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8530Re: [mythsoc] Re: Seattle stinks

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  • David S Bratman
    Mar 2, 2003
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      At 03:46 PM 3/1/2003 -0700, Jane wrote:

      >Well, we could try to imagine Tolkien's reaction to these boondoggles.
      >Would the fact that in San Francisco and Seattle people are actually
      >removing superhighways please him? Or would he be too disgusted by the
      >whole nonsense to care? I don't know whether Tolkien ever expressed his
      >opinion of superhighways or not, but I'll bet he didn't care for them, and
      >I'll also bet that someone on this list knows whether or not he ever
      >commented in writing on the topic.

      Of course Tolkien had comments on this subject. For instance, in Letter
      181, comparing England to the pre-Scouring Shire:

      "I would not say that we had to suffer the malice of Sharkey and his
      Ruffians here. Though the spirit of Isengard, if not of Mordor, is of
      course always cropping up. The present design of destroying Oxford in
      order to accommodate motor-cars is a case."

      The "present design" to which he was referring to was a plan to run a new
      highway through the beautiful Christ Church meadows south of central
      Oxford. Tolkien was totally opposed; so were a lot of other people; and it
      was never built. But it's worth noting that the only alternative presented
      at the time was the status quo: constantly clogged traffic jams in central
      Oxford itself. Only a few years earlier he complained in Letter 135 that
      he had decided to move:

      "This charming house has become uninhabitable -- unsleepable-in,
      unworkable-in, rocked, racked with noise, and drenched with fumes. Such is
      modern life. Mordor in our midst."

      And that was the result of traffic going past his front door that the
      meadows highway would have relieved. Ironic, isn't it? When I first
      visited Oxford some 25 years ago the traffic situation was pretty much
      unchanged from when Tolkien wrote in the '50s, and still very bad. Since
      then it's improved somewhat, due to planning more intelligent than the
      meadows highway design.

      I don't recall anything about Tolkien cheering when various ugly modern
      constructions were torn down, but not much of that was yet being done in
      his day. He certainly had a lot of complaints about new construction going
      up, though. Somewhere in Carpenter's biography is a reference to Tolkien
      moaning "There goes the last of England's arable" whenever he saw new
      buildings replacing a field. He owned a car during the 1930s, but after
      World War II decided not to do so again, largely out of principle. (Though
      he was perfectly willing to ride in other people's cars.)

      - David Bratman
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