Thursday, September 11, 2008


So, a friend* recently sent me a link to a series of three Tolkien cartoons. It's a common theme, the 'Tolkien's grocery list' joke, but better done than I've seen it before. If you get a kick out of this sort of thing, check out the whole sequence, but especially the middle cartoon:

Of course, the whole point of such jokes is that they can only be made by those who haven't actually read the work they're ridiculing, because the descriptions they give of those works doesn't correspond to the reality. And there's good precedent for posthumous publications -- the world would be a poorer place if Vergil's AENEID had been destroyed when he died,as was his explicit direction (he thought leaving it behind in an unfinished state, only half its projected length, would detract from his reputation). And while the AENEID isn't my cup of tea, I quite like THE CANTERBURY TALES (another unfinished posthumous collection of scraps) and Emily Dickinson's poems (which she ordered destroyed).

To put the shoe on the other foot: if the unpublished works Tolkien left behind weren't any good, people would have stopped buying them after the first or at most second volume; the project would have been unsustainable over twenty-plus volumes and thirty-plus years. There's something there we can't get anywhere else. It would be worth publishing a book of Van Gogh's sketches or unsold paintings, because even an unfinished work by Van Gogh would be something distinctive and worth preserving.


current reading: UNDINE.

*hi Stan!

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