22814Re: [mythsoc] Re: Article in The New Yorker about Tolkien (or whatever)
- Dec 4, 2011I don't think it's a terrible article, though more useful on Paolini than it is on Tolkien. It points out the way the Tolclones puff along in the original's wake, how they are different from LOTR and what they lack. But it also points out, as C.S. Lewis would have, that however bad a writer Paolini may be, he must have _something_ that's appealing to readers.
Gopnik's problem in dealing with Tolkien is that he likes LOTR but feels guilty about doing so. See his revealing comments here: http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Guest-Books/Adam-Gopnik/ba-p/6333
What he really, really doesn't get is the role of good and evil. He says that "Modernist ambiguity ... is unknown to Tolkien," and if by "ambiguity" he means "doubt as to what is good and what is evil" and if by "Tolkien" he means "LOTR" it's correct as far as it goes; besides leaving out the Silmarillion (previously dismissed as "dull as dishwater"), where as often as not no course of action is desirable, he then confuses the clarity of morality in LOTR with clarity of the characters; nor does he have any idea _why_ Gandalf and Aragorn show no "inner doubts" (whether that's true depends on what you mean by "inner doubts", and they're the only protagonists who don't).
As for Tolkien's teaching and his subject, it's telling that he should cite Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, very bright and intelligent men who preferred to feign a sort of lowbrow common-man ignorant mulishness. Ask somebody like W.H. Auden or Robert Burchfield and you'd get a very different answer.
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