Criticism of the readability of the books

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Criticism of the readability of the books Empty Criticism of the readability of the books

Post by Forest Shepherd Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:03 am

Early last year, I met this guy called Louis. He and I were in a tabletop role-playing game group together, and we got to talking about The Lord of the Rings one night after a game. He told me that he had recently gotten around to reading the books for the first time, but had only made it a few chapters into Fellowship before he had to put it down. "I couldn't stand it!", he said, "The author uses way too many descriptions. I felt like I was going crazy!" How bizarre, I thought, and I informed him that reading Tolkien soothes my soul and fills my heart with exquisite longing. So we parted ways.

And then, recently, I was browsing Youtube when a video caught my eye. It was uploaded by a bushy-faced man called Matthew Colville, a person with whom I am quite familiar because of his many videos about D&D. He has attracted a large following because of those videos, and more than his share of cult-like adoration from said following. The video in question concerned LotR. I clicked it immediately.
In the video Colville, rightfully, extolls the virtues of the work and talks briefly (brief for him) about the role the Shire, the Old Forest, and Tom Bombadil play in the book. it's not bad overall, I don't think. In fact, here it is:

The point is, that the bushy-man mentions how LotR can be "over-written". The part in question is a short bit at 10:15, and again at 13:05 where he reads the passage in question. Of course, for the video to make sense, I would suggest watching all the way through, but this is where the criticism is made.

It doesn't really make sense to me, the idea that these chapters are indulgent or over-written. As several members of the forum, including myself, have said over in the Favorite Parts thread, the first half of Fellowship of the Ring contains some of their favourite chapters in the entire series. It's a beautiful and memorable part of the story, from the cheery camaraderie of the hobbit walking party, to the dreamy Old Forest, to the chilling barrow-downs. And the writing, rather than being "Baroque", is what makes it work so well. But I found that several Colville-fans agreed with this criticism of Tolkien in the comments section. I went to other forums and discussion sites to see how far spread this discontent really was. Apparently it's pretty far spread! I hadn't come across a lot of Tolkien criticism over the years, and this surprised me. There's Moorcock's whole spiel, I'm familiar with that, but amongst the commoners?

Taken together with Louis' dissatisfaction from the year before, the content of this video, and the admission from my own sister that she skipped a portion of The Two Towers in her single read-through of the books, it would appear that a good number of would-be readers have struggled with LotR. I thought this view was only held about The Silmarillion!

"The earth was rushing past like a river or a sea below him. Trees and water, and green grass, hurried away beneath. A great roar of wild animals rose as they rushed over the Zoological Gardens, mixed with a chattering of monkeys and a screaming of birds; but it died away in a moment behind them. And now there was nothing but the roofs of houses, sweeping along like a great torrent of stones and rocks. Chimney-pots fell, and tiles flew from the roofs..."
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Criticism of the readability of the books Empty Re: Criticism of the readability of the books

Post by halfwise Thu Dec 27, 2018 2:28 pm

I have friends who are quite cultured and intelligent, yet couldn't stand the Lord of the Rings. Some people are simply action oriented. I think one of these friends actually does enjoy some poetry but not sure and she's not around to ask...this was back in high school. But the other friend is definitely action oriented and would get bored no matter how nice the descriptions are.

To me nobody sets a scene like Tolkien. I can understand the impatience with scene setting because I feel Watership Down would benefit by having the first 2 pages ripped out: that's some boring shit about flowers and dew. But Tolkien always welds his physical descriptions to sociology, and the comfort of Bree with windows looking west is pitted against those unsettling rangers; and Minas Tirith not only tells you what it looks like, but what you have to do to get to that damn tower at the top. One paragraph in Tolkien is a complete seminar in the writer's art.

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Post by azriel Thu Dec 27, 2018 5:20 pm

Im fond of The Houses of Healing. From when Merry turns up & sees the carnage all around him. A mist was in his eyes because he couldn't absorb it all at once & from then on so it goes.

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