- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1St Edition edition (2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312302908
- ISBN-13: 978-0312302900
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,656,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Meditations on Middle Earth Paperback – 2002
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Please note, this is a collection of commentary on J.R.R. Tolkien written by current fantasy authors. It is not a collection of short stories by those authors. Please don't purchase this just because your favorite author contributed to it (unless you're a collector of anything and everything he/she writes). If you're going to buy it, then buy it because you love Tolkien and you want to see what his peers have to say about him.
However, I think the book is worth reading -- once -- for a slightly different reason than Tolkien or LOTR. If you like Tolkien but aren't fanatical about the subject (not *all* of us feel the need to re-read the trilogy once a year), you may still enjoy many of these essays because you can hear how your favorite authors think, the unique way in which they were influenced by what they read... the author's own voice, in other words, rather than the stories they tell.
I kept imagining that I was attending a panel about "what LOTR meant to me" at an SF convention, and that many of the authors had interesting things to say. If you take the book from that viewpoint, you'll probably enjoy it. And if you're a writer yourself, you should definitely grab a copy.
For instance, Robin Hobb writes about being blown away by Tolkien's ability to create the setting in a novel. ("True setting is far more than descriptive passages about birch trees in winter, or picturesque villages. Tolkien's setting invoked a time and a place that was as familiar as home to me, yet unfolded the wonders and dangers of all that I had always suspected was just beyond the next hill.") Hobb's novels are masterworks of setting, so you see both the influence on the developing writer, and the reason for their impact.
Similarly, Ursula LeGuin sees the books in terms of word rhythms; Charles deLint writes about the impact of the Fairy Story (in the larger, romantic sense). This book gives you a unique view into the minds of the authors you may admire.
It also, alas, shows that not all of them are as skilled at writing an essay as they are with fiction. Esther Freisner does a damned good job (funny, too), but a few of the others wander around aimlessly, forgetting to make a point. Again, it's rather like a panel at an SF Con.
You shouldn't feel compelled to acquire a copy of this book, but don't pass it by, either. Good library fodder, or perhaps a read-and-pass-on book.
The good news is that I eventually outgrew this fixation, learning to read books that weren't written in under a month. But this book made me want to read some of their newer works, and, (gasp), reread some of them.
But seriously, this book is well worth the read. Some of the authors aren't all that great at writing non-fiction, (or even fiction for that matter), but it is nice to see them rahpsodizing about Tolkien. It is is also very nice to see John Howe's sketches scattered throughout, and his artwork on the cover was one of my favorite pictures long before I ever heard his name. He is an excellent artist, and I am so glad they used him as a conceptual designer on the LOTR' movies.
I give here a brief review of half the essays.
Karen Haber- Even though she was the editor