31 July 2013

Review: On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle

Hardcover, 334 pages
Published unknown (originally 1841)
Borrowed from my advisor
Read September 2012
On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History
by Thomas Carlyle

In a nutshell: "Goddamn atheists! Get off my lawn. Especially you, Bentham. P.S. Voltaire is the Antichrist."

29 July 2013

Review: Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn

Hardcover, 306 pages
Published 2008
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2012
Rhetorics of Fantasy
by Farah Mendlesohn

Most theories, of course, really don't mean much at all until you try to use them in practice, which is something I haven't yet had much of a chance to do with Rhetorics of Fantasy, but hope to do someday. I like her formulation of the four types of fantasy (portal-quest, immersive, intrusion, liminal), and what they indicate about our ("the reader's") attitude toward the fantastic, especially as regards observation (but then of course I would, as I am obsessed with observation). Mendelsohn has a keen attention to detail and complications (her point that genres work differently in different media, and thus we can't assume what she says is true for novels is also true for Buffy the Vampire Slayer is well taken), and I look forward to digging into her work in more depth at some point.

26 July 2013

Review: Space and the ‘March of Mind’: Literature and the Physical Sciences in Britain, 1815-1850 by Alice Jenkins

Hardcover, 257 pages
Published 2007
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2012
Space and the ‘March of Mind’: Literature and the Physical Sciences in Britain, 1815-1850
by Alice Jenkins

Not a bad book for what it was, but it was less about literature and science than the title implies, and more about just science. The strongest part, I felt, was the reading of Middlemarch, suggesting that Middlemarch's famous "web" could be not (or not just) the web of life, but the field of force, and that field theory makes us skeptical about limits and boundaries-- as does the realist novel (pp. 204-07). The remonstration, though, that the field needs to pay more attention to physical science (life and earth sciences having gotten all the literature and science hype) is worth heeding.

24 July 2013

Review: A Game of Chess by Altariel

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2011 (originally 2002)
Read July 2013
A Game of Chess
by Altariel

As I read The Last Ringbearer, I recalled some grumbling from when it hit Slate and the blogosphere: why was this piece of glorified fanfiction getting attention? Good question. So, I tracked down this because 1) at 70,000 words, it is novel-length, 2) it is about Faramir, who is the greatest, and 3) it is by Una McCormack, who is one of the better writers of Star Trek and Doctor Who tie-ins.  Unfortunately for the book, it was something very different than what I was expecting. Because of McCormack's authorship and the title, I was expecting a book of political intrigue with Faramir at the center. How awesome does that sound? Instead, it's about the rocky first couple years of Faramir's marriage to Éowyn, alternating chapters from each one's perspective.

There's nothing wrong with this in principle, but in practice it turned out to be less exciting than I wanted. An awful lot of the book is reported speech, which undermines the effect of the conversations, and leaves it feeling underwritten and overwritten at the same time. If there was more dialogue, it'd feel fuller, but it'd have to be longer than its 70,000 words, but as it is, it feels like not enough actually happens to justify spending 70,000 words on it.

In the end, this wasn't the Faramir I wanted to see. I've no doubt Faramir has some trauma in his past-- I thought his relationships with his father and his brother were very sensitively portrayed-- but this is the man who when he saw the Ring, essentially shrugged. A lot of people tell each other how awesome Faramir is, but we see virtually none of that actually depicted in the text. I would have liked this book a lot more if we'd seen more sides of Faramir's character than mopeyness. This guy's badass! But not here, alas. This book shows us one side of a character, not an integrated person. There are flashes of something better (Faramir and Éowyn's physical confrontation, for example), and I really liked the epilogue, but on the whole I wanted something else than what I got.

22 July 2013

Review: From Aldo to Zira: Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia

Oversized paperback, 303 pages
Published 2010
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2013
From Aldo to Zira: Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia
by Rich Handley
illustrated by Patricio Carbajal

Previously, Rich Handley published Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, one of the more admirably thorough timelines I've ever seen, and he's done it again with From Aldo to Zira (heh), an incredibly comprehensive encyclopedia of all Apes lore. It's all here: every name, every place, every number from Pierre Boulle's novel, from the original film series, from the TV series, from the cartoon, from the many comics, from the Tim Burton remake, from the videogame, from the stage shows, from the unproduced scripts! It's nuts! I've now forgotten more than most people will ever know about Planet of the Apes, I expect.

