So, today's the release date for Tolkien's long-awaited Arthurian poem, THE FALL OF ARTHUR. My copy arrived early this afternoon, but by that point I was already almost finished reading it, having found out it was already available on Kindle last night (around ten o'clock our time). That makes it the first Tolkien book I first read in electronic format. I've been waiting for this one since Rayner Unwin told me it was "forthcoming" back in 1985. As for the poem itself, I enjoyed it much more than I expected (like Poe, I'm really not that much into long poems, and this one runs almost a thousand lines). It probably helped that I read it aloud, Tolkien being an author who paid attention to sound as well as sense. And I found the additional material Christopher Tolkien provided, providing JRRT's outlines and notes (such as they are) as well as many alternate passages that didn't make it into the final version.
Most surprising bit? The explicit linkage of his Arthur story with the legendarium. Didn't expect that as all. Next, that in Guinevere he's produced what I think must be his least sympathetic female character. That should make for some interesting discussions. As should CT's guess at the reason for its abandonment: developments in the mythos, such as the creation of the Numenorean story and The World Made Round drew his attention away from this rewarding but deeply labor-intensive project.
It'll take me a while to absorb all this, obviously, but I'm relieved that the paragraphs I wrote about THE FALL OF ARTHUR in my contribution to the Shippey festschrift (a collection that now seems to be clearing the last of the hurdles that have so long delayed it) isn't superseded or rendered null and void by the publication of the whole.
And it's wonderful to have a new book by Tolkien, and to read more of Christopher's crisp, incisive commentary thereon laying out all the interconnections between the masses of manuscript.
So, a good day to be a Tolkienist!
current reading: THE FALL OF ARTHUR (obviously), THE PERILOUS CEMETERY (L'ATRE PERILLEUX*)
*which is not an Edgar Gorey picture book but a little-known 13th-century Arthurian romance featuring Gawain
a failure to communicate
2 days ago