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I AM IN FACT A HOBBIT Paperback – September 1, 2003
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Bramlett's writing style has its awkward moments, and his plot summaries in particular are larded with parenthetical asides. A surer editorial hand could have prevented some lapses; for example, "ostracize" is used incorrectly (Mabel Tolkien didn't ostracize her family after her conversion to Catholicism, they ostracized her [p.4]), and a ludicrous picture of Tolkien's mother as a transsexual is implied by the sentence "As a young man, his mother introduced him to Latin" (p.71). There are errors of fact as well; for example, the fairy star is baked into the cake in Smith of Wootton Major, not placed on top and accidentally eaten (p. 45). Bramlett makes some unusual assertions. That Edith Tolkien's conversion to Catholicism for Tolkien's sake equates to Luthien's and Arwen's sacrifices of their immortality for their lovers, for example, is quite an allegorical stretch (p.6), as is his statement that Denethor committed suicide in part because of his wife's death (p.70). The non-chronological sequence of Bramlett's analyses is confusing, particularly in the section on children's literature, as the reader leaps from late to early works and back again. But the lack of sufficient editing shows most clearly in the typographical errors: "Wilder land" for "Wilderland", "Roverandum" occurring intermixed with "Roverandom", and most inexplicable of all, "Marched" for every use of "Mirkwood" (and it took me half the book to figure that one out).
Joe Christopher's essay at the end of Bramlett's text is charming and personal. As I noted above, readers seeking a complete list of Tolkien's writings would be better advised to seek out Hammond and Anderson's bibliography than to rely on the appendix in this book, but the bibliography and list of Tolkien-related societies and journals are useful.
Not a recommended purchase for libraries or individual readers. Instead, buy Tom Shippey's J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century; it's the best critical introduction for the general reader.
Author Perry C. Bramlett starts off with a by-the-numbers biography of Tolkien's entire life. He then tosses off some condescending information about Tolkien's children's books, before going on to the real meat of the storytelling: "Lord of the Rings," "Silmarillion," and many other major and minor works that he created. Finally -- apparently to make the book thicker -- he includes a timeline, website guide, and audio recordings guide.
There is some worthwhile material in this book, like the examples of how character names came about, and possible influences on Tolkien's work. And at the end of the book, Joe R. Christopher writes a wonderfully personal essay, which has all the life that Bramlett's boring prose lacks.
But Bramlett makes quite a few basic errors that should have been caught, including ones that are grammatical, misspelled and in his story retellings (the fay star in "Smith of Wootten Major" was IN the cake, not ON it). And, despite the aura of giving "just the facts, ma'am," he throws in quite a few interpretations of his own, including a very strained idea of what Edith Tolkien's conversion to Catholicism inspired -- a loss of immortality? Surely he jests.
What's more, you get the idea from this book that Bramlett really doesn't like Tolkien as a person very much. He presents him as a bit of a Neanderthal towards women, very pushy and negative, and presents none of the vibrant genius that Tolkien clearly possessed. The Tolkien Bramlett lets you see here is like a stained paper doll.
Written in a dull style, with lots of misleading information, Perry C. Bramlett's "I Am In Fact A Hobbit" is not the place to start if you're just getting into Tolkien's works. It adds nothing, and takes out a lot.