Monday, September 30, 2013

"Anatomy of a Murder" by Robert Traver

This is a glorious, slow-simmering novel, a rich and fragrant mixture of mystery, courtroom drama, and character study.  I picked it up at a library book sale years ago because I love the 1959 movie version that stars Jimmy Stewart.  The movie has a much faster pace than the novel, but I think I might prefer the novel.  It's able to delve so deeply into the characters, particularly the protagonist and narrator, attorney Paul "Polly" Biegler.  But even the side characters, like his friend Parnell, get to develop and change throughout the story.

Okay, so here's what happens:  Paul Biegler takes on defending Lt. Frederick Manion, who shot and killed the man who raped his wife, Laura Manion.  There is absolutely no mystery about whether or not Manion killed him -- Manion admits he did, and there were lots of witnesses.  The mystery is whether or not the man actually raped Laura, and whether or not Lt. Manion was legally insane when he shot the man.  And, of course, those two things need to be answered before the jury can reach their verdict.  

I liked several of the characters better in this than in the movie, I have to say.  Laura Manion was a lot more sympathetic here, and so was the judge.  And Mary Pilant, who worked for the murdered man and plays a pivotal role in the movie, is a much different character in this.  Instead of providing a plot twist that pretty well decides the jury's verdict like she does in the movie, she has a much more background role.  And, intriguingly, Paul Biegler takes a fancy to her and starts to hope that after the trial, maybe they could get together.  

But what I really love about this is how it puts me behind the scenes of a trial, showing what a lawyer does, how hinds and uses previous laws and rulings for his defense, how he digs up information and witnesses.  And not in a sensational, thrilling way like in a John Grisham book.  In a methodical, careful way.  Which sounds boring, but it's not.  Not to me, anyway.

Particularly Good Bits:

As I parked my mud-spattered coupe alongside the Miners' State Bank, across from my office over the dime store, I reflected that there were few more forlorn and lonely sounds in the world than the midnight wail of a juke box in a deserted small town, those raucous proclamations of joy and fun where, instead, there dwelt only fatigue and hangover and boredom.  To me the wavering hoot of an owl sounds utterly gay by comparison (p. 3).

"He's a man of few words, yes, but he uses them over and over" (p. 15).

I was getting a little overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of my own modesty and I fought the impulse to flutter my eyelashes (p. 36).

"The law is the busy fireman that puts out society's brush fires; that gives people a nonphysical method to discharge hostile feelings and settle violent differences; that substitutes orderly ritual for the rule of tooth and claw" (p. 63).

In retrospect there was an unreal Alice-In-Wonderland quality about the whole thing, an air of shimmering fantasy, as though we had partaken in some grotesque and unsmiling comedy waveringly enacted at the bottom of the sea (p. 183).

Parnell also stared at the lake.  "The lack of knowledge of people, our lack of human communication, one with the other, may be the big trouble with this old world," Parnell said soberly.  "For lack of it our world seems to be running down and dying -- we now seem fatally bent on communicating only with robot missiles loaded with cargoes of hate and ruin instead of with the human heart and its pent cargo of love" (p. 313).

The tired jurors formed a ragged semicircle across the front of the Judge's bench, a jaggedly fateful half-moon (p. 427).

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG-13 for thematic material involving rape and murder, and a surprising amount of swearing.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

LOTR Read-Along: Prologue: Concerning Hobbits, and Other Matters

I think the way I'll structure these posts is that I'll post my thoughts on the chapter as a whole, mention whatever particular things I feel are worth mentioning or discussing, and list off some favorite passages.  I might also think up a discussion question or two.  Then you can comment with your own thoughts on the chapter, reactions to my post, your own questions, your favorite lines, etc.

Also, I'm putting in page numbers when I quote things -- you don't have to if you don't want.  That's more for my future reference than anything.  But, just so you know, all my page references come from my copy, which is from the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston and New York, the edition that was first published in Great Britain by Harper Collins Publishers in 1994. 

Okay, enough of that.  Time for the important stuff!

Ahhh, Hobbits.  Aren't they delightful?  I love how Tolkien speaks of them as if they're real, saying they "are becoming hard to find."  Helps me slip into the fictive world so easily.

If you're reading this book for the first time, please don't get scared away by all the place names and different breeds of Hobbits listed here.  You don't need to remember them; there won't be a test or a pop quiz.  Anything that's important will get brought up again later.

I don't know about you, but my house is full of mathoms, and I love the description here of them.

WARNING!  Once again, if you haven't read this or The Hobbit, but you're watching Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies and do not want to know how that all ends, this prologue contains spoilage in the fourth section, "Of the Finding of the Ring."  Skip the first paragraph and you'll be okay.  Or skip the whole first part and begin again with "Now it is a curious fact..."

