Niche Periphery: Tolkien’s The Silmarillion

Niche Periphery: Tolkien’s The Silmarillion

Before reading The Silmarillion, there are some questions that you should probably ask yourself: Do you know the basic stories of Gil-Galad and Beren One-Hand? Do you recognize names like Barahir, Grond and Fëanor and want to know more about them? Have you figured out, through context alone, what (fictional) words like dagor and ithil [...]

A Far, Far Better Thing: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities

A Far, Far Better Thing: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities

Though its opening line is among the most famous in all the Western canon, it's the closing lines of Charles Dickens' revolutionary classic A Tale of Two Cities that resonate with unshakable beauty. (For what it's worth, we don't even seem to know that opening line quite as well as we like to think because [...]

Ritual Reality: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan

Ritual Reality: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan

Worldbuilding is exhausting. It requires a massive amount of mental energy to imagine and then codify an entirely new world with all its nooks and crannies, its politics and customs. To expedite this process, many works of fantasy rely on familiar tropes as a shortcut, allowing vast institutions to be explained away by a few [...]

God and Grief: As Cities Burn’s “Timothy” and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris

God and Grief: As Cities Burn’s “Timothy” and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris

"It's not the cold making my legs shake," sings Cody Bonnette at the outset of "Timothy", the final, grueling track from As Cities Burn's sophomore LP, Come Now Sleep. As the song unfolds it becomes clear that what's making the narrator's legs shake is, in fact, grief. Across its nearly 13-minute run time, "Timothy" explores [...]

Odd Couples: 5 of the Weirdest and Best Friendships in Fiction

Odd Couples: 5 of the Weirdest and Best Friendships in Fiction

As I watched the Stranger Things 3 trailer for the 40th time, I had the same thought that occurs to my brain every couple of hours: With all due respect to my wife, I will never know a relationship as pure and loving as the Steve-Dustin bromance. For my money, Steve evolving from a self-important douche [...]

The Analogy: Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

The Analogy: Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

At the outset of A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit explains how the book was inspired by a student bringing her an ancient koan: How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you? I don't know that Solnit ever satisfactorily answers that question, unless the [...]