Sunday, January 2, 2022

Re-reading My Favorite Book

 So, 2022.  And true to form 2021 had one more surprise waiting for us on its way out (more on that in a later post).

I did manage to complete my project of re-reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS straight through from title page to the endnotes on the final Appendix, omitting only the Index.

Have to say, I enjoyed it immensely. Over the years I've become so familiar with this book that when I sit down to read it my memory of the book gets in the way of my actual reading (do Shakespeare scholars and Austenians have the same problem?). I come across a favorite passage that reminds of something, so I turn to elsewhere in the book, then on to another spot, then to a section in another of JRRT's many other books (e.g. HME and LETTERS), then to something in one of the many books about Tolkien (such as Wayne & Christina's CHRONOLOGY), and so forth.  It's like trying to listen to all the Beatles' albums in order: I keep wanting to skip around, repeat favorites, get distracted in the lesser bits, and so forth.  Reading it slowly also had the effect of letting me notice passages I must have a tendency to skip over when I get caught up in the narrative. 

And then there's the sheer achievement. Instead of  'it took him fourteen years to write', with the implication that he shd have gotten through it with less dilly-dally,  it's now more like 'all this in only fourteen years?' Or to put it another way: How long does it take a genius to write a masterpiece? Answer: fourteen years, more or less, it turns out.

One result I was not expecting is that taking in all the Appendices had the effect of normalizing the material in THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH and I suspect will make it much easier to re-read Carl H's book.  In any case, it makes plain how fringe a lot of the material that made its way in was, not so very different from the slightly later material that didn't.

I know I'm already looking forward to the next time, which will probably take the form of listening to Andy Serkis' recent unabridged audiobook*

So, so far as reading goes, 2022 is off to a very good start.

--John R.

*I know listening to an unabridged Bible on audiobook a good many years back was a revelation: first in that it prevented me from skimming through all the begats, second in the revelation of how carefully the average church service edits scripture, and third just where important ideas first make their appearance.


Paul W said...

I completely agree about rereads of Lord of the Rings. I reread it every year for decades, but the last few years I've let that lapse in favor of rereading other works from his oeuvre. Now, I read at least one of Tolkien's work each year, (well, 3 this past year ).

I love you comment about listening to the Bible in audiobook form. I think I will do that in 2022, if I can find a version I like. Great idea. My favorite version since grad school has been the Oxford Annotated with Apochrypha edition, but I'll be shocked if there is an audio of that one.

Formendacil said...

I'm in my own Lord of the Rings reread at the moment myself (just made it out of Moria). It is, in fact, quite a disjointed reading--a half chapter at a go is a good day and it's sat for nearly a week at a time a few times.

This is partly because of two children under the age of four, and partly December being a busy time of year, but it's an advantage to be reading the Lord of the Rings here, since I know it so well there's never an element of having to pick up the threads again--I know backwards and forwards what's happening. It's quite comforting at an age where I haven't been able to be much of a reliable reader.