Monday, March 20, 2017

Tolkien in NEWSWEEK (special issue)

So,  thanks to Janice and to Jeff for the heads up and the links* letting me know that NEWSWEEK recently released a special issue dedicated to Tolkien. The full title--


--gives a good sense of its overall tone. First we have Alan Lee sharing his belief that "In a few hundred years' time, people will be looking back at him as being part of the canon of literature, fitting in with Chaucer and Spenser. I've become more and more sure of that" (p. 6).  Then there's the magazine itself, calling him "One of England's most famous literary giants" and "the 20th century's most imaginative writer" (both p. 6). We're told that he and Lewis "dominated the world's imagination" (p. 24); when Tolkien died "the world lost one of its greatest storytellers" (p. 74)

In support of Tolkien's greatness they have marshaled a good array of Tolkien scholars: Shippey, Flieger, Alan Lee, as well as Lewisian Alan Jacobs, fantasy scholar Farah Mendlesohn, Tolk-clone Terry Brooks and, not directly but quoting from previous interviews, R. R. Martin, Peter Jackson, and even Christopher Tolkien. Quite a lot of these well-informed and knowledgable people have a good deal to say, making it unfortunate that most of these are represented by a brief quote rather than anything in-depth. Such is the nature of the beast.

The photos are well-done and wide-ranging, as we might expect. It's too bad that despite obvious efforts on the part of the unidentified authors of this special issue (none of the journalists involved are credited for their work), the thing was apparently never fact-checked; the end result is full of errors, albeit mostly small(ish) ones. These tend to cluster rather than being evenly spread throughout the magazine -- for example, the biographical sections seemed particularly apt at getting things not-quite-right, while the section on Tolkien's legacy seems to have been written by someone who knew a good deal about his or her subject. Who cd resist the perfectly accurate description of the creation of modern fantasy having been a 'unintended consequence'  of his book's being so successful. (p. 69).

One fun little bit I enjoyed was the picture of Alan Lee in front of his book shelves (p. 54-55), where you can make out a some, but not all, of the names of the books, including THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, Wells'  THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES and THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON along with what looks to be a whole shelf of Wells' works; Stephenson's THE DIAMOND AGE and SNOW CRASH, works by Turtledove and Stirling and Tepper, and a great many Tolkiens. I was bemused to see that THE DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES by Hickman & Weis made it, up on the top shelves just above the Wells: while it only shows the bottom half of the book, sans title, that's enough to recognize Elmore's distinctive cover art.  And in keeping with the D&D being recognized as now an increasingly accepted part of the fantasy tradition, the art on p. 71 to accompany the Tolkien-&-fantasy section shows three things: a novel (THE SWORD OF SHANNARA), a movie poster (HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE), and a set of D&D rules (4th edition; the one by Frank Mentzer, again with a Larry Elmore cover).

So, nice to see Tolkien getting this little pop culture tribute.**  I cd easily see this issue being for someone out there like the little figure on the cake from Tolkien's SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR.

--John R.


**others who have been the subject of previous 'Special Editions' in the past including Star Trek (twice), Star Wars, Harry Potter, Harrison Ford, and Sharks, just to put it all into perspective.

--current reading: NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman (just finished). THE GREY MANE OF MORNING (just started re-reading, twenty-eight years after the only other time I read it), and THE END OF THE THIRD AGE (HME.IXa), the first time I've read it as a stand-alone book.
--current viewing: SILENT MOBIUS (very much of its time).

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