My main discovery is that timelines make for better reading than encyclopedias: in a timeline, there's a puzzle being solved, but that's not the case here. Just facts, facts, FACTS!  I appreciated the little continuity symbols Handley included at the beginning of each entry: it made it easy for me to skip entries about the Burton film (and its spin-offs), unproduced remakes, and the videogames, none of which I had any interest in. On the other hand, I would really like to read many of the older Planet of the Apes comics now, though they don't seem to be readily available. I am looking forward to reading Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes now.

My only gripe with this book is that information from unpublished sources is often integrated into entries. While it's interesting to read about, does it really make sense to include information gleaned from Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes in the entry on, say, "time travel" if no one ever even approved the outline? What authority does that information have? I like knowing it, but it should have been more clearly indicated as coming from unpublished sources.

15 July 2013

Review: The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2011 (originally 1999)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
The Last Ringbearer
by Kirill Yeskov
translated by Yisroel Markov

This Russian reworking attracted some Anglosphere attention when a free English translation was published on LiveJournal a few years ago; it seemed appropriate to follow-up to my finally reading all six books of The Lord of the Rings. Yeskov presents The Lords of the Rings as propaganda written by the victorious Gondorian forces after the war. Aragorn is a conniving manipulator backed by the Elves, while Mordor is a bastion of rationality in a sea of magic-users on the verge of completing the industrial revolution. Gandalf, feeling threatened, deposes Saruman and orchestrates the collapse of Gondor.

Yeskov's rewriting is quite fun; I enjoyed picking out the details of the "new universe" as the story went. Aragron is a pretty threatening villain, a stone-cold thug backed by zombies who killed Denethor to secure the Gondorian throne. Orcs are just human beings of a different ethnicity (Orocuen), as are trolls, and probably hobbits, though we never see any hobbits. The Nazgûl are good wizards who planted rumors of an all-powerful Ring to try to break up the alliance between Aragorn and the Elves. (One of my favorite jokes is about what a bad job the Nazgûl going after the Ring in the Shire did.) Aragorn is the one who killed the "Witch-King" (no one more than a commander of a Mordorian regiment), and spreads a rumor that he was killed by a woman to humiliate him even after death.

Quite properly, Faramir is the same in all universes. He's forced into ceding his kingship to Aragorn and given a little principality, but he soon unites with Éowyn, a discarded lover of Aragorn, and begins a resistance against Aragorn's people. He's completely badass, and the relationship between them is quite well done.

The book, though, does not actually focus on most of this; it's just background fodder for Yeskov's story. The real story is that of Haladin, a Mordorian physician, and Tzerlag, a Mordorian scout, as well as Tangorn, a Gondorian noble who realizes the Elves are up to no good. The first quarter of the novel sees them in the desert, trying to evade Elvish capture and get away. It's a well-done wartime thriller. Then it becomes a quest novel, as Haladin learns how to banish magic from Middle-earth, and thus save rationality, if not his country. In subsequent quarters, we follow Faramir's attempts to escape Aragorn's control, a mission by Tangorn to Umbar, and the infiltration of Lórien itself. The first two quarters are definitely the best, as the further it goes on, the more it feels like a generic espionage novel. I like Haladin, Tzerlag, and Tangorn a lot: as pretty ordinary guys caught up in terrible events, it's hard not to.

The book has its odd moments, though. It's hard to know when to blame them on Yeskov or his (volunteer!) English translator Markov, though. There's an attempt to make the dialogue more casual, but it sits poorly with the long, expository dialogue characters speak in. You can have Gandalf talk like a violent thug, or you can have him deliver long speeches on the necessity of the Fall of Mordor. I'm not convinced you can do both; it's an awkward mix of generic standards.

Also awkward is Yeskov's constant bringing in of real-world references, especially from World War II and the Cold War. Whether you think his novels are good or not, you have to admit Tolkien did an amazing job building a linguistically coherent world, whereas Yeskov's world feels cheap by comparison. At one point, Éomer even mentions the differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam!

