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Re: [mythsoc] CJRT interview/article in Le Monde

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  • Travis Buchanan
    I wasn t being entirely flippant in my final sentences, though I can see how they can be read that way. I was also being serious. At different times different
    Message 1 of 142 , Dec 10, 2012
      I wasn't being entirely flippant in my final sentences, though I can see how they can be read that way. I was also being serious. At different times different responses are called for, as preeminently witnessed in the accounts of Jesus life to which I alluded. There may be a cleansing of the Tolkienian temple required at some point. But I do not have the wisdom to know when that would be, nor the love or personal integrity required for such an awesome and, unfortunately sometimes, necessary task. I'm sure CT would wish the temple cleansed. I am curious however who would be left to enjoy Tolkien's Middle-earth if he did? Would I be saved?


      On Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 4:25 PM, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:

      Sorry, Travis, that won't do. John may deny that he said shut up and go
      away, but he did. His exact words were "sensible advice to those who
      dislike the film." What does he consider sensible advice? To do as
      Christopher Tolkien has done: in CT's words, "to turn my head away," which
      he doesn't mean literally. To do as Christopher Tolkien has done is to live
      in total seclusion for decades, saying nothing about the movies in public
      except for this one cry of pain. He has shut up and gone away. And this is
      the advice John finds "sensible." It may be acceptable for those inclined
      to it, but not all of us are. As CT said, it is the "solution _for me_,"
      emphasis added, not for everyone.

      I found John's endorsement of this advice to be incredibly offensive and
      insulting. If you don't, perhaps that's because you're not its intended
      recipient. I refrained from using those words in replying to John; my first
      reply [remember that the David he was initially addressing was not me, but
      David Emerson] was filled with incredulity, but I tried to omit ire. Only
      when John replied with an extension of his remarks which included what I
      found to be fatuous examples of what he considers practical "turn my head
      away" advice did I get some temper. And to explain what was wrong with
      these examples needed some detail, which is what people call "pedantic" when
      they wish to criticize it.

      And then John has the unmitigated gall to reply that he didn't say anything,
      he just quoted CT. No, he added words of his own endorsing the remark. It
      was that which generated my reply. Had he said something neutral, like
      "Interesting that CT should say that. I wonder how many others can take
      that path?" it would not have been offensive.

      Similar remarks to John's were made earlier on this list, a couple weeks ago
      I think, I don't remember by whom. I was not in a position to reply
      promptly at the time, so I let it pass. I'm not letting it pass again.
      This whole position of "people who like the movies should say whatever they
      like about it, even in forums specifically devoted to the book, but people
      who don't like it should shut up and go away" has a long history. I
      remember prior to the release of Jackson's FR, when trailers were all we had
      to go on about his approach, there were comments on this list to the effect
      that it's not fair to judge a movie on its trailer. Maybe not, though you
      have to use _something_ other than the movie itself to decide whether to see
      it at all, and trailers are the best available evidence and are indeed
      intended for exactly that purpose; but there was no shortage of people,
      including on this list, willing to _praise_ the movie based only on the
      trailer. Same lesson: like it, speak up; dislike it, shut up and go away.

      Turning to your further point, I actually disagree with CT's entirely bleak
      view of the Tolkien universe. Productive Tolkien scholarship continues to
      pour forth, as CT very well knows, because I know he reads some of it.
      Perhaps its volume is indeed somewhat encouraged by the movies, and only
      some of the time is it marred by writers' inability to distinguish between
      the movies and the book. (By this I mean attributing to Tolkien plot points
      and motivations which occur only in the movies; I do not mean explicit
      comparative articles, some of which are excellent, and so long as they do
      not seek to praise one at the expense of the other, I encourage this
      approach.) But that is not the point John was making. I was considering
      writing something to this effect in response to the quote David Emerson
      offered, but John's comment got in there first.

      I sense your attempt to write charitably, but in your penultimate sentence
      you cross the line that you yourself drew. You turn to the facetious that
      you said I should be charitable rather than being. It's also inaccurate to
      imply that I desire a cleansing of the temple. In my first reply, I
      specifically addressed that point, writing, "The only other solution would

      be to ban discussion of the movie from the Society, which would be equally
      unfair, and impossible to enforce." Even if we did, I seek also to address,
      and to hone my points for other forums where I may address, the wider
      audience outside the Society, which though it knows better than to do so,
      persists in judging the book by its movie. The greatest _personal_
      criticism I can give Jackson's LOTR is that, had I known only those movies,
      I would never have guessed that the book was one I would even want to read,
      let alone love and cherish. So I must cry again and again that the book is
      not the movie. I will not look away.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Travis Buchanan" <travisbuck7@...>
      To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 7:32 AM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] CJRT interview/article in Le Monde

