Posts Tagged ‘Pierre Menard’

I’ve thought about this moment for so long – the moment when I sat down to put my final thoughts in writing. Though this will be a long post, I don’t think it can do justice to the 900-some that I’ve already put down. There is much I want to say, but it will always be dwarfed by the enormity of writing a post every single day for two and a half years. Did I actually write more words than Tolkien in this tale? I might have. It’s close, at any rate. It doesn’t matter. The final product, or the end, is much less when compared to the whole, the journey. So, I sit here, taking my first sips of a scotch given to me by my father for Christmas 2012 (I saved it for a special occasion, which I learned would be this moment), trying to explain what all this was and what it meant.

Let’s start at the beginning. What a very good place to start.

It was the summer of 2011. I had just graduated from college at Northwestern University about a month and a half prior, and I was bored. Hammered into my brain by commencement speeches (one from the biggest Tolkien nerd of them all, Mr. Stephen Colbert) was the idea that I had to make my own way. I went to school for theatre, so that meant that I was looking to make art – to create something. I didn’t know what to do. I was auditioning, of course, and looking for day jobs to pay the bills that were about to kick in (I still hadn’t moved out of my college apartment, though I would shortly), but I hadn’t found a job, and I don’t believe that I had even yet auditioned for the first role that I would land, which was, coincidentally, from the first audition I had post-graduation.

In case you’re curious, this is about the point where my word count equals near to the length of an average post. We’re going WAY over that today.

Okay, I guess this post can have pictures.

Okay, I guess this post can have pictures.

At the time, I really felt the need to make something, and make something original. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite had the ability to come up with something all my own. I had some ideas, but they never amounted to anything. Then, I got a gift. On a trip out to the East Coast to see my girlfriend’s family, her mother gave me my birthday present early. It was the beautiful, leather-bound 50th Anniversary Edition of The Lord of the Rings. Upon returning home, I knew I had to do something special with this book. I wanted to delve into it as deeply as I could, and combining that desire with an oddly unique short story concept (Jorge Luis Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”), I had my plan.

For those of you who might not have been aware, I actually wrote the entirety of Lord of the Rings as I wrote this blog. I typed it up, purely for myself, in a plain text document. This mimics what Borges’ character does, rewriting Don Quixote word for word. The narrator of Borges’ story, a book reviewer, finds Menard’s version of Don Quixote more insightful than the original. Theoretically, that can’t be possible. It’s the same book, but that’s the quirk of the magical realism. Something is new about it – updated, modern. Menard was a genius.

I am not a genius. If I was, this would probably have turned into a source of income, or at least wildly popular online. “If no one’s paying you after 500 pages,” a friend told me shortly after beginning, “you might want to stop.” I laughed that off. This was never meant to be classically successful, but interesting, fun, and a way to get my creative juices flowing. Sure, the scope of this project was mind-numbing (1000 straight days?!), but I thought that added to the challenge. I have to admit, I really did think I’d screw up at some point or another, out of boredom, anger, or other things keeping me busy. I never did. I hung with it. That friend from above? “It’s quite the stunning achievement,” he said just last night. He’s actually a professional TV/book/film critic over at the AV Club. He knows things.

Meanwhile, I'm more like Jon Snow.

Meanwhile, I’m more like Jon Snow.

As for end goals, I…didn’t really have any, or know what they might be. I wanted to know more about Lord of the Rings, sure, but that was more of a hobby interest. I wanted to create my own art. Yes, I did that. Also, some part of me wants to write a book at some point in my life. It’s a side dream. I don’t want to be a writer professionally, but I do enjoy it. And I thought that if I could literally write this great work myself (meaning Lord of the Rings), maybe I would understand a little bit more about how to author such a piece. I don’t know if I really got that, but I understand how quotes and semicolons work better now. That’s a start.