Also, though it's shorter by far than The Lord of the Rings I suspect, it goes on too long. Though the espionage tricks are fun, Yeskov is clearly more interested in them than I am.

I was trying to puzzle through why an espionage novel. If one is to unpack the rhetorical underpinnings of high fantasy, one of them is typically moral absolutism, I think: good is Good and bad is Evil. In Tolkien's story, the enemy country is led not just by a guy who wants something for his country different than our heroes', but basically Satan. Yeskov doesn't really undercut this, though, so much as reverse it: we end up with Good and Evil, just reversed.

So why deconstruct The Lord of the Rings by turning it into an espionage novel? The key, I think, is that though espionage stories can feature Good and Evil (though perhaps not always), Good and Evil are distinguished by their ultimate aims-- not their methods. When it comes down to it, each side is no better than the other in terms of what they do: "in order to win you have to walk over corpses and wade through unthinkable much, again and again -- a vicious circle." Yeskov seems unable to push the moral absolutism of Tolkien so far as to say there is not Good and Evil, but he does get it to saying that Good is often not any better than Evil. There's a recurrent saying about the ends justifying the means: "Stated generally, the problem lacks a solution." I take this to mean that whether the ends justify the means depends on what ends and what means. The rhetoric of espionage fiction is that often Good's ends do not seem to justify Good's means... but you gotta do it anyway if you want to live.

12 July 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part VI: Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 4

Comic trade paperback, 165 pages
Published 2005 (contents: 1975-77)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 4

Writers: Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin, E. Nelson Bridwell, Martin Pasko, Paul Levitz
Artists: Dick Dillin, Frank McLaughlin

The first story in here is one of the weirdest crossovers yet: "Where on Earth am I?" starts on Earth-Prime, which is our Earth, where DC Comics is based. Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin, at a loss for a Justice League plot, are sucked into Earth-Two, where Cary Bates promptly (for some reason) becomes a supervillain. Whoops. It's a bit by-the-numbers, despite the premise, but fun enough. The best part is probably the way they write their cranky old editor, Julius Schwartz.

The last two tales are co-written by Martin Pasko (the first with E. Nelson Bridwell, the second with Paul Levitz), and boy are they dull. Lots of fighting to no clear purpose, lots of mind-control so that heroes fight other heroes. Who knew that Superman finally meeting Captain Marvel could be so uninteresting? Worse, who knew that the freakin' Legion of Super-Heroes turning up could be very uninteresting!? And overcomplicated. I don't know if I'm running out of interest in these kind of stories, or if the writers are. Well, just two more volumes of this series to go.

It's worth noting that the last story shows Power Girl flirting with the Earth-One Superman. I guess that if you're gonna try to make out with your cousin, restricting it to his parallel self is a sensible option...

10 July 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part V: Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 3

Comic trade paperback, 191 pages
Published 2004 (contents: 1971-74)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 3

Writers: Mike Friedrich, Len Wein
Penciller: Dick Dillin
Inkers: Joe Giella, Dick Giordano
Letterers: John Costanza, Ben Oda

Dennis O'Neil's run on Justice League is sadly brief, as Volume 3 of Crisis on Multiple Earths sees him replaced by Mike Friedrich for one story and Len Wein for three. Friedrich's "Earth-- The Monster Maker!" / "Solomon Grundy-- The One and Only" tries to use the parallel Earths to advantage by telling the story of an alien and his symbiotic pet stranded between the two Earths, but it turns out to be boring fight scene after boring fight scene until the heroes figure out the kid is lost, not evil. Of vague interest is some interaction between the Robins of both Earths, but vague is as far as the characterization goes. The Robin of Earth-One borrows a costume unused by the Earth-Two Robin-- I can see why, because it's godawful, even if Neal Adams (acknowledged in dialogue!) did design it.

