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Old 06-02-2004, 09:35 AM   #1
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Pipe LotR Reading Club

EDIT -- This idea has now been taken up by the mods and a new sub-forum has been created in the Books forum for a careful chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Lord of the Rings. Join the conversation!

~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@

I've done a search and cannot find that this has ever been done before. . .probably because it would be foolhardy to attempt it, but [deep breath]. . .

There is a lot of excellent discussion around here about Tolkien's works, but a lot of it does tend to take place in generalities rather than in terms of really close and specific attention to the works. What I am trying to do is to set up a LotR reading club that would go through the book chapter by chapter, and discuss it as we go. I do not propose to have formal questions or topics or anything of the sort, we could just discuss whatever intrigues us about each chapter as we go.

I've been thinking that it would be best if the club could go through the book one chapter a week -- but as there are 62 chapters, this would be a LONG undertaking. It doesn't mean that each member of the club would have to post each week, and there wouldn't be anything preventing new members from joining the club as we go.

At any event, if anyone's interested in starting a club like this, reply to this thread. If there's enough people to make a go of it, I will start a new thread called something like "FotR Reading Club" and we can start talking about "A Long-Expected Party" -- or even with the Prologue, come to think of it!

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Old 06-02-2004, 09:47 AM   #2
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Sounds like fun to me. I'm definitely interested, and the timing works out perfectly since I just finished LotR for the 6th time yesterday. I hope there are enough people interested to start this. There's a lot of interesting stuff in the prologue, so maybe it would be a good idea to start there.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:02 AM   #3
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I'd be up for it.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:38 AM   #4
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I would be very interested in doing this as it would give me an excuse to read the books again.
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:13 PM   #5
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Thumbs up

That sounds like a great idea!
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:41 PM   #6
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I love the idea, & would certainly be willing to participate. I do wonder, though, how organized we could keep such a club. Would members simply read the chapter & post their thoughts on it (or reply at random to thoughts posted by other members), or would there be a formatted discussion of each chapter? Knowing this forum, if there was no structure to the conversation, it could become pretty chaotic, & if there was too much structure people might lose interest. How could we find a middle ground for reasonable discussion?
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:41 PM   #7
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Pipe

*cringe* ....I signed up for lindil's HomE club, and fizzled VERY early...

But the Trilogy, now...

Lessee, 62 chapters; at one per week, that's a year and ten weeks. Only a little longer than the first RPG I played in... Two chapters a week? 31 weeks... 8 months? Or three chapters a week, 20 weeks, three months.

Must look at coming schedule.

Burarum, Hoom, Hom, Hoom.


EDIT:

Son of Numenor-- Estelyn will know. She handled Movies quite well.
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:53 PM   #8
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Son of Numenor -- I was thinking that each Friday we would move on to the next chapter (giving stragglers the weekend to catch up on their reading if they want), and we could each take turns posting suggested topics for discussion on that chapter for the coming week?

Perhaps there could be a discussion thread to accompany the reading club thread (like in the rpgs) where we decide purely administrative things like who is going to post the discussion topics for the following week?

My preference, however, would be to leave things as open and fluid as possible. I think that if we stick to a fairy strict progression of chapters (that is, each Friday, no matter what's being discussed, we move on to the next chapter), and use gentle reminders, nudges persuasion to keep people focused more or less on that one chapter, this would be appropriate.

DELIGHTED by the positive response so far!
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Old 06-02-2004, 01:00 PM   #9
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Thumbs up

