Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
While I do not necessarily believe that you can learn the deepest parts of a writer’s psychology and personality from reading his work I do believe that certain clues of what he values, likes, dislikes, and overall believes can be partially gleaned from it. For example, from reading my posts here on this blog (including the top 5 lists) you can gather what my sense of humour is like and a few of my opinions of certain topics.
I have found in my own experience that when I read a biography of an author the things I learn about him shed a new light and colour on the books of his I previously read. I find myself understanding his writing better and finding new layers in his writing that I hadn’t noticed before.
In consideration of this I have decided to write a post listing 5 random facts about myself that my writing has not seemingly hinted at or indicated to see if the reader can make connections between them and my writing. I am not sure what these 5 facts will do for the reader, but what I hope is that in knowing these random things they may see glints of them in my previous writing. It should be noted, however, that the facts listed are, indeed, chosen at random and are not consciously picked to tie in with any of my previous writing. If a connection is made it is made by the reader, not the writer. And that is what I am hoping to see in this experiment. Tell me in the comments if you find anything.
- I dislike “geek” culture
Of all the things on this list I am guessing this one will be the most surprising. Aren’t all my posts generally geeky after all?
What needs to be understood about my dislike of geek culture is that I do not dislike the things geek culture enjoys themselves. I love Star Wars, Star Trek, science-fiction, and fantasy as much as any fellow. What I dislike is the surrounding culture. I feel that the culture has watered down and bastardised the purer nature of the “fandoms” rendering them instead into childish minutia gawked over by consumers who barely understand the content. A feeling hard to express to groups of people who quantify the things they enjoy with trivia, merchandise, and irreverence.
I prefer approaching Star Wars as a film buff rather than a nerd. I see the films as works of cinematic art rather that a massive fan phenomenon meriting a demand for more and more, ignoring quality favouring quantity, and allowing the current creative minds to get lazy because I will consume whatever it is they shit out. I want my appreciation of Star Wars untainted by immature behaviour. I likewise prefer to approach Star Trek as a brilliant saga of science-fiction futurism with deep humanist themes and Tolkien as a literary masterpiece that I can discuss seriously with like-minded fans instead of making a fool of myself collecting posters and dressing up as characters at a convention.
Geek culture, in my opinion, disrespects the sources and messages of the material and places it on a lower materialistic level.
2. I am always reading The Lord of the Rings
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of Tolkien’s writing. I have read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion multiple times and have even delved into the larger body of scholarly material on his work including Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-Earth series (12 vols.), and The Children of Hurin. There are few people who rival my understanding of Tolkien and I say that as a fact, not a boast.
Now anyone who loves a book will often revisit it from time. I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass once a year and find myself constantly rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune books and Asimov’s works on a regular basis.
The Lord of the Rings, however, I take to an even further extreme. I am always reading it. When I finish it I literally start over. I read at least one section of a chapter in the morning and another in the evening not unlike the way many religious people read daily devotions.
I adore the Lord of the Rings and find new things in it with every reading. It is a beautiful book that has shaped my future standard for all other books I enjoy. I simply cannot stop reading it for too long.
NOTE: I will acknowledge that many hardcore Tolkien fans will say The Silmarillion is their favourite and I daresay I would too if it had been finished by Professor Tolkien before his death. The version we were presented with in 1977 is good (excellent in fact), but it is an edited version taken from Tolkien’s material which was unfinished in many portions. The current Silmarillion is an admirable and wonderful product of scholarship, but it cannot be the Silmarillion Tolkien intended. We can glean a bit more of what the final product would look like by examining the notes and drafts published in some of the volumes I mentioned above, but in the end what we have is Tolkien’s unfinished swan-song. It is an artist’s requiem that is a testament to how little time on Earth we are allotted to finish what we start in the same way his lesser known character Niggle struggled to finish his painting. And it reminds us how much the Professor will be missed.
3. I am a devoutly Christian man and very traditional in my views.
My friends and family who know me are aware of this, of course, but for the casual reader here I doubt this is declared clearly by my writing.