I found both of Len Wein's big event stories ("The Unknown Soldier of Victory!"/"The Hand That Shook the World"/"And One of Us Must Die!" and "Crisis on Earth-X!"/"Thirteen against the Earth!") very uninspired. They're old-school team-ups, where the Justice League/Justice Society/whatever team split up into groups and each fight mini-battle before uniting for the finale. Depressingly formulaic. Wein pulls in more and more obscure heroes, but does nothing to make you care about them. "The Creature in the Velvet Cage" is decent, but it explains something that didn't really need an explanation: why did the Sandman change his costume back to his gas mask one (um, because it's awesome and the purple one sucked?) and what happened to Sandy Hawkins?

Dick Dillin is still pretty awesome, though. Keep rocking it out on art, man.

08 July 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part IV: Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2

Comic trade paperback, 200 pages
Published 2003 (contents: 1967-70)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2

Writers: Gardner Fox, Dennis O'Neil
Pencillers: Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin
Inkers: Sid Greene, Joe Giella
Letterers: Gaspar Saladino
, Joe Letterese, Milton Snapinn, Ira Schnapp

This volume of Crisis on Multiple Earths features four more transdimensional team-ups between the Justice League and the Justice Society, the first two by old hand Gardner Fox, the last two by new hand Dennis O'Neil-- the first time someone other than Fox has written a JLA/JSA team-up.

Fox's first story is "The Super-Crisis That Struck Earth-Two!" / "The Negative Crisis on Earths One-Two!" It is a pretty generic Justice League story: there are some alien infestations, some bad guys, some fighting, and some really contrived villain weaknesses. Fox has done better and more interesting work, and one wonders if he is running out of steam, both on the Justice League in general and the crossovers in particular. The one potentially interesting thing here is the inclusion of Earth-Two's Robin, who is "no longer the 'Boy Wonder'"-- one would hope so, given that I think he must be about forty years old at this point! But he's just a cypher in this punchout-fest; Fox squanders all the potential of seeing what a grownup Robin would be like.

His last effort is "The Stormy Return of the Red Tornado" / "T. O. Morrow Kills the Justice League -- Today!" which is... I dunno... I guess it's there. I do like the new Red Tornado-- a robot without a soul!-- but other than the introduction of Dick Dillin on pencils (and what an introduction it is, the guy is great!) there's not a whole lot going on here. Still, it's fun-- Gardner Fox never puts one weird concept into a story when he can come up with fifteen.

Awesomely, Denny O'Neil then takes over, with some awesomely titled epics: "Star Light, Star Bright-- Death Star I See Tonight!" / "Where Death Fears to Tread!" being the first of them. A living star attacks Earth-Two. I wonder if this is where Neil Gaiman got the concept for "The Heart of a Star" from? Oddly this is one of the first JLA/JSA crossovers (if not the first) where two versions of the same person meet: the Clark Kents of both Earths are in this tale. But it doesn't really matter, as usual, because who would be interested in meeting their parallel self who is twenty years older? Evidently not these guys. Notably, though, this is the story where Larry Lance, the husband of the Black Canary dies, and so she crosses over from Earth-Two to Earth-One.

This is followed up on in the last story, "Peril of the Paired Planets" / "Where Valor Fails... Will Magic Triumph?" Something I've been doing as I read these is imagine how they would play out in the new universe formed after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where there is no multiverse. Some of these stories wouldn't work at all, of course, but others would. One of the most notable changes is that the Black Canary becomes two characters: mother Dinah Drake Lance and daughter Dinah Laurel Lance. It's relatively easy to imagine the elder Dinah being the character in all the crossovers up to this point (serving with the JSA), and the younger in the ones after this (serving in the JLA). But this story gives us a Dinah who was both married to Larry Lance and is now dating Green Arrow, which never happened in the new timeline of course. It gives one some cognitive dissonance if one attempts to imagine these events in the lives of the post-Crisis characters. I was interested, though, that this story takes place during the infamous "Hard-Traveling Heroes" era: Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary have to be recalled to assist with the current crisis. There's an increased focus on their characterization, as Black Canary frets that her crossing between universes may be what destabilized the realities, and thus she will have to die to fix it.

