Skip to main content

View Diary: Books Go Boom! How 'Lord of the Rings' is Not a Very Good Book - and Yet, is a Great One (296 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Haven't read LOTR since I was 14 (27+ / 0-)

    But I read it four times before that.  It was enthralling and alien and heroic and utterly unlike my life.

    I recall the long digressions, the songs, the endless descriptions of slow progress across amazing landscapes.  I don't recall these being impediments.  The "flaws" in Tolkien's pacing actually felt like they pulled me into a world with a different sense of time -- an older world where people could stop and take the time to ponder pipeweed deeply.

    The depth and detail of Tolkien's world is revealed in these slow passages.  His writing gave this young reader the sense of being in a real world, vast and unknowable in its entirety.  No other books I've read bring this sense in the same way Tolkien did.  The sense of time is fascinatingly different, just as the sound of the language is, just as the moral priorities are.  Different, but recognizable and relatable.  In this way the style of the writing reinforces the substance, rather than getting in its way.

    I can see how literary critics would turn away in horror from this writing style, but they're not Tolkien's natural audience.  Good books are declared by the Crufts judges, I take it.  Great books find a life in generations of readers.  Good books are very rarely great, and great books are sometimes good.  

    We have always been at war with al Qaeda.

    by Dallasdoc on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 05:44:07 PM PDT

    •  Not that I presume to tell you what to read, (12+ / 0-)

      but I'm confident you would see more in them (both in terms of Tolkien's creation & his sources) now than you did at 14. Even if you do remember it very well, as it seems.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 06:49:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Strong opinion, insightful comment, thank you. (10+ / 0-)
      The "flaws" in Tolkien's pacing actually felt like they pulled me into a world with a different sense of time -- an older world where people could stop and take the time to ponder pipeweed deeply. . . . No other books I've read bring this sense in the same way Tolkien did. . . . In this way the style of the writing reinforces the substance, rather than getting in its way.
      I agree with all that. Tolkien simply wrote orthogonally to what we consider trim and polished writing. A huge number of readers can't stomach three long books of this; but the readers Tolkien was writing for can't get enough of it, so that many of us reread all the books several times.

      Very few writers compare with Tolkien for enveloping us in a rich world of otherness - if you happen to enjoy Middle Earth, and let it sweep over you.

      The sense of time is fascinatingly different, just as the sound of the language is, just as the moral priorities are.
      Lord of the Rings casts a spell, it takes us to weird corners of experience, to seldom seen parts of our own humanity. Add to this that most of us first go there when young, with very plastic imaginations, and the impact of the journey really stretches us. It certainly has had a great effect on all the writers who drank this potion.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 01:24:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They are not flaws. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SusiesPurl, kurt, RunawayRose

        It's a different writing style than what most readers are used to.  He conveys meaning more through plot and language than through character POV and cheap drama  .Tolkein didn't just "study" Beowulf; he wrote the definitive canonical interpretation.  If you understood how the heroic sagas conveyed meaning you would have a better understanding of Tolkien's opus.

        Frankly, I don't think much of your analysis of this work.  

        The critics who panned Tolkien favored books long since pulped into toilet paper.  

        •  You're very certain. Shouldn't you write your own (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dallasdoc, dandy lion, RiveroftheWest

          diary, sharing your perfect interpretation of Tolkien with the world?

          Don't get me wrong - I think you've done quite enough getting me wrong already. Please read my exact words, not your feelings, and comprehend them:

          I enjoy spirited debate. You are most welcome to present contrary views here, for as long as you like, and to come back to future book diaries of mine. However, you say:

          Frankly, I don't think much of your analysis of this work.
          Well, frankly, I don't think you've comprehended my layered and ambivalent views of Tolkien's work.

          I read your many comments in MichiganChet's LotR diary from two years ago.

          Your first comment there was in reply to a long comment, which began:

          The books are not perfect. The first volume (Fellowship) drags quite a bit, IMO. It takes forever for the Hobbits just to get out of the Shire! Personally, I'm not fond of Tolkien's poetry, and though I love the ideas of Lothlorien and Galadriel, those chapters dragged for me (as did some of Rivendell), perhaps because I am not an immortal, so that spending a lot of pages in their company is boring for me. . . Some of the dialogue is a bit stilted. . . .
          You replied:
          Flaws? What flaws?! Heretic! ;-p
          You're joking, but you mean it too.

          You make 19 comments in that diary, and it's clear that you've read and thought a lot about Tolkien. I was both sarcastic and sincere when I suggested you share "your perfect interpretation of Tolkien with the world". Although you have much to say on Tolkien, you also appear so emotionally attached to Tolkien's work that when you hear him criticized, you defend him before you've taken the time to comprehend the critique. As you say in a later comment:

          I read LoTR many many times beginning when I was ten or so and each time I discovered new things.  I have literally worn out my copies. I think the appendix on Elvish gave me a pretty good grounding in linguistics too. . . I began by thinking about hobbits and have since meandered through the nature of beauty and the nature of evil. It's an amazing book.  My all out favorite book ever
          I appreciate that, beyond your love for Tolkien, you have a complex knowledge and understanding of his work. Unfortunately, instead of reading all the layers and contrasting views embedded in my diary, you read a far simpler diary colored by your emotional allegiance to Tolkien. If you cannot simultaneously be prosecutor, defender and judge, you will not comprehend this diary.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 05:15:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site