Author: help (---.academicplanet.com)
Date: 04-11-05 15:06
Hi Mr. Swilley,
In case you were wondering whether the entire world was populated by Tolkien fans, I want you to know that it's not. After I shared my experience with Tolkien, the less than ardent readers started popping up. Read these comments and I think you'll be a bit more pleased.
"A story must have a pattern, each event building on (or challenging) whatever has happened up to the time of that event. If we say that "The Hobbit" is the story of Bilbo's discovery of his courage, growing eagerness to experience adventures - this resulting in a wider and greater respect of his society for him - we cannot escape the need to see each event of the novel as correctly placed in an unalterable sequence to bring about that change."
Oh, for goodness sake. What a load of pretentious waffle.
We're talking about a children's @!#$ story, not an entrant for the Nobel Prize in Literature!!!!
Star Wars (seventies +) was a 'western' set in Outer Space.
What would you expect? Shakespeare?
Actually, I see the man's (Swilley's) pov.
In my last semester of college I read The Hobbit, the first book of The Lord of the Rings, and at least half of the second book. Then I found that I just couldn't read any more because every sentence was written in exactly the same style .... and I couldn't sustain interest. I always hoped that I would go back to it and finish it, but I never did. For me, Tolkien was not a very good writer and there were always more interesting or important books to read. That does not mean, however, that I get to dismiss or abuse others for liking Tolkien or being enthusiastic about TH or LOTR. It's just my pov, as the formalist has his, and you yours.
For me, Tolkien was not a very
> good writer
OMG!! Thank you !! Thank you !! I thought I was alone in the world ...
Possibly, and possibly parts of the LOTR are slow in the middle book chapters, but he was above all a writer of stories. There's a difference between writing and literature.
Sometimes the reader has to struggle with the characters and the writer to achieve the goal!
> For me, Tolkien was not a very
> > good writer
> OMG!! Thank you !! Thank you !! I thought I was
> alone in the world ...
I think you have to distinguish between writer and stylist, though. The style of TH is just fine, IMO (apart from cringe-making references like the invention of golf following on from decapitating a king - I think this might have been omitted from later editions); for the most part, the author just gets on with the job of telling the story. LOTR is a different kettle of fish: about half-way through, the author starts getting over-excited, and gets it into his head that he's capable of writing wonderful epic prose. Big mistake. It didn't cause me to stop reading, though: I was too anxious to find out what happened next! Tremendous construction and imagination went into it: OK, it's a shame that some of this was obscured by what one reviewer called Tolkien's attempt at Brewers' Biblical, but, for my part, I still re-read the story with pleasure.
The style of the LOTR does drift - Tolkien describes the process in the introduction. It was initially supposed to be a straight forward sequel to The Hobbit but it "darkened" as he progressed - the change becomes apparent with his attempt to tie the story with his already-conceived "mythology" at Elrond's Council but really becomes noticable after they Fellowship enters Moria - it's at this point that Tolkien abandoned the story for over a year.
The "epic" style is deliberate. Tolkien was one of the world's leading experts on Old English and Norse and the LOTR is deliberately based on this style of story telling - highly stylised and repetative. If you read the "Silmarillion" it's even more apparent. The LOTR became a deliberate attempt to recreate a British mythological cycle to match those of other Northen European cultures - particulalry the Icelanders and the Finns. That's why so many of the figures are obviously archetypal - Gandalf/Merlin, Aragorn/Arthur/Robin Hood, the dragon slaying in THe Hobbit, the elves/alfar and orcs/svart alfar from Norse mythology, etc.
You are most definitely not alone. There are aspects of Tolkien’s writing that are unbelievably ghastly, particularly the “poetry,” and my God, why does it all take so long to get nowhere. A friend wanted LOTR and the Hobbit as a gift; I got them for him, but I felt I wasn’t doing him any favors. After he tried to read them, he thought so, too.
