Lit Review |92| The Hobbit Rewritten

Christmas is a time for giving, so Harry Potter fans will be pleased to read that JK Rowling is working on two new novels, just for them. One novel will be published under her own name, whereas the other will be published under her detective fiction pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Rowling originally used the Galbraith name to anonymously publish the first novel in the Comoran Strike series, before a solicitor revealed the secret in 2013. Rowling has also published The Casual Vacancy under her own name since the conclusion of the Harry Potter series.

In the past weeks, reviews of Jeanette Winterson’s latest book have been streaming in. The New York Times published its review of Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days last Tuesday, describing the stories as “dark, otherworldly and (trademark Winterson) wickedly funny,” as well as “hard to read, but they honour the inescapable sadness that comes into sharper focus during the holidays.” The book is a collection of twelve seasonal stories, ranging from ghost stories to fairy tales to fables, but from Jenny Rosenstrach’s review it appears that the collection is brought to life by the twelve recipes that follow the stories. The recipes are her own quirky concoctions, as well as those of Winterson’s family and friends. Rosentrach says the recipes “offer new portals for the exploration of relationships and rituals.”

The contextual detail is what is most important, and most befitting of the season; “it’s unlikely many readers will prepare her dad’s sherry trifle … but they’ll likely always remember what happens around it. For her father’s last Christmas, as she wrestled with reconciling their difficult past and he lay dying, unable to eat, he requested the trifle.” A review for the National Post published yesterday described the book as a “magical gift,” so if any of you came up short in your Christmas shopping, this would definitely have been a more heartfelt gift than a DVD from Golden Discs’ 2 for €12 offer.

In other, less Christmassy news, a university in Wisconsin has purchased a first edition of The Hobbit. Marquette University in Milwaukee acquired one of the 1,500 first print, first editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy novel, published in 1937 and featuring artwork drawn by Tolkien himself. In an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio, archivist at Marquette University Raynor Memorial Libraries and curator of the library’s J.R.R. Tolkien Collection, William Fliss says that he had been trying to get a copy for the collection for as long as he has been its curator. Fliss reveals that part of what makes owning this exciting is that the fifth chapter of the first print, first edition copies is different to the one that today’s readers are familiar with. At the time of publishing the book, Tolkien had no intention of writing a sequel, but when pressed by his publisher, he relented. During the writing of this sequel, which became The Lord of the Rings, he realised that the fifth chapter of The Hobbit no longer made sense, so he rewrote it.


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