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Re: [mythsoc] This ought to get some juices jangled...

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  • David S. Bratman
    ... I was wondering when this would appear. The author interviewed me on the phone for about half an hour, two months ago, and he acquired several actually
    Message 1 of 7 , May 22, 2001
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      At 08:54 AM 5/22/2001 , an identified person quoted by Mary S. wrote:

      >>Speaking of which, here's a new article about Tolkien fandom:
      >>
      >>http://www.prospect.org/print/V12/10/mooney-c.html

      I was wondering when this would appear. The author interviewed me on the
      phone for about half an hour, two months ago, and he acquired several
      actually distinguished Tolkien experts too, notably Verlyn Flieger. Verlyn
      gets one flippant remark quoted, and I also get mentioned just once for my
      pains, taken badly out of context. Mooney writes:

      >Tolkien himself was no fan of these fans, some of whom to this day take his
      >famous comment "I am in fact a hobbit" as an invitation to get together and
      >dress up as characters from the novel. David Bratman, former editor of the
      >Tolkien studies newsletter Mythprints [sic], says Tolkien's "deplorable
      cultus"
      >(in the author's own words) should not be held against him. "Artists should
      >not be blamed for attracting a following of fools," concurred another
      >British critic in 1992, "--or if they should, we should downgrade Blake,
      >Byron, and D.H. Lawrence."

      I endorse the sentiment I am claimed as making, though it wasn't the fans I
      was referring to - I meant the Tolclone novelists - but I am bothered by
      the wording. I object strongly to being associated with an unidentified
      person who describes Tolkien fans as "fools." I dislike the way it might
      momentarily seem as if I were the one who said "deplorable cultus": in a
      sentence which states that I say something, attribution of the immediately
      following quote to someone else should be made before the quote, not after.
      But I'm bothered more by the context. I confessed during the interview
      that I was baffled by the seething hatred that the likes of Harold Bloom
      and Germaine Greer profess towards Tolkien (Mooney said he would try to
      answer that point in his article, and he does better than I'd expected but
      not as well as he should), and I can say the same about this. What is it
      that makes people think that dressing up as hobbits is what Tolkien fans
      regularly do?

      And exactly what is so terrible about dressing up as hobbits anyway? Most
      of the dressing-up that occurs at Tolkien conferences is of the nature of a
      fancy-dress ball: some of it is formal costume competition, which is a
      serious art form using fabric instead of paint or stone. There is nothing
      peculiar, abnormal, or "cultish" about this. If you want cultish dressing
      up, consider this: Every weekend, thousands of people, far more than
      everyone who's ever dressed as hobbits put together, dress up as American
      Civil War soldiers and re-enact battles (I know of no attempts outside
      Russia to seriously re-enact a Tolkien battle). Yet nobody sees the need
      to defend serious Civil War study from this activity.

      One other comment in the article may be based on something I said:

      >In some ways, Tolkien scholarship resembles scholarship on James Joyce, say,
      >or William Faulkner. Critics pore over Tolkien's correspondence and
      >unpublished papers and sketches--many of which have been posthumously
      >released by his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien--for clues
      >into the writer's mind and imagined universe. ...
      >Not unlike what has happened with Joyce, the line between Tolkien
      >scholarship and Tolkien fandom can get rather blurry.

      What I'd said was that few if any modern authors except Joyce and Faulkner
      have had their literary remains published and examined to such an extent as
      Tolkien's. Typically, though, Mooney turns this observation into an
      attempt to equalize Tolkien with the others by dragging down Joyce to
      Tolkien's perceived level. He does even worse with poor Jane Chance, who
      follows: when she says she sees no difference between _teaching_ Tolkien
      and Shakespeare, Mooney acts shocked that anyone could compare Tolkien to
      Shakespeare at all, as if she'd said that they were identical in literary
      quality.

      And he's similarly snide about Tom Shippey's new book, _J.R.R. Tolkien,
      Author of the Century_. Good for Mooney to refer to this book, but he
      shows no signs of having read it. He doesn't quote from it, offers only
      one quoted snotty judgment, and weakly defends Tom only in an ad hominem
      manner. If he'd read it, he'd know that the subtitle makes a much more
      subtle point than he thinks: that, as Greer says, Tolkien is the most
      influential, not the greatest, writer of the century. And also that
      Tolkien was a man of his time, not a medieval atavism. Here Shippey is
      rebutting the overblown claims of Harold Bloom, who is quoted extensively.
      Mooney accepts without demurral the claim of Bloom and others that (in
      Mooney's words) Tolkien's "prose is unbearably archaic." What a pity he
      couldn't find space for a reference to Shippey's thorough demonstration
      that Tolkien's prose is rarely archaic, and that what people have mistaken
      for archaism is something quite different, and thoroughly unlike the Book
      of Mormon: Bloom's claim which makes me think he's spent no more than half
      an hour flipping through either work (an impression reinforced by the
      entire tossed-off tone of Bloom's essay). (I, by the way, have read the
      Book of Mormon.)