I disagree with x, by the way. I think the professor is right, after all: a story must have a pattern, and it is important that in a novel we see each event of the novel as correctly placed. A poor author let’s the rat out of the bag by putting things in that are unecessary (Tolkein to the max) and contribute nothing to the plot , by failing to have a clear idea of the order of events (see foregoing comment), and by failure to have a consistent point of view.* In Tolkein, the latter problem is evident in stylistic switches that are unjustified by changes in pace or character. And the diction? How far will T not go to find a archaic word or derivation. No Alex, it;’s not the professor’s remarks that are “pretentious waffle.” It’s Tolkein.
”We're talking about a children's @!#$ story.” Yeah, we are. But talk about child abuse. I think children should be protected from badly concieved and written pieces of literary doggerel like LOTR. The whole enterprise is like Johnson’s leg of mutton: “It is as bad as bad can be: it is ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-drest.”
*A great example of this sort of thing is when an author in first person narrative describes things that person could not know, as when a young woman enters the room and he describes the back of her dress. I can’t recall whether Tolkein is guilty of such solecisms. I certainly wouldn’t doubt it, but I’d have to reread some, which is beyond the call of duty.
P.S. A word in the interests of full disclosure. I was trained in literary criticism by formalists at the U of Chicago, which was at one time the center of “Aristotelian” criticism. I guess I could be a tad defensive. winking smiley
All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954
You write: " It's just my pov, as the formalist has his, and you yours."
My thanks to you and others here who have posted similar responses to my comment and not jumped down my throat because you/they thought I was somehow wrong.
I have no training what-so-ever in literary criticism, I'd not even heard of a 'formalist' until it cropped up in this thread. I have never experienced the desire to analyse a story, and so fail to understand why anybody should want to do so. To me a story is good, bad, indifferent, or a mixture thereof.
Mind you, that's not always the case. I once read John Fowles' The Magus. I didn't have the faintest idea what was going on in the story, but it is so beautifully written I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Does that make any kind of sense?
As for The Hobbit and TLOTR (both of which I have actually read in full), the former was mostly tedious, and the latter made for a cracking good trilogy of movies.
Lastly, my favourite thriller writer, the late Alistair Maclean (HMS Ulysses, Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, etc.) answered his many literary critics with 'I am a storyteller not an author." Says it all, really...
'I am a storyteller not an author'
That's my excuse... heh heh
Trouble is, I'm not very good at that, either..lol
Yep, HMS Ulysees is superb. I think it was his first book as well.
It's amazing really!!
A Sword and sorcery Mini Culture has been spawned by a work that isn't even considered to be particularly well written or well conceived.
I think there's also a bit of sour grapes from Hollywood that its an English book turned into a Movie blockbuster in New Zealand....??
There was a definite resistence to giving it the obvious Oscars it deserved.
> > For me, Tolkien was not a very
> > > good writer
> > OMG!! Thank you !! Thank you !! I thought I
> > alone in the world ...
> I think you have to distinguish between writer and
> stylist, though. The style of TH is just fine,
> IMO (apart from cringe-making references like the
> invention of golf following on from decapitating a
> king - I think this might have been omitted from
> later editions); for the most part, the author
> just gets on with the job of telling the story.
> LOTR is a different kettle of fish: about half-way
> through, the author starts getting over-excited,
> and gets it into his head that he's capable of
> writing wonderful epic prose. Big mistake. It
> didn't cause me to stop reading, though: I was too
> anxious to find out what happened next!
> Tremendous construction and imagination went into
> it: OK, it's a shame that some of this was
> obscured by what one reviewer called Tolkien's
> attempt at Brewers' Biblical, but, for my part, I
> still re-read the story with pleasure.
I bow to your fortitude. For some reason the style in
the second book just got too ponderous and boring. Every
sentence was written in exactly the same style and I couldn't
keep my mind on it. I had rather enjoyed the story up to that