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Re: [mythsoc] Claims of expertise (was Re: Newest Greenman Review)

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  • Margaret Dean
    ... From my days in the publishing industry I also recall that Anne McCaffrey was extremely generous in the handing out of encomiums to put on book covers.
    Message 1 of 22 , Jul 5, 2004
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      Berni Phillips wrote:

      > "Best book I've read all year!" -- Marion Zimmer Bradley ---> seen on
      > so many books it's become a catch phrase in the Bratman household.

      From my days in the publishing industry I also recall that Anne
      McCaffrey was extremely generous in the handing out of encomiums
      to put on book covers.


      --Margaret Dean
      <margdean@...>
    • David Bratman
      ... 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
      Message 2 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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        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
        subject.

        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 something
        >on his shelf doesn't mean that everyone else should have it too.

        I certainly never said that everyone should have it. But everyone _who
        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
      • David Bratman
        ... Unfortunately, what Tyler says and what Tyler does are two different things. From my own review of the new edition (Mythprint, December 2003): A reliable
        Message 3 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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          At 08:52 AM 7/7/2004 -0400, Wayne G. Hammond wrote:
          >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".

          Unfortunately, what Tyler says and what Tyler does are two different
          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_
          >is utterly notorious for the number of its errors? Has he never seen it
          >called "the little red horror"?

          I found Tilendis's review excusable. He neither claims expertise on the
          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 and
          >Illustrator_, which he cannot have read too carefully.

          Certainly not. Unruh says, "I would have preferred a chronological order
          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
          <http://www.mythsoc.org/jrrtairev.html>:

          "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
        • Jack
          ... What I said was: 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
          Message 4 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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            >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.

            What I said was:

            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
            for you.

            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
            fluff.

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Patrick Wynne
            On Jul 7, 2004, at 12:36 PM, Jack wrote, assessing the value of ... The first sentence is a matter of taste; the latter sentence is a bit of major nonsense.
            Message 5 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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              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 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.

              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
            • David Bratman
              ... Oh, are you that Jack? Your e-mail header doesn t give a last name. ... I know a fair number of folk musicians, and they re all happy to learn from sheet
              Message 6 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                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 sheet
                >music all that exciting.

                I know a fair number of folk musicians, and they're all happy to learn from
                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 'Music
                >for a Found Harmonium' would never ahve come to be considered traditional
                >by Irish musicians!

                I'm not sure how that follows.

                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 minor
                >fluff.

                As 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
              • 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
                Message 7 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                  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
                • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                  Who is Verlyn Flieger? thanks Lizzie Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@earthlink.net amor vincit omnia
                  Message 8 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                    Who is Verlyn Flieger?

                    thanks

                    Lizzie

                    Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                    lizziewriter@...
                    amor vincit omnia
                  • Anne Petty
                    ...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.
                    Message 9 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                      "...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

                      David, you absolutely stop me in my tracks sometimes - thanks for
                      giving me my first howling laugh of the day!

                      Anne Petty
                      acp@...
                    • Michael Martinez
                      ... [snipping to get to the point] ... I don t agree. It is an expression of opinion, or preference. It is also an endorsement, but anyone is free to endorse
                      Message 10 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman <dbratman@e...> wrote:
                        > At 06:52 AM 7/7/2004 -0400, Jack wrote:
                        >
                        > >Grey never claimed to be a Tolkien expert, just a fan.
                        >
                        > On the contrary.

                        [snipping to get to the point]

                        > 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.

                        I don't agree. It is an expression of opinion, or preference. 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).
                      • Michael Martinez
                        ... It is a very good resource for the study of the mythological world itself, not simply the linguistics. There are historical and cultural details in this
                        Message 11 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Patrick Wynne <pwynne@g...> wrote:
                          > 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 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.

                          It is a very good resource for the study of the mythological world
                          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
                          fluff.
                        • Berni Phillips
                          From: David Bratman ... I don t know who this Jack Merry is (I read the review, too), but if he s bored by sheet music, he s no
                          Message 12 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                            From: "David Bratman" <dbratman@...>
                            >
                            > 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.

                            I don't know who this Jack Merry is (I read the review, too), but if he's
                            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.

                            Berni
                          • Berni Phillips
                            From: Jack ... Music ... David s not but I am. But you re talking about traditional folk music and _The Road Goes Ever On_ is
                            Message 13 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                              From: "Jack" <jack@...>

                              > 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!

                              David's not but I am. But you're talking about traditional folk music and
                              _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.

                              Berni

                              P.S. "Erlkoenig" is very mythopoeic, too.
                            • Berni Phillips
                              From: Michael Martinez ... Best book I ve read all year! -- Marion Zimmer Bradley --- seen on so many books it s become a catch
                              Message 14 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                                From: "Michael Martinez" <Michaelm@...>
                                >
                                > 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).

                                "Best book I've read all year!" -- Marion Zimmer Bradley ---> seen on so
                                many books it's become a catch phrase in the Bratman household.

                                Berni
                              • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                                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
                                Message 15 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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                                  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.

                                  Original Message:
                                  -----------------
                                  From: Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@...
                                  Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 14:41:05 -0400
                                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Newest Greenman Review


                                  Who is Verlyn Flieger?

                                  thanks

                                  Lizzie

                                  Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                                  lizziewriter@...
                                  amor vincit omnia






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