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Old 06-07-2001, 01:27 PM   #1
Gilthalion
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While the author of this work does not offer a better book, he says LORD OF THE RINGS is not it. But what does this fellow think of Tolkien's masterpiece, and of those who despise it? Read the article at http://www.salonmag.com/books/featur...ien/index.htmlSalon.</a>

I found it a fairly good look at this great book, and an informed view of the criticism that surrounds it.

EDIT: I don't know how the HTML page break got in there. It's gone now! The link should work.

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Old 06-07-2001, 02:42 PM   #2
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Re: Book of the Century?

I can't get into that link. Maybe it's temporary.

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Old 06-07-2001, 02:44 PM   #3
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Re: Book of the Century?

Neither can I, but who cares. I would say, without question, that Tolkiens works are some of the best books ever written. I have never read books that I have liked more, and I think that just about all the people in this Forum agree.

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Old 06-07-2001, 02:44 PM   #4
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Re: Book of the Century?

Try leaving out that part at the beginning of the URL: 'h-ttp://&lt;br&gt;'.

'And the death of dreams shall be a beautiful end, with flowers of filth, and wine, and fine men...'</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_profile&u=00000003>Sharku</A> at: 6/7/01 4:45:08 pm
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Old 06-08-2001, 06:24 AM   #5
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Re: Book of the Century?

Thanks for the link G. and Sharku [your corrections got me right there.]

I agree w/ him it's not the best book, it's the second best -
our revised silmarillion will have to be given the #1 slot <img src=wink.gif ALT=""> .

Actually - I found it a very enjoyable and interesting read. be sure to catch all 9 pages. Some of the most interesting stuff is in part 2 [after you have gone thru 1-5 their is a link to the 'tuesday article ' or some such so be forewarned.

It largely plays off Shippey's book Tolkien:Author of the Century or some such.

I found his treatment of the religious aspect of M-E shallow given that he seemed to have encountered the Silmarillion, and his statement that 'we shall never get to the Undying Lands' [paraphrase], shows to me why he could not understand why JRRT saw the book as primarily religious.

His quote from the departure of Lothlorien by the 8 travelers was nicely done and was also the most moving part of the books for me the last time I read it, along w/ the departure from the grey havens [as always].

lots of historical tidbits and a bizarre comment re: Hitler and even stranger comments re: anarchy/ists that will give fuuel [literally] to some modern wannabe's.








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Old 06-09-2001, 12:33 AM   #6
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Re: Book of the Century?

The Guardian (http://guardian.co.uk),guardian.co.uk),</a> ages ago, had something about that Tom Shippey book, except the reviewer spent more time rubbishing Tolkien. (I'll try and find the link later.)

It had an interesting by-line though, something like &quot;[name] defends the canon from hobbits and Shippey&quot;. My first reaction was &quot;Hobbits aren't canon?!&quot; before realising it was talking about the lit. canon...

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Old 06-10-2001, 10:58 AM   #7
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Re: Book of the Century?

Lindil, from whence comes the notion that the Prof. saw the Silmarillion primarily as a religious work?

"In those days the Noldor still roamed the Hither Lands, Mightiest among the Children of Iluvatar, fair and tall and their beautiful voices were still heard by mere mortals"</p>
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Old 06-11-2001, 06:20 AM   #8
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Re: Book of the Century?

I think the exact quotes can be dug up from Tolkien's Letters, but for now, I'll confirm that, yes, the author himself saw it as a Christian, and especially Catholic, body of work.

Obviously, he didn't think it directly so.

Rather, he thought that the Fairy Tale, as a genre, had as its purpose, a quest for Truth. He viewed his own work in this light. I think one can look at the criticism his work receives, and see that Tolkien's critics agree that the work is filled with Decency and Morality and Virtue.

This is IMHO their primary motivation for despising it! To them, literature should be all about flawed character, darkness, perversion, and depravity, or it is not worth writing. To them, Tolkien's anti-modernist, absolutist, Good vs. Evil views are outmoded and dangerous.

Nevertheless, Tolkien's work does exactly what he intended it to do. It resonates with the Truth he knew and the Higher sense of Duty and Purpose resonate within the reader as well.

Even those who have as yet rejected the religion of the author, are forced to confirm or confront the great facts of Good and Evil. The magic of storytelling, the suspension of disbelief, the catharsis of being caught up in a great tale and feeling the emotions of persons caught up in the grand war of Light and Darkness, these are what ultimately happen to the reader of such literature.

The critics of Tolkien, who prefer works that celebrate Darkness while denying the truths of moral absolutes, would deny this great author and his tales their rightful place in the literary &quot;canon.&quot; (They must even borrow such terms from the very religion they deny!)

The success of Middle-earth, despite all that the intelligentsia can do to suppress it's worth in a Politically Correct age, demonstrates not only its greatness (and it is great because it is good), but the stunted vision of those who would decide for us what is worth reading and watching, and what is not.

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Old 06-11-2001, 02:31 PM   #9
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Re: Book of the Century?

After reading over a few things today in search of quotes for another topic, I came across several bits and thought they might stir things up a bit. <blockquote>Quote:<hr> As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. (Foreword to LotR)

As for 'message': I have none really, if by that is meant the conscious purpose in writing The Lord of the Rings, of preaching, or of delivering myself of a vision of truth specially revealed to me! I was primarily writing an exciting story in an atmosphere and background such as I find personally attractive. (Letter 208, Letters)<hr></blockquote>While I agree that Tolkien's work is informed by and reflects his Christian beliefs, it may be going too far to assert that he viewed his work as &quot;primarily religious&quot;.

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Old 06-12-2001, 03:34 AM   #10
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Re: Book of the Century?

