Friday, August 26, 2016

2016 Seven Heavens of Summer Reading: The Platypus Reads Part CCXCV

The first full week of classes is over and that means an early end to this year's summer reading at Platypus of Truth. If 2016 saw fewer titles, they were no less enjoyable than in years prior. As usual, topics varied widely with trips into 18th century literature (The Vicar of Wakefield) and comics theory (Hellboy's World). Without further ado then, let's move on to the awards.

Sun: The heaven of scholars always has multiple works vying for the title. This year presented a strong field with several works on colonial New England (In the Devil's Snare, Escaping Salem, and A little Commonwealth). Inklings scholarship can never be ignored with Jane Chance's A Mythology of Power and Mark Atherton's There and Back Again running against Corey Olsen's Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Ancient Greece wasn't missing either (A Storm of Spears). With such a tough field, it's hard to decide but the award goes to Mark Atherton's There and Back Again. It's been a long time since I've seen such a well written study of the leaf-mold of an author's mind. The book manages to be both far-ranging and concise, making the best of Tolkien scholarship easily accessible. If you love The Hobbit, reading Atherton's There and Back Again is a must.

Moon: The planet of insanity is always hard to assign without feeling as though I'm casting aspersions on the winner. Yet as the Bard reminds us, there can be method in madness. This year's award goes to the comic that turned a beloved hero into a methodical madman: Frank Miller's The Dark Night Returns. It's been over a decade since I read what is quite possible one of the greatest graphic novels ever written. I caught much more of the irony this time through, as well as Miller's genuine love for the characters whose mythology he is adapting (something that seems missing from DKII).

Mercury: The planet of voyages goes to that consummate word-lover, J.R.R. Tolkien and his capricious canine odyssey Roverandom. This book just makes me smile. The older I get, the more I treasure Tolkien's scripta minora. It's in these odd little works that so much of his versatility and range is showcased.

Venus: If Love moves the Sun and other stars, then disordered love is a force of cosmic destruction. This year's Venus award goes to Ursula K. Le Guin's The Farthest Shore for showcasing the devastating forces unleashed when our loves become deranged.

Mars: Infortuna Minor, a planet of grim destiny and partner of Fortuna Minor, Venus. It was said of the Chosen One that he would bring balance to Force -balance- by first killing the Jedi and then destroying the Sith. The award for the planet of necessary evils goes to the comic that dares to take up the life of Anakin Skywalker: Vader.

Jupiter: The award for the planet of kings goes to a work that ends with the coming of The King, the Kalevala. More so that that, however, Elias Lonnrot is the "king" of compilers for creating a national epic for Finland and a treasure of world literature out of hundreds of folk songs. I read the Kalevala as a student. Returning to it after so many years, my appreciation for Lonnrot's unique achievement has only grown.

Saturn: The award for the planet of contemplation and endings goes to a book that contemplates both: Hellboy's World by Scott Bukatman. As the first book-length study of Annung un Rama, and an extended meditation on the power and meaning of comics, Hellboy's World hits it out of the park.

So there you have it. Another summer slips by upon this middle earth and another Seven Heavens of Summer Reading makes its appearance here at Platypus of Truth.

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