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Tolkien Neophyte

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  • spark654@aol.com
    In a message dated 12/29/02 8:09:01 AM Eastern Standard Time, ... That s pretty much how I was about to put it. I m interested in this kind of material, and a
    Message 1 of 14 , Dec 29, 2002
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      In a message dated 12/29/02 8:09:01 AM Eastern Standard Time,
      mythsoc@yahoogroups.com writes:


      > > Without suggesting that it's a demand that you leave, I do rather wonder
      > > what a person who found _The Lord of the Rings_ unreadable is doing on
      > the
      > > Mythopoeic Society list.
      >
      > Perhaps such a person wants to know more about it, or wants to know what
      > other people are talking about, or wants information that would
      > encourage another try at it.
      >

      That's pretty much how I was about to put it. I'm interested in this kind of
      material, and a book I'm writing plays with a kind of Thomas Covenant
      situation (from this world to a fantasy landscape).

      I guess I am more interested in fantasy impinging on the real world than I am
      in straight fantasies. I think (through no fault of his own) Tolkien'swork
      has had a huge negative impact on the genre--due to people ripping off so
      much of what he did. I enjoy reading the opinions of people much more
      knowledgeable about myth than am I; I also think a huge amount of current
      fantasy fiction is just horrible. (Exceptions: Gene Wolfe's New Sun ((really
      sf but deals in mythological themes)); C.S. Lewis; Michael Shea; John
      Crowley.)

      I think Tolkien is the greatest fantasy worldbuilder of the 20th century.
      But I admire his work more than I enjoy it. I hope that through reading
      others' views of his work I'll be drawn back to reading the trilogy, as I
      feel I should. But one part of my reluctance is that same mass-copying done
      of his work. I'd rather go to Tolkien's sources and take what I can from
      that, rather than steal from him (unconsciously or not).

      Sparkdog


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    • David S Bratman
      ... You like Donaldson, then? How would you compare his work with Tolkien s? ... That s certainly a legitimate preference. Do you like C.S. Lewis s Narnia?
      Message 2 of 14 , Dec 30, 2002
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        At 12:16 AM 12/30/2002 -0500, Sparkdog wrote:

        >That's pretty much how I was about to put it. I'm interested in this kind of
        >material, and a book I'm writing plays with a kind of Thomas Covenant
        >situation (from this world to a fantasy landscape).

        You like Donaldson, then? How would you compare his work with Tolkien's?

        >I guess I am more interested in fantasy impinging on the real world than I am
        >in straight fantasies.

        That's certainly a legitimate preference. Do you like C.S. Lewis's
        Narnia? That has the same basic premise as Thomas Covenant - fantasy
        universe visited by people from our world - though they are of course
        otherwise very different.

        And what about stories in which the fantasy seeps into our world, rather
        than us visiting it? Charles Williams, the MythSoc's third emblematic
        author, wrote novels like that; and though some find him difficult to read,
        he has lots of recent followers, many of whom are quite aware of his work:
        Tim Powers and Charles de Lint are two. Have you read them, and
        others? The best such books manage to suggest that the magic is all around
        us anyway, imperceptible unless you know what to look for: two of my
        favorite books of that kind are _The Owl Service_ by Alan Garner and _Fire
        and Hemlock_ by Diana Wynne Jones.

        As for Tolkien, Middle-earth does impinge on our world, in a different way:
        it's supposed to be our distant past, and memory of it still dimly
        lingers. Tolkien plays on myth brilliantly to produce this effect. In any
        case, the Shire is not supposed to be exotic, but a very mundane, familiar
        place, and the contrast between it and the rest of Middle-earth is
        important. Tolkien wrote other stories making that point more clearly, and
        expressing the longing for faerie: "Smith of Wootton Major", "Leaf by
        Niggle", "The Notion Club Papers".

        >And you shouldn't be afraid to use me as a test case. I mean, why not ask
        >what someone who hasn't read the books yet knows a bit about the genre,
        >thought of the movies? ;)

        So, tell us.

        At 09:35 AM 12/30/2002 -0600, juliet@... wrote:

        >I've heard from at least one first-time reader who read the books after
        >enjoying PJFR. I believe he got a little bogged down in the slower pace
        >at first, but has now finished and understands and agrees with the reasons
        >I think the book's story is better than the movie's. If you have any
        >specific questions for a first-time reader, I'd be happy to put them to
        >him.

