Saturday, April 10, 2010

The New Arrival: Expensive!

So, another book I ordered at the same time as the Robinson, and had similarly held off on previously because of its expense, I found waiting for me when we got back from the Redwoods:

THE POWER OF TOLKIEN'S PROSE: MIDDLE-EARTH'S MAGICAL STYLE by Steve Walker [2009]. Unlike the Robinson that arrived just before the trip, this one is a hardcover (from Palgrave Macmillan). Despite its relatively slim size of 173 pages of text (or a total of 213 once you add in notes/bibl/index), it costs a whopping $80 -- more than you'd pay for H&S's two-volume COMPANION & GUIDE set on amazon.

I can't put up an interim report on this one, because it turns out to be impossible to skim. It's a dense-argued, carefully written examination of a major topic that's gotten remarkably little attention over the years: Tolkien's style as a writer -- how he achieves the effects he does with his prose. It's a topic I'm greatly interested in -- it was after all the main focus of my TOLKIEN STUDIES piece. It looks like Walker builds on Brian Rosebury's excellent but too-little-read 1992 book, but aside from noting that Walker & I seem to reach the same conclusion (p. 172), I can't say much more than that without giving it the slow, careful reading it deserves. And so the 'must-read' pile just got a little higher.

So, highly welcome, but definitely not a fast read.

One interesting side-note: Walker is a professor at Brigham Young University. Of the five authors who provide back-cover blurbs I don't think I've come across any Tolkien work from any of them before, aside from Orson Scott Card. Two are listed as the author of books on Tolkien I d never heard of, which on checking turn out to be an honors' thesis and a master's thesis -- both of which sound interesting, esp the first.* I was not aware of work being done on Tolkien from that quarter, so that's a new discovery for me.

*Jeff Swift, "The Horror of War: Tolkien's Realistic Representation of Battle in The Lord of the Rings." Honors thesis, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2008.

Jonathan Langford, "Pathways into Maturity: Coming-of-Age among Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings." Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1990.


emily said...
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John D. Rateliff said...

Preceding (spam) comment removed

We shd all write our own thesis!


Extollager said...

Does the book have anything worthwhile to say about Tolkien's descriptions of nature?

Much interesting scholarship has appeared about elements of Tolkien's plots and nomenclature that may derive from medieval literature and Victorian-Edwardian romance. But I haven't seen much on Tolkien's description of "non-fantastic" landscapes, etc. Take, for example, the evocation of the Withywindle valley in The Fellowship of the Ring, before Old Man Willow appears.

This and numerous other passages are delightful, memorable reading. But did Tolkien apparently "just know" how to write so well? Isn't it likely that he absorbed something from other authors -- but if so, who were they? I realize that this would be harder to pin down than, say, his probable sources for Earendel, but I'd like to see somebody try.