For a good time? Go to an author's reading. The Northshire Bookstore recently had an author signing for Nancy Marie Brown who has just released Song of the Vikings a book about the very interesting historian/skald of Iceland, Snorri Sturluson.
I learned a lot, just in an hour. I knew, for example, that my 'escapist' reading eas looked down on when I was in college, that Tolkien had only a grudging respect in academia in the early 90's because he had written part of the Oxford English Dictionary, and because his books had sold so well. How much more frustrating it must have been earlier, when he didn't have the cache of being so popular. He was only an Oxford Dean, back then.
I love my Tolkien. I love my Icelandic saga. While they are not the same, they go hand-in-hand with a certain number of sensibilities. And those have been passed onto a few generations of writers. And I consier that a good thing. But it's always interesting to understand the origins of something I enjoy, as well as it's influences. It's why I'm totally hooked on movie commentaries and extras. What was the process that lead to the creation of something like the Lord of the Rings or Pan's Labyrinth?
Snorri Sturluson was a poet and powerful landowner in 13th Century Iceland. He wrote many of the stories we clasically associate with Norse mythology, and laid the foundations for the early modern view of heroism. But Snorri's story also has unexpected moments of connection to the work of Tolkien. For example, the day of his death. September the 22nd. Which is, for the non-Tolkein fanatics out there, Bilbo and Frodo's shared birthday. Hm.
Nancy Marie Brown is a good speaker, interesting and informative. She really knew how to hook me as a listener in. She was pleasant to speak with and clealy knew her stuff. Who wouldn't want a book or two signed by her?
According to her blog, what prompted her to start writing this book was reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Neil Gaiman, if you aren't a long-time reader, is, in my opinion, the second-most dropped name in English. I can't wait to dive into Song of the Vikings.