Here At The End Of All Things

image courtesy of Jason Longo


My final dispatch from Middle-earth as The Toast‘s Tolkien Correspondent was published yesterday: “How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book.” Fittingly, it’s also part of my favorite Toast series, “How To Tell If You’re In a Novel,” in my mind the Toastiest series on the site because the pieces summed up the Toast at its best: literary and hilarious.

From the moment it launched, The Toast has been one of my favorite sites. Its finely tuned mix of literary humor, satire, nerdery, perfectly-crafted personal writing, and feminism made it a rare and beautiful oasis on the Internet. The Toastie community that rose in and around it was equally wonderful, a warm and loving group of Space Witches who send each other postcards, meet up for drinks, and even donate each other internal organs. It’s to the great credit of the sites editors, Mallory Ortberg, Nicole Cliffe, and Nicole Chung, that the site was as successful and welcoming as it was. They cultivated this glorious site, a Lothlórien surrounded by Mordors and Morias.

My final Tolkien piece, particularly the last paragraph, also doubles as my farewell to The Toast, which is closing for good tomorrow. And I specifically requested that my partner in all Tolkien pieces, the extremely talented Jason Longo, make the final illustration a ship sailing over the Sea from the Grey Havens (as seen above). It seemed like the best possible image to end a Tolkien series with, and say good-bye to The Toast with, a site whose official motto comes from the British Naval Toast (“A willing foe, and sea room!”) and whose unofficial motto is “Take to the Sea!”

The farewell text and image seemed to have worked, since a great deal of the response has been people yelling at me about making them cry at work. As our Lord and Savior might say were He to spread the Gospel on social media, “I come not to bring peace, but The Feels.”

If it makes anyone feel better, the end of The Toast has made me cry, too. I found out over a month ago, when the Managing Editor, Nicole Chung, emailed Jason and me to tell us the news and request one last Middle-earth piece. Naturally, we said Yes.

The Toast closing has come at a particularly fraught time for me personally. Just last week we moved out of our apartment in Chicago to a house in the suburb of Park Ridge. I love our new house and neighborhood, and I still commute downtown every day, but it’s been hard to say good-bye to the city after living there for 11 years. What’s more, we lived in our apartment in Bucktown for 6 years, longer than I’ve ever lived in any other house or apartment. More than anywhere else has ever been, it was home.

Having my life in the city come to a close the same month as The Toast has felt like the end of an era for me. The darker corners of my brain wonder if June 2016 marks the end of my passing glance at being an interesting and exciting person. The lighter corners tell me I was never interesting in the first place and that the only cure for feeling boring is to write more and get out more. So I shall.

Whatever else comes to pass, writing for The Toast has been a dream come true. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and getting published by my favorite site has made me feel like more like a Writer than anything.

I’ve been lucky enough to write for them four times, though my favorite piece is still the first: “How I Defeated the Tolkien Estate,” which is probably the most me thing I’ve ever written: deep Tolkien nerdery, literary satire, dick jokes, lingering grad school trauma. You could feed that story into a supercomputer and it could probably accurately recreate my brainwaves and DNA down to the last protein. It also got spotlighted by one of my favorite writers, Charlie Jane Anders, at io9, and was even cited in an honest-to-Bob Loblaw work of legal scholarship about intellectual property law. Life imitates art indeed.

The others have been a joy, as well. “The Most Metal Deaths in Middle-earth, Ranked” was by far the most popular piece; “The Illegitimacy of Aragorn’s Claim to the Throne” was the most discussed and came with an incredible GIF of Denethor’s fiery fall.

And now, lastly, there’s “How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book,” my bittersweet good-bye. The Toast is sailing for the Undying Lands, but like Samwise, we must remain in Middle-earth a while longer, and our part in these stories must go on. I will always fiercely guard and cherish the memory of The Toast and the people I’ve met through it. More than anything, the Toastie community has gotten me through this tough time, with our shared humor and heartbreak.

I am glad you all are with me, here at the end of all things.

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