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Houghton Mifflin Bookstore Reports

November 6, 2003 at 3:13 pm by xoanon  - 

Portland:

Jackie writes: I just wanted to say I was very disappointed to have so few Portland ringers turn out for the event. I assumed that everyone is as anxious as I to get our hands on anything Tolkien. But it actually was nice with so few people there. The documentary was great! I enjoyed it because I delved much more into the relationship of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (something I am very interested in). After the feature they had a drawing for prizes and I won this awesome Fellowship wall scroll. But as for new TTT:EE footage. there wasn’t a whole lot, the only scene that stood out to me was the “Old man willow” scene. So, all the Merry and Pippin fans will be pleased about that. Well that is all and thank you for listening!

Boston

Grandmotherweb writes: There were only about 6 or 7 of us there, but the atmosphere was great. Most of us got there early, but they didn’t have the books out yet. They set them up while the movie was showing (whether they planned it this way or were just running behind I don’t know). They showed the video in a cozy little lecture room on the fifth floor of the Barnes and Noble, and they also raffled off a LotR hat and tote bag (I won the hat! Woo-hoo!).

The video was VERY interesting (as in the Colorado Springs report, employees were stopping outside to watch). The speakers included Jude Fisher, Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, Tom Shippey, another Tolkien scholar whose name I can’t remember, John Howe, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, lots of Christopher Lee, Dom Monaghan (briefly), and John Rhys-Davies. To start off, they gave a little history about what was going on in Tolkien’s mind and life as he was writing Lord of the Rings. They mentioned his friendship with C. S. Lewis and how odd it seemed since Lewis was an atheist and Tolkien was Catholic. They two and the other Inklings had all been “traumatized” by WWI, and they were all seeking answers to the spiritual questions that arose form that experience. Nice clips of WWI footage, blended seamlessly in with clips of the Dead Marshes. One of their main influences for their writings was that there didn’t seem to be any answers in modern literature, so they had to write their own, and much of their inspiration ironically came from Medieval literature. They showed a shot of the Old English script of Beowulf followed by what I think was Tolkien’s own translation of it, I’m not sure. (Factoid: “Meduseld” was the name of Beowulf’s palace! I never knew that!) They played up the irony of this seemingly outdated mythology having such relevance to a war that was so characterized by modern technology. There were also a couple of thoughtful clips of Viggo Mortensen talking about Tolkien’s reinventing mythology that would be relevant to the modern world, if I remember correctly. Segue to Saruman and Tolkien’s reservations about technology: how Saruman desires to control everything and make it better according to his conception of progress and order, just as man does with ever-more-efficient killing machines. Except his plans get out of hand and start to control HIM, etc, etc.

And in the end he’s destroyed by the forces of nature: segue to Tolkien’s obsession with trees. Wise, old, nurturing ents and the beautiful woods of Lothlorien vs. creepy Fangorn and Old man willow. They showed an EE clip of Merry and Pippin getting sucked down by the boa constrictor-like roots of a big tree, presumably in Fangorn. I’m sure it’s no surprise to those who’ve read the EE reviews, but it was new to me, and very cool to watch!

Then they went into Tolkien’s actual writing: how he had to write the first few chapters of Fellowship three or more times before he was satisfied (no word processors to just cut and paste), and the various “blunders” he made as an amateur author. They mentioned things like the 15,000-word interludes where people just talk and nothing happens, abandoning important characters for 200 pages at a time, having main characters with absolutely no development (loooooong shot of Arwen as they say this), doing pivotal scenes like the downfall of Isengard in flashback, etc. One of the speakers (the scholar I’ve forgotten) said, “They teach you in Creative Writing 101 not to do that, and no professional writer would have done that. But professionals don’t know everything; sometimes inspired amateurs know something.” And the wonder is that in spite of all these “blunders,” LotR is a huge success and draws new fans all the time and never gets old. Or something like that.

They talked a little about the movies, how the name “The Two Towers” is ambiguous as to exactly which towers it refers to (I always thought they were Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul, the “paired” towers), and why they’ve done away with the master-servant relationship between Frodo and Sam. They talked modeling Sam after the tradition of batmen (is that spelled right?) in the British army, and their unwavering loyalty even desperate situations when they know that the high-ranking officers they serve may not have any better idea of what to do than the batmen themselves. They said (“they” being Phillipa Boyens, mainly) that they thought the friendship between Frodo and Sam was the really important thing, and they didn’t want Frodo to be “superior” to Sam, though he’s obviously of more “aristocratic lineage.”

That’s all I remember right now, and right after the film we all went out and bought books. Everything was 30% off, although they only had maybe four copies of the photo guide. Friendly staff, nice venue—a very nice way to spend my lunch break!

Illinois

Lorie writes: I Went to the Houghton-Mifflin event at Barbara’s Bookstore last night. Couldn’t pass it up when it was happening right in my own home town — particularly not after flying to NY last year to see the Fellowship EE, and checking neighboring states for Trilogy Tuesday tickets. Besides, after seeing the first HM documentary on the DVD, I was positive this one would be worthwhile, too.

It was a small gathering, maybe twelve people. The store had chairs set up by a TV, but the display of the newly-released books was pretty small (I walked right past it at first), and though they had a lot of posters hanging over their Tolkien section, the selection was rather disappointing. I’m hoping they get more books in for the holiday season.