Sounds good to me.
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Old 06-02-2004, 01:09 PM   #10
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If we started a new thread per chapter that would keep things nice and tidy. Maybe the Wight would give us a new room all our own? And it would give the discussion longevity even if Newbies joined later. Why ever close a chapter discussion?
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Old 06-02-2004, 01:46 PM   #11
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A most excellent idea! I'm up for it....give me a good excuse to read LotR...again.
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Old 06-02-2004, 01:49 PM   #12
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I know theOneRing.net has chapter by chapter chats in their Hall of Fire, or at least they did. I participated in one-Minas Tirith (Book Five, Chapter One), so I could ramble on about Pippin a whole lot! There are logs of these chats by date on their Barliman's Hall of Fire page: Hall of Fire logs And also a Yahoo group that I haven't been to in a long time did this: the lotr_inklings . Their pages are public, so you can probably find their old discussions of chapter by chapter LOTR. I think they were going to do the Hobbit as well. I found some ages ago, a Yahoo group that was doing this with the Silmarillion, but I don't remember the name. The funny thing is that I'm almost finished re-reading the last two books of the trilogy again after starting in with the Uruk-Hai chapter in the Two Towers because I wanted to read about Ents on Earth Day and got sucked into the books yet again! But this is never a bad idea!

Cheers,
Lyta
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Old 06-02-2004, 01:52 PM   #13
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This actually was attempted in the distant past here on the Downs. I was only able to find three of the five chapters that were posted before the project was abandoned, though there is evidence here that they all existed at one time.

Book I - Chapter 2

Book I - Chapter 4

Book I - Chapter 5

I link these as a curiosity only. I think it would be worth starting over and doing the read-along.

P.S. -- Isn't it interesting how the Downs' own history in many cases now lies in shattered, half-forgotten ruins?
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:01 PM   #14
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I believe such a thread (or series of) would be a great contribution to all those who wish to learn. Since all my yearly commitments have dissapeared suddenly (ah, summer), I would be willing to involve myself in this, though I don't consider myself a great scholar. Now, as said above, we would have to be very careful about such a massive undertaking. The first few members should be, at least, temporarily dedicated, since we wouldn't want the subject to fall apart a few chapters in.

We have good management, and outside encouragement, and, I daresay, a new and steady stream of apt newcomers to help us through. I think the topic could succeed, and be 'bookmarked' as technical reference material. Newcomers and learners, students of Tolkein, might join to increase their knowledge and voice their thoughts, or just stand by and watch to learn more. It would be a great experience for me personally, since I haven't actually gotten to discuss Tolkien with others who are comfortable with astute conversations about it or any other of that manner of desirable subject. Exhilarating indeed!

Let us hear what our esteemed Barrow-Wight has to say on the matter.
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:01 PM   #15
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Thanks for those links, Underhill! I was just searching for the "Long-expected party" thread, with no success. Apparently it disappeared into the Void at some time.

I think a chapter-by-chapter discussion is a worthwhile idea and would suggest that a thread be opened here on the Books forum for each chapter. It seems to me that too much structuring would defeat the purpose, and I don't think it's necessary to have a new forum for the discussion. Newcomers could join in later, as is possible on all open threads here.
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:02 PM   #16
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Hoooray! Esty, you da best!!!

**springle ring**

This time through the book I'm going to sing as many of the songs as I possibly can.
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Old 06-02-2004, 05:16 PM   #17
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Thumbs up

What an excellent idea, Fordim. I have been meaning to re-read LotR, having not done so in a while. I was planning on working through the Silm and the Hobbit first, but then again I did read them more recently.

Only problem is I'm not sure if I'll be able to restrict myself to one chapter a week as when I finish a chapter I tend to want to plunge into the next one straight away. Still, I suppose there'll be no problem in doing a bit of reading ahead and, in any event, we'll be spending time posting our thoughts between chapters.

While discussion topics for each chapter are a good idea, I don't think this should be too rigid since people may want to raise other issues, themes, questions etc that occur to them while reading too.

Anyway, count me in.
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Old 06-02-2004, 05:38 PM   #18
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Yes, to support the idea of our Man de la Saucepan, I believe we (I say, 'we' in hypothetical terms, but assume that it is a 'we' community) should shy away from letting this become starchy, uninteresting. There is yin and there is yang, order and choas. To use the name-changing Fun Forum as an example, we don't want mayhem, but we might want a bit of mirth, or else we'll be faced with very dry discussion.