This story establishes, "Every twelve months, the temporal matrices of the Earths come together briefly! For 21 days, super-powered men and women can cross to the other existence... can and have!" It's a valiant attempt to explain why the JLA/JSA team-ups happen on a yearly basis, but it doesn't really make much sense. In the previous stories, it seemed as though people (heroes or villains) crossed at will, and the idea is never alluded to again, either. And in between the JLA/JSA team-ups, individual heroes (especially the Flash) seem to cross over all the time.

Also this story in some ways reads as a rewrite of "Crisis between Earth-One and Earth-Two!", with the Spectre trying to stop the two Earths from colliding with one another. Only this time he gives his life in the effort!  Kinda-- it's weird. In the first chapter, he's chairing the Justice Society meeting and helping deal with the crisis like a normal superhero; in the second, he lives in a crypt and has to be summoned to help by Doctor Fate. So who knows what's going on. I did like both of O'Neil's stories: Gardner Fox madness mixed with a bit of O'Neil's overblow style: fun stuff, too.

05 July 2013

Review: Republic for a Day: An Eye-Witness Account of the Carpatho-Ukraine Incident by Michael Winch

Hardcover, 286 pages
Published 1939
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
Republic for a Day: An Eye-Witness Account of the Carpatho-Ukraine Incident
by Michael Winch
photographs by Czeslaw Jakubowski

On March 15, 1939, the autonomous Czechoslovakian province of Carpatho Ukraine declared itself an independent republic. On March 16, 1939, Hungary formally annexed the country.

Michael Winch was a UK journalist who came to Carpatho Ukraine that January, and this book chronicles his time in the province, and came out within the same year. At times meandering, it is an interesting anecdotal depiction of ethnic tensions in a contested piece of territory on the eve of World War II. Carpatho Ukraine had been under Czechoslovakian control since World War I, but Hungarian control prior to that, and there were also Ukrainian, German, Jewish, Russian, and Polish contingents within the territory-- not to mention the Ruthenians, the "men of the place" with "no allegiance beyond the frontiers" (9). There are many anecdotes that illustrate the problems, usually told in a light style; to believe Winch (and I'd like to believe him), the whole Carpatho-Ukraine incident was a comedy of errors.

The actual formation and destruction of the Republic of Carpatho Ukraine occupies very little space in the book, but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, since it was only a day!  The Hungarian invasion and its consequences is definitely the strongest and most fascinating part of the book.

03 July 2013

Reading Roundup Wrapup: June 2013

Pick of the month: Where on Earth by Ursula K. Le Guin. How could a collection of Le Guin's best stories not win this highly coveted award?

All books read:
1. Republic for a Day: An Eye-Witness Account of the Carpatho-Ukraine Incident by Michael Winch
2. The End of the Third Age: Being the Sixth Book of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
3. Crisis on Multiple Earths by Gardner Fox
4. Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2 by Gardner Fox and Dennis O’Neil
5. The Half Sisters by Geraldine Jewsbury
6. The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin, Volume One: Where on Earth
7. The Obverse Quarterly: Year Two, Book Two: Lady Stardust edited by Art Critic Panda
8. The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov
9. Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 3 by Mike Friedrich and Len Wein
10. Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 4 by Martin Pasko with Elliot S! Maggin and Cary Bates, E. Nelson Bridwell, and Paul Levitz

All books acquired:
1. Star Wars: Riptide by Paul S. Kemp
2. Bernice Summerfield X: Nobody's Children by Kate Orman, Jonathan Blum & Philip Purser-Hallard
3. Bernice Summerfield XI: Missing Adventures edited by Rebecca Levene
4. Bernice Summerfield XII: The Vampire Curse by Mags L Halliday, Kelly Hale and Philip Purser-Hallard

Only four!  Jeepers!

Books remaining on "To be read" list: 514

Review: The Half Sisters by Geraldine Jewsbury

Trade paperback, 409 pages
Published 1998 (originally 1848)
Acquired October 2012
Read June 2013
The Half Sisters
by Geraldine Jewsbury

I bought this book because I was lead to believe that one of the eponymous half sisters, Alice, married a scientist. This is not quite true; she marries a man who works in business vaguely depicted, but she does meet him in a town where members of the British Association are meeting. I think he's there to hear about scientific breakthroughs that will affect his work, though he's not a scientist himself. I must trace the original reference to see if the error of understanding was mine or theirs.

