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"Oo, those awful Orcs!"...
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diedye
Grey Havens


Mar 8 2008, 11:56pm

Post #1 of 98 (887 views)
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"Oo, those awful Orcs!"... Can't Post

I had heard about this review by Edmund Wilson but had never found a copy of it on-line to discover what all the fuss was about... that is, until today:


Quote
The Nation
April 14, 1956

A review of The Fellowship of the Ring

Oo, THOSE AWFUL ORCS !
By Edmund Wilson

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings,
Allen and Unwin. 21s.

In 1937, Dr. J. R. R. Tolkien, an Oxford don, published a children's book called The Hobbit, which had an immense success. The Hobbits are a not quite human race who inhabit an imaginary country called the Shire and who combine the characteristics of certain English animals - they live in burrows like rabbits and badgers - with the traits of English country-dwellers, ranging from rustic to tweedy (the name seems a telescoping of rabbit and Hobbs.) They have Elves, Trolls and Dwarfs as neighbours, and they are associated with a magician called Gandalph and a slimy water-creature called Gollum. Dr. Tolkien became interested in his fairy-tale country and has gone on from this little story to elaborate a long romance, which has appeared, under the general title, The Lord of the Rings, in three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. All volumes are accompanied with maps, and Dr. Tolkien, who is a philologist, professor at Merton College of English Language and Literature, has equipped the last volume with a scholarly apparatus of appendices, explaining the alphabets and grammars of the various tongues spoken by his characters, and giving full genealogies and tables of historical chronology. Dr. Tolkien has announced that this series - the hypertrophic sequel to The Hobbit - is intended for adults rather than children, and it has had a resounding reception at the hands of a number of critics who are certainly grown-up in years. Mr. Richard Hughes, for example, has written of it that nothing of the kind on such a scale has been attempted since The Faerie Queen, and that « for width of imagination it almost beggars parallel. »

« It's odd, you know, » says Miss Naomi Mitchison, « one takes it as seriously as Malory. » And Mr. C. S. Lewis, also of Oxford, is able to top them all: « If Ariosto, » he ringingly writes, « rivalled it in invention (in fact, he does not), he would still lack its heroic seriousness. » Nor has America been behind. In The Saturday Review of Literature, a Mr. Louis J. Halle, author of a book on Civilization and Foreign Policy, answers as follows a lady who - « lowering, » he says, « her pince-nez » -has inquired what he finds in Tolkien: « What, dear lady, does this invented world have to do with our own? You ask for its meaning - as you ask for the meaning of the Odyssey, of Genesis, of Faust - in a word? In a word, then, its meaning is 'heroism.' It makes our own world, once more, heroic. What higher meaning than this is to be found in any literature? »

But if one goes from these eulogies to the book itself, one is likely to be let down, astonished, baffled. The reviewer has just read the whole thing aloud to his seven-year old daughter, who has been through The Hobbit countless times, beginning it again the moment she has finished, and whose interest has been held by its more prolix successors. One is puzzled to know why the author should have supposed he was writing for adults. There are, to be sure, some details that are a little unpleasant for a children's book, but except when he is being pedantic and also boring the adult reader, there is little in The Lord of the Rings over the head of a seven-year-old child. It is essentially a children's book - a children's book which has somehow got out of hand, since, instead of directing it at the « juvenile » market, the author has indulged himself in developing the fantasy for its own sake; and it ought to be said at this point, before emphasizing its inadequacies as literature, that Dr. Tolkien makes few claims for his fairy romance. In a statement prepared for his publishers, he has explained that he began it to amuse himself, as a philological game: the invention of languages is the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. I should have preferred to write in 'Elvish'. » He has omitted, he says, in the printed book, a good deal of the philological part; « but there is a great deal of linguistic matter... included or mythologically expressed in the book. It is to me, anyway, largely an essay in 'linguistic esthetic,' as I sometimes say to people who ask me 'what it is all about.'... It is not 'about' anything but itself. Certainly it has no allegorical intentions, general, particular or topical, moral, religious or political. » An overgrown fairy story, a philological curiosity - that is, then, what The Lord of The Rings really is. The pretentiousness is all on the part of Dr. Tolkien's infatuated admirers, and it is these pretensions that I would here assail.