      Yes, David, charity is called for on both sides. Of course. I didn't read
      John's comments to be as offensive or personally combative as you did; had
      he fired off several e-mails filled with ire as you had done, I might have
      encouraged him similarly. I don't think John was advising you (or others)
      to shut up and go away. John can correct us if he was intending to say
      this, but his one clarification already indicated that wasn't his
      intention. Clearly you were offended and have been responding with some
      effort to give offense in return. It's natural; it's
      also uncharitable. When you stated that there is hardly any other way to
      respond to posts such as John's I offered my objection, which was easy for
      me to offer (of course) because I had not read his post as offensive nor
      was I personally involved. However, I must say pedanticism is a sin
      especially found among bookish library consultants, and so you are not as
      clean as you might wish to think with respect to that charge. (No shame
      there necessarily--the letters of certain Oxford dons we all admire on this
      list are filled with pedantic rants.) In fact, I'm about to be a little
      pedantic (perhaps) myself . . .

      I appreciate that ire is provoked when a book you deeply love is, as
      Christopher Tolkien said in the interview which sparked this fire,
      . . . by making it an action movie for young people'. You and others should
      not go quietly into the night if indeed 'Tolkien has become a monster,
      devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our
      time', as CT thinks, and voices should lament 'the chasm between the beauty
      and seriousness of the work, and what it has become', if this is indeed the
      case as the one closest to the whole affair seems to think. Whether 'the
      commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the
      creation to nothing' is certainly a point worthy for debate, especially on
      this list. I think John was only pointing out that CT has chosen to do the
      only thing he can in response, and that is simply to look away. That
      remains an option, and for those most hurt by what Jackson and marketers
      have done with Tolkien's books (which for some unfortunately are ironic
      idols, 'their precious', as it were) by making the movies and all
      the paraphernalia they have spawned (like orcs in Mordor maybe), perhaps
      looking away until one can at least deal calmly with those people is the
      best response. (I am speaking generally now, and not insinuating that you
      David have made your beloved attachment to and enjoyment of the books your
      own idol, just to be clear.) But other responses are sometimes necessary.
      Jesus was gentle with sinners and harsh with Pharisees. Perhaps the
      Tolkienian temple needs cleansing, and we look for a Messiah who will come
      with his whip of cords and drive out Peter Jackson, John Davis, and all
      other profane money-changers from the holy house of Illuvatar? As then, so
      now: wisdom (and also charity, I hope) is required to discern the sheep
      from the goats.


      On Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 2:01 PM, David Bratman

      > **

      > Really? How charitable do you expect a human being to be to someone who
      > 1) advises him to shut up and go away, 2) gives specific advice on how to
      > shut up and go away, 3) denies that he's just given the advice he's just
      > given, 4) calls him "pedantic" for pointing this out?
      > Would you advise him to be charitable towards people who are distressed at
      > having Tolkien ripped apart and shredded in the public eye? Perhaps you
      > should have tried that first.
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Travis Buchanan **
      > Sent: Dec 10, 2012 5:46 AM
      > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] CJRT interview/article in Le Monde
      > ** ** ** ** ** ** **
      > ** There are many other ways to react David, like charitably.**********

      > Travis Buchanan
      > Travis
      > On Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 1:12 PM, David Bratman
      > <dbratman@...>wrote:
      >> **

      >> We certainly have.
      >> People who do not wish to generate pedantic replies should not offer
      >> pedantically faulty comparisons as specific advice to take as models.
      >> People who do not wish to generate facetious replies should not profess
      >> denials that they expressed the opinions they just now expressed.
      >> Really, there's hardly any other way to react to posts like the previous.
      >> -----Original Message-----
      >> From: John Davis **
      >> Sent: Dec 10, 2012 5:00 AM
      >> To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      >> Subject: Re: [mythsoc] CJRT interview/article in Le Monde
      >> ** **
      >>  **** ** **** ** **
      >> ** **************

      >> Ah, we sadly appear to have degenerated from useful discussion into the
      >> more perilous realms of pedanticism and facetiousness.
      >> So I will take my own advice and choose what to read and reply to, and
      >> what to delete.
      >> John
      >> ----- Original Message -----
      >> *From:* David Bratman <dbratman@...>
      >> *To:* mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      >> *Sent:* Monday, December 10, 2012 12:43 PM
      >> *Subject:* Re: [mythsoc] CJRT interview/article in Le Monde