      There's more, much more, but enough. Mooney is not as ignorant as the
      Italian journalist who thought Tolkien was Nazi, but he's done his darndest.

      David Bratman
    • Stolzi@aol.com
      ... Tolkien s works had passed into a merciful oblivion. ... Inaccurate description, inaccurate title - but yes, David WAS the editor of Mythprint without
      Message 2 of 7 , May 22, 2001
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        Having gotten around to the URL, I relished this quote:

        >In 1961 Philip Toynbee wrote optimistically in The Observer of London that
        Tolkien's works had "passed into a merciful oblivion."

        and this bit of namedropping:

        >David Bratman, former editor of the Tolkien studies newsletter Mythprints

        Inaccurate description, inaccurate title - but yes, David WAS the editor of
        "Mythprint" without an s - a while ago.

        Ellie Farrell, the present editor, likes to include boxed quotes in
        "Mythprint." Perhaps this one would suit:

        >"Artists should not be blamed for attracting a following of fools,"
        concurred another British critic in 1992

        Chris Mooney, "Kicking the Hobbit," The American Prospect vol. 12 no. 10,
        June 4, 2001 .

        Mary S
      • Stolzi@aol.com
        Ah well, David, on the strength of this article you can now bill yourself as an Internationally Recognized Tolkien Authority! Mary S (who once dressed up as a
        Message 3 of 7 , May 22, 2001
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          Ah well, David, on the strength of this article you can now bill yourself as
          an

          Internationally Recognized Tolkien Authority!

          Mary S (who once dressed up as a hobbit... a very tall hobbit...)
        • David S. Bratman
          On the strength of this article, Mary, I may never want to be seen in public as a Tolkien authority again. And I got off well compared to Verlyn Flieger and
          Message 4 of 7 , May 22, 2001
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            On the strength of this article, Mary, I may never want to be seen in
            public as a Tolkien authority again. And I got off well compared to Verlyn
            Flieger and Jane Chance, let alone Tom Shippey.

            That's not the way the author of the article sees it, of course. I wrote
            him and he replied. Oh, it was so balanced. Oh, if you didn't like it you
            must have been expecting a puff job. Oh, I love Tolkien.

            Orc-filth.


            David Bratman

            At 03:57 PM 5/22/2001 , you wrote:
            >Ah well, David, on the strength of this article you can now bill yourself as
            >an
            >
            >Internationally Recognized Tolkien Authority!
            >
            >Mary S (who once dressed up as a hobbit... a very tall hobbit...)
            >
            >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
            >
            >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            >
            >
          • Berni Phillips
            From: ... as ... Do you think I should get him one of those tweed jackets with the leather patches on the elbows? Oh, and a pipe! the
            Message 5 of 7 , May 22, 2001
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              From: <Stolzi@...>


              > Ah well, David, on the strength of this article you can now bill yourself
              as
              > an
              >
              > Internationally Recognized Tolkien Authority!

              Do you think I should get him one of those tweed jackets with the leather
              patches on the elbows? Oh, and a pipe!

              the Bratwife
            • Michael Martinez
              ... If it makes you feel any better, Prospect.Org (or whomever published this article) asked Xenite.Org (and probably other well-known Tolkien sites) to pick
              Message 6 of 7 , May 24, 2001
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                --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                > On the strength of this article, Mary, I may never want to be seen
                > in public as a Tolkien authority again. And I got off well
                > compared to Verlyn Flieger and Jane Chance, let alone Tom Shippey.

                If it makes you feel any better, Prospect.Org (or whomever published
                this article) asked Xenite.Org (and probably other well-known Tolkien
                sites) to pick up the story. I declined, although my reason was a
                bit more mundane. I've been reading defenses of Tolkien (even
                misguided ones) for something close on to 20 years.

                I told them to get back to me if they came up with something new and
                exciting.

                Your mileage may vary.
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