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> This is IMHO their primary motivation for despising it! To them, literature should be all about flawed character, darkness, perversion, and depravity, or it is not worth writing. To them, Tolkien's anti-modernist, absolutist, Good vs. Evil views are outmoded and dangerous.<hr></blockquote>
Isn't that generalising just a bit too much? Sure there are critics like this - there are also a lot who aren't.

Anyvague, at risk of being a heretic and getting at best drummed out of the downs, and at worst, burnt at the stake <img src=wink.gif ALT=""> , I'd suggest that no, the LotR isn't the book of the century. Unfortunately, I can't think of an actual winner - things 'of the century' seem so pointless when few people alive have lived through the whole 20th century, and I doubt there'd be anyone alive who can remember the whole thing clearly. And of course, such lists do tend to be specialised - is there any one book which everyone would like? As in everyone, not just Westerners.

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Old 06-12-2001, 01:31 PM   #11
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Re: Book of the Century?

While &quot;primarily religious&quot; is perhaps an overstatement as to its purpose (as I said, it was not &quot;directly&quot; Christian or Catholic), I think that the work is inescapably religious.

Indeed, a good portion of The Silmarillion is obviously setting forth the basis for the &quot;religion&quot; of the higher cultures of Middle-earth. That is to say, the &quot;history&quot; (or mythology if you prefer) of the interaction of the lesser races with the Valar and of the Creation.

I do not think that I have overstated the tone or the basis for much of the criticism that has greeted Tolkien's work. A close reading of the Salon article, and a general reading of critical articles as referenced in other threads, reveals these biases. The flavor of Modernist literature (and the tastes of its critics) is pretty well known. Again, I'm only sharing my (somewhat informed) opinion, since I am no authority on the subject and cannot present an objective study quantifying the trends of modern culture.

I suggest, however, that even a cursory glance at the changes in movies, popular music, and published fiction, reveals a steady and quickening movement away from the old days of Good Guys and Bad Guys, and toward Bad Guys and Worse Guys! I recall that many of my college professors (particularly one who taught poetry) were actively hostile toward &quot;old fashioned&quot; expressions of &quot;absolutist morality.&quot; Even to the point of insisting that such works were NOT legitimate art!

Now, show me a critic of Tolkien who is NOT one of these Darksome fellows! I daresay, he (or she) is greatly outnumbered by critics of the contemporary nature that I described. There aren't many of the Old School left, and I haven't heard of any who violently object to Tolkien!

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Old 06-12-2001, 05:11 PM   #12
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Re: Book of the Century?

LOTR and The Sill are the books of the century, no questions asked.

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Old 06-12-2001, 10:08 PM   #13
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Re: Book of the Century?

I agree with Z. There are few people who can remember the literary works through the century. Also to pick ONE book out of the thousands of great works is very silly.
But I would have to say that Lord of the Rings and The silmarillion are among the greatest books of the century.
Lord of the Rings isn't really a religious work though one could say many events and characters are religious when analyzed. The Silmarillion however, IS a religious book.
<blockquote>Quote:<hr> &quot;Indeed, a good portion of The Silmarillion is obviously setting forth the basis for the &quot;religion&quot; of the higher cultures of Middle-earth. That is to say, the &quot;history&quot; (or mythology if you prefer) of the interaction of the lesser races with the Valar and of the Creation.&quot; <hr></blockquote>
Exactly my point.

It's the age of victimisation and psychology. &quot;That guy shot his classmates because he was disturbed by his parents' divorce.&quot; &quot;There is no absolute good.&quot; &quot;Criminals are people too. They need to be understood not punished.&quot;
The end result is that all bad people are a product of our society, our time, our age. Unfortunately the concept of taking responsibilty for your own actions seems to have died out. Just blame everyone else. How then, can people comprehend absolute evil, forget about absolute morality?

Humour is emotional chaos remembered in moments of tranquility.</p>
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Old 06-13-2001, 01:42 AM   #14
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Re: Book of the Century?

Sorry Pengolodh, to go so long w/out answering but I hadn't peeked in here in a while.
Luckily Gilthalion said [as only he can] about everything I can think of in relation to your question. I think the quote I saw and i cannot remember if it was inn the Salon article, letters or... was not Silmarillion specific, Mr. Underhill's quote not withstanding- I imagine JRRT saw and answered q's re: the legendarium from a large variety of complimentary and maybe sometimes contradictory points of view.

A further note. i saw Shippey's book the other day and it was to me a painful read, sort of like master of middle-earth and every 'About the writings of Tolkien ' book ever written rolled up into one hyper-technical and dis-jointed writing.

All of that aside he pointed out a few good references.
I would and will wait for the used paperback on this one.

If I see the quote re; the religious nature of the Legendarium again I will be sure to post it on this thread.



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Old 06-13-2001, 10:46 AM   #15
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Re: Book of the Century?

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> The Silmarillion however, IS a religious book.

Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
&quot;Indeed, a good portion of The Silmarillion is obviously setting forth the basis for the &quot;religion&quot; of the higher cultures of Middle-earth. That is to say, the &quot;history&quot; (or mythology if you prefer) of the interaction of the lesser races with the Valar and of the Creation.&quot;
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Exactly my point.<hr></blockquote>

It would be silly to argue that The Silmarillion isn't concerned with establishing Middle-earth's &quot;religious&quot; mythology, and that's not the point I was making.