Favorite Lines:

But in the days of Bilbo, and of Frodo his heir, they suddenly became, by no wish of their own, both important and renowned, and troubled the counsels of the Wise and the Great  (p. 2).

...they were, perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them...  (p. 5).

...they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions (p. 7).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you read prologues?  Forewords?  Did you read these?  If so, did you find them useful and/or enjoyable, or do you just want to get into the story already?

(Don't feel like you have to answer the discussion questions if you don't feel like it -- just comment with whatever you want to share, ask, or explain!)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Winners!

Congratulations to the giveaway winners!  Here's a list of the prizes and who won them:

Doors of Durin mug -- Sarah
Tea and Tolkien mug -- Beth
Welcome mat -- Ashley G.
Galdalf quote print -- Deborah Koren
Six buttons or magnets -- Molly
3 LOTR bookmarks -- Lily G.

Gandalf quote tea towel -- Hannah Barta
Tolkien quote note cards -- Janet Lingel Aldrich
Not all who wander... tote bag -- The Magic Violinist
LOTR word search -- James Starslayer
Shire soap -- Ruby Danderfluff
3 LOTR bookmarks -- Molly

I'll be emailing each of you at the address you entered into the Rafflecopter widget -- I need to get your mailing address to give to the people providing the prizes so they can send the prizes to you.  If anyone doesn't respond by next Saturday, October 5th, I will declare them ineligible and choose a different winner for that prize.

Thank you so much for joining my very first blog party, everyone!  This has been an awesome adventure, and I've had such fun that, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I plan to make this an annual event.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Answers to Tolkien Trivia

Here we are!  The answers to the ten trivia questions I asked on Wednesday:

1.  The only brew for the brave and true comes from:
b.  The Green Dragon

2.  Who does Sam bean in the head with an apple as the Hobbits leave Bree?
c.  Bill Ferny

3.  The proprietor of the Prancing Pony is named Barliman...
c.  Butterbur

4.  Where did Bilbo encounter Gollum?
d.  The Misty Mountains

5.  What is Theoden's son's name?
a.  Theodred

6.  Which of Thorin's company is buried in Moria?
b.  Balin

7.  Which of these is not the name of a sword?
c.  Hasufel  (he's a horse)

8.  Aragorn uses athelas to heal wounds.  Sam calls it...
a.  Kingsfoil

9.  The Lonely Mountain is also called...
c.  Erebor

10.  Which of these is not the name of a horse?
d.  Thorandor  (he's an eagle)

Thanks for playing, everyone!  And don't forget, today is the last day to enter the giveaways!  So if you haven't done that already, please go here and do so.  You can answer the questions and linkup here any time, there's no limit on that.  And go read other people's blog posts, using the Linky links!  Even leave them a comment, make some new friends -- it's a party, after all.

Answers to the Great Eye Game

Here are the answers to the Great Eye Game, as promised!

Boromir (Sean Bean)
Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood)
Saruman (Christopher Lee)
Rosie Cotton (Sarah McLeod) [and Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin)]
Elrond (Hugo Weaving)
Legolas (Orlando Bloom)
Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm)
Celeborn (Marton Csokas)
Gollum (Andy Serkis)
Gimli (John Rhys-Davies)
Smeagol (Andy Serkis)
Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin)
Denethor (John Noble)
Aragorn/Strider (Viggo Mortensen)
Galadriel (Cate Blanchett)
Eomer (Karl Urban)
Gandalf (Ian McKellen)
Haldir (Craig Parker)
Pippen (Billy Boyd)
Arwen (Liv Tyler)
Theoden (Bernard Hill)
Merry (Dominic Monaghan)
Eowyn (Miranda Otto)
Faramir (David Wenham)
Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif)
Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies)

Thank you for playing!  I thought this game was rather fun, did you?

By the way, I took all these screencaps myself.  If you like them, I do not mind at all if you use them yourself, be it on your blog or for your desktop image, etc.  Just please don't pass them off as your own :-)

Answers to the Middle Earth Characters Crossword Puzzle

Here are the answers to the crossword puzzle, written as neatly as I can manage.

Well, how did you do?

The giveaways end at midnight tonight, so if you haven't entered yet, go do so now!  I'll chose the winners tomorrow morning and post them here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LOTR Read-Along: On Your Marks... Get Set... Read!

Time to begin the read-along!  I'm going to start with the prologue, and post my reactions and thoughts as soon as I've finished (probably on Sunday).  Please join me!

IMPORTANT:  if you haven't read this or The Hobbit, but you're watching Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies and do not want to know how it all ends, this prologue contains spoilage about that.  It's in the fourth section, "Of the Finding of the Ring."  Skip the first paragraph and you'll be okay.  Or, if you've seen The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey, you can skip the whole first part of that section and begin again with "Now it is a curious fact..." because the movie dealt with everything related to Bilbo getting the ring from Gollum.

