I'm not really all that mysterious

Septembers and LotR

Currently listening to: “Moichido Love You” by Hiroko Kasahara

The temperature has changed drastically—I can definitely taste autumn in the air. It used to be that summer vacation would only be ending right about now. The first day of school would just be over the horizon.

Come to think of it, this may very well be my first Labor Day weekend without the company of family or old friends.

But Septembers have always been bittersweet. The freedom of summer vacation would be over. You can tell that the days are much shorter than in August. I’d always be missing the days spent on family road trips. We went everywhere. My parents would drive us out to all sorts of remote regions—the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Zion National Park, Banff in the Canadian Rockies. I miss those days of endless driving.

When I was younger I really did believe in magic, and all these places just scintillated with it. Sure, sometimes I fear that if I were ever to go back to these places, the illusion would be stripped away, and I’d just find myself in some godforsaken tourist trap in the middle of nowhere. But memories are deep things. Just because there is no magic now doesn’t mean that there didn’t used to be.

But I think the reason why Septembers always remind me of magic is because this is when I first started reading The Lord of the Rings. I had read The Hobbit in fourth grade because it was on the book list. I thought it was a fun book. I suppose I didn’t pay close attention to the details, and really didn’t have a good sense of the geography. (The first time I read it, I thought Rivendell was north of the Shire for some reason.) But when I was in sixth grade, my godmother bought me a text adventure game version of The Hobbit for my Commodore 64. (Please tell me you’ve heard of Zork. If not, go look it up on Google. It was that kind of game.) I would always get lost in the Misty Mountains and end up inadvertantly killing Gandalf or Thorin, thereby ending the game, and I realized that maybe I could figure it out if I re-read the book. So I ripped right through it and for the first time I noticed the little note at the end that said something to the effect of “if you want to know more about hobbits, go read The Lord of the Rings.” So I did.

I suppose it helps that Frodo Baggins (the hero of the book) and Bilbo Baggins (his uncle) have their shared birthday on September 11 (just two days before my own), and that Frodo starts his journey on September 21. Despite what you might think, the leaves do turn colors in the autumn in L.A. just like everywhere else—it’s just that the palm trees are distracting, I suppose. And the faint hint of smoke on the cool wind is what makes me think of autumn, and of setting off for places unknown.

In the Bay Area, although it’s still California, it definitely feels more like a stereotypical autumn—there aren’t as many palm trees, and it gets colder than it does in L.A. And now that I’m in the Midwest, where it can even snow before September is finished, and there are entire forests just around the corner, I can sometimes pretend that I’m in the Shire, just waiting for a sign from Gandalf as to whether I should stay or go.

So I’ve read The Lord of the Rings quite a few times now. Since at least my junior year in college, I’ve been reading it every year. And every year I tell myself I’ll write a story just like it. Well, maybe someday.

But since the movie is coming out, I’m trying to get people to read it before they see the movie.

Precisely because of the aforementioned movie, my sister started reading it again. (She read it once in high school. She was about halfway through The Two Towers when I last talked to her.) It’s kind of funny when you apply deconstructivism (for lack of a better term) to the book, as college students are wont to do. Never mind the racist connotations against the Hun-like people of the East or the “swarthy” folk of the South, or the disdain for miscegenation. (Maybe it’s because Tolkien grew up in South Africa? That makes examining the town of Bree really interesting….) What gets really trippy is if you start looking at the homoeroticism in the book. (Obviously, there’s Sam and Frodo, but there’s also Legolas and Gimli, and even Aragorn and Éomer have a thing going….) I mean, there are very few female characters in the book. (Although Galadriel and Éowyn are probably among the strongest characters in the book—I even harbor the fantasy of someday naming a daughter Galadriel. Of course I’d probably have to call her Gail for short, and she’ll probably grow up to be irate about my name choice, but obviously her mom would have a say in it…. Anyway.) The only significant hetero relationship (between Arwen and Aragorn) is mostly behind the scenes—you have to read the appendix to figure out what the hell is going on. (I’m kind of afraid of what Liv Tyler will do to Arwen….)

But this is neither here nor there. Please don’t take the last paragraph seriously. *grin*

Nancy also finally read the book, too, and Ben bought the book in New York at the Strand, so I’m trying to cajole him into at least reading the first part before the movie comes out. Despite my recognition of its flaws, it still influences me a lot, and I think it’s still a pretty influential book in general. There are a lot of derivative works out there—The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks, The Iron Tower series by Dennis McKiernan, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, and Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow by Tad Williams. None of them really come close to achieving what The Lord of the Rings achieves (although I think Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow does the best job of preserving a sense of wonderment and magic.) For the longest time, I’ve dreamt of becoming another Tolkien copycat. Maybe when I read it again this year, I’ll have something figured out.

Anyway, I could write on and on about this book, but I’ve got to stop reminiscing about past Septembers, and start trying to live this one. There are other things about Septembers that are still too close to write about without feeling self-conscious.

Ah well. The last days of summer have always seemed so cold…. (Thank you Robert Smith.) But things work out in the end, I suppose. What didn’t seem so good at the time might be the best thing after all.

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