I simply disagree that the prof wrote either the Sil or LotR as a platform for preaching &quot;religion&quot; or as a religious allegory, or that either book is &quot;primarily religious&quot; in nature. I only picked out a couple of quotes but I could probably pull a dozen more out of Letters alone. Tolkien frequently and vociferously denied any such intention. Letter #131 offers a long and very interesting discourse that touches on this topic and is well worth a read. Tolkien discusses the linguistic origins of Middle-earth, and his eventual desire to create a uniquely &quot;English&quot; mythology (this is the letter which expresses the hope, oft-quoted by Gil, that &quot;other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama&quot; would add their contributions to the legendarium). Its a long and complicated discussion, but here are a few revealing quotes from it on the topic at hand: <blockquote>Quote:<hr> ...an equally basic passion of mine ab initio was for myth (not allegory!) and for fairy-story, and above all for heroic legend on the brink of fairy-tale and history, of which there is far too little in the world (accessible to me) for my appetite.

I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing. For one thing its 'faerie' is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherent and repetitive. For another and more important thing: it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion. For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real' world.

I dislike Allegory the conscious and intentional allegory...

In the cosmogony there is a fall: a fall of Angels we should say. Though quite different in form, of course, to that of Christian myth. These tales are 'new', they are not directly derived from other myths and legends, but they must inevitably contain a large measure of ancient wide-spread motives or elements.

This legendarium ends with a vision of the end of the world, its breaking and remaking, and the recovery of the Silmarilli and the 'light before the Sun' after a final battle which owes, I suppose, more to the Norse vision of Ragnark than to anything else, though it is not much like it.<hr></blockquote>On the other hand, I agree (as I stated above) that all of Tolkien's work is infused and informed by his Christian morals and beliefs -- however, this is quite a different thing from saying that he viewed his work as &quot;primarily religious&quot; in nature. One of the qualities of his work that makes it so widely accessible is that it isn't overtly &quot;religious&quot; or &quot;preachy&quot;.

</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_profile&u=00000005>Mister Underhill</A> at: 6/13/01 12:49:03 pm
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Old 06-13-2001, 01:49 PM   #16
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Re: Book of the Century?

Mister Underhill, you took the quote directly from the tip of my tongue. As I was reading the discussion on whether the books were religious, I thought of the exact same quote (even though I remembered it as the preface to my copy of Sill) I personally don't believe Tolkien's books are religious.

Also, I don't think any of Tolkien's books themselves are the greatest book of the century, however, together they are the greatest literary genius of the century (2nd best literary genius of all time)

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Old 06-13-2001, 02:10 PM   #17
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Re: Book of the Century?

I dont think Tolkiens books are religious either. He said so many times and I remember from reading his letter in the Sill that he said he loved the books of King Arthur, but avoided them (in a writing or reading aspect, I dont remember) because they were religious.

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Old 06-13-2001, 06:15 PM   #18
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Re: Book of the Century?

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> I dislike Allegory the conscious and intentional allegory...<hr></blockquote>

The Fairy Tale, the Heroic Epic suffused with the (religious) morality of the man, is, I think, the UNCONSCIOUS and UNINTENTIONAL allegory.

For example: the debate concerning the Ring being an allegory for the Atom Bomb. Certainly it was not. But, because of the Truths contained in the tale of the Ring, its story is APPLICABLE to the horrible choices of wielding such a terrible weapon.

Likewise, I think, it is fair to say that Tolkien was writing a work that was (and I really must find the quote) religious (specifically Catholic) in its nature. The beauty and the genius of LOTR is that it is not OVERTLY religious. I think it is INTRINSICALLY so. It does not preach. It demonstrates.

<center> ~~~</center>

I think that the issue (paraphrasing) &quot;few if any can remember all the literature of the century so you can't pick one work over the others&quot; is irrelevant.

I do not need to have been alive (and reading) in 1901 to compare GONE WITH THE WIND to LORD OF THE RINGS. Or with any other book of comparable cultural impact. There are relatively few books that have had such an impact. The fact is that LOTR tops, or is near the top, of every such list compiled.

They say that the last person in Western Civilization who might have read every available book that was worth reading was Erasmus, back in the 15th century(?).

While I can't claim to have read all of the available literature of the 20th century (This evening, I walked past a gross of romance literature(?) in the drugstore that I will surely never read!), I am fairly certain that the vast majority of it all can be dismissed.

One need only be concerned with works of fiction that have had great impact upon the culture. Tolkien (practically) singlehandedly created the modern Fantasy genre.

What other author of the 20th Century has done as much?

Since we need only consider works of that magnitude, the list is rather short.

And I am still waiting for someone to make a case for a better or greater work! It's all well and fine and open-minded to say that there must have been a better one written in the last century, but I submit that I ain't read it! I don't think I've even heard of it! If you have, then by all means, turn me on to it! (Even if I disagree, if it's comparable, then I want to read it one day. It's bound to be better than the hackneyed trash that the industry pumps out just to fill space on shelves!)

But in the absence of submissions of a work of comparable impact, majesty, truth, and beauty, I'll stick to my vote for Tolkien's work as the best of the 20th century!

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Old 06-13-2001, 09:19 PM   #19
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Re:

On the subject of religion and Tolkien, Gilthalion beat me to all the points I was going to make.

On the 'best book of the century' my emphasis was more on the point that to pick one book out of the millions that have been written all over the world and proclaim it as the best....well, I just don't agree with that. There are many brilliant works of literature and I don't believe that LoTR is the best though I do think it's ONE of the best-definitely.

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Old 06-14-2001, 08:32 AM   #20
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Re: Book of the Century?

So.....?

Again, if there is a better one, I'd like to know about it! We aren't talking about &quot;millions&quot; of works in contention here (I think thousands, not millions, have been written, in any case).

We are only talking about a handful of possible contenders for &quot;best&quot; so my question remains, if one wishes to insist that there is a better work, than one should not hesitate to name it!

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Old 06-14-2001, 08:49 AM   #21
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Re:

Atlas Shrugged for one. Bridges of Madison County for another. Difficult Daughters. House of Spirits. Eva Luna. Sister of my Heart. The Fountainhead. Godan. Midnight's Children. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (that's just a personal favourite). Pigamalion.
There are others but these are all I can think of offhand.

