Re: [mythsoc] Claims of expertise (was Re: Newest Greenman Review)
- Berni Phillips wrote:
> "Best book I've read all year!" -- Marion Zimmer Bradley ---> seen onFrom my days in the publishing industry I also recall that Anne
> so many books it's become a catch phrase in the Bratman household.
McCaffrey was extremely generous in the handing out of encomiums
to put on book covers.
- Jack wrote:
>Now, now. Not everyone agrees on what is a good reference guide.I agree with David that Foster is to be preferred to Tyler, if one must
>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.
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.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Jack <jack@g...> wrote:
> >But nothing but ignorance can excuse Gray Walker's claim that J.E.A.Tyler's first efforts at documenting Tolkien were not very successful.
> >Tyler's _Complete Tolkien Companion_ is the one essential reference
> >book on Tolkien. There are many worse ones, but there's one that
> >outshines it as the sun does the moon. It's Robert Foster's
> >_Complete Guide to Middle-earth._ Has Walker even heard of it?
> >It's the book on Christopher Tolkien's reference shelf, and that
> >should be recommendation enough for anyone.
> 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 have been told by a number of people he is now doing a better job.
But Foster's book, while out-of-date, remains the most authoritative
glossary on THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE HOBBIT, THE SILMARILLION, THE
ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL, and THE ROAD GOES EVER ON that I have seen.
I would love for the book to be updated to at least include UNFINISHED
TALES, but it remains one of my own favored resources.
- I found a number of comments in Wes Unruh's review of Hammond and
Scull's _J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator_:
to be nothing short of astonishing. For example:
"I would have preferred a chronological order that his creative process
might be more easily inferred"
As Unruh then goes on to demonstrate with his own overview of chapters
and contents, _A&I_ _is_ essentially chronological. So whence the
And then there's this:
"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 can understand that Mr. Unruh could be unaware that Hammond and Scull
did in fact publish an edition of the complete _Roverandom_ years ago;
but are there no editors at Green Man Review with sufficient knowledge
of Tolkien to correct such howlers before they are published?
- At 06:52 AM 7/7/2004 -0400, Jack wrote:
>Grey never claimed to be a Tolkien expert, just a fan.On the contrary.
First off, of course, "fan" and "Tolkien expert" are not mutually exclusive
categories. But in any case Grey Walker says nothing about being "just a
fan," but rather makes statements claiming status as a Tolkien expert.
If Walker had merely said "Tyler's is a good book," I would merely have
pointed out that there was a better one. After all, it's unreasonable to
expect that every reviewer will always be familiar with all the prior
literature in the field, even though it is rather bad form to review a
reference book while apparently being unaware of the standard text on the
But Walker didn't say that. Walker said, "If you only have one reference
book on Tolkien on your shelf, it ought to be this one."
That IS a claim of being a Tolkien expert. It states that the writer has a
thorough knowledge and has made a considered judgment of the entire field.
Anyone who writes such a sentence without this background is a blowhard.
And if a reviewer does have the knowledge claimed and therefore is an
expert, then in this case that expert knows s/he is going against the
considered judgment of the expert scholarly community in prefering
something other than the standard work. In that case, one owes it to one's
readers to explain why. Then we can discuss whether the reviewer's
judgment is faulty.
But no comparison was offered. And I did not impugn Walker's judgment. As
I said, nothing but ignorance can excuse this.
>What's more I suggest that simply because Christopher has somethingI certainly never said that everyone should have it. But everyone _who
>on his shelf doesn't mean that everyone else should have it too.
wants a Tolkien reference book_ should have it. Why shouldn't I make such
a statement? Walker made one, in favor of Tyler. If you've actually read
Walker's review, you'll know the context was, "If you only have one
reference book on Tolkien on your shelf," what that book should be. And
for that, Christopher Tolkien's use (in The History of Middle-earth) of
Robert Foster's book as the measuring tool of readerly understanding of
what his father actually published should indeed, as I said, be
recommendation enough for anyone. If you think otherwise, I'd like to read
why. Or have I stumbled onto a coterie of people with a habit of making
sweeping unconventional judgments without backing them up?
