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20087Re: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon

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  • David Bratman
    Sep 17, 2008
      To my mind, the decision to publish "The History of Middle-earth" is so
      clearly the right one that, unless one is specifically raising Guy Kay's
      objection - to switch metaphors, that authors should not let their readers
      peek at "the man behind the curtain" - I find it hard to understand why
      anyone would have a problem with it.

      Then I realize that they probably have a totally fanciful and incorrect
      notion of what the posthumous material consists of. Far too often, deceased
      authors are exploited - their notes and abandoned drafts are turned into
      gleaming new novels that are inferior in quality, diminishing the author's
      reputation. I've even seen it said that Christopher Tolkien is writing new
      books and publishing them under his father's name. How can we explain to
      people that this isn't what's going on at all? The only two books that CT
      rewrote at all, _The Silmarillion_ and _The Children of Hurin_, are just
      smoothed-out versions of material his father wrote extensively. Whatever
      changes or selective omissions have been made, they're not new material
      being sold as something it's not.

      All the rest of the books are scholarly editions of minimally edited
      original papers, published commercially only because Tolkien is popular
      enough that they'll sell. That's an entirely different thing than pushing
      newly imagined novels over his name.

      There are two reasons for publishing this material. First, there's a lot of
      really good stuff in there that just wouldn't fit into _The Silmarillion_ as
      published, because it's from a different angle or point of view, or from a
      different stage in the creation of the mythology, so it wouldn't fit the
      sub-creation. Secondly, because one of Tolkien's greatest virtues as an
      author is the richness of his creation, and this enables the reader to watch
      how it was made. This is what Guy Kay would rather we not see, but the
      magnitude of the work Tolkien put into it, a whole dimension beyond a slice
      of the inner history as we know it from LOTR, is itself a grand creation.

      Lastly, one of the points I made in the article that Doug kindly mentioned
      is that there's a fundamental difference in dealing with the work of a
      living author and of a dead one. There's all sorts of things that are
      appropriate to do only once the author is deceased. You wouldn't put a
      living author into a box and bury it in the ground; you wouldn't distribute
      his possessions or put them in a museum. And you wouldn't publish the
      papers he's not done with. But once he's dead, he's done with them. There
      will be no more revisions. Some authors realize this. My favorite example
      is Robert Heinlein, who kept a box of personal papers he had no desire to
      see print during his lifetime, but which he wanted published as soon as
      possible after his death. And he picked a title for the book: _Grumbles
      from the Grave_.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "hoytrand" <randy@...>
      To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 3:01 PM
      Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon

      >I feel that it is worth mentioning that publishing work posthumously
      > (especially work that an author did not feel was fit for publication)
      > is a seriously problematic endeavor. I don't just mean that it is
      > difficult: there are very good objections *against* doing it at all.
      > If I remember correctly, Christopher Tolkien later decided that
      > publishing *The Silmarillion* in the form he did (without any frame)
      > was not the right thing to do.
      > Don't get me wrong; I am *very* grateful for what he has done. I fully
      > admit that the cartoons most likely originated in an inappropriate
      > ignorance and disrespect towards Christopher Tolkien's work. But maybe
      > -- just maybe -- the cartoonist is much more thoughtful about the
      > situation and cognizant of the fundamental problems inherent in this
      > type of project. Even if not, I think the cartoons could provide a
      > good opportunity for us to have a thoughtful discussion about those
      > problems.
      > Thanks,
      > ~randy
      > (This is my first post to the list, so please don't lambast me! Though
      > I admit I got my flame-shield out of the cellar before writing this. :~)
      > ------------------------------------
      > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
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