We shan't keep it too ordered, just ordered enough to serve, so we get past 5 chapters and deeper. I'm eager to see what kind of things will be discussed, in way of theme, metaphor, chapter-relevant language (can't wait for 'Treebeard' in TT for discussion of the nature of literary ents, or Tom Bombadil's ever versed symmetry in FotR), and etcetera. It seems like this could be a very rewarding experience.

Well, to put it simply, bluntly, promptly, curtly, and flummoxedly, I'm in!

Fordim, perhaps thou shouldst a list compile, of members fine and never vile?
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P.S. -- Isn't it interesting how the Downs' own history in many cases now lies in shattered, half-forgotten ruins?
I believe Percy Bysse Shelley might have something to say on the matter.
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Old 06-02-2004, 08:59 PM   #19
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....Not.

I think the key to success is the right pacing. Too slow, and people read ahead, soon outpacing the discussion; too fast, and people fall behind and give up. One chapter a week sounds waaaaaay too slow to this Ozymandias. If you could pace it out over about three weeks or a month, I think you'd be in business.
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Old 06-02-2004, 10:18 PM   #20
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Wow. . .and again. . .wow -- what a great response. I genuinely thought that this idea would recieve a scoffing! (Can scoffing be used as a noun? Come to think of it, can it be used as a verb in the present imperfect?)

It seems to me that the success of this venture will rely on three things:

1) getting a good group of committed posters to form a 'core' from the beginning (as Kransha has pointed out) -- I would venture that at the moment it would appear as though we have that

2) getting the pacing right (as Mister Underhill astutely points out)

3) making sure that there is some kind of guidance to the thread, but not in terms of dictating subjects for discussion, only to keep the discussion on topic ("write about this blasted chapter, dol gon it!") and to make sure that the posts are more or less substantive (I had a peek at those earlier book club posts provided by MU and it seems to me that too many of them were of the "I like this chapter, especially the bit when. . " variety -- any book club must have room for this, but I think we all would like to see more substantive stuff come along with that. Perhaps not shockingly, there are some very interesting posts by Saucepan Man of the variey I envision, and at least one very nice one by my friend Alak).

In response to point one, I think that we can rely on the core talent of the Downs to keep the thing going, with an eye to making sure that newcomers to the converation are always welcome. To that end, I think Estel's suggestion to have a new thread in the Books forum for each chapter is a good one: much more welcoming and visible for newbies (or oldies who wish to join in media res). I think that if we come up with a standard "greetings this is what we're doing" first post that we use for each thread, that should allow people to orient themselves fairly quickly.

As to point two, I suppose I'd like to hear your suggestions. Mark 12_30 has floated some concrete ideas about timetables, and MU has weighed in with the opinion that a chapter a week is too slow. I myself think that a chapter a week is just right, as it will give everyone a chance to post at least once, and reply to someone else's post at least once. What is the opinion of the Barrow Downs community?

And for point three, I think that the guidance for the threads could easily be provided by that same core of posters who I refer to in point one above. Would we want to have a more 'formal' arrangement whereby there's a person or people whose 'job' it is to oversee the conversations? I don't like this idea much, but I put it out there for comment. I suspect that there will need to be a small group who take it upon themselves to post the new threads each week (or according to whatever schedule we decide upon) and answer the questions of those who wish to join the discussion but maybe aren't sure what's going on.

At any rate, keep the suggestions coming, and get out there to recruit people you think might be interested in this project!

By The Way -- I've always preferred the Victorians to the Romantics: Tennyson, in particular, just wipes me out:

Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Now that's the real thing: words you can eat with a fork.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:29 PM   #21
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Count me in, though I doubt I'll be able to post anything interesting until Summer Session I is over and I've gotten over my jet-lag back home (assuming no planes crash). An excellent idea, though.
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Old 06-03-2004, 02:00 AM   #22
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Mr. U, can you convert old links (prior to UBB 3)?. Some two years ago, there was similar attempt, and than I have found all five discussed chapters. Starting with chapter 6, the discussion moved on to chat (on Saturday nights, it was, and not only LoTR, but a lot of other things too )


chapter discussions were to be found here in ages past:

chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
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Old 06-03-2004, 02:27 AM   #23
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None of those links worked for me!