(For more on my own take on Tyler, see next post.)
- David Bratman
- At 08:52 AM 7/7/2004 -0400, Wayne G. Hammond wrote:
>The latest edition of Tyler's book is,Unfortunately, what Tyler says and what Tyler does are two different
>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".
things. From my own review of the new edition (Mythprint, December 2003):
"A reliable source but a very poor second choice to Robert Foster's
_Complete Guide to Middle-earth_ (less detail, more omissions, few dates,
hardly any page references), Tyler's tome now includes entries from
_Unfinished Tales_, 24 years after that book was published. It ignores
almost everything else since then, whether it fits into the (illusory)
"final" legendarium or not. Tyler claims he's dropped his pretence that
Middle-earth is real, but entries like that for Orcs, identifying them as
the true origin of mythic goblins, show that he hasn't."
>Is Robert Tilendis not aware that Ruth Noel's _Languages of Middle-earth_I found Tilendis's review excusable. He neither claims expertise on the
>is utterly notorious for the number of its errors? Has he never seen it
>called "the little red horror"?
subject nor pretends to expertise he doesn't have. Yet he is wise enough
to detect a certain odor of unreliability in Noel's book. Though I suppose
if you're going to review a 25-year-old treatise it might be a good idea to
check up on what previous scholarly reviewers have had to say before
publishing your own thoughts.
More puzzling was Tilendis whining about how boring the scholarly apparatus
was. And Jack Merry, reviewer of Swann's _The Road Goes Ever On_, is bored
by sheet music. Spare me from the easily bored, or at least spare me from
reviews about how easily bored they get.
>And then there is Wes Unruh's review of _J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist andCertainly not. Unruh says, "I would have preferred a chronological order
>Illustrator_, which he cannot have read too carefully.
that his creative process might be more easily inferred." I am astonished
by the implication that A&I has anything other than a chronological basis
within the various threads of Tolkien's visual imagination. Unruh also
calls it an "incomplete survey," and at the word "incomplete" I give up.
As a survey, "incomplete" is the last word for it. It was never intended
or advertised as "The Complete Artwork of J.R.R. Tolkien," and by any other
standards the book is comprehensively inclusive almost to a fault.
Again I'd like to quote from my own review, at
"This magnificent volume is a full, detailed, and definitive study of
Tolkien's artwork in all its manifestations ... About three-quarters of
Tolkien's artwork in _Pictures_ is reproduced in this book, usually smaller
in size but often more clearly and usually in better color. The overlap,
and the exclusions, are designed to enable this book to cover Tolkien's art
thoroughly and completely without rendering _Pictures_ superfluous. ... A
few early drafts of particular scenes from _Pictures_ are not included
here, but this book makes up for that by including other previously
unpublished drafts of the same scenes. ... Few authors are fortunate
enough to have their works served so well."
- David Bratman
>More puzzling was Tilendis whining about how boring the scholarly apparatusWhat I said was:
>was. And Jack Merry, reviewer of Swann's _The Road Goes Ever On_, is bored
>by sheet music. Spare me from the easily bored, or at least spare me from
>reviews about how easily bored they get.
Now before you run out as a Tolkien fan and purchase the 2002 edition which
was released only in Britain by Harper Collins (with a CD of the songs to
boot!) be advised that this is mostly sheet music, something that even most
of the regular members of the Neverending Session in the Green Man Pub
would find boring. Really boring. But if you're interested in a relatively
practical look at how some of Tolkien's poetry is as song, this is the book
David, are you a fiddler? Most fiddlers including myself do not find sheet
music all that exciting. If we did, than such tunes as Simon Jeffe's 'Music
for a Found Harmonium' would never ahve come to be considered traditional
by Irish musicians!