The most distinguished of Tolkien's admirers and the most conspicuous of his defenders has been Mr. W. H. Auden. That Auden is a master of English verse and a well-equipped critic of verse, no one, as they say, will dispute. It is significant, then, that he comments on the badness of Tolkien's verse - there is a great deal of poetry in The Lord of the Rings. Mr. Auden is apparently quite insensitive - through lack of interest in the other department.- to the fact that Tolkien's prose is just as bad. Prose and verse are on the same level of professorial amateurishness. What I believe has misled Mr. Auden is his own special preoccupation with the legendary theme of the Quest. He has written a book about the literature of the Quest; he has experimented with the theme himself in a remarkable sequence of sonnets; and it is to be hoped that he will do something with it on an even larger scale. In the meantime - as sometimes happens with works that fall in with one's interests - he no doubt so overrates The Lord of the Rings because he reads into it something that he means to write himself. It is indeed the tale of a Quest, but, to the reviewer, an extremely unrewarding one. The hero has no serious temptations; is lured by no insidious enchantments, perplexed by few problems. What we get is a simple confrontation - in more or less the traditional terms of British melodrama - of the Forces of Evil with the Forces of Good, the remote and alien villain with the plucky little home-grown hero. There are streaks of imagination: the ancient tree-spirits, the Ents, with their deep eyes, twiggy beards, rumbly voices; the Elves, whose nobility and beauty is elusive and not quite human. But even these are rather clumsily handled. There is never much development in the episodes; you simply go on getting more of the same thing. Dr. Tolkien has little skill at narrative and no instinct for literary form. The characters talk a story-book language that might have come out of Howard Pyle, and as personalities they do not impose themselves. At the end of this long romance, I had still no conception of the wizard Gandalph, who is a cardinal figure, had never been able to visualize him at all. For the most part such characterizations as Dr. Tolkien is able to contrive are perfectly stereotyped: Frodo the good little Englishman, Samwise, his dog-like servant, who talks lower-class and respectful, and never deserts his master. These characters who are no characters are involved in interminable adventures the poverty of invention displayed in which is, it seems to me, almost pathetic. On the country in which the Hobbits, the Elves, the Ents and the other Good People live, the Forces of Evil are closing in, and they have to band together to save it. The hero is the Hobbit called Frodo who has become possessed of a ring that Sauron, the King of the Enemy, wants (that learned reptilian suggestion - doesn't it give you a goosefleshy feeling?). In spite of the author's disclaimer, the struggle for the ring does seem to have some larger significance. This ring, if one continues to carry it, confers upon one special powers, but it is felt to become heavier and heavier; it exerts on one a sinister influence that one has to brace oneself to resist. The problem is for Frodo to get rid of it before he can succumb to this influence.

NOW, this situation does create interest; it does seem to have possibilities. One looks forward to a queer dilemma, a new kind of hair-breadth escape, in which Frodo, in the Enemy's kingdom, will find himself half-seduced into taking over the enemy's point of view, so that the realm of shadows and horrors will come to seem to him, once he is in it, once he is strong in the power of the ring, a plausible and pleasant place, and he will narrowly escape the danger of becoming a monster himself. But these bugaboos are not magnetic; they are feeble and rather blank; one does not feel they have any real power. The Good People simply say « Boo » to them. There are Black Riders, of whom everyone is terrified but who never seem anything but specters. There are dreadful hovering birds- think of it, horrible birds of prey! There are ogreish disgusting Orcs, who, however, rarely get to the point of committing any overt acts. There is a giant female spider - a dreadfu1 creepy-crawly spider! - who lives in a dark cave and eats people. What one misses in all these terrors is any trace of concrete reality. The preternatural, to be effective, should be given some sort of solidity, a real presence, recognizable features - like Gulliver, like Gogol, like Poe; not like those phantom horrors of Algernon Blackwood which prove so disappointing after the travel-book substantiality of the landscapes in which he evokes them. Tolkien's horrors resemble these in their lack of real contact with their victims, who dispose of them as we do of the horrors in dreams by simply pushing them or puffing them away. As for Sauron, the ruler of Mordor (doesn't the very name have a shuddery sound.) who concentrates in his person everything that is threatening the Shire, the build-up for him goes on through three volumes. He makes his first, rather promising, appearance as a terrible fire-rimmed yellow eye seen in a water-mirror. But this is as far as we ever get. Once Sauron's realm is invaded, we think we are going to meet him; but he still remains nothing but a burning eye scrutinizing all that occurs from the window of a remote dark tower. This might, of course, be made effective; but actually it is not; we never feel Sauron's power. And the climax, to which we have been working up through exactly nine hundred and ninety-nine large close-printed pages, when it comes, proves extremely flat. The ring is at last got rid of by being dropped into a fiery crater, and the kingdom of Sauron « topples » in a brief and banal earthquake that sets fire to everything and burns it up, and so releases the author from the necessity of telling the reader what exactly was so terrible there. Frodo has come to the end of his Quest, but the reader has remained untouched by the wounds and fatigues of his journey. An impotence of imagination seems to me to sap the whole story. The wars are never dynamic; the ordeals give no sense of strain; the fair ladies would not stir a heartbeat; the horrors would not hurt a fly.