      >> "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:
      >> >Personally, I see very little talk of the films in either Mythprint or
      >> Amon
      >> >Hen (the UK Tolkien Society newsletter). Certainly no film fans
      >> 'badgering
      >> >with devotion'.
      >> In case you hadn't noticed, the Mythopoeic Society is more than its
      >> newsletter. (And there was plenty in that newsletter about the LR movies,
      >> expressing a variety of opinions, when they came out. I expect more when
      >> the Hobbit movies come out.) And, I should have added, there is more to
      >> Tolkien fandom than the Mythopoeic Society.
      >> >So yes, I think it is very possible to turn one's head away. Where to?
      >> The
      >> >books, for a start.
      >> I'd be happy to talk just about the books. Why isn't everybody else in
      >> what
      >> is, after all, Tolkien fandom, not Jackson fandom?
      >> >I wasn't interested in the Olympics being held in my
      >> >back garden in 2012, so I didn't watch TV or the news for a month.
      >> You didn't just avoid Olympics news, you shut off TV news entirely? That
      >> seems unnecessarily severe if one is actually interested in what's going
      >> on
      >> in the world.
      >> And if you're offering that as a pattern to follow (and, if not, why did
      >> you
      >> mention it?), you are now suggesting that book fans who don't want to
      >> hear
      >> about the movies shut off their list subscriptions for a month.
      >> Actually, not a month. The Olympics are gone from the mainstream news
      >> after
      >> a month, but the LR movies weren't gone from this list for over three
      >> years.
      >> They're not gone even now. So you are suggesting that we shut up and go
      >> away. I'm not going.
      >> >I don't like adverts, so I don't watch TV channels with adverts.
      >> DVRs allow you to edit adverts out without having to watch them first.
      >> Where is the tool to edit movie-oriented e-mails out without having to
      >> read
      >> them first?
      >> >I'm not interested in emails about C.S. Lewis on this list, so I skip
      >> them.
      >> Here's where it becomes clear that "not interested in" is not an
      >> equivalent.
      >> There's several different points here:
      >> 1) If people were just talking about the movies as movies, I would skip
      >> it
      >> too. But they're not. They're comparing them to Tolkien, and comparison
      >> to
      >> Tolkien is inherent in the first reaction to the movies. It's not just
      >> something to skip: it's a positive irritation.
      >> 2) If the movies weren't adaptations of Tolkien, but just big fantasy
      >> blockbuster movies without a Tolkien book source, there wouldn't be so
      >> much
      >> talk about them on Tolkien-oriented lists in the first place. How much
      >> talk
      >> of the "Game of Thrones" miniseries has there been on this list? Very
      >> little, and that's a huge fantasy blockbuster.
      >> 3) This being the Mythopoeic Society, this list is also a Lewis list. If
      >> Lewis talk really annoyed or irritated me, I could join another, purely
      >> Tolkien society. I was not aware, when I joined the Mythopoeic Society,
      >> that I had joined a Peter Jackson Society.
      >> >The joy of a pluralist society as it applies to the arts is that those
      >> who
      >> >enjoy something can be catered to, and those who don't do not have to
      >> >watch/listen/read.
      >> I don't know what planet you live on, but in the Western culture of
      >> Earth,
      >> media badgerment about the latest fad in the arts is a constant,
      >> avoidable
      >> only by hermitage. I in fact do not watch television news, or (except
      >> rarely) television at all, because I find it the most badgering medium.
      >> Fortunately there are other, less annoying media to get my news of the
      >> world.
      >> But never mind that. You say we don't have to read. Fine, so where is the
      >> MythSoc list that doesn't contain people lecturing me about what my
      >> attitude
      >> towards the movies should be?
      >> >And incidentally, I wasn't suggesting that 'movie fans should enthuse
      >> >all
      >> >they like...while those not so inclided shoul[d] just shut up' (not in
      >> that
      >> >post at least). I am not sure how you read that between my lines as
      >> >written.
      >> >I was merely completing a quote by Christopher Tolkien, where I felt
      >> >that
      >> >his most important point had been unfairly cut.
      >> Ah, well then it must have been somebody other than yourself who added to
      >> your post the words (not quoted from Christopher Tolkien), "[it] seems
      >> sensible
      >> advice to those who dislike the films." Perhaps you ought to check the
      >> security of your e-mail account.
      >> ** **
      >> ** ******
      > **
      > ** ****