Not everything Tolkien wrote is interesting. This work is a bit of a minor
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- On Jul 7, 2004, at 12:36 PM, Jack wrote, assessing the value of
_The Road Goes Ever On_:
> Not everything Tolkien wrote is interesting. This work is a bit of aThe first sentence is a matter of taste; the latter sentence is a bit
of major nonsense.
The scholarly value of Tolkien's linguistic commentaries on
_Namárië_ and _A Elbereth Gilthoniel_ included at the end
of RGEO is well known to anybody who has delved into the
serious study of Tolkien's invented languages. There is much
information here that is found nowhere else, and RGEO is a
major text that is regularly cited in linguistic analyses. I should
know; I've written a lot of them myself.
To cite one example: RGEO gives a unique version of
_Namárie_ in which the poem is rearranged in "a clearer
and more normal style". Comparison of this "Prose
Namárie" with the poetic original provides an invaluable
opportunity -- available nowhere else that I know of
in Tolkien's writings -- to compare poetic word order in
Quenya with normal, prosaic word order. Whatever
fiddlers may think of RGEO, to scholars of Tolkien's
languages the book is anything BUT "minor fluff".
-- Patrick H. Wynne
- At 01:36 PM 7/7/2004 -0400, Jack wrote:
>What I said was:Oh, are you that Jack? Your e-mail header doesn't give a last name.
>David, are you a fiddler? Most fiddlers including myself do not find sheetI know a fair number of folk musicians, and they're all happy to learn from
>music all that exciting.
sheet music if they read music at all. There are plenty of traditional
Irish fiddle-music books and other traditional folk sheet-music books out
there, and the folk musicians I know all own plenty of them. And they find
them pretty interesting books, too. I've never heard a folk musician whine
about how sheet music is boring. Instead, their interest is in taking
those printed notes and bringing them alive through their playing. You
must know a quite different circle of folk musicians than I do.
If you don't read music and learn everything aurally, that's OK too; but
then you'd be musically illiterate and therefore as incompetent to review a
book of sheet music as a person who doesn't read French would be to review
a book written in French.
_The Road Goes Ever On_ isn't particularly interesting as Irish fiddle
music, but then it's not Irish fiddle music. It's a classical art-song
cycle with piano, a totally different musical tradition, and it should be
judged as one. If you don't like that kind of music, then say so. But
that's not because sheet music as such is boring.
>If we did, than such tunes as Simon Jeffe's 'MusicI'm not sure how that follows.
>for a Found Harmonium' would never ahve come to be considered traditional
>by Irish musicians!
Are you saying that they consider it traditional because they learned it
aurally and therefore didn't know where it came from? If they read Patrick
Street's CD liner notes, they'd know.
Or are you saying that if they had only come across it in sheet music, they
would have ignored it because sheet music is boring?
>Not everything Tolkien wrote is interesting. This work is a bit of a minorAs a book by Tolkien, _The Road Goes Ever On_ is a collection of reprinted
poems, with some attractive calligraphy, and it should be judged as such.
As such, it is not "minor fluff."
As a work by Swann, it is sheet music of a song cycle, and should be judged
as such. As such, it is not "minor fluff" either.
If you're going to review a book for something it's not intended to be, why
not review it for its usefulness at swatting flies? As such, _Road Goes
Ever On_, a lightweight tome with a big flat surface, is very useful indeed.
- David Bratman
- At 01:09 PM 7/7/2004 -0500, Patrick Wynne wrote ...
Oh yeah, and it's got that linguistic (and Middle-earth historical) stuff
in the back, too.
- David Bratman
- Who is Verlyn Flieger?
Elizabeth Apgar Triano
amor vincit omnia
- "...why not review it for its usefulness at swatting flies? As such,
_Road Goes Ever On_, a lightweight tome with a big flat surface, is
very useful indeed."
> - David BratmanDavid, you absolutely stop me in my tracks sometimes - thanks for
giving me my first howling laugh of the day!
- --- In email@example.com, David Bratman <dbratman@e...> wrote:
> At 06:52 AM 7/7/2004 -0400, Jack wrote:[snipping to get to the point]
> >Grey never claimed to be a Tolkien expert, just a fan.