Now, how is it that these long-winded volumes of what looks to this reviewer like balderdash have elicited such tributes as those above? The answer is, I believe, that certain people - especially, perhaps, in Britain - have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash. They would not accept adult trash, but, confronted with the pre-teen-age article, they revert to the mental phase which delighted in Elsie Dinsmore and Little Lord Fauntleroy and which seems to have made of Billy Bunter, in England, almost a national figure. You can see it in the tone they fall into when they talk about Tolkien in print: they bubble, they squeal, they coo; they go on about Malory and Spenser - both of whom have a charm and a distinction that Tolkien has never touched.

As for me, if we must read about imaginary kingdoms, give me James Branch Cabell's Poictesme. He at least writes for grown- up people, and he does not present the drama of life as a showdown between Good People and Goblins. He can cover more ground in an episode that lasts only three pages than Tolkien is able to in one of this twenty-page chapters, and he can create a more disquieting impression by a reference to something that is never described than Tolkien through his whole demonology.


1 > Gandalph? *snicker*

2 > Dr. Tolkien? If only he were paid as one!

3 > I don't find that LOTR was written for an adolescent audience at all... I think I appreciate it a lot more as an adult than I would have as a younger person.

Do you agree with Mr. Wilson?



Penthe
Gondor


Mar 9 2008, 12:11am

Post #2 of 98 (291 views)
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Tolkien crying all the way to the bank. [In reply to] Can't Post

It must have been incredibly galling to Wilson to watch LOTRs ever-expanding success, and the increasing claims made for the book. Hahahahahahah.

I quite like cheese, you know.


Tolkien Forever
Gondor

Mar 9 2008, 2:21am

Post #3 of 98 (297 views)
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ZZZZZZ [In reply to] Can't Post

Trying to get through this review was like trying to get through - quite frankly - some of Tolkien's 'poetic verse' in TLOR's....

The reviewer (in my opinion) rightly says JRRT is quite bad at that. Unsure

'Earendil Was A Mariner' or 'The Bone He Boned From It's Owner' - I could pull my hair out when reading them outloud to my kids.

'The Tale of Tinuviel' was pretty good though.

Other than that, I disagree with this guy, of course.
I think Tolkien is like what they say about Grateful Deadheads & the Grateful Dead:

"It's like black licorice: Those who like it can't get enough, but those who don't like it can't understand why people even like the taste."


Eledhwen
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 9 2008, 2:48am

Post #4 of 98 (283 views)
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There's no excuse [In reply to] Can't Post

for not bothering to spell "Gandalf" right, really, is there? What a very pretentious review. And he gives the whole story away for those who haven't read it!

I'm assuming ('cos I can't remember) that Tolkien did have a doctorate before being appointed professor; but as Wilson noted that at this point in time he was indeed a professor of English, he could have given him the title.

Awaroa Estuary, Abel Tasman National Park, January 2008

Awaroa


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2008, 4:06am

Post #5 of 98 (298 views)
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Wilson wanted more sex in LotR. [In reply to] Can't Post

3. Thus, I think, his reference to "ogreish disgusting Orcs, who, however, rarely get to the point of committing any overt acts." Would you say that LotR is as "adult" a book as The Great Gatsby, of which Wilson was a prominent champion?