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Old 06-14-2001, 09:53 AM   #22
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Re: Book of the Century?

Gilthalion -- I wd vote for Ulysses, and no, not merely because the title has my name. It's a great novel, and IMHO has been as influential as LotR. That said, I certainly agree that LotR is a great work of art and that many or most of its critics (or criticizers) are offended by its unabashed celebration of honor, truth, valor and good (and other such outmoded concepts).

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Old 06-14-2001, 10:44 AM   #23
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Re: Book of the Century?

Bridges of Madison County?!! Surely you jest.


<blockquote>Quote:<hr> Likewise, I think, it is fair to say that Tolkien was writing a work that was (and I really must find the quote) religious (specifically Catholic) in its nature. The beauty and the genius of LOTR is that it is not OVERTLY religious. I think it is INTRINSICALLY so. It does not preach. It demonstrates.<hr></blockquote>Quite so. I heartily agree. I am sympathetic to the Christian subtext and symbolism contained in the works. I do not deny JRRT's faith and beliefs are clearly reflected therein. I do not even deny that JRRT consciously molded certain symbols to reflect his beliefs.

However, I still maintain that it is inaccurate to say that the prof saw the Sil or LotR as &quot;primarily religious&quot;. In his own words he said he was &quot;primarily writing an exciting story in an atmosphere and background such as I find personally attractive.&quot; He was writing the type of story he wanted to read but couldn't because it didn't exist (at, least, not in sufficient quantity or quality for his appetite).

Here's the quote you're looking for, Gil: <blockquote>Quote:<hr> I have been cheered specially by what you have said, this time and before, because you are more perceptive, especially in some directions, than any one else, and have even revealed to me more clearly some things about my work. I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded. The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know; and that I owe to my mother, who clung to her conversion and died young, largely through the hardships of poverty resulting from it.<hr></blockquote>I take this mostly to mean that his work necessarily reflects his Christian beliefs and upbringing, and his statements that the letter of his correspondent (a Catholic priest) revealed to him more clearly some religious parallels in his own work, and his statement that he has &quot;consciously planned very little&quot;, only reinforce that he didn't sit down to write a &quot;primarily religious&quot; story (or stories). He rather shuddered at the idea. Here's a few more from Letters to show that I wasn't exaggerating above: <blockquote>Quote:<hr> I cannot understand how I should be labelled 'a believer in moral didacticism'. Who by? It is in any case the exact opposite of my procedure in The Lord of the Rings. I neither preach nor teach. (Letter 329, written less than two years before his death)

As such the story is (I think a beautiful and powerful) heroic-fairy-romance, receivable in itself with only a very general vague knowledge of the background. (of the story of Beren and Lthien)

The darkness of the present days has had some effect on it [Lotr]. Though it is not an 'allegory'. (I have already had one letter from America asking for an authoritative exposition of the allegory of The Hobbit).

I think that there is no horror conceivable that such creatures [Hobbits] cannot surmount, by grace (here appearing in mythological forms) combined with a refusal of their nature and reason at the last pinch to compromise or submit. But in spite of this, do not let Rayner suspect 'Allegory'. There is a 'moral', I suppose, in any tale worth telling. But that is not the same thing. Even the struggle between darkness and light (as he calls it, not me) is for me just a particular phase of history, one example of its pattern, perhaps, but not The Pattern; and the actors are individuals they each, of course, contain universals, or they would not live at all, but they never represent them as such.

The Lord of the Rings as a story was finished so long ago now that I can take a largely impersonal view of it, and find 'interpretations' quite amusing; even those that I might make myself, which are mostly post scriptum: I had very little particular, conscious, intellectual, intention in mind at any point.<hr></blockquote>I think these and other quotes show that the prof viewed his works &quot;primarily&quot; as exciting (moving, beautiful, rousing, etc.) romantic adventure stories.

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Old 06-14-2001, 01:45 PM   #24
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Re: Book of the Century?

Mister Underhill, you confirm in a most excellent way why I do not consider the Silmarillion as a work strongly related to religion. Primary religious has been admitted to be an overstatement but that was not even the point. The point is that

a) Prof strongly disliked allegory and had no &quot;Message&quot; so to speak as was pointed out in this thread, certainly not a religious one. That is not to misinterpreted by saying that this is a book without any major points. There are many modern issues in it and of course there is always some allegory.

B) Prof saw this is an adventure, a quest, with a theme of mercy , immortality, death and true evil in it, an unhuman evil. He meant to entertain.

I never saw any link in the Silmarillion to religious side, totally aside from what the Prof may have thought. In fact, I would dare to note that the obvious lack of a strong religion in a M-e is a sign to the contrary. But then, I would be suggesting there's an allegory <img src=wink.gif ALT=""> . Then of course, I am an avowed atheist, so what would you expect.

Odysseus, I suppose you meant to say &quot;Odysseus&quot; instead of &quot;Ulysses&quot;?

Gilthalion, better books than the LoTR?

Well, difficult to establish what &quot;better&quot; means, so I'll just go with the few books I enjoyed better.

- Silmarillion

-Morgoth's Ring

-Book of New Sun by Gene Wolfe, wonderful tetralogy

-Merlin trilogy by Mary Stewart ( I am a Merlin fanatic)

-Stormbringer, by M. Moorcock

-Corum: Coming of Chaos.


"In those days the Noldor still roamed the Hither Lands, Mightiest among the Children of Iluvatar, fair and tall and their beautiful voices were still heard by mere mortals"</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_profile&u=00000097>Pengolod h</A> at: 6/14/01 4:10:17 pm
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Old 06-15-2001, 01:35 AM   #25
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Re: Book of the Century?

