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Meditations on Middle-Earth: New Writing on the Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien by Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, Raymond E. Feist, Terry Pratchett, Charles de Lint, George R. R. Martin, and more Hardcover – November 19, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0312275365 ISBN-10: 0312275366 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (November 19, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312275366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312275365
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,122,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you remember where you were when you first read The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then this collection of essays by some of fantasy and science fiction's most popular authors is worth a look. J.R.R. Tolkien's impact on fantastic fiction--and its writers--is explored in contributions that range from intensely personal expressions of the power and beauty of Tolkien's work to more analytical examinations of his style, language, and influences.

Standouts include Michael Swanwick's thoughtful and powerful meditation on heroism and consequences; Ursula K. Le Guin's analysis of narrative rhythm and language in the trilogy; Terri Windling's moving reflection on an escape from abuse fueled by the power of fairy tales; and Douglas A. Anderson's examination of the critical response to Tolkien's work.

This is an uneven collection, with a couple of downright clunkers, but it should appeal to Tolkien aficionados who are interested in the master's influence on those working in the field today. --Roz Genessee

From Publishers Weekly

An unapologetic tie-in with the release of the first highly anticipated Lord of the Rings film, this anthology presents appreciative essays in honor of the master of Middle-earth from such major fantasy and SF authors as Harry Turtledove, Raymond Feist, Terry Pratchett, George R.R. Martin and the late Poul Anderson. All thank Tolkien, some sardonically, for making the fantasy genre so popular. Ursula K. Le Guin discusses obvious and concealed poetry in the trilogy, while Douglas A. Anderson treats Tolkien's critics, admitting that the posthumously published writings, edited by the author's son, Christopher, are "not always easy to read," a view seconded by several other contributors. Less successful as a scholarly exercise is Orson Scott Card's "How Tolkien Means," which focuses on allegory, a mode Tolkien rejected. Most contributors celebrate the beauty of the writing in the major books, although Michael Swanwick finds them "sad with wisdom" in his essay, "A Changling Returns." Swanwick takes the lead in pointing out the importance of the humble hobbit Sam Gamgee as a character. In a dialogue between illustrators and brothers Tim and Greg Hildebrandt, Tim admits that "Tolkien was never a big supporter of illustration to accompany works of fantasy." Alas, Howe's vague and unimaginative pencil sketches only serve to support Tolkien's case. Editor Haber offers an adoring but welcome antidote to the more pompous exegeses of the "author of the century." (Nov. 23)and "Lord of the Rings Redux" (PW, Sept. 10).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

These caveats notwithstanding, I have to say that, overall, I enjoyed this book very much.
L. Feld
Unfortunately, the authors are not all IN the same room, so each conversation is quite a bit different from the last.
David Hudson
I borrowed this book from the library and enjoyed it so much I asked for it for Christmas (and got it).
Aleta A. Rodriguez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Bratman on February 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Easily found and bearing a highly illustrious cast, this book presents fifteen noted fantasy authors, plus scholar Douglas A. Anderson and artists Tim and Greg Hildebrandt, expressing what they get out of Tolkien. It's a change from listening to authors hawk their own work on convention panels.
Despite the obligatory "how I discovered Tolkien" anecdotes, which can be annoying in such quantity (I often find them charming, myself), the contributors avoid much repetition. A few simply burble, trying unsuccessfully to be amusing. Several discuss how Tolkien's example freed them to write their own kind of fantasy: Poul Anderson's juxtaposition of =LotR= with his own =Broken Sword=, and Harry Turtledove's bashful confession of his early life as a naked Tolkien imitator, are the most notable. Others try to analyze the reasons for Tolkien's popularity, but with less success: that's a skill of critics, not of authors. But a few, including Raymond E. Feist and Terri Windling, have some good points to make along the way. The best essays are by those who do have it in them to be critics. Douglas A. Anderson is here to remind us that Tolkien wrote other books besides =LotR= and =The Hobbit=, and to warn us of the perils of undiscriminating popularity. Michael Swanwick offers a brief but thoughtful character study. Slightly less elevated than these is Orson Scott Card's diatribe against symbolic analysis: my instinct is to agree, but I finish the essay thinking there's points to be made for the other view. The outstanding contribution is Ursula K. Le Guin's: she simply sits down, as a good author with an ear for style can, and =demonstrates= Tolkien's quality by analyzing his use of rhythm, recurrence, and opposition to create emotional effects in a sample chapter of =LotR=, "Fog on the Barrow-Downs".
The authors make few factual errors, but the book offers many typos, including a character named Owyn. Illustrations by John Howe brighten a few pages.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L. Feld on November 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As with any collection of writings (in this case, essays), "Meditations on Middle-earth" varies widely in style, theme, effectiveness, and overall quality. So it's no surprise that (for me at least) some of these essays work much better than others. In fact, I would have to say that a couple pretty much never captured my interest. It was also a little off-putting to me, at least initially, to know that this book was published as an obvious commercial tie-in to the movie. I hate commercial tie-ins! But, such is life, I guess, in our capitalist society, so what can you do? These caveats notwithstanding, I have to say that, overall, I enjoyed this book very much. Most of the writers do a good job in describing their own personal experience of Tolkien/"Lord of the Rings," and several are truly outstanding. I particularly liked Michael Swanwick on various Tolkien themes -- integrity, truth, honesty, sadness, life/actions as having real consequences - as well as his view of "the true purpose of the Ring-quest" as a "test of all creation." Orson Scott Card has some interesting points to make on "escapist" vs. "serious" reading, on who the REAL hero of "The Lord of the Rings" was (hint: not Frodo), and most importantly on the "wild," "untamable" nature of all great tales, including Tolkien's. Ursula Le Guin does an excellent job analyzing Tolkien's prose style (using the chapter 8 in Volume 1, "Fog on the Barrow Downs"), his rhythmic patterns, and his "'trochaic' alternation of stress and relief" throughout his saga. Terri Windling writes a hair-raising essay on good and evil, fantasy and reality, and her own escape from a truly horrific childhood and an evil stepfather, in part thanks to Tolkien.Read more ›
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a collection of 17 short essays about J.R.R. Tolkien penned by contemporary fantasy & sci-fi authors. (Actually, 15 essays are by authors-- one is by bibliographer/editor Douglas Andersson and another is an interview with the Hildebrant Brothers, who are reknowned fantasy artists).
As others have noted, the essays are something of a mixed bag. Of them, only three try to take a critical, scholarly, analytical look at Tolkien. This is probably for the best, as authors usually make terrible critics. Of these three, the strongest is Ursula LeGuin's discussion of the poetic rhythms in Tolkien's prose. While thoughtful, it is nonetheless a bit dull-- and frankly, a much better essay on this same subject can be found in _J.R.R. Tolkien and his Literary Resonances_. The weakest of these three, Orson Scott Card's essay on "How Tolkien Means", is also the worst in the whole book. Although his basic contention-- that the essence of Tolkien's fiction lies in "Story" rather than "Meaning"-- is reasonable enough, his point is overwhelmed by an arrogant tone and intermittent rantings against feminists, multiculturalists, literary critics, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, people who like James Joyce, modernists, postmodernists, and pretty much anyone and everyone who doesn't share (or whom he suspects might not share) the exact same approach to literature as he does.
Most authors here, however, have (wisely) avoided criticism, analysis, and polemic-- and have instead penned more autobiographical essays, reflecting upon how/when/why they first read Tolkien, how it impacted them both immediately and later on, how it changed their reading habits, how it influenced their own writing, and the like.
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