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12482Re: [mythsoc] Newest Greenman Review

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  • Wayne G. Hammond
    Jul 7, 2004
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      Jack wrote:

      >Now, now. Not everyone agrees on what is a good reference guide.
      >And Grey never claimed to be a Tolkien expert, just
      >a fan. What's more I suggest that simply because Christopher
      >has something on his shelf doesn't mean that everyone
      >else should have it too.

      I agree with David that Foster is to be preferred to Tyler, if one must
      choose only one reference book for reading Tolkien (which, of course, one
      need not do, so the point is moot). The latest edition of Tyler's book is,
      however, of at least intellectual interest for its use (such as it is) of
      Tolkien sources later than _The Silmarillion_, and for Tyler's abandoning
      of his previous conceit that the Red Book of Westmarch, etc. were "real".

      As for Grey Walker being "just a fan", that's irrelevant. He never claims
      to be either a fan or an expert; but the average reader of a review in a
      source such as the Greenman Review, presented in what appears to be a
      serious, professional manner, will expect or assume the reviewer to have
      adequate knowledge of the subject, even knowledge superior to the reader's.
      A reviewer therefore, even a "fan", has a responsibility to rise to the
      occasion -- as David Bratman, say, does regularly in _Mythprint_ -- for the
      sake of readers looking for advice on whether or not to read (or buy) a
      book. For the most part, Grey Walker's review is reasonable, if too short:
      a comparison with Foster's book would have been welcome. Other reviews in
      the new issue, such as I've read them so far, offer much more to criticize.

      Is Robert Tilendis not aware that Ruth Noel's _Languages of Middle-earth_
      is utterly notorious for the number of its errors? Has he never seen it
      called "the little red horror"? I disagree with most of Jack Merry's
      comments about _The Road Goes Ever On_, but that's partly my age showing,
      and the fact that I knew Donald Swann personally. The dust-jacket has too
      much text on it? What sort of comment is that? Does he not see that the
      greater part of that text is Tolkien's "Namarie" written out in tengwar by
      the author himself, and therefore of not a little interest? What about the
      important linguistic notes by Tolkien at the back?

      And then there is Wes Unruh's review of _J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and
      Illustrator_, which he cannot have read too carefully. Leaving aside his
      comments about style and approach, I would point out at least that the
      final picture in chapter 1 is not from 1940, but from the early fifties;
      that chapter 2 in no way "implies that this book [The Book of Ishness] was
      the symbolic key [Tolkien] used to unlock his mythic cycle" (this is a
      sketchbook containing many different kinds of pictures, including some of
      the Silmarillion art); and that _Roverandom_ did not _begin_ with the
      picture "House where Rover Began His Adventures as a Toy", rather that
      picture came later, following on an impromptu oral tale. No, it's not a
      book for everyone, only those who would have a greater appreciation of
      Tolkien's achievement through a better knowledge of the breadth of his
      creativity. It was of course not meant to be an introduction to Tolkien's
      work, and indeed it assumes that the reader has a certain knowledge of the
      writings. As for Wes Unruh's statement: "I would rather have seen an
      edition of 'The Book of Ishnessess' published, or as complete as possible
      an edition of Roverandom produced than be presented with only partial
      elements", I would point out, again, that "The Book of Ishness" is really
      just the title of a sketchbook, not a book completely with a theme of
      "ishnesses", and most of its contents do appear in _Artist and
      Illustrator_; and if a complete edition of _Roverandom_ is wanted, well, we
      produced that back in 1998, and it's still in print.

      As in other reviews on the site, Unruh would have done well to compare
      _Artist and Illustrator_ to the only previous major collection of Tolkien's
      art, _Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien_ (1979; 2nd ed. 2002), and note that
      _Artist and Illustrator_ contains far more paintings and drawings, has much
      more supporting text, and has a far superior quality of reproduction.

      Wayne Hammond
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