In truth, I probably learned more general life lessons than anything else. Routines are good; they’re something to hold on to, but they can also drag you down into monotony. While I always knew that I would at least have a small part of my day blocked off for focused writing, I also always had a twinge of anxiety that I had to get it done. That feeling when you get home at 3am and you know you still have to hammer out a cogent blog post? Not a good one. That similar feeling when you go to bed knowing that you have next to no time the following day to do your post? Also not great. (I wrote posts as early as 5am, and as late as 4am.) But I did it, and somehow, I know now that I can commit to doing things like that. I’ll find the time. If you really want to do something, and you make it a priority, it’ll happen.

In other life lessons, creating is hard work, but it can be done at times of need. I think it’s a romantic notion that inspiration will always be there when your greatest work happens. As much as I want to be a romantic, that’s just not true. Sometimes, you have to slog through something. Sometimes, something great comes out of it. It doesn’t always, but once you get started, you can hit that rhythm. Getting started when you’re not feeling it is the hardest thing. I still have that problem with a lot of things I do that are self-motivated. Just start. Get those first lines out, onto the page or into the room, and perhaps great things will follow. In a way, you create your own inspiration.

…I think I was inspired a bit by writing that.

So, what do I do now? Well, for a long time, I’ve meant to read The Silmarillion. I actually haven’t done that before. That’s on my list, along with reading Lord of the Rings for pleasure at a totally normal pace. I read fast, so I could probably have it done in a week or two instead of two and a half years. That will be a different experience. Though some people have asked, I have no plans to do this sort of project again anytime soon (and no, not with The Hobbit). It was a lot of work, and I want to focus some of that energy in other places now. I’d like to use my new-found hour or two every day towards other endeavors, whatever they may be. We’ll see.

That’s it, at least for the part of this post that most people will care about. Below, I’m going to list some fun facts, along with some special thanks to those who helped me along the way. This was a wild ride in many ways, some that I didn’t expect. Thanks for joining me, in whatever small way, in the musings of my strange mind.

P.S. Have you ever hovered your cursor over one of the pictures on the blog? There’s ALT text hidden there! REPLAY VALUE!


Fun facts! A lot of things happened since I started this blog. Let’s talk about them.

The blog was started (with the introductory post) on July 26th, 2011. It has been…

996 days since then! 2 years, 8 months, and 22 days!

Where did I post all these posts?

-Evanston, IL (my apartment, a Starbucks in town, possibly other places)

-Chicago, IL (my apartment, friends’ apartments, the French Market at Ogilvie Transportation Center, the office where I worked, possibly other places)

-St. Charles, IL (my parents’ house)

-St. Louis, MO (friend’s apartment, a hotel just outside of town)

-Spring Lake, NJ (a bed and breakfast on the shore, girlfriend’s grandfather’s house)

-Austin, TX (my apartment, friends’ house, a hotel in town)

I think that’s everywhere!

I spent two and a half years reading ONE book, but I read others, too!

-The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay

Ender’s Game

A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons


-Lots of plays

I think that’s everything!

I recorded songs! About those…

I recorded 66 separate tracks, totaling 39 different songs (and one medley). According to my iTunes, it totals 1 hour and 33 minutes of music. Meanwhile, I totally learned how to play the ukulele…but not so much the mandolin. (Still working!)

And what about other things going on in my life? During this time…

-I’ve lived in three different apartments in three cities – Evanston and Chicago, IL and Austin, TX.

-I’ve had three “major” jobs. (And numerous part-time or temp positions.)

-I’ve performed in three plays, five films, one TV documentary, one local commercial, five voiceover spots, and one really awkward a cappella concert.

-I’ve had one amazingly supportive girlfriend.

The above being said, let’s get to the people I want to thank.

-Briana, my girlfriend, who doesn’t think this is at all strange.

-Barb and Peter, my parents, who don’t understand this, but “skim” it anyway.

-Debbie and Jeff, my girlfriend’s parents, who bought me the book in the first place.

-J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the book in the first place.

-Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote a strange short story that inspired me in a strange way.

-Sharon and Anakin, friends who kept up every day, and who I believe are my top commenters.

-Dan, a friend who I’m pretty sure read most of this, and who started his own short-lived blog.

