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

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  •  I had to make myself finish LOTR. (9+ / 0-)

    I couldn't stand the books. I wanted to read them because they're so foundational to modern fantasy storytelling and I reasonably enjoyed the films (though there are definitely flaws there too). But it took everything I had to make myself finish them. There's only so many times I can read about them walking up a hill and then down the other side of the hill and then up a second hill and then down to a creek and then past some trees that reminded them of trees they had seen a few miles back but then they went up a curved bank and then down another hill. The storytelling in it is just way disproportionate to its importance. For example, Gandalf's arrival and Helm's Deep to the end of the battle is like only a third of a page, but there's like a page and a half later discussing what day of the month it is. I can appreciate the level of detail Tolkien put into worldbuilding, but that doesn't make an interesting story. So, so much of the books felt monotonous to me. The overarcing idea of the Ring and how everyone will fall to the allure of power is good. It's just the specific drafting of the narrative that is really, really off to me.

    Plus, I really hated how Arwen is nothing but a prize for Aragorn to be given to him by her dad and how Eowyn falls apart and wants to die because Aragorn wasn't interested in her.

    •  I haven't read LOTR since high school... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, No Exit

      and in high school I had a much higher tolerance for turgid prose.

      I'm not saying the prose in LOTR is turgid: it has been too long for me to remember.

      Just sayin'.

      English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

      by Youffraita on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:20:01 PM PDT

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    •  He didn't really do women (5+ / 0-)

      for sure.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:45:06 PM PDT

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    •  In contrast (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, No Exit, Brecht

      I had much the same reaction to the battle of Helm's Deep in the Two Towers film.  It was way too long, I wanted it to end before it was half way through so they could get back to the story.

      "To see both sides of a quarrel, is to judge without hate or alarm" - Richard Thompson

      by matching mole on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:36:23 AM PDT

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    •  That's why I never could read LOTR (3+ / 0-)
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      Monsieur Georges, No Exit, Brecht

      They went up the hill and down the other side and across the creek and through the woods and up the next hill and through the trees and down the hill and across the creek and….

      It drove me nuts. Of course, I was an adult. I've been told that you must be fourteen to successfully read the series.

      I wanted to read them, I just couldn't. It was like being on a long trail ride, the wrong trail ride, on the wrong horse, for the longest time ever….    

      "You can observe a lot just by watching." ~ Yogi Berra

      by dandy lion on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 04:19:32 PM PDT

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    •  I'd say Tolkien had a good storytelling instinct, (1+ / 0-)
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      so that all his major plot points make a well-shaped tale. But in LotR he lost his sense of proportion, and put trivial points, irrelevant to the main flow, under his zoom microscope. As an obsessive world-builder must, if he's going to check the texture and grit of his creation.

      It's like being shown around St. Peter's in Rome by a knowledge-stuffed, slightly senile monk. He'll stop to wax lyrical on Michelangelo's sculptures, but then he'll stop twice as long to point out the woman who's been roasting chestnuts for tourists for forty years now. If St. Peter's is the front step of your heaven, you'll soak up every blessed detail; if you want to see just the greatest art and history, and still get out of there in time for dinner - then you picked the wrong monk for your tour-guide.

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

      by Brecht on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 11:20:03 PM PDT

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      •  Tolkien said the book was too short (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, RiveroftheWest

        and I can agree that it's a little disjointed.  Plus he picked it up and put it down over the course of seventeen years and World War II.  

        Tolkien lived in Middle-earth for a very long time, and of course his preferred work was never published.  His son published a version of JRRT's The Sil, but it was cobbled together and incomplete.  

        "If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all." — Oscar Wilde

        by chicagobama on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 05:52:31 AM PDT

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        •  "his preferred work was never published": It looks (3+ / 0-)
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          RiveroftheWest, chicagobama, poco

          like almost every scrap of it's getting published, year by year. Tolkein published approx. six books-full of matter in his life, and several times as much again posthumously. Including the twelve volume History of Middle Earth that came out through the '80s and '90s.

          I don't expect to make it past The Silmarillion, myself.

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

          by Brecht on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 06:06:25 PM PDT

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          •  I guess I meant his version (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brecht, poco, RiveroftheWest

            There are many gaps in the posthumous works that Christopher Tolkien had to fill, and he has said he made some of the stuff up.  We'll never know what JRRT intended, although I think we got 90% of what he wrote.

            History of Middle Earth is a compilation of JRRT's notes on the development of Middle-earth, from the creation of the world through LOTR.  It's not an end-to-end story but shows us uber-geeks the process that the books went through (Aragorn was originally a hobbit, for example).

            I don't disagree with your point - just splitting geek hairs.

            "If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all." — Oscar Wilde

            by chicagobama on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 03:18:28 PM PDT

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