        Not so much specifics, but I'd like to read his general reactions, if he'd
        care to share them. One specific: when he got past the point where PJFR
        ends (chapter 1 of book 3), did he feel the story had a different air due
        to having entered territory of which Jackson had not yet told?

        >My worry about people watching the movies who have yet to read the books
        >is those who will think the movie is OK, but nothing earth-shattering, and
        >therefore not bother to read the books. Many of them may be the very
        >people who would most appreciate Tolkien.

        Undoubtably there are such people. But the impression I get is that most
        who see the films who have not read the books, but would really like the
        books, are especially impressed by the hints of Tolkien that the films provide.

        - David Bratman
      • Ernest S. Tomlinson
        On Mon, 30 Dec 2002 09:40:48 -0800, David S Bratman ... Speaking for myself, I found The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever extremely tiresome.
        Message 3 of 14 , Dec 30, 2002
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          On Mon, 30 Dec 2002 09:40:48 -0800, "David S Bratman"
          <dbratman@...> said:

          > You like Donaldson, then? How would you compare his work with Tolkien's?

          Speaking for myself, I found "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the
          Unbeliever" extremely tiresome. I mean, how revoltingly thick-headed and
          self-pitying can one man _get_? But at least, as an attempt to come up
          with a convincingly anti-heroic fantasy novel, Donaldson's work is
          original and serious. (Unlike, say, Mary Gentle's _Grunts!_.)

          > That's certainly a legitimate preference. Do you like C.S. Lewis's
          > Narnia? That has the same basic premise as Thomas Covenant - fantasy
          > universe visited by people from our world - though they are of course
          > otherwise very different.

          This is quite deliberate, I think. Even details are similar: Covenant,
          when he leaves "the Land" after spending considerable time there, finds
          that very little time has passed in his world, and when he returns to the
          Land, considerable time has passed there. But I think Donaldson
          deliberately tried to create an anti-Narnia. The Pevensies, as
          relatively innocent children, accept Narnia's reality; Covenant, an
          embittered adult, never quite stops thinking of the Land as some
          elaborate psychotic hallucination.

          Ernest Tomlinson.
          --
          Ernest S. Tomlinson
          thiophene@...
        • David S Bratman
          ... Don t tell anyone, but I agree with you. (I failed to throw the first volume across the room only because I was sitting outdoors at the time.) But I
          Message 4 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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            At 10:36 AM 12/30/2002 -0800, Ernest Tomlinson wrote:

            >Speaking for myself, I found "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the
            >Unbeliever" extremely tiresome. I mean, how revoltingly thick-headed and
            >self-pitying can one man _get_?

            Don't tell anyone, but I agree with you. (I failed to throw the first
            volume across the room only because I was sitting outdoors at the
            time.) But I sought to learn Sparkdog's opinion.


            >But at least, as an attempt to come up
            >with a convincingly anti-heroic fantasy novel, Donaldson's work is
            >original and serious. (Unlike, say, Mary Gentle's _Grunts!_.)

            I was told, more than once, that _Grunts_ is supposed to be funny. Is this
            some definition of "funny" with which I was previously unacquainted?


            > > That's certainly a legitimate preference. Do you like C.S. Lewis's
            > > Narnia? That has the same basic premise as Thomas Covenant - fantasy
            > > universe visited by people from our world - though they are of course
            > > otherwise very different.
            >
            >This is quite deliberate, I think. Even details are similar: Covenant,
            >when he leaves "the Land" after spending considerable time there, finds
            >that very little time has passed in his world, and when he returns to the
            >Land, considerable time has passed there. But I think Donaldson
            >deliberately tried to create an anti-Narnia.

            Do you have any evidence for concluding that Donaldson was specifically
            thinking of Narnia, as opposed to the general concept of fantasy lands
            which one visits magically, of which even then there were dozens? There's
            nothing else about the Land that seems to me specifically Narnian, or even
            obviously the opposite of Narnian.

            I admit there's no concrete evidence for concluding that the Land itself is
            modeled after Middle-earth, except to note a number of concrete
            similarities of which, back then, there were few other examples. (There
            are now, though, and were the books published today I would call them
            generic Tolclone without specifying whether the writer had modeled his work
            on LOTR or even necessarily read it.)

            - David Bratman
          • Stolzi@aol.com
            In a message dated 12/31/2002 7:34:47 AM Central Standard Time, ... As for me, my capsule description was He =starts out= as a leper and a rapist, and it
            Message 5 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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              In a message dated 12/31/2002 7:34:47 AM Central Standard Time,
              dbratman@... writes:


              > Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

              As for me, my capsule description was "He =starts out= as a leper and a
              rapist, and it goes downhill from there."