-Sam, a friend who I’m pretty sure didn’t read most of this, but who would totally get each and every one of my jokes.

-Ned, a friend whose blog (though never finished) inspired me to start my own.

-Kevin, a friend who I admire immensely as a writer and creative thinker.

-Phil, a reader who I inspired to finish his own project, and whose project inspired me to keep on going.

-Justin, a friend whose motivation inspires me, and my roommate for two of these years.

-Matt, a friend whose exuberance at the discovery of this blog was unmatched.

-/r/tolkienfans, a subreddit where my blog got just a small bit of publicity, and a community of Tolkien enthusiasts who talk about really interesting things. It was here that I first got hooked on Reddit. (I try to help out when I can, especially with textual evidence! Hint: my account name is an anagram of Pierre Menard!)

-You, reader, because no thank you list would be complete without a cheesy shout-out to you, whoever you are!

That’s all, folks! Live well, do interesting things, and be happy! It’s more fun that way.


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This is the first post I pen (key?) from my new desk, with a 26th-floor view of Chicago to my left! Next time I write when it’s light out, or whenever I remember, I’ll snap a picture of it. Onward!

Gandalf tells Frodo that even if he wanted to, he could not destroy the ring. Not with a hammer, not with fire. Not even a freaking dragon could melt this thing.

Really? Not even this guy? BEAST.

Of course, there is only one way: cast it into the fires of Mount Doom! Again, Frodo wishes that it wasn’t up to him. He offers the ring to Gandalf. Maybe he can destroy it! NO! Gandalf denies the ring. Should he take the ring, even with the desire for good, the ring’s power would work through him in a terrible way. Gandalf can, however, offer to help Frodo.

First Mentions:

-Ancalagon the Black: Thought to be one of the greatest dragons ever to live. Had one of the hottest dragon-fires.

-the Cracks of Doom: Openings in the side of Mount Doom, where one could walk in.

-Orodruin: Mount Doom, a volcano in Mordor. Where Sauron made the ring. Where, and only where, the ring can be destroyed.

Any page that talks about dragons just makes me happy. I wish they played a larger role (really, any role) in The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit gets Smaug. I wish we got some here too. Sadly, no.

Since we’re kind of about Pierre Menard and Don Quixote here, maybe I should reference the fact that the story of Smaug in The Hobbit, as a dragon sitting on a pile of treasure inside a mountain, isn’t purely Tolkien’s creation. The same happens in the English epic Beowulf. Tolkien studied Beowulf extensively, giving a renowned lecture on it and writing his own translation. I feel like part of the chain!

This is NOT the English epic.

Things are moving along now, at least conversation-wise. The fact that I still have this much to write is encouraging. Seriously, Gandalf and Frodo have been discussing the history and nature of the ring since page 47. When we get to the actual journey, things are going to be happening left and right. They’ve literally been in the same room for 15 pages.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:



Every time I type “Ancalagon” I wish there were more dragons to talk about…

“Frodo gazed fixedly at the red…”

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…and that is that the Sackville-Bagginses are terrible people.

Okay, that’s not how the quote ends, but I wish it did. Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins keep tormenting Frodo on this page. I mean, seriously, Frodo’s adopted father just left him, presumably for good, and all these people care about is their lost inheritance? Come on, people. They insist on seeing Bilbo’s will, and when it is proved to be valid (we’ll get into the weirdness of hobbit wills later), Otho storms out. Lobelia, who seems to follow, is spotted later by Frodo with numerous small items hidden on her person. He throws her out of Bag End, and she attempts (poorly) to insult him.

People I imagine in my mind who must look like Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.

Frodo and Merry go around Bag End kicking out hobbits who are (literally) digging for buried treasure in the walls and floors, and finally relax with some tea. A knock comes at the door which Bilbo ignores, assuming it must be Lobelia, back with a more thought-out insult. Instead, Gandalf pokes his head in the window.

