Coming to the ends of things

I want to say thanks to the folks of Nor-Tonna Lodge of the Sons of Norway, Owatonna, Minnesota, for bearing up under the weight of my lecture last night. I did my “The Viking Sagas: Dead Men Tell Tales” PowerPoint presentation, probably my most popular. I’m not sure why that is, though I suspect it may be because I listed it first on my promotional brochure.

Anyway, they were a wonderful audience. They even laughed during my reading of “The Tale of Thorarin Nefjolfsson’s Feet” from Heimskringla, which some audiences aren’t smart enough to do. And they bought a pile of books, which is a blessing from God at just this moment in my economic history.

A lady told me a story she’d heard from another author. I wish I remembered the author’s name, because I’d like to give proper credit. If anybody knows the source, let me know.

The story goes like this:

A writer dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, “We offer a special deal to writers here. You can choose whether you go to Heaven or Hell. Let’s look at Hell first.”

He leads the author downstairs, and opens the door to a large room, where a number of writers toil away at word processors. They are scowling and sweating. Whenever they pause, a devil comes along and whacks them with a whip.

“This isn’t very pleasant,” says the writer. “Let’s see what Heaven looks like.”

St. Peter leads him up to Heaven, and opens a door to a large room precisely like the first one. Here also a large number of writers sit hunched over word processors, scowling and sweating. Whenever they pause, an angel comes along and whacks them with a whip.

“I don’t get it,” says the writer. “What’s the difference between Heaven and Hell?”

“The difference,” says St. Peter, “is that here you get published.”

Not hilarious. Lousy theology.

But about as accurate a description of the writing life as I’ve ever heard.

I finished The Lord of the Rings today. At last.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it.

It’s just that it took so long. Not only because of the length of the trilogy, but because with books I’ve already read several times, I find myself lacking motivation; lacking the need to find out what comes next. That makes for slow reading.

I know C.S. Lewis would be appalled to hear that I don’t enjoy good books as much on re-reading as first reading.

I guess I’m just a philistine.

I did cry a little at the end, though. For Frodo. Because I know now what it means to know you have a wound that will never be healed, this side of Numenor.

But all in all, I’m glad I’ll now be able to tackle the pile of books Dave Alpern sent me, a month or two ago.

7 thoughts on “Coming to the ends of things”

  1. I finished Blood and Judgement a few days ago. That completes the set! T’was very interesting – and the first appearance of the troll gave me the heebie-jeebies. I found it ironic that there was mock trial going on as I was reading it, presided over by a Supreme Court Justice, to determine whether Hamlet was insane when he slew Polonius.

    I liked all three books – but Year of the Warrior is my favorite.

    On another note…I have a friend whose six homeschooling kids are about to tackle Norway for an international fair that the area homeschool group is going to do. Do you have any recommendations for them?

  2. I read recently where someone was complaining there was no pathos (no sadness, tragedy) in Lord of the Rings. I can’t understand that as the fact Frodo can never again (fully)fit into his society, because of what he’s gone through is about as heartbreaking as anything I’ve ever read.

  3. I can’t read TLOTR without having World War I in the back of my mind. Tolkien, like all his generation, was deeply affected by the carnage of that war. The sacrifice of so many so that others might enjoy ordinary life, the trauma of the survivors, find reflection everywhere in the trilogy.

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