1. "Gandalph" is certainly careless.
2. Wilson, an American, is just following the American custom of addressing professors as "Dr."
4. Do you agree with Mr. Wilson? Of course not. But

We also discussed Wilson's review in 2006:
I. hypertrophic sequel
II. no serious temptations
III. juvenile trash

I hadn't previously seen "Oo, Those Awful Orcs!" described as a review of only FotR, which it clearly is not, since he describes several plot elements from the second and third volumes.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2008, 4:16am

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Boner! Doner! [In reply to] Can't Post

You may find that poem easier to read when you know the tune that Tolkien had in mind for it.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2008, 4:21am

Post #7 of 98 (277 views)
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On giving away the ending. [In reply to] Can't Post

That's actually a pretty common procedure in serious reviews, particularly those appearing after some time has passed. In this case, it had been six months since RotK was published. (In England, anyway.)


Quote
I'm assuming ('cos I can't remember) that Tolkien did have a doctorate before being appointed professor...


He didn't, as it happens.

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weaver
Half-elven

Mar 9 2008, 3:24pm

Post #8 of 98 (275 views)
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"An impotence of imagination seems to me to sap the whole story." [In reply to] Can't Post

Wilson may not like this particular kind of tale, but to say that Tolkien lacked imagination is really astounding.

I guess what Wilson means is that Tolkien lacked "his" definition of imagination...

Thanks for digging up this review, which is always a good discussion generator!

Weaver



orcbane
Gondor


Mar 9 2008, 4:12pm

Post #9 of 98 (275 views)
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Dot and bar [In reply to] Can't Post

Mister Wilson, assails Fotr in literary terms, I suppose. I do not know because I do not really understand the finer points of Lit myself. For me it is more based on the enjoyment I get out of the story, and Tolkien's M-E stories are at the top of my list and still going strong.

It reminds me a little of art criticism. I see a painting of a dot and a horizontal bar. But a critic can describe it terms of emotion, or meaning. And I kind of look at them sidelong, like 'are you serious, or pulling my leg ?". But critics have an art, and it is often an exercise really. Like write a 3 page paper on the meaning of a stick. So they take their subject and whip out some profundity.

So I could see critics like M. Wilson having all sorts of problems with it, and it still be a very popular favorite. The interesting question is not really is it or isn't it a crappy literature, but why do its many fans have such an intense love for it.

An Ent juggling spikey things ?


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2008, 7:03pm

Post #10 of 98 (276 views)
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Tolkien was a critic. [In reply to] Can't Post

As Wilson analyzed modern literature, Tolkien analyzed medieval literature.

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Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 9 2008, 7:13pm

Post #11 of 98 (284 views)
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Yep, and he was critical of other critics. [In reply to] Can't Post

He wrote about medieval critics in "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" (1936). And the restored bits in the updated "Beowulf and the Critics" (2002) shows he had a rather low opinion of them.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2008, 7:46pm

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Likewise some of his own criticism is now dismissed. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 9 2008, 10:18pm

Post #13 of 98 (248 views)
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He is still recognized as ground-breaking [In reply to] Can't Post

in his criticism of Beowulf. Or so Seamus Heaney says.

"However, when it comes to considering Beowulf as a work of literature, one publication stands out. In 1936, the Oxford scholar and teacher J. R. R. Tolkien published an epoch-making paper entitled 'Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics'...Tolkien's brilliant literary treatment changed the way the poem was valued and initiated a new era - and new terms - of appreciation." (Heaney's Introduction to his translation of Beowulf, 1999)


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


orcbane
Gondor


Mar 9 2008, 10:27pm

Post #14 of 98 (268 views)
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By critics that shall also be dismissed [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Tolkien once expressed his opinion that studying some one else's work in detail, was a waste of time. I take that as meaning in part, that a person's time would be better spent in some original occupation. That is well and good, except I think he failed to see how untalented the rest of us are.

Literary Criticism is a form of mental exercise, but when well done, can be very intelligent and insightful. But I do not think it is popular. More of an acquired taste. I know I do not care for it much. It makes my head hurt when I try to follow it. But as the rich and famous have their gossip writers, so do writers have their writer writers.