    • Travis Buchanan
      John Rateliff has given a more authoritative word, if coming from Roger Lancelyn Green, as well as a very sensible perspective. (He seems endowed with great
      Message 142 of 142 , Dec 23, 2012
        John Rateliff has given a more authoritative word, if coming from Roger Lancelyn Green, as well as a very sensible perspective. (He seems endowed with great sense, judging from his postings.) I had felt because of Tolkien's later letters (e.g., no. 252 to his son Michael) and Carpenter's biography (and Colin Duriez and others who follow him) that the 'cooling' (word first used by Carpenter?) in Tolkien and Lewis's relationship began or was accelerated by the arrival of Charles Williams in Oxford during the war, and the immediacy with which he and Lewis became intimate friends. It is popular knowledge of course that Tolkien wasn't fond of the Narnia stories, but I had never encountered the opinion offered by Bruce Charlton on the blog (http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.com/2012/08/timing-and-causes-of-breakdown-of.html) that Lewis's writing of The Chronicles was the breaking point in their relationship, or that Tolkien saw that as a violation of their original pact to both write some fiction where the chief characters discover or enact myth, which Lewis finished in good time (his Ransom trilogy under the theme of space-travel) and Tolkien--'that great but dilatory and unmethodical man', as Lewis commented in a letter on whether Tolkien's contribution to their agreement would ever be completed--never did (his The Notional Club Papers, under the theme of time-travel). Neither did Tolkien approve of several other of Lewis's works and certainly was bothered by Lewis's (mostly unsought) position as a popular articulater and defender of 'mere Christianity' to a generation (I think because he thought it improper for one without professional theological training to assume such a role (Austin Farrer would have been better suited, from the Anglican position, I assume Tolkien would say (indeed if he did not say so himself somewhere))--even if such a role was foisted upon Lewis--and he disagreed with many of Lewis's theological views due to their differing from traditional Catholic dogma--for example, in Letter 83 (1944) Tolkien commented that 'there is a good deal of Ulster still left in C.S.L. if hidden from himself'; and Tolkien was working on a commentary of objections to views presented Lewis's Letters to Malcolm which he never finished or shared with him, but which he was privately referring to as 'The Ulsterior Motive'). I would still guess (though Charlton has disagreed) that Tolkien was somewhat jealous over Lewis's quick and intimate friendship with Williams, which somewhat displaced him as an influence on Lewis, as well as Lewis's productivity and growing popularity beginning with his war broadcasts and the publication of The Screwtape Letters (1942), which incidentally was the only of his works ever dedicated to Tolkien. That, based on my limited exposure to the literature, is the explanation of the beginning of the 'cooling' with the most evidence, including Tolkien's own recollections about the arrival of Williams in Oxford and his (spoiling) influence over Lewis's writing (again see Letter 252). But Rateliff's common sense observation certainly also seems right, that 'friendships are complicated, and the ending of a long-time one is tragic but hardly unprecedented or strange', and so accumulative and thus difficult to trace to a specific event or point in time, as well as the apparent testimony of Roger Lancelyn Green Rateliff relayed by Rateliff that 'the cooling of the Lewis/Tolkien friendship was mutual, which seems to be far more likely than that Tolkien didn't like something Lewis had written and unfriended him on the spot'.


        On Sun, Dec 23, 2012 at 7:27 AM, John Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:

        On Dec 21, 2012, at 2:00 PM, dale nelson wrote:
        That may well be (sadly) true.  If it is true, a cause might be listfolk dwelling on the cooling of the Lewis-Tolkien friendship.  There was some discussion at this blog

        a few months ago on the topic.


        Thanks for the link, Dale. Having just read the post and skimmed the comments (what do those folks have against Spenser, anyway?), have to say I'm entirely unconvinced that the breakdown of a friendship of twenty-plus years' standing can be easily dated and traced to a single simple event. In some cases, yes; in this particular one, no.  Roger Lancelyn Green told me the cooling of the Lewis/Tolkien friendship was mutual, which seems to be far more likely than that Tolkien didn't like something Lewis had written and unfriended him on the spot. Besides which the blogger's theory that CSL's starting Narnia violated the Lewis/Tolkien space-travel/time-travel pact doesn't take into account other works Lewis or Tolkien had worked on during that time that didn't fit into either category, like JRRT's FARMER GILES or CSL's THE GREAT DIVORCE, to name but two.

        In short, too pat. Friendships are complicated, and the ending of a long-time one is tragic but hardly unprecedented or strange.

        --John R.

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