39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
See why Tolkien was the author of the century,
This review is from: J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (Hardcover)
In this excellent volume of criticism on Tolkien's work, Tom Shippey seeks to explain just what made Tolkien tick, and what made his stories the way they are. Tolkien shunned the idea of a biography, but I think this book is probably more along the lines of what he would have agreed to, since he believed that the best way to get a look inside an author's life was to examine his works. This book does just this.
The bulk of this book, of course, centers around Tolkien's stories of Middle-Earth: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Shippey attempts to explain why Tolkien wrote these stories the way he did, and the result is very insightful. Shippey explains why he wrote archaically, how the more modern hobbit society, with its postal system and manners, fits in with the rest of Middle-Earth, and how to classify the various cultures and nations (like Rohan and Gondor) appearing in the works, to name a few. The rest of the book deals with Tolkien's other, lesser-known works, including the two semi-autobiographical ones. For true fans of Tolkien, the criticisms of these shorter works are an invaluable resource.
All in all, this book is very insightful--there is definitely a great deal to be learned about Tolkien's works from a man who succeeded him to his Oxford chair, and who understands Tolkien's professional field as well. If you want to truly understand Tolkien, this is a book worth reading.