It is of course almost all forgotten soon after after is written, perhaps because it carries attitudes and opinions that relate to the time it was written. By chance, a few very old critical works are perserved, from the Greeks and Romans. I read one recently by Tacticus that covered two philosophy schools of thought. It sounded like it was written yesterday a far as intellectual stretching went, but talk about boring on boring.

An Ent juggling spikey things ?


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2008, 10:42pm

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Critics like Tom Shippey? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tom Shippey, the author of The Road to Middle-earth and J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, is a great proponent of Tolkien's fiction and scholarship. He is also one of the most respected of medievalists (I have heard that he will retire from St. Louis University at the end of this semester) and even held one of the same posts that Tolkien had (at Leeds). But Shippey has argued that two of Tolkien's most influential pieces of scholarship, "Ancrene Wisse and Hali Meiðhad" (1929), and "Ofermod" (from "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son", 1953), are wrong. And he's not the only one. On the other hand, Shippey feels that Tolkien's conclusions in "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" were right.


Quote
I think Tolkien once expressed his opinion that studying some one else's work in detail, was a waste of time. I take that as meaning in part, that a person's time would be better spent in some original occupation.


I don't know if he said that, but studying others' work in detail was what he did for a living.


Quote
Literary Criticism is a form of mental exercise, but when well done, can be very intelligent and insightful... I know I do not care for it much. It makes my head hurt when I try to follow it.


The conversations that go on here are a kind of literary criticism. Literary criticism is supposed to help readers understand texts, how texts work, and what makes them succeed or fail. What generally doesn't happen here that does happen in the work of the professional literary critics, as squire has observed, is an explanation for how "coolness works"


Quote
It is of course almost all forgotten soon after after is written, perhaps because it carries attitudes and opinions that relate to the time it was written.


That's true of most fiction, too. But a little survives. Even though Shippey disagrees with Tolkien's conclusions in the 1929 Ancrene Wisse article, for instance, he finds it the "most perfect" of Tolkien's scholarship in construction. And the Beowulf essay seems likely to last.

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(This post was edited by N.E. Brigand on Mar 9 2008, 10:44pm)


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 9 2008, 10:57pm

Post #16 of 98 (273 views)
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"Tolkien's Mistakes" [In reply to] Can't Post

There are different levels of dismissal.

1. This is right.

2, This is wrong.

3. This isn't right, this isn't even wrong.

Tolkien dismissed the previous critics of Beowulf as being wrong-headed, and through his own criticism brought Beowulf criticism in a new direction.

Modern crtitcs might dismiss *some* of Tolkien's criticism, but they don't think he was totally wrong and they don't think that we should stop and go off in a new direction.

It's like Einstein:

"Albert Einstein was certainly the greatest physicist of the 20th century, and one of the greatest scientists of all time. It may seem presumptuous to talk of mistakes made by such a towering figure, especially in the centenary of his annus mirabilis. But the mistakes made by leading scientists often provide a better insight into the spirit and presuppositions of their times than do their successes. Also, for those of us who have made our share of scientific errors, it is mildly consoling to note that even Einstein made mistakes. Perhaps most important, by showing that we are aware of mistakes made by even the greatest scientists, we set a good example to those who follow other supposed paths to truth. We recognize that our most important scientific forerunners were not prophets whose writings must be studied as infallible guides—they were simply great men and women who prepared the ground for the better understandings we have now achieved."
- Steven Weinberg, "Einstein's Mistakes"

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



(This post was edited by Darkstone on Mar 9 2008, 10:58pm)


orcbane
Gondor


Mar 9 2008, 11:53pm

Post #17 of 98 (263 views)
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Tolkien said to us in essence 'Get a life' [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps the only thing more boring then critical analysis of literature is Fisking. Smile

An Ent juggling spikey things ?


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 10 2008, 12:11am

Post #18 of 98 (216 views)
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Agreed. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 10 2008, 12:19am

Post #19 of 98 (258 views)
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Was he also saying that to himself? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Perhaps the only thing more boring then critical analysis of literature is Fisking. Smile


For those who don't know that term: fisking. Smile

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Tolkien Forever
Gondor

Mar 10 2008, 12:21am

Post #20 of 98 (252 views)
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Literary Terms? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think this guy (What's Hisname) reviews the book on the 'enjoyment' level too - which he did not enjoy, but is the only level that really counts in the end I think,

Who cares about TLOR & it's connection to fairey story - does that help the reader enjoy it?
I think back on what Tolkien said in the 1966 Foreward (too lazy to find it on a Sunday night), "my main objective as a storyteller was to move the reader, to make them laugh, cry, move them & hold their interest if possible over a long tale. In this I used the things that moved me as a reader." (paraphrase of course).

And, I think that's what most readers are looking for when reading a book.


Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 10 2008, 1:30am

Post #21 of 98 (240 views)
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How many million copies [In reply to] Can't Post

... of James Branch Cabell's Poictesme were sold? Was its movie a bit hit? Funny, I never heard of it.

Oh, well, if LotR is such a drag, maybe I won't read it again. Till next year.




New grandson of Elizabeth, b. 2/25/2008


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 10 2008, 1:41am

Post #22 of 98 (254 views)
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James Branch Cabell was a respected fantasist. [In reply to] Can't Post

For instance, Brian Attebery, who values Tolkien's work highly, considers Cabell a significant figure in The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature.

Poictesme is not the title of a work, but the imaginary land in which many of his novels were set.

Tolkien preferred Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde to The Canterbury Tales, going against the tide of opinion. I can't see why Wilson shouldn't voice his own tastes (however much we may disagree with him).

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squire
Valinor


Mar 10 2008, 1:57am

Post #23 of 98 (270 views)
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Gee, it's the whole gang: Neil Gaiman, Robert Heinlein, even Deems Taylor! [In reply to] Can't Post

Like Elizabeth, I've never heard of Cabell, and I guess he never broke out into the hundred-million-volumes-sold club. But from the Wikipedia article, at least, one gets the sense that he was(is) indeed a heavy hitter in the "literary" fantasy game. Given his genteel southern roots and slightly rakish personal life, I can imagine him approaching his fantasy writing from a slightly warped literary angle, rather than from Tolkien's academic philological and mythological angle. I wonder if that makes the difference in Wilson's appraisal of him? Anyone that Heinlein looked up to and imitated can't be all good - I'd love to hear what Wilson thought of his writing!



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a.s.
Valinor


Mar 10 2008, 2:02am

Post #24 of 98 (247 views)
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pronounced "Pwa-tem" :-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Cabell was a Virginia boy, honey.

I don't really understand why Wilson would prefer a made-up version of France to a made-up version of Northwest Europe (she says, facetiously) but it probably has to do with the erotic, "grown-up" nature of Cabell's fantasies set in Poictesme. I've only read one Cabell fantasy, and that was Jurgen. Interesting, in a way, but very difficult. I say if you want difficult, read The Worm Oroborous and have some interesting reading while you wade through difficult prose.

Cool

Here is a pretty neat annotation of Jurgen, if you're interested in some of the terminology, maps, etc.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

"Good night, little girls, thank the Lord you are well!
Now go to sleep" said Miss Clavel.
And she turned out the light and shut the door,
And that's all there is. There isn't any more.


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 10 2008, 2:15am

Post #25 of 98 (231 views)
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well [In reply to] Can't Post

Cabell was a social commentor, of a kind. As the VCU page has it (Virginia Commonwealth University's student magazine is called Poictesme):

His medieval romanticism and fantasy were in fact thinly disguised commentary on the manners of those times.

I read Jurgen and it was a difficult read! I'm sure some of the sardonic humor went over my head, but even I could tell that some of it was meant to poke fun at "courtly" ways and social conditions, the Church, etc.

I just thought it was, you know...boring.

Cool

I can see that SF writers were influenced by him, to a point, but I don't know any who "wrote like" him. Not that I'm very well versed in standard SF texts. Here's a plain text version of Jurgen, if you want to catch the drift of the writing style.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

"Good night, little girls, thank the Lord you are well!
Now go to sleep" said Miss Clavel.
And she turned out the light and shut the door,
And that's all there is. There isn't any more.

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