As to the project, I think it should start, as suggested, with the Prologue, & I would also suggest we include the appendices - how could we leave out The Tale of Aragorn & Arwen? Or the histories of Gondor, Arnor & Rohan, etc.

I would also like to include the two epilogues to LotR - anyone else agree?
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Old 06-03-2004, 02:32 AM   #24
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They were not supposed to - they come from the time prior to our upgrade to UBB3, that's why I asked if moderators were able of finding out modern corresponding ones
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Old 06-03-2004, 05:42 AM   #25
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Various items

1. Pacing - I agree that 1 week per chapter sounds good. It gives everybody time to read the chapter and post at least once, and it also gives enough time for a discussion to get going. If, like Mr. U points out, people think that only 1 chpater a week will get slow, the only thing I can think of is that we are always doing two chapters at a time, maybe staggering it, so that you are still giving a week per chapter but you have two chapters a week. I don't like this idea, as I feel it won't be as enjoyable as when you are concentrated on one chapter at a time.

2. I think we should do the prologue, and parts of the appendices might be good. I don't know about doing all of them - The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen I would say we should do, and some of the Histories might be interesting. Maybe we should mostly focus on Appendix A if we should decide to do this? The other thing - what are the two epilogues to LotR? Are they also known under some other name? Because I'm not sure that I've read those.

3. I don't like the idea of a 'formal' arrangement - some individual jobs like you suggested might be a good idea. Maybe in the first post for each discussion we should list some people that newcomers can PM if they have questions. I think just having some dedicated posters will keep the discussion on topic.
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Old 06-03-2004, 05:57 AM   #26
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Council of Elrond is almost as big as 5 initial chapters. Should there be exeptions for bigger chapters?
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:01 AM   #27
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Tolkien

My Most recent record for reading all three books was two weeks, all 1200 pages... (You can tell I live an exciting life! )
However that leave much not deeply read, bits looked over and so on.

I think this would be the best idea for a tremendous work such as Lotr... What about, when this is finished, Silm? That may be more difficult as many arguments would be fought over little details... but that’s what makes it fun, and that’s what counts...
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:13 AM   #28
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Tolkien wrote two versions of an epilogue for LotR, which he didn't include in the finished work, due to friends (prob. Lewis) claiming it was too sentimental. They basically cover events after the end of the story, & centre around Sam reading from the Red Book to members of his family.

The versions are contained in HoME vol 9, & are quite beautiful. They're about 10 pps each.
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:20 AM   #29
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On Pacing:

I submit that as long as there is one thread per chapter, then some may race ahead, and some may dally. First to the chapter, opens the new thread (or perhaps we should just name Mister Underhill the thread opener.) The discussion will proceed in fits and starts, and the lingering readers may benefit from the faster readers comments ahead of time if they wish.

As people's schedules change, they may find themselves discussing with different sets of people which would also be interesting.


Errr.... when do we start? (Book already double-covered and in knapsack... ....waiting.)
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:40 AM   #30
Fordim Hedgethistle
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To add to the confusion

OK -- so the pacing issue seems to be the most problematic. H-I raises an excellent point about chapters like "The Council of Elrond," a BIG chapter in more ways than one -- it clearly deserves and requires more attention than say "A Conspiracy Unmasked." I think Mark 12_30's suggestion about a staggered approach has the merit of allowing people to pace themselves, but I think it would probably get too messy and confusing too quickly -- not to mention daunting for those who weren't "keeping up" and (worst of all) it would spread out the posters among a bunch of threads, which would make it more likely the thing fell apart for lack of interest (better to have a core of 6-7 posters on each thread than spread out over several).