I am a Christian; and what’s more a traditional one. Theologically I suppose I lean toward a sort of high-church approach to worship and consider myself somewhat of an Arminian. I attend a predominantly Pentecostal church, but that is for reasons of fellowship and not my own personal views. I am not a biblical literalist (I find six-day creationism and the story of Noah’s Ark for example to be more mythological with spiritual intent rather than literal history), but I do regard the Holy Bible as the highest standard man is intended to follow since his Fall. I believe in the Trinity. I believe in the devil who seeks to prevent mankind from reaching salvation and effectively preaching the Word. I believe in Heaven and Hell. And I believe Jesus Christ is the only Way, Truth, and Life; and any other road is hellbent.
Furthermore I am a traditionalist in my moral views and many of my opinions are unpopular in many liberal circles.
That being said I have never allowed too much of these beliefs to affect what I write here and if you can catch a glimpse of it in my writing then I hope it is purely incidental and not permeating the work since that is not my intent here.
However, if the reader is interested in reading more of my religious writing you can find it at my other blog: rickmcgimpsey.wordpress.com
4. My favourite type of literature in the world is epic narrative poetry
I talk about books a lot and most of the ones that come up in conversation are novels. The reason for this, of course, is that the novel has been the predominant literary mode since the 18th century and most people only read novels and nothing else. Plays and poems are still produced with some fair regularity, but the novel is what most readers will be talking about when talking about literature.
However, for myself, my favourite type of literature is a nearly lost art. The narrative poem is a long poem that tells a story in verse which has, unfortunately, long since gone out of vogue despite the admirable efforts of those that have tried to revive it in the early 20th century (notably C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien). The attempt failed and the fantasy genre was born instead.
Narrative poetry is now largely the preoccupation of academics and historians; overlooked by creative minds and poets who could add to and revitalise it.
It is an art form for which I wish I could see a revival , but as it is I have to content myself with the multitude of pre-existing work. And thank God, there is a much to relish in. We have the epic mythological legends like Beowulf, The Elder Edda, and the poems of Homer evoking images of warriors in armour, bloody battles, and men of honour living and dying for their homes, families, kings, and gods. We can feel as we read about them the cold ice of their mountain dwellings, the sweating heat of labour in the fields and the vigour of battle, and the warmth of the hearth at home earned by work and virtue.
And then we have the spiritual epics of Mediaeval Christendom like Dante’s Divina Commedia, Paradise Lost, and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene where the dignity of the Christian Church and her traditions and ideals is observed in the ascetic and honour-bound lives of knights, kings, priests, laity, and commonfolk.
Suffice it say there is a lot to choose from. And if there is no upcoming revival any time soon I can relax in the solace of what the literary legacy of our world has left us.
5. I habitually drink tea every night.
This seems like a rather frivolous datum to include on this list compared to the other four, but if you allow for a moment an explanation on my part you can see where there is more to my nature and character lying within this habit if you closely look at it.
Like many of my posts here this is a list. I like lists. They are a wonderful way to organise one’s thoughts and convey ideas in an accessible and orderly fashion.
In other words I have a fondness for routine. When I do not have a routine and a schedule to hold myself to I end up procrastinating and being unproductive. I need routine to function.
Now this particular personality quirk extends itself to my private pleasures as well and I often end up doing the things I enjoy in a routine as well as the things I need to do.
Drinking tea in the evening helps me sleep and maintains my calm before I go to bed. My mind is most active in the late hours which is why my depression and insomnia often is inflicted upon me at night if I forgo the tea. In fact, the tea has become such a necessary habit that I more often than not become irritable in the morning if I had not had it the night before. Take my tea away and there will be trouble.
And there you have it: 5 rather inconsequential things about me that may or may not cast a reflection on my writing. Can connections be found? I do not know and I say that honestly. I really do not know if any of these random things have any bearing on how and what I write. It is in the territory of subconscious psychology of which I have no expertise.
C. S. Lewis believed in Purgatory, but can we see that hidden in the layers of his Narnian stories? I don’t know. Perhaps a rereading of them may determine that for me or maybe it won’t.
I read Lord of the Rings every day. Can that be found in the underlying layers of my top 5 lists? Who knows. Reread them and determine it for yourselves.