Gilthalion: To be honest, I've always thought the claims that Tolkien &quot;invented&quot;/&quot;was the father of&quot;/whatever modern fantasy are strange. Tolkien's style is so unlike that of other &quot;modern fantasy&quot; authors that I find it difficult to consider them to be in the same sub-genre.

(To me, most post-Tolkien fantasy is &quot;Ooh! Let's write a novel about &quot;medieval&quot; warfare, and throw in a wizard so that it's &quot;fantasy&quot; and not &quot;crappy story induced by too much testosterone&quot;.&quot; Why anyone would want to associate themselves with it is beyond me.)

If we're going to talk about &quot;inventing&quot; sub-genres, let's also mention Mary Shelley, whose novel Frankenstien is considered to be the first &quot;science fiction&quot; story.

As for &quot;wide impact&quot; or whatever, what about Animal Farm or 1984? The former, at any rate, is very widely read, and (going back to a previous point) even has definite &quot;goodies&quot; vs. &quot;baddies&quot;. <img src=wink.gif ALT="">

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Old 06-15-2001, 05:27 AM   #26
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Re: Book of the Century?

Pengolodh -- I meant James Joyce's &quot;Ulysses&quot;.

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Old 06-15-2001, 07:07 AM   #27
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Re:

Mr. U-Bridges of Madison County is s booksellers' favourite and the International Guild insists it is on of the best ever. I myself do not agree but there it is. What's with the shell-shocked Calvin face though? It's a nice book........<img src=smile.gif ALT="">

I just thought of a couple more. Mila 18. Exodus. Gone With the Wind-did someone already say that? The Time Machine-that was written in the 1900's wasn't it?

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Old 06-15-2001, 08:23 AM   #28
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Re: Book of the Century?

The Castle and the Trial (Kafka)

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Old 06-15-2001, 09:29 AM   #29
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Re: Book of the Century?

I find the following books submitted as being better than LORD OF THE RINGS:

Atlas Shrugged (People think I have read the book, because so many of my opinionated musings seem to have been foreseen by Ayn Rand. I haven't, but it is an obviously great and noted book. I've heard enough about it to perhaps even summarize it! I think its impact has yet to be felt, but that time may be coming.)

Bridges of Madison County I didn't even watch the movie! But I don't think it is really comparable in scope and impact.)

Difficult Daughters. (Never heard of it. Perhaps that only demonstrates my ignorance, but I think it is of lesser cultural impact.)

House of Spirits. (Ditto)

Eva Luna. (Likewise)

Sister of my Heart. (Same here)

The Fountainhead. (I have at least heard of this one! Haven't read it, can't comment directly, but I don't think it's sold as many copies, if that matters.)

Godan. (I'm ignorant again.)

Midnight's Children. (Likewise)

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Another notable book that was filmed. I've neither read it or watched it. Again, does it meet the impact criterion?)

Pigamalion. (A great play by George Bernard Shaw. I don't know that it's had the impact of LOTR, and it is not strictly speaking, a book. But I've got it on my shelf. Unlike My Fair Lady it does not have a &quot;happy&quot; ending.)

Morgoth's Ring (Ummmm. Not a story, strictly speaking.)

Silm
(Another of Tolkien's own works. Or at least assembled from his notes. At one time he wanted it published simultaneously as part of a whole with LOTR. A matter of taste, I suppose, but it lacks impact and following.)

Book of New Sun (I'm ignorant, I confess!)

Merlin trilogy (Now this was a fine work! A matter of taste again, I suppose. While I enjoyed it, the work did not hang with me, personally, as Tolkien's did. I, too, was a Merlin nut, until I discovered Gandalf!)

Stormbringer, by M. Moorcock (I've heard of this prolific author, but never read his work. This is one of the guys who earns a living because Tolkien created his employment!)

Corum: Coming of Chaos. (Huh? I'm not very well read, I suppose.)

Frankenstein (I think we're in the 19th Century here! But otherwise, this work is arguably in the running for its impact on culture and literature. I find Tolkien's prose superior, myself. However, Mary Shelley gets credit for an almost entirely original sort of work. Tolkien's is somewhat more derivative. Though, one could argue that the Greek myth of Pygmalion (ironic, no?) is a forerunner of the tale.)

Animal Farm (Now we're talking. Orwell certainly made people think about what Stalinism truly was! This was a work of great impact and excellent writing, though not very beautiful. This was one of the allegorical things that Tolkien hated, I suppose, but it certainly is one of the best such ever written. Too bad the filmed versions completely miss Orwell's point. I suppose the producers were sympathetic to Communism.)

1984 (This novel was Orwell's great indictment against Communism. Oddly enough, Orwell was a Socialist! This work is not beautiful, but it is haunting. Its predictions were marvelously accurate and tell us much about the world we live in today. We're not there yet, but in some ways we're surpassing his grim prophecies... Orwell's work is not as acclaimed today as it once was. I personally find that significant of the accuracy of it...)

Mila 18 (I confess to ignorance again!)

Exodus (Rings a bell, but I've missed out on this one.)

Gone With the Wind (I did actually read this. It was mighty good, and had a great impact in its day. It inspired a motion picture that is still among the best ever made. Its characters are now immortal icons of our culture. Definitely in the running!)

The Time Machine (H.G. Wells classic science fiction tale. As a whole, Wells body of work was certainly of great impact and brilliance. I personally find his stories to be somewhat contrived and his characters very flat and lifeless. Even so, if we were classing authors of the 20th century, his name would be near the top.)

The Castle and the Trial (Kafka) (No one would argue against the significance Kafka has had in Western Literature. Unfortunately, I've not read a single one of his works, and cannot comment.)

