Novak family joke is that my brother, who is entirely smitten with his wife, never calls anyone else in the family unless she's away for a few days. No one faults him for this; it's just that it's almost as though it just never occurs to him to remember the rest of the world while she's near. We love the way she lights him up, so it's an easy "fault" to forgive. I've been made to laugh at myself of late because I've similarly neglected family and friends as Jen and I got to know one another. So this weekend, while Jen has been out of town, it's been possible for me to think to spend some time with friends I've owed some time. Jen and I instead just swapped some good-night emails from where she's enjoying herself tented in southern Missouri, walking in the woods, napping along merry creeks, and leading retreat-goers in developing facilitation skills.
Saturday morning, I was up and reading by around 11, working away at the history of Church-State relations I mentioned the other day as having picked up, and which I also talked about in my journal the other day. Some time around 1:30 or 2pm, I opened the door to go look for my mail and found an Amazon package leaning against my door. Inside was The Children of Húrin
, the "new" J.R.R. Tolkien novel, at which point all other bets were off and Church-State history was definitely put on hold.
The weather in Milwaukee was actually a great spring day: sunny, around 70º or 73º at its height, and I curled up in the window chair that put the southerly light behind me and read happily for some time until falling victim to sunbeam poisoning (I get bright sunlight in the afternoon even in my east-facing windows because of the sun reflecting off all of the windows of McCormick Hall facing me) and beginning to doze. When I woke up, I more-or-less then ran out and grabbed a bus downtown. I loitered in Downtown Books for a bit until they closed at 7pm, and left with a few small treasures tucked into a bag. I walked down Broadway then and enjoyed watching the people walking around in the early evening sun as they enjoyed the pleasantries of the Third Ward
. I walked a few blocks past Artasia
until I ran out of Broadway and realized that I'd missed the place, working my way back and then finding Diane, who was closing up the place on her own this evening. She gave me the look-around the store and I had great fun looking at antique carvings, new pottery, and jewelry details.
When we finally left, we just walked back up the street a little bit to a place called the Palms Bistro
Today was even more gorgeous, weather-wise. I spent the entire day simply enjoying this novel in the 80º sun of this windy Sunday. I sat over in the Courtyard of the Fountain, over in front of the Joan of Arc Chapel, and just enjoyed The Children of Húrin
in that properly medieval ambiance. I took in the 6pm Mass at the Gesu, and made a point of arranging some time with Julie, just as I found her roommate Jackie had left a note for me about my promise for all of us to hang. They just got an apartment for next year that's right where I get off the bus on my weekly comic book run, so that'll be very convenient. I had left Jen a few messages on her cellphone, thinking that she might have taken to the road in the afternoon, but she decided to stay the night and savour some time with her friends. Myself, I'm trying to both enjoy myself reading this surprise text, but also at the same time, and in contradictory mood, trying to finish it and get back to the so-called "real life" of work. I've a new lesson plan to write for tomorrow, with a text I only was able to gloss last semester, and some grading to take care of. But Tolkien is so much more fun right now. The good news is, I'm in disagreement with the nay-sayers: this isn't Christopher Tolkien "cashing in" – this is the Real McCoy. I'm already entirely familiar with the horrible tragedy of the story, knowing both the versions in The Silmarillion
, the Narn I Hîn Húrin
in Unfinished Tales
, and even The Lay of the Children of Húrin
in The Lays of Beleriand
very well. Christopher Tolkien here has simply engaged in the kind of careful textual reconstruction he's been doing for years with the horrible mess of manuscripts his father left. That he managed to edit a real novel version of this key story out of the various versions is a testament to him. As I read, I begin to suspect those reviews sneering otherwise as simply being the sort who "prove themselves" by attacking a Master at work. They have their reward.