First Mentions:

-Sancho Proudfoot: Odo Proudfoot’s (“ProudFEET!” guy) grandson. Was caught by Frodo digging a hole in the Bag End pantry.

Sancho? Like Sancho Panza?

Hey look! A Don Quixote reference! How topical for this blog!

Yeah, I can’t really stay away from making the Don Quixote connection here, considering this blog’s relation to “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“.

Anyway, I could go on about how Spanish of a name Sancho is, while it is generally believed that the Shire is analogous to England. It’s not really worth it, as we’ve already established that hobbit names follow no distinct pattern in their weirdness.

So, a breif diatribe about hobbit wills. It is said that they are quite strange, and our only example is that a valid will is required to have seven (SEVEN!) signatures of witnesses in red ink. First of all, seven is RIDICULOUS. Why in the world would you ever need seven witnesses? This seems like a ploy put down by greedy hobbits like the Sackville-Bagginses. And also, why specifically red ink? Does that make it more official? We’ve heard so much in today’s society about how teachers have had to stop using red ink to grade papers because it makes kids feel bad.


Perhaps red ink is hard to come by? It makes the Sackville-Bagginses feel bad, and I’m okay with that.

Anyway, no Words My Computer Didn’t Like today. BUT, we’re almost done with the first chapter! Two more pages (and days) of A Long-expected Party before we move on!

“Suddenly the wizard’s head appeared at the window.”

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That is probably the first question you’re asking yourself, among others. Who is Pierre Menard? Who is that guy on the left? Who is that guy on the right? AND WHY IS THE ONE RING IN THE MIDDLE?

Contrary to the name of this blog, I am not Pierre Menard. My name is David. I look like this:


Great. That’s out of the way.

But, Pierre Menard. First, let’s start with that guy on the right. Meet Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer. Known for his short stories, Borges played with reality, dreams, labyrinths, and other mysterious and confusing themes in his writing. No, he did not write Inception. Moving along.

Borges wrote a short story entitled “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“. It isn’t really a story, but a fake book review of this small-time author’s recreation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. His goal is not to write a new Quixote, nor simply copy it word for word, but to write it, as Cervantes had done. Borges’ narrator, in reviewing the new Quixote, finds it more illuminating and interesting than the original, even though it literally is the exact same thing. The story concerns authorship. Can a different author write the same novel centuries later and write it better than the first? The reviewer thinks so, and undoubtedly Menard, who has died, learned something from his process.

So, the guy on the left. That is J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, the author of The Lord of the Rings. And now the One Ring should make sense.

So what is happening here? What do I mean by “Your Daily Borgesian Tolkien”? I was recently given the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Lord of the Rings.

It is the prettiest nerdy thing I own.

Being a huge fan of the novel, and having always been interested in Tolkien’s writing, I am going to use the technique of Pierre Menard. The task is this:

Each and every day, I will transcribe a page from The Lord of the Rings.

However, as we all know, one does not simply walk into Mordor. The story (following the Prologue) begins on page 21, and ends on page 1031. Granted, while some of these may be skipped over if they are the title pages of each individual book, (The three parts – Fellowship, Two Towers, and Return of the King, are each split into two “books”, making six in all.) that still makes just under 1010 pages, and thus, 1010 days. This will take a while.

The blog, though, is not for the posting of these pages day after day. I don’t want to get sued. I’m here to talk about it, both my experience, and the book itself. Essentially, this is a close reading of The Lord of the Rings, one page at a time. There will be fun facts, interesting things to note, comparisons and contrasts we can draw to the movies, etc. There’s a whole lot in there, and I’m going to find it.

Side note: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. If you don’t know what happens in The Lord of the Rings, 1) You probably shouldn’t be reading this blog, and 2) How and why have you stayed reading it for this long?

I’m about to dive into one of the forerunners in the fantasy genre, a massive pop culture icon, and the source for three (soon to be four?) of the greatest movies of our generation. I’ll try to keep this entertaining and insightful, and we’ll see what happens. You can imagine me with french mustache and a beret if you’d like…


Because starting tomorrow, I am Pierre Menard.

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