The documentary was great, full of interesting information and spoilerish shots from (I’m assuming) the Two Towers EE. But the best part was talking to other fans, which is always amazingly easy despite my usual shyness. Despite the small crowd, there was a reporter and photographer there, and I think they said they were from the Chicago Tribune, not the local Oak Park paper.

After the video everyone stuck around, talking about the movies, the DVD release, and the upcoming premiere. Basically we took over the store and had a big fannish conversation, with the reporter taking notes.

The kids who were there with their parents were really enthusiastic and opinionated about the books and movies. I can understand why those who’ve seen the cast at appearances always note they seem very kind to the young fans. They’re a delight, so intense and funny and intelligent, too.

I my books and really enjoyed myself. It was a great way to spend the first part of a weekday evening, and I’m very grateful to the store and the publisher for setting this up.

California

Dawn writes: But it was actually a pretty light attendance from what I saw, which turned out to be a good thing in the long run. The video I’m not sure said much more than anything that hasn’t been said before. The friendship he had with C.S. Lewis, and how he may have been the inspiration for Treebeard’s voice. The affect of the war on such authors. Which led them to bring back a form of medival literature, such as Beowulf. A discussion on how some names from Beowulf made into LOTR. Also, included was a discussion of the books were seperated, and how they got their individual names. This led into a discussion of which 2 towers are being referred to in the title of “The Two Towers.” There were 3 suggested pairings, 2 of which Tolkien at some point made reference to. Tolkien and his love of trees was portrayed.

We didn’t have the newsletter that was mentioned in the Colorado Springs report (I’m bummed), but we did get an advertisement bookmark and had a raffle. Prizes were a shoulder bag, baseball cap, half standee of Aragorn, and 3 banners (2 sided 3 x 1.5 ft, which my 2 friends and I managed to win.). And then when there was only 1 person left who hadn’t won anything, the employee went and got him the Gandalf standee. So everyone came out a winner. And everyone got what they wanted most amazingly.

The banners I think have been out for a while probably FOTR, with the logo, over a side view of the fellowship on the ridge of a mountain. Mine had pictures of Gandalf the Grey on one side and Saruman on the other, a second had a Ringwraith on horse on one side and Frodo wielding Sting on the other, and then the third had Aragorn and Galadriel.

I was surprised not to see the new books, and the employee apologized for that.

New York

Georg writes: The report from Earwen on the event at the Media Play in Colorado was excellent and shared a lot of similarities to my experience as well. Here’s my take:

When I first saw the post about this event on TheOneRing.net I scrolled to see if there was one happening in NY. “Hey,” I thought, “there IS one, and only one, in NY! Hamburg? Who ever heard of Hamburg, NY?” I figured it must be outside NY City, downstate, where all the action always occurs. I live in Rochester, NY, upstate, 350 miles away, where nothing Tolkien occurs. But I decided to Mapquest Hamburg and, lo and behold, it’s outside of Buffalo, only 77 miles away. “Heck,” I figured, “if it’s that close, I have to make a night out of it. Probably there will be a mad rush, with people showing up in costumes and lines outside the store hoping to get in to sneak a peak over everybody’s shoulders who are crowding the store.

Standing room only. Make mental note not to get trampled to death.” Given the mad frenzy about Trilogy Tuesday ticket buying, I wasn’t going to take any chances! I would make sure to get there early. Maybe a whole 15 minutes or so.

Well, I got out of work a little late, got into some rush hour traffic, and started to panic about missing the start and getting shut out of the store due to the throngs of eager fans. I barreled down the Thruway as fast as I could, listening to a BBC recording I have on CD of Tom Shippey discussing Tolkien and how his life influenced his work. At 6:40 pm, feeling ever more sick from my brewing panic, I cleared right through Buffalo and headed toward Pennsylvania, without being yet at my Mapquested exit. I thought:

“This can’t be right! I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s got to be
centrally located in Buffalo to accommodate all the eager fans. I better turn around and go blindly to every mall in Buffalo and look for where all the people are congregating.” But I was locked on to the highway with the next exit who knows how far away. And since the next exit was supposed to be the one Mapquest had told me to take, I put my trust into all the powers that got me to where I was now, and headed on.

Sure enough, at the exit all the directions I had scrawled down matched with what I was doing. I was on autopilot. A higher purpose was guiding me.

Was I driving this car? In my daze, thinking “I’m almost there, and it’s starting in 8 minutes!” I chanced to look out the window at my darkened surroundings. “This is East Zombie Ville. Where am I?” This place did not look like Rochester. It felt weird. The roads were crooked. The curbs were high. There was an eerie glow from a mall ahead, but no dealerships, no fast food places, no other cars. My car glided into a parking spot in front of the most mega Media Play store I had ever seen. This was the Supercenter of Media Plays. I got my digital camera ready and, giddy with anticipation, I tried hard to avoid breaking out in a run toward the entrance. But where were the throngs? Where are the lights, the sounds, the costumes? Where is the rider? How did it come to this?” Taped to the entrance door was a letter sized paper stating “Join us for a Lord of the Rings party at 7:00 pm.”

“Aha!” I rejoiced, filled for a fleeting moment with hope and joy that the world is fine. “I have arrived! Four minutes to spare.” Looking around, hearing the drone of music wars from diverse regions of the store, and seeing maybe only six other customers, my moment of confidence quickly wilted into the surreal sense that I did not belong here. I nervously squeaked to one of the red clad employees “Which way to The Party?” Over in the corner yonder, by the big screens.

To be continued… I have to run to pick up Elanor from daycare.

Posted in Old Special Reports on November 6, 2003 by

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