              Diamond Proudbrook


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            • LARRY SWAIN
              As long as authors are being tossed out---what do folks think of Guy Gavriel Kay? Larry Swain
              Message 6 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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                As long as authors are being tossed out---what do
                folks think of Guy Gavriel Kay?

                Larry Swain
              • Ernest S. Tomlinson
                On Tue, 31 Dec 2002 08:05:58 -0800 (PST), LARRY SWAIN ... I read _Tigana_ some years ago. Upon finishing it, I had something of the same feeling I had after
                Message 7 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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                  On Tue, 31 Dec 2002 08:05:58 -0800 (PST), "LARRY SWAIN"
                  <theswain@...> said:

                  > As long as authors are being tossed out---what do
                  > folks think of Guy Gavriel Kay?

                  I read _Tigana_ some years ago. Upon finishing it, I had something of
                  the same feeling I had after watching one of David Lean's movies, say
                  _Doctor Zhivago_: that I had just read (or watched) something which was
                  unquestionably great in some fashion, broad of scope in a way that few
                  books (or movies) are, but that nevertheless I felt unsatisfied, somehow.
                  Both _Doctor Zhivago_ and _Tigana_ had striking individual scenes, but
                  somehow for both the scenes didn't add up to a coherent, convincing
                  whole. Also both are marred at times by very obvious attempts to tweak
                  the reader's emotions (I remember in particular the bathetic scene where
                  Sandre comes in spirit to the prison cell holding his son Tomasso), and
                  both resort to unforgivable endings.

                  I should also add that I found Guy Kay's attempts to sex his story up at
                  once both titillating and embarrassing. His female characters, in
                  general, seem to think with their loins (I'm thinking particularly of
                  Dianora here, whose character seems to exist only to fall in love with
                  Brandin and thus give his otherwise unpalatable character an appealing
                  flavor.

                  A final note: synthetic oaths and swear words _never_ work. Ever. When
                  one of Kay's characters moans, "O Triad!" before sex, the effect is
                  ludicrous.

                  Ernest.
                  --
                  Ernest S. Tomlinson
                  thiophene@...
                • Berni Phillips
                  From: LARRY SWAIN ... Nice guy. Good Mythcon GOH in 1989. I liked the first book of the Fionavar Tapestry a lot, thought the
                  Message 8 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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                    From: "LARRY SWAIN" <theswain@...>



                    > As long as authors are being tossed out---what do
                    > folks think of Guy Gavriel Kay?

                    Nice guy. Good Mythcon GOH in 1989. I liked the first book of the Fionavar
                    Tapestry a lot, thought the second had problems, and the third worthy of
                    being tossed into a fire. (It suffered from
                    cram-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink syndrome.) I've tried reading a few
                    of his works since then. They mostly put me to sleepzzzzzzzzzzzz.

                    Berni
                  • Ernest Tomlinson
                    ... I remember being told once that _Grunts!_ was funny. Well, to be more accurate, I was told in a most profane manner that if I didn t like _Grunts!_, I had
                    Message 9 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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                      On 12/31/02 4:46 AM, "David S Bratman" <dbratman@...> wrote:

                      > I was told, more than once, that _Grunts_ is supposed to be funny. Is this
                      > some definition of "funny" with which I was previously unacquainted?

                      I remember being told once that _Grunts!_ was funny. Well, to be more
                      accurate, I was told in a most profane manner that if I didn't like
                      _Grunts!_, I had no sense of humor and couldn't recognize witty and edgy
                      comedy if it were shoved under my nose. It is perhaps no accidents that the
                      biggest fans of such, hm, Orcish comedy tend to be rather Orcish themselves.

                      There was one good funny line in _Grunts!_, something about how the Orcs
                      formed themselves into such-and-so many Black Squads, Dark Squads, Night
                      Squads, Ebony Squads, and so on...and one Pink Squad. "We're a bit worried
                      about Pink Squad." And just before the big battle, Gentle manages for a few
                      moments to make the Orcs seem like real characters, instead of like jarhead
                      cliches cobbled together from movies like _Full Metal Jacket_. But mostly I
                      got the idea that Gentle was basically telling Tolkien and his fans to go
                      f*** themselves. I've been told that others of Gentle's novels aren't
                      bad--anyone?

                      > Do you have any evidence for concluding that Donaldson was specifically
                      > thinking of Narnia, as opposed to the general concept of fantasy lands
                      > which one visits magically, of which even then there were dozens? There's
                      > nothing else about the Land that seems to me specifically Narnian, or even
                      > obviously the opposite of Narnian.