If you want to skip the prologue, you can, but it does have some great info about the world inside this book, and it always help me slip into my Middle Earth mindset, so I recommend reading it.

A quick note about how I've set this up.  I'll post a new chapter every couple of days, always with the "LOTR Read-Along" tag in the title, and then the name of the chapter.  In those, I'll post my thoughts on what happens in that chapter (sometimes more coherent that other times, I'm sure), my favorite lines, and maybe a discussion question if I can think one up.  You then respond to that post once you've read that chapter.  You can comment on what I've written, mention your own favorite passages, answer the discussion questions if I posted some, and ask your own questions, etc.  There's totally no time limit on this -- you can join us next year if you want!  Please do be sure to click the "Subscribe by email" thingie so you get notified by email when other people respond -- that helps us get a good discussion going.

You'll notice there's now a tab at the top of the page that says "'Lord of the Rings' Read-Along -- Chapter Posts Index" -- click on that to quickly access particular discussions.  I'll do my best to remember to link each individual post to its title there as I post them.

Also.  I'll be doing a small giveaway at the end of every book, open to participants only.  By small I mean "giving away one LOTR-related thing that I bought myself."  Now you know.

If you're participating, please consider putting one of these buttons in your own blog's sidebar, posting about it on your blog or FB, whatever, and linking back here so others can join us.  Thanks!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tolkien Trivia

I regret to say that this is the end.  Of the games.  Tomorrow, I'm kicking off the read-along.  Friday, I'm posting the answers to this, the Great Eye Game, and the crossword puzzle.  And Saturday, I'm drawing and announcing the giveaway winners.  So.  Now you know.

Today's game is trivial.  Very trivial.  So I hope you're a fan of trivial things!  Here are ten questions about things and people and places found in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

1.  The only brew for the brave and true comes from:
  • a.  The Prancing Pony
  • b.  The Green Dragon
  • c.  The Grey Havens
  • d.  The Mallorn Flower

2.  Who does Sam bean in the head with an apple as the Hobbits leave Bree?
  • a.  Fatty Bolger
  • b.  Tom Bombadil
  • c.  Bill Ferny
  • d.  Farmer Maggot

3.  The proprietor of the Prancing Pony is named Barliman...
  • a.  Butterbeer
  • b.  Butterbeard
  • c.  Butterbur
  • d.  Butterbird

4.  Where did Bilbo encounter Gollum?
  • a.  The Mines of Moria
  • b.  The Hall of the Mountain King
  • c.  The Gap of Rohan
  • d.  The Misty Mountains

5.  What is Theoden's son's name?
  • a.  Theodred
  • b.  Eodred
  • c.  Eothud
  • d.  Thengal

6.  Which of Thorin's company is buried in Moria?
  • a.  Dwalin
  • b.  Balin
  • c.  Fili
  • d.  Kili

7.  Which of these is not the name of a sword?
  • a.  Glamdring
  • b.  Orcrist
  • c.  Hasufel
  • d.  Narsil

8.  Aragorn uses athelas to heal wounds.  Sam calls it...
  • a.  Kingsfoil
  • b.  Kingswort
  • c.  Kingsroot
  • d.  Kingsward

9.  The Lonely Mountain is also called...
  • a.  Dimholt
  • b.  Kheled-zaram
  • c.  Erebor
  • d.  Mount Gundabad

10.  Which of these is not the name of a horse?
  • a.  Brego
  • b.  Arod
  • c.  Asfaloth
  • d.  Thorandor

Comment below with your guesses, and I'll post the answers on Friday!  If you haven't already done so, go link up with the rest of the partyers here and enter the giveaways here.  Happy Tolkien Week!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Great Eye Game

Since the crossword puzzle might have been geared a little more toward people who've read the books rather than those who have only seen the movies, here's a game skewed the opposite way!  If you haven't seen Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, I'm afraid you won't guess these.  They are all from those three movies, not from The Hobbit, okay?  Don't want to confuse anyone.

I may have gotten a little carried away with these... but I kept thinking, "Oh, I can't leave so-and-so out!  And I can't leave what's-her-name out!"  I promise you that these are all characters that have lines and names and are in more than one scene -- I didn't do anyone obscure like Theodred or Sam's Gaffer.

Also, I do not use any character more than once... except one.  That character looks vastly different in various sections of the trilogy, and goes by different names, and I'm going to stop here because you already know who I'm talking about, I'm sure.

Post your guesses in the comments below.  This is on the honor system -- no cheating and peeking to see what other people guessed ahead of you!  Might want to grab a piece of paper to write your guesses down on so you don't have to keep scrolling up and down.  I'll post the answers on Friday.




























That's all!  Have fun!  And, if you haven't already, go join the party here and enter the giveaways here.