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CHAT: Tolkien (was: Re: Good Books)

From:And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Date:Friday, March 5, 2004, 16:21
David P:
> Yahman... > I wrote: > <<Also, as opposed to Tolkien, it's actually good writing and > literature, and worth reading.>> > There are two basic things to notice about this sentence: > (1) It's poorly written. > (2) It's syntactically ambiguous. > Now, that the first is true is beyond questioning: It's just not good > prose (it would make John McWhorter go on one of his tirades about how > "wine-drinking, liberal, hippy kids" have no place in society). The > second could be disambiguated (on the net only) by putting asterisks > around the "and". This would warrant Butsuri's (? I don't know > your name; I'm sorry!) reading: > <<Isn't it possible to interpret David's sentence such that "as opposed > to Tolkien" only applies to "it's actually good writing and literature" > and not "worth reading"? That seems like a much more reasonable > position for a conlanger.>> > > Those that know me, though, should know that this was *not*, indeed, > the reading I intended. Rather, I intended the reading that prompted > this response (by And): > > <<This is one of the main two shibboleths that guide me in life. One > is that while not every wise person writes well, nobody that is > not wise writes well. The other is that while not everyone who > appreciates Tolkien is wise [to say the least!], nobody that > does not appreciate Tolkien is wise. (Note that I say *appreciate*, > rather than 'enjoy', let alone 'adore'.) Anybody (such as Germaine > sodding Greer) that disses Tolkien without having read him is > utterly beyond the pale.>> > > And: > <<Let us hope David will recant.>> > > I will none! I shall stick to my guns, and confront all genre > fiction in the spirit of hostility, for it truly has been the > death of true writing (as evidenced by what I'm now calling the > Cold Mountain phenomenon [though it was certainly not the first]), > and I claim that Tolkien was one of the main causes of the what I > call genrefication of society.
What is the Cold Mountain phenomenon? I'm not sure what exactly you are objecting to here. Presumably not to genre per se. Probably, I venture, to the form of popular taste that likes more of the same, with variety and novelty in small carefully portion-controlled doses within narrowly circumscribed parameters.
> [...] someone like me (who dislikes Tolkien and fantasy)
While I do experience a despairing surge of nausea when people like Tolkien because they like the Fantasy genre -- for can the soul of his oeuvre truly remain untarnished by the crassness with which his oeuvre is popularly celebrated? -- what I object to, when applying the Shibboleth of And, is disdain for Tolkien (a) because of the generally undiscriminating popular approbation he receives, or (b) because of the ghastly sewage of imitators, plagiarizers and travestiers that followed him, or (c) because his work is fantasy. Disdain on grounds (a) or (b) can be due only to stupidity (of a sort that is no way reduced by belonging to the Academy). Disdain on grounds (c) is more painful, because it arises from a smallness of soul rather than from a smallness of intelligence: it is dismissive of imagination, of subcreation (in the tolkienian sense), and of course of conlanging. I myself do not enjoy Fantasy that is too far removed from the world I inhabit, and am not very enamoured of Middle Earth, but I wouldn't dream of disdaining it, or of allowing the incongruence of my tastes and Tolkien's to diminish my esteem for his creative achievement. --And.