In any case, this is a decent novel. I've seen Jewsbury compared to Elizabeth Gaskell, which I don't think is quite right-- Gaskell is better with interiority and less prone to overt moralizing-- but The Half Sisters is still a decent read. It chronicles two half sisters, one from a conventional middle-class background who marries too hastily, the other an Italian actress who tries to make it in England. Both women find their lives constrained by social pressures. Jewsbury is pretty scathing of contemporary women's education, and she shows how it warps both men and women's perceptions of women's roles in society: "A woman is a rational being, with reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting, and yet she is never educated for her own sake, to enable her to lead her own life better; her qualities and talents... are modified, like the feet of Chinese women, to meet an arbitrary taste" (219).

It's a little melodramatic at times, but Jewsbury avoids excess; I was particularly impressed with how characters who in other hands could have been simple villains (such as Alice's sometimes-thoughtless husband) were more complicated and understandable than that. This is very much a novel where social pressures and societal expectations are the villains, not individuals, not even the worst of them.

The Half Sisters sparkles with the occasional insight or witticism worthy of George Eliot, even; I liked Jewsbury's description of a "worldy" man: "his ideas about women became coarser and more rigid; and after the fashion of that style of men, he expected them to do all the virtue going in the world, in spite of their own individual efforts to thwart it in all the women they came near" (168). Or, in talking of the attempt of a man to remember his lover's suffering: "our own personality sits closer to us than any other feeling; no generosity can enable us to get rid of it; our 'self-negation' is at best but a generous fiction" (211). Ouch! But perhaps too true.

01 July 2013

Review: The End of the Third Age by J. R. R. Tolkien

Hardcover, 182 pages
Published 2000 (originally 1955)
Acquired February 2011
Read June 2013
The End of the Third Age: Being the Sixth Book of The Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien

This turned out to be my least favorite and the most uneven installment of The Lord of the Rings. Mainly, I think, because Tolkien severely overestimates how much I care about the kingship of Middle-earth. Seriously. I get that it's a sign of the restoration of Middle-earth, but the book just goes on and on about the details of the restoration of the crown, and the marriage, and whatever. I'm not sure where Aragorn didn't show up and ask for his crown years ago, nor why a king is so important-- at one point we're told the roads to the Shire will be kept up better now. What, a steward of Gondor can't order anyone to put down new pavement? I also don't think it's really explained why all the elves are like, "Welp, we're leaving." It just suddenly seems to be something everyone knows about.

The book still has its moments, of course. Frodo and Sam escaping from Cirith Ungol continues the good work done in The Ring Goes East, and the "Mount Doom" chapter is excellent. I'd read the book and seen the films before, but I'd forgotten that even Frodo succumbs to the Ring in the end. I also really like the romance between Faramir and Éowyn-- two of the most awesome characters in the books, of course they have to get together, and unlike always happened in the Harry Potter books, they actually do.  Also, they have the most epic kiss ever:
'Éowyn, Éowyn, White Lady of Rohan, in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!' And he stooped and kissed her brow. 
And so they stood on the walls of the City of Gondor, and a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air. And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of Anduin shone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell. (93)
If that's what happens when he kisses her on the forehead, imagine what locking lips will do-- probably cure cancer! Actually, I don't like that Éowyn-- the women who slew the Witch-King of Angmar-- has to give up being a warrior for being a healer when she gets married, but 1) lets not ask for too much progressiveness of old Tolkien and 2) given that Aragorn, that manliest of men, turns out to be the world's best healer, I can't really argue that healing is particular feminine activity.

Once you muddle through the interminable chapters about the coronation and then everyone saying goodbye all the time (seriously, the climax of this installment comes in the third chapter of nine!), the end of the book is pretty good, too. "The Scouring of the Shire," far from being an anticlimax serves to both escalate the threat at the novel's end (sure, Sauron is dead, but the Shire itself is in danger!) and show how badass our little group of hobbits has become.  And the last chapter is just lovely; Bilbo was irrevocably changed by his journey, but poor Frodo was changed even moreso. All adventures have their price, and even if Sam suffers less for it, he'll never be the same either.