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Trashing Tolkien, Finding Tom Sawyer

September 25, 2012 | by

The real Tom Sawyer. Courtesy Guardians of the City, San Francisco Fire Museum.

  • The people have spoken, and the Best Word Ever is … diphthong.
  • A map of Zadie Smith’s NW.
  • And speaking of interactive tours: explore the Roald Dahl Museum from the comfort of home!
  • Tom Sawyer was apparently based on a real person. His name was Tom Sawyer. He was a volunteer fireman from Brooklyn, and he and Mark Twain used to go out drinking.
  • Billy Connolly: “I could never read Tolkien. I always found him unreadable … I didn’t read [the books], and I normally don’t like people who have! The people who love it, they’re kind of scary. They talk all this gobbledygook and they think of it as the Holy Grail.” Dáin Ironfoot clearly doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.
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    1. Imani | September 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Gobbledygook is my favourite kind of thing.

    2. Shelley | September 25, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Maybe Twain just knew a good name when he heard it.

    3. julieta | September 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      note to self : not paying any attention to Billy Connolly

    4. Joe Carlson | September 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      Billy Connolly is too mild. These stupid books, largely forgotten, have been brought back from the dead by those stupid movies. One doesn’t have to read the former or view the latter but their continuing presence remains annoying. And that the author of “Beowulf: The Monsters and The Critics” should produce such tripe remains a mystery.

    5. Brian Tschiegg | September 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      I feel that you’re being too harsh on the series. While not one of my favorites, I do have a respect for the fantasy genre. They allow a certain escapism that is often overlooked by literary critics. This escapism is evident in the vein of the stories: a reserved young man is sent on a fantastic adventure where he gains friends and extraordinary experiences. To write them off as “stupid books” seems a bit harsh.

      PS. The movies still kick ass no matter what you say.

    6. Joe | September 25, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      I’m with Billy Connolly, but science fiction and fantasy are a funny thing. For me, I simply cannot abide any book with a character named Xandar. But, obviously, some people love this stuff. I think it is probably the most divisive genre in all of literature.

    7. GZ | September 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

      I tend to agree with Joe Carlson, but if one accepts fantasy fiction as legitimate then Tolkien’s oeuvre must be seen as significant.

      The movies may ‘kick ass’ – they can even be enjoyable if one suspends judgement, but they are also puerile, gaudy and entirely for the initiated – meaning they could never stand alone as works of art.

    8. bob | October 12, 2012 at 11:27 am

      @Joe Carlson:

      “…largely forgotten … brought back from the dead by those stupid movies…”

      Wow, what rarified circles you must patronise, where one of the most creative fantasy writers is so abandoned.

      The work should be regarded as that of a genius purely for the range of human foibles exposed and pandered to without the pure story telling appeal of the books.

      Let me guess, you also consider H.G Wells puerile and C.S Lewis a crackpot?

    9. elephant memory | December 20, 2012 at 12:16 am

      i’m with bob. joe carlson, you’re stupid. and you will be prime example of one forgotten as soon as i post this message. good bye, joe.

    10. amberina | January 10, 2013 at 6:41 am

      I HATE fantasy butI’m writing it.

    11. Moochie | March 25, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      Wow, such snobbery. Edgar Allan Poe invented the genre of detective fiction (now chock full of with Murders in the Rue Morgue, does that disqualify him for acceptance as a writer of “literature?”

      What does it take for a genre like “fantasy” to be considered “legitimate” literature &, therefore, be said to have historical, cultural, & literary worth? A brave suicide? A misunderstood homosexual? A woman trapped in a stifling marriage? I find those particular literary devices trite & hackneyed but I recognize their place in fiction. Just because one doesn’t like a genre doesn’t mean it’s lacking in value.

      Tolkien’s work is “largely forgotten” is it? I’d refer Mr Carlson to the professor’s own writing on Lord of the Rings and how it relates to Beowulf, the Kalevala, the Bible, Catholicism, his personal experiences in WWI, the industrialization of the English countryside, his desire to return to England her indigenous myths, and his expertise in philology to help you understand his reasons for writing in the fantasy genre. Or, I guess I should say in creating the fantasy genre.

      I dare say, Professor Tolkien was a genius & could have talked circles around us all. He certainly wrote circles around us. His work is all of a piece, in my opinion. Taken together, his genius shines.

      If one cares to lose one’s prejudices & actually read his work.

    12. Mack | July 31, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Yeah, what Moochie said.

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