In order to address these concerns I have come up with an elegant (nay, brilliant!) idea. Rather than getting caught up on numbers of chapters per week, we should think in terms of chunks. That is, do sometimes a single chapter a week (if it's a biggie like "The Council of Elrond" or "Mount Doom" or "Shadow of the Past") and sometimes more (up to three or even four?) if they are shorter chapters or "lighter." This would have the added advantage of allowing us to decide how big a chunk we can do next as we go. Actually, I would see this as being the moderators prime function in the threads -- laying out the next chunk for the week. That way, if things are going really very well and we're bashing things out at great length, then the mod can move us through at one-two chapters a week. If things are slowing down, or if we're moving through issues that certain chapters don't really address, then we can pick up the pace (3-4 chapters a week).

The final advantage to this approach is that it would allow us to proceed in the discussions by paying attention to the structure of the novel, rather than its division into chapters; that is, we could discuss each 'bit' of the quest in turn -- rather than Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc it could be, Before the quest begins, the journey to Crickhollow, the journey to Bree, meeting Strider, the journey to Rivendell, etc (those are just hypothetical examples).

At any event, I think that there are still a few more things that need to be worked out before we can get this thing started, so hang tight for a bit, and keep the suggestions coming. I believe, however, that we should be able to get this thing on the Road (get it? get it?) within a couple of weeks at the most.
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Old 06-03-2004, 08:29 AM   #31
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Administrative Details

Know ye that it has been determined and decided this third day of June, the year of our Lord two thousand and four, that a New Sub-Forum shall be Established for the Organization of the sixty-odd Threads that shall Comprise the Chapter-by-Chapter Discussion.

I'll do this soon. A moderator-to-be-named-later will be responsible for starting each new topic. I'm considering stickying each topic so that they will fall in proper order rather than being all jumbled up. The downside of that organization would be that finding newer posts might be more difficult. Thoughts and suggestions?

Your "chunk" idea is good Fordim, but there's something attractive too about sticking to the chapter-by-chapter discussion structure. Maybe we can take the spirit of your idea and apply it to said structure. That is, perhaps we can take a more flexible approach: say, no more than one week between chapters, but if discussion starts to look played out on any one chapter, someone can make the call and the group can move on to the next ahead of schedule. There are pros and cons here, too. If you don't have a set schedule, then you'll have to allow people time to actually read once you've made the call to move on.

My concern with the chapter a week pace is that discussion will go on for over a year. It's hard to keep any core group committed and focused for such a length of time. There's also the consideration that by the time you get to the end of the book, the beginning will seem a distant memory. The book isn't meant to be read at such a slow pace.

Here endeth the Administrative Notes.
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Old 06-03-2004, 08:51 AM   #32
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When we did this on a mailing list (a bit different structure than the 'Downs), there was a signup list for all the chapters, and each member could sign up for an individual chapter or chapters. Then the person who chose the particular chapter would start the discussion with a long summary and then points of analysis/interest and then his or her favorite passages. Then the chapter was open for discussion. I don't know if this method would work here, but who knows? That would spread the responsibility for opening discussion on the individual chapters between many members. And I'm sure everyone has his or her favorite chapters in mind for in-depth discussion! It might yield some great treatises, not that there is ever a lack of those here!

Cheers,
Lyta
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Old 06-03-2004, 08:59 AM   #33
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Chunks vice chapters... nobody has brought up number of pages yet, for which I'm glad.

Thinking the chunks idea over; if we defined chunks as sets of chapters, and gave free rein within the chunk-- Shire to Buckland... Old Forest to Bree... Chetwood to Weathertop. (You have walked 257.3 miles... nevermind.) People will still fall behind, though, and some will sail west in a month. How long per chunk? A week? Two weeks? Who defines the chunks?

I do think that the threads-by-chapter idea is most natural. Mister Underhill: I think recent posts will still show up (even if stickied) in reverse-chrono order under "Active Topics"-- true? Would the threads be stickied in Ascending or Descending order?

I'm not so sure that a chapter discussion will EVER close. I can't picture chapter discussions landing in Haudh-En-Ndengin? That's why I'm not so worried about tightly pacing the group. Stragglers will be under no penalty of any kind, and will (actually) benefit from everyone else's observations if they read the chapter-thread BEFORE the chapter.