> On the contrary.
> But Walker didn't say that. Walker said, "If you only have oneI don't agree. It is an expression of opinion, or preference. It is
> reference book on Tolkien on your shelf, it ought to be this one."
> That IS a claim of being a Tolkien expert. It states that the
> writer has a thorough knowledge and has made a considered judgment
> of the entire field.
also an endorsement, but anyone is free to endorse anything. Idiots
and fools make endorsements on every topic every day. Experts do,
too. In almost any given field of study, you pretty much have to be
or become an expert in order to weed out the informed (unsupported)
opinions from the uninformed ones (regardless of whether the latter
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Patrick Wynne <pwynne@g...> wrote:
> On Jul 7, 2004, at 12:36 PM, Jack wrote, assessing the value ofIt is a very good resource for the study of the mythological world
> _The Road Goes Ever On_:
> > Not everything Tolkien wrote is interesting. This work is a bit of a
> > minor
> > fluff.
> The first sentence is a matter of taste; the latter sentence is a bit
> of major nonsense.
> The scholarly value of Tolkien's linguistic commentaries on
> _Namárië_ and _A Elbereth Gilthoniel_ included at the end
> of RGEO is well known to anybody who has delved into the
> serious study of Tolkien's invented languages. There is much
> information here that is found nowhere else, and RGEO is a
> major text that is regularly cited in linguistic analyses. I should
> know; I've written a lot of them myself.
itself, not simply the linguistics. There are historical and cultural
details in this book which are found nowhere else.
So, I would strongly agree that THE ROAD GOES EVER ON is anything but
- From: "David Bratman" <dbratman@...>
>I don't know who this Jack Merry is (I read the review, too), but if he's
> And Jack Merry, reviewer of Swann's _The Road Goes Ever On_, is bored
> by sheet music. Spare me from the easily bored, or at least spare me from
> reviews about how easily bored they get.
bored by sheet music, he's no musician! I would much rather have a copy of
the sheet music than recorded music. I find it quite helpful not to have
someone else's interpretation (many of which I dislike anyway) of music. I
much prefer the source.
- From: "Jack" <jack@...>
> David, are you a fiddler? Most fiddlers including myself do not find sheet'Music
> music all that exciting. If we did, than such tunes as Simon Jeffe's
> for a Found Harmonium' would never ahve come to be considered traditionalDavid's not but I am. But you're talking about traditional folk music and
> by Irish musicians!
_The Road Goes Ever On_ is *art song*, a whole other genre of music.
It's more like Shubert -- you must look at the original source, both text
and music. See how the composer set it. In art song, the piano and voice
are partners -- Schubert was really the first to make them equal partners in
his lieder. Listen to his "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and you can hear the
piano filling in the emotional moods in places where the text has broken.
After the singer sings about his kiss, the spinning wheel accompaniment of
the piano stops and makes a few tentative starts, unable to get back to
business, as it were. After a few measures, both singer and piano are back
on the main theme. This is the tradition which Swann is working in.
P.S. "Erlkoenig" is very mythopoeic, too.
- From: "Michael Martinez" <Michaelm@...>
>"Best book I've read all year!" -- Marion Zimmer Bradley ---> seen on so
> It is also an endorsement, but anyone is free to endorse anything. Idiots
> and fools make endorsements on every topic every day. Experts do,
> too. In almost any given field of study, you pretty much have to be
> or become an expert in order to weed out the informed (unsupported)
> opinions from the uninformed ones (regardless of whether the latter
> offer support).
many books it's become a catch phrase in the Bratman household.
- A wonderful writer and scholar on the Inklings. The work I know of hers
best is *Splintered Light: Logos and Light in Tolkien's World.* It's
published by Eerdman's in Grand Rapids, MI. An Amazon search may net you
some of her later work.
From: Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@...
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 14:41:05 -0400
Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Newest Greenman Review
Who is Verlyn Flieger?
Elizabeth Apgar Triano
amor vincit omnia
The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
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