Ulysses (One of the few books I started and did not finish. I may pick it up again, for perhaps I was simply too immature 20 years ago to appreciate it. Joyce certainly impacted 20th century literature, perhaps more than any other author, or so I've been told. Arguably among the great of that century. But I can't argue where in the lineup he might be.)

As I hoped, we've delivered a lot of great recommendations here, and I'm sure everyone would do well to follow up on these. Horizons will be broadened and thought will be deepened by these works. This is a fairly serious list! (For the most part!)

I do have to wonder, however, if any of these works will provide the sheer enjoyment and satisfaction of LORD OF THE RINGS!

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Old 06-15-2001, 10:02 AM   #30
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Re: Book of the Century?

Gilthalion, I've suppose you're a reasonable fellow, with decent posts , so I won't blow up on you. You said some strange things though.

First off, let me assure you that several of the works mentioned certainly provided for the excitement and immense satisfaction taht you had with the Lord of the Rings. Taste is indeed subjective. Cliche of the year.

&quot;
Morgoth's Ring (Ummmm. Not a story, strictly speaking.)[/i]&quot;

Correct. But then you asked what I thought was a better book.

&quot;Silm (Another of Tolkien's own works. Or at least assembled from his notes. At one time he wanted it published simultaneously as part of a whole with LOTR. A matter of taste, I suppose, but it lacks impact and followin


Yes, a work of Tolkien. I certainly don't dispute he is one of the beat authors around. And although he ~may~ once have intended to publish it with the LoTR, he decided not to. Aside from that, the Silmarillion was his life work and he saw it as far more important than the Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion IS Middle-earth and everything that world stands for. If he had been able to finish it himself, nothing could have beaten it.

And if there's anything it doesn't lack, it's impact! It is a book with enormous effects on people. And it has less following because must don't have the stomach for a bit more difficult book.

&quot;Stormbringer, by M. Moorcock (I've heard of this prolific author, but never read his work. This is one of the guys who earns a living because Tolkien created his employment!)&quot;

I find this a bit upsetting Gilthalion. Elric of Melnibone and Strombringer were published in the fifties!

Aside from that , Michael Moorcock writes Dark Fantasy, totally, and I mean totally unlike Tolkien. In fact, Moorcock has stated in interviews to dislike Tolkien's style and bubble-gummy tales. (which is a shame fo course). Read Elric and know the difference <img src=wink.gif ALT="">

Trust me, he is not one of those that belongs to those you claim that have Tolkien as the father of their genre. His, is different, unlike Feist, Goodkind, Jordan, Martin, Kurtz, Leiber etc. Oh, I forgot Hobb's Farseer trilogy, which is very good by the way.

He also writes a lot of historical fiction novels.

Cheers <img src=smile.gif ALT="">

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Old 06-15-2001, 10:16 AM   #31
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/bluepal.jpg" align=absmiddle> What about Zelazny

Does anybody like Zelazny, he is one of the few writers that wrote books that were as good or better then Tolkiens'.

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Old 06-15-2001, 10:57 AM   #32
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Re: Book of the Century?

Pengolodh -- can you describe Moorcock's writings a little more? I've never heard of him, but that's not surprising since the only &quot;fantasy&quot;/sci fi books I've ever other than LotR are the Dune books (which I enjoyed -- at least the first 2 or 3).

And since I'm looking for info -- Belegehru -- who is Zelazny?

One last comment, sure to earn a stinging rebuke from Gilthalion and others -- I surely enjoy JRRT, but his prose in many parts is a tad too purple to take it too seriously don't you think? The descriptions of the Morannon and Minas Morgul in Two Towers sounds exactly like the Thor comic books I read as a kid. That's one reason I think TT is MUCH weaker than the other two parts (FotR and RotK).

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Old 06-15-2001, 11:11 AM   #33
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Re: Book of the Century?

A couple of corrections, at the risk of getting caught in the crossfire:

(1) The first of Moorcock's Elric stories were published, unless I'm mistaken, in the mid-60's. Stormbringer was published in 1965. Having said that, I agree that he's unlike Tolkien and has more in common, IMO, with pulp writers like Robert E. Howard. I enjoyed the Elric stories (though I must add the caveat that I read them at least fifteen years ago) and have recommended them elsewhere on the Downs. Personally, I wouldn't put him in the same league with Tolkien, but that is, of course, a matter of taste.

(2) Tolkien didn't decide not to publish the Sil with LotR -- he just couldn't convince any publishers to do it (despite impassioned arguments and long letters -- see Letters for more details).

It's clear that everyone has a different yardstick by which they would measure the &quot;best&quot; book of the century (or millenium, or what have you). Several influential works and authors have been mentioned, and cases could be made for many of them as &quot;best&quot; according to some criteria. There are a dozen other authors whose work you might toss into the mix: Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Dostoyevsky, for a few examples.

But forget cultural and literary impact. Forget revolutions of form and style, and inventions of new literary genres. Forget sheer popularity and sales figures. If I was stranded alone on a desert island and could only have one book, what book would I want to have with me? I can't think of anything off the top of my head that would beat out LotR for that slot.

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> From Gil:

People think I have read the book, because so many of my opinionated musings seem to have been foreseen by Ayn Rand. I haven't, but it is an obviously great and noted book. I've heard enough about it to perhaps even summarize it! I think its impact has yet to be felt, but that time may be coming.<hr></blockquote>Gilthalion -- I'm startled and amazed by this statement, since Ayn was opposed to so many things that I know you to believe in. I don't want to get too far off track here, but I'll just note that Ayn Rand was an &quot;intransigent atheist&quot; and solidly rejected the notions of &quot;faith&quot; and &quot;altruism&quot;. Check these links for an overview of &quot;Objectivism&quot; (her philosophy) and its main tenents:

http://www.aynrand.org/objectivism/io.htmlIntroducing Objectivism</a>
http://www.aynrand.org/objectivism/essentials.htmlEssentials of Objectivism</a>

Each is only about a page long. I read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, as well as some of her other non-fiction books, in college. I personally find objectivism to be a rather cold, hollow, and ultimately nave philosophy. The two works cited, in my opinion, are little more than philosophical treatises masquerading as novels. I will leave it to others to judge what influence her theories on self-interest and laissez-faire capitalist economics have had or will have on modern culture.