Lyta-- treatise, thesis... I daydream about taking (or giving!) classes in LOTR, this is as close as I've come yet. Glee!
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Old 06-03-2004, 09:14 AM   #34
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shire stickies

Mister Underhill, looking at The Shire-- to me it looks like Pio's stickies are still sorted by last post. The stickys are sorted at the top, and then the unstickied threads are sorted below them. So if you stickied them ALL, they'd still sort by last post?

Right now Resrources for RPGs thread is at the top-- but it's a year old, and there are others created since; it's just the one with the most recent post in it.

EDIT:

In order threads: The threads within a sub-forum can be sorted by title by clicking on the header "Thread". (Ascending or descending.) As long as the naming of the threads follows a sorting-oriented convention, the threads can be put in order by name, or most recent. Quotes and strange symbols seem to sabotage the sort order though.
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Old 06-03-2004, 09:30 AM   #35
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Yeah, the sticky idea was not a good one, especially in light of members' ability to sort the threads to their own liking -- thanks for pointing that out! We might consider stickying the "current chapter", but these are niggling little details compared to larger questions like pace.
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Old 06-03-2004, 10:18 AM   #36
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Silmaril

Take a look at the top of the Books forum main page, people - Mister Underhill has set up a brand spanking new sub-forum for this series of discussions! *Applause, applause, applause!!! Kudos to Fordim for getting the wheels turning for this project; it promises to generate very interesting posts!

Background planning continues; as soon as everything's ready to go, we'll let you all know.
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Old 06-03-2004, 10:26 AM   #37
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Old 06-03-2004, 10:32 AM   #38
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Tolkien Chapter House Rules

While flexibility is key, I think that we should devote at least a week to each chapter, whatever the length of the chapter. Although the chapters themselves will not take long to read, the process of reviewing the comments made by others, posting your own and then responding to subsequent posts where necessary will take up quite a bit of time, especially with real life to contend with too. Also, if we all post our thoughts within a day or so of reading and then move on to the next chapter, it will be difficult to get a discussion going on any one chapter (in the sense of responding to and developing issues raised by others). And personally I would prefer to concentrate on one chapter at a time rather than be flitting between multiple chapter discussions (again given time constraints imposed in the real world).

Mister U, I take your point about the length of time that this will take. You are quite right that the book was not meant to be read at such a slow pace. But I don't see that this necessarily needs to be a problem. We have all read the book at least once before (and most have read it many times before), so we have a good idea of where each chapter falls in the general scheme of things. In addition, there is nothing to stop people reading ahead if they want to and then going back to re-read the specific chapter coming up for discussion.

Maybe its just because I am someone who takes a long time to formulate posts of any length and substance, but I do think that we will get a better discussion going if we concentrate on each chapter individually and allow everyone time to collect their thoughts and react to what others are posting. That does not preclude flexibility, but an underlying structure of one week per chapter (and longer for the longer chapters) seems good to me. There will of course be some overlap in any event as the discussion on previous chapters continues, but this shouldn't be allowed to constrain the development of the discussion on the current chapter.

As for the idea of "blocks", I would again prefer to stick to individual chapters, although I am sure that ideas will carry across from one thread to the next as recurring themes and ideas developed from one chapter to the next come under discussion.

Finally, I was quite enthusiastic about sticky threads when the idea was first raised, but I can see the problems. Still, it would be quite nice to have the option of putting the threads into chapter order. Is there any way that this can be done while still having the option to have the chapter currently under discussion at the top?
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Old 06-03-2004, 10:39 AM   #39
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Saucie, Yes. You can sort on the header called "Thread"--It's yellow; it's a link-- at the top in a forum (any forum or subforum.) You can sort in Ascending or Descending order.

All those headings are links; so you can (for instance) find the thread with the most replies, or the most views; or the least... etc. Usually the lists are linmited by the posts for thelast week unless you go to the bottom and edit your options.
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Old 06-03-2004, 11:22 AM   #40
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But that won't necessarily put them into chapter order because the latest post won't necessarily be on the latest chapter discussed. Is there any way to create a new column for the chapter numbers which could then be clicked on to order them (ascending or descending)?
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