                      No evidence, I admit; it was just the feeling I got, because of the
                      similarity of the time shifts involved, and because Donaldson rather
                      obviously intends Covenant's experiences in the Land to reflect and
                      eventually resolve his long-standing moral crisis, just as the Pevensies,
                      Eustace, and Jill are called into Narnia partly to resolve _their_ moral
                      crises. (This is most obvious in _The Silver Chair_.)

                      Cheers,

                      Ernest.
                    • Stolzi@aol.com
                      In a message dated 12/31/2002 7:34:47 AM Central Standard Time, ... I remember noticing the varieties of races, and figuring that he put in Giants so as to
                      Message 10 of 14 , Dec 31, 2002
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                        In a message dated 12/31/2002 7:34:47 AM Central Standard Time,
                        dbratman@... writes:


                        > I admit there's no concrete evidence for concluding that the Land itself is
                        > modeled after Middle-earth, except to note a number of concrete
                        > similarities of which, back then, there were few other examples.

                        I remember noticing the varieties of races, and figuring that he put in
                        Giants so as to have something =different= from Elves and Dwarves. I forget
                        what other races there are, as it is a long time since I read COVENANT (and
                        it'll be a long time BEFORE I read COVENANT again!)

                        Diamond Proudbrook


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                      • alexeik@aol.com
                        In a message dated 1/1/3 12:28:00 AM, Ernest wrote:
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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                          In a message dated 1/1/3 12:28:00 AM, Ernest wrote:

                          <<But mostly I
                          got the idea that Gentle was basically telling Tolkien and his fans to go
                          f*** themselves. I've been told that others of Gentle's novels aren't
                          bad--anyone?>>

                          I thought _Grunts_ was meant as a joke, but one that wound up running well
                          past its punchline. In any case, I can't imagine anyone taking it seriously.
                          It's unfortunate that Gentle's name should have become so closely
                          associated with _Grunts_, since she is otherwise a pretty good and original
                          writer. I loved _The Story of Ash_, though I readily admit that it's not for
                          every taste,
                          Alexei
                        • David S Bratman
                          ... That reminds me that Lin Carter, who really should have known better, once wrote: There is no religion at all in _The Lord of the Rings_ - no temples,
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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                            At 08:23 AM 12/31/2002 -0800, Ernest wrote:

                            >A final note: synthetic oaths and swear words _never_ work. Ever. When
                            >one of Kay's characters moans, "O Triad!" before sex, the effect is
                            >ludicrous.

                            That reminds me that Lin Carter, who really should have known better, once
                            wrote:

                            "There is no religion at all in _The Lord of the Rings_ - no temples,
                            shrines, priests, prayers, amulets, scriptures, ikons, idols -
                            nothing! None of the many characters, not even the heroic warriors, so
                            much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they have no gods."

                            Surely this ranks among the ten dumbest remarks ever made about Tolkien,
                            unless knocked out by this truly jaw-dropping sentence from the same essay:
                            "The lack of real philosophical or psychological depth in _The Lord of the
                            Rings_ shows up most seriously, I think, in Tolkien's failure to explore
                            the nature of evil."

                            - David Bratman
                          • darancgrissom@sbcglobal.net
                            The lack of real philosophical or psychological depth in _The Lord of the Rings_ shows up most seriously, I think, in Tolkien s failure to explore the nature
                            Message 13 of 14 , Jan 3, 2003
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                              '"The lack of real philosophical or psychological depth in _The Lord of the
                              Rings_ shows up most seriously, I think, in Tolkien's failure to explore
                              the nature of evil."'

                              That would seem to me to be competing at least in the top five, with a strong heading for first



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                            • juliet@firinn.org
                              ... I read his Sarantine Mosaic duology. I was impressed with his effective handling of a large cast of characters, and the book overall was pretty good.
                              Message 14 of 14 , Jan 3, 2003
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                                On Tue, Dec 31, 2002 at 08:05:58AM -0800, LARRY SWAIN wrote:
                                > As long as authors are being tossed out---what do
                                > folks think of Guy Gavriel Kay?
                                >
                                > Larry Swain
                                >
                                I read his Sarantine Mosaic duology. I was impressed with his effective
                                handling of a large cast of characters, and the book overall was pretty
                                good. However, it went back to the used book store due to excessive
                                beating of prostitutes (and other similar unjustified sexual deviancies and
                                violence).
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