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Old 06-15-2001, 07:41 PM   #34
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Re: Book of the Century?

How are we definining &quot;best&quot; book? Most imact or highest quality? There seems to be two strands, here.

As for the desert-island-book, I'd pick the LotR. But that only makes it my personal desert-island book choice, not the book of the century.

(Btw: I didn't offer Frankenstein as a book of the 20th century, I was just pointing out that Tolkien wasn't the only one to &quot;invent&quot; a genre, and Shelley certainly did it more clearly - if that's the right word - than JRRT anyway.)

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Old 06-16-2001, 08:14 AM   #35
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Re: Book of the Century?

Beleghuru said:


Does anybody like Zelazny, he is one of the few writers that wrote books that were as good or better then Tolkiens'.


I read the Amber chronicles , 1 to 10. They are heavily recommended by many. Although they have great politics within them, they just don't cut it for me. It lacks something, Zelazny should have done much, much more with the powers of his characters. I liked only a few things, like The Jewel of Judgement, the Trumps, Oberon and of course Corwin himself was ok. The story was pretty meager though. I know a lot of folks like it, but I found the worldbuilding dissapointing. The characters are too flat as well. Still, the idea is great.

Moorcock's Eternal Champion books, at least some, are much better.

Pengolodh -- can you describe Moorcock's writings a little more? I've never heard of him, but that's not surprising since the only &quot;fantasy&quot;/sci fi books I've ever other than LotR are the Dune books (which I enjoyed -- at least the first 2 or 3).

I'm reading Dune right now <img src=smile.gif ALT="">

As for Moorcock, he is best known for the Eternal Champion saga. It features the wars of several heroes against the Lords of Chaos. The fight is generally between Law and Chaos and even though the protagonists are incredibly powerful in their own (above human or half-human race) they become pawns in the Eternal battle between Law and Chaos. Elric, Corum and Dorian Hawkmoon are the three top Champions. The books are sometimes even interlinked, for instance, Corum, appears in &quot;Elric of Melnibone&quot;. Aside from this, it is Dark Fantasy which means that the characters have some real heavy stuff they have to deal with. For instance, Elric would punish a rival who tried to slay him, by having him eat the flesh of one of his traiterous commanders, in front of the whole of Melnibone. and Incest is far from inconceivable. Important to note is that his style is more direct than Tolkien, he is fas paced. Tolkien tends to be over -descriptive for me. Tolkien is still a better writer of course.

this link is informative, at least, a bit more info:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...779458-0324621www.amazon.com/exec/obido...58-0324621</a>
and this one for Zelazny's Amber stuff:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...779458-0324621www.amazon.com/exec/obido...58-0324621</a>


Mister Underhill

The first of Moorcock's Elric stories were published, unless I'm mistaken, in the mid-60's. Stormbringer was published in 1965.

Yes, it was indeed published in 65, you are well informed. Elric of Melnibone was in fact only published in 1972. The first of the Elric tales was published in 1961 already. Point is that Moorcock himself states in the forword of Elric of Melnibone that he wrote the Elric stores in the fifties (most of them) and could only get them published 5 to 15 years later. Anyway, he certainly didn't steel from teh Prof, although there are many resemblances between Elric and Turin <img src=wink.gif ALT="">


Tolkien didn't decide not to publish the Sil with LotR -- he just couldn't convince any publishers to do it (despite impassioned arguments and long letters -- see Letters for more details).


I've read Letters twice myself and found it an incredibly good source of information on Middle-earth. Lots of cool details in them. I think I do recall Tolkien mentioning that he either wanted the Silmarillion published first or wanted to have them published at the same time. I am interested as to where Gilthalion got this from,it may point me to the quote as well. The SIlmarillion of course, was rebuked.
















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Old 06-17-2001, 03:13 AM   #36
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Re:

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> &quot;Gilthalion -- I'm startled and amazed by this statement, since Ayn was opposed to so many things that I know you to believe in. I don't want to get too far off track here, but I'll just note that Ayn Rand was an &quot;intransigent atheist&quot; and solidly rejected the notions of &quot;faith&quot; and &quot;altruism&quot;.&quot; <hr></blockquote>

Exactly. Even I was wondering about that particular comment.
However, I completely disagree with the rest of Mr. U's comments on Ayn Rand. It's highly idealistic and perhaps even unrealistic for many poeple. But call her an 'impractical dreamer' and you will immediatly fit in with the rest of the Peter Keatings. I'll stop here. This is the wrong thread to start a philosophical arguement.

I agree with what Zoe said. We're talking about 'best' aren't we? What does mass impact have to do with that? If we start measuring the best that way I suspect that Eminem or Britney Spears would be the best artiste in the world today according to you Gilthalion.


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Old 06-17-2001, 05:23 AM   #37
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Re: Re:

Regarding &quot;Atlas Shrugged,&quot; &quot;The Fountainhead,&quot; &quot;Objectivism&quot; --Ayn Rand

Try reading the Ecclesiastes, then tell me what you think! &quot; Vanity! All is vanity!&quot;

Obviously I do not agree with Rands conclusions! It is her perceptions and indictments against &quot;the system&quot; that people find similar to my viewpoint. An awful lot of what passes for virtue and altruism today, is what is known in Christianity as &quot;works of the flesh.&quot; Again, read the very short teachings of Solomon, and see if that does not leave Ms. Rand in the dust. I find (what I know of) her diagnosis of the ills of western civilization to be fairly accurate. Her atheist conclusions and resultant philosophy are brilliant, but to my view, flawed. Marx was right about the problems with Capitalism. His solution, Communism, was terrible! I suspect Rand is in the same boat. But I am ignorant.

