ★★★★

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. C.A.Fletcher. Orbit, 2019. 384 pages. This incredible book has renewed my faith that people can still write superb and beautiful novels. It’s what we call a hot read. I had to keep telling myself to slow down, because the constant suspense made me want […]

A portrait I wish I had shot

Christopher Tolkien. New York Times photo by Josh Dolgin. Click for high-resolution version. I hope I am not inviting copyright trouble here. The extraordinary photo above is linked to a New York Times URL; I have not downloaded a copy of it. The photo accompanies the New York Times’ obituary for Christopher Tolkien, son of […]