Desert Island Books
That is probably the most telling criterion! Faced with a shelf of all of the above, a Bible and LOTR would be grabbed without hesitation as my plane fell from the sky!

EGADS!
I see nothing to explode over! We're talking personal opinions about works of literature, after all! While Moorcock and many others do not write in Tolkien's style, they do write in his genre.

Impact
The reason LOTR makes it to the top of the popular lists is that it is popular and has been for nearly half a century! Tolkien's work has staying power. 50 years from now, Brittany Spears will not be nearly as popular as today, unless there are tremendous advances in plastic surgery and geriatrics! Besides, I seriously doubt if even today, at the height of Miss Spears's popularity, there are fewer fans of Tolkien, or that she has as much diversity in her fandom. (P.S. Does she write her own lyrics, design her own costumes, correograph her own dances (which look suspiciously like moves from Michael Jackson to me), play her own instrument, direct her own band, etc.? I daresay Miss Spears is little more than a creature of the industry. A talented young lady who was picked to be injected with silicon and made into what she is today.)


THE CAREER OF BRITTANY SPEARS

&quot;Who is Brittany Spears?&quot;

&quot;Get me Brittany Spears!&quot;

&quot;Get me someone just like Brittany Spears!&quot;

&quot;Who is Brittany Spears?&quot;




Tolkien's Style of Writing
Oddly enough, I find that many of the places where the author deliberately used somewhat archaic prose forms and grand descriptions are among the best examples of his work.

Tolkien wrote with a style that changed according to the situation. When one is writing of the Riders of Rohan, sweeping down to the battle before Minas Tirith, you don't want a flat recitation of events. When one is writing of a towering castle of impregnable might, raised by the arts of a lost civilization, or by the supernatural powers of an ageless evil and overpowering adversary, one does not give the sort of descriptions one might find in an architect's summary.

Sure, lift them out of context and they seem out of place, especially if compared to the freeze dried pablum of most of the authors of this day. But when the effort is taken as a whole, the &quot;purple prose&quot; is not only good, it is necessary!

It is fitting to write of life in the Shire with a light touch, and of the death of valorous warriors with the grandest words of the grandest language ever spoken by mortal men.

I spoke recently at a Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. Assembled were a lot of folk, who if half their size, would have looked very much at home in the Shire. But there were also honor guards of old veterans (one had a heart attack, standing uncomplaining in the hot sun beside his old mates, as they had in the days of their peril, holding his flag until he could stand no longer), flybys of jets and of a Coast Guard helicopter low over the crowd timed with exacting precision, young men and women prepared to walk in the mighty footsteps of the heroes we were there to honor.

Tolkien wrote of home and hearth, of life and death, of grave risk and sacrifice, and of blood-bought freedom and victory over the evil of a day.

&quot;Purple prose&quot; indeed!

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Old 06-17-2001, 10:45 PM   #38
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Re:

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> &quot;&quot;Purple prose&quot; indeed!&quot; <hr></blockquote>

Hear, hear!

I have always maintained excellence does not have too much to do with popularity. I quite agree that Britney Spears is yet aother teenybopper phenomenon with no visible talent except projecting the bubblegum image. But there are thousands of brilliant books written in languages less universal than English. They have not been transalated due to various reasons so to declare that LoTR is the book of the century without any exposure to those books is incorrect. You could argue that if they were good enough they would've been translated and distributed to a worldwide audience. It doesn't work that way. How many Sidney Sheldon readers want to read a translated mythological Chinese book? How many want to read something based on the India-Pakistan partition? Who's interested in an account of the ethnis cleansing of Rwanda except the intellectuals of the world? That's how publishers think, and maybe they're right. But the fact remains that readers are not given a chance to make up their own minds about what appeals to them.
Tolkien does not exactly have a worldwide audience either. I would say that in over 90% of Asian and African coutries no one except the literati has even heard of LoTR. And if we're looking for lasting appeal I'd say Gone With the Wind has been around longer and is far more famous than LoTR.
Read Mila 18 by the way. It's an outstanding book.

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Old 06-18-2001, 10:30 AM   #39
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Re: Purple Prose

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> The Morannon
Across the mouth of the pass, from cliff to cliff, the Dark Lord had built a rampart of stone. In it there was a single gate of iron, and upon its battlement sentinels paced unceasingly. Beneath the hills on either side the rock was bored into a hundred caves and maggot-holes: there a host of orcs lurked, ready at a signal to issue forth like black ants going to war. None could pass the Teeth of Mordor and not feel their bite, unless they were summoned by Sauron, or knew the secret passwords that would open the Morannon, the black gate of his land.


Minas Ithil
A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way within the valley's arms high on a rocky seat upon the black knees of the Ephel Dath, stood the walls and tower of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills. Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing. In the walls and tower windows showed, like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness; but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into the night. For a moment the three companions stood there, shrinking, staring up with unwilling eyes. Gollum was the first to recover. Again he pulled at their cloaks urgently, but he spoke no word. Almost he dragged them forward. Every step was reluctant, and time seemed to slow its pace. so that between the raising of a foot and the setting of it down minutes of loathing passed.<hr></blockquote>Purple prose or vivid and compelling description from a master of the English language? If that's purple prose, give me more!

</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_profile&u=00000005>Mister Underhill</A> at: 6/18/01 12:43:57 pm
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Old 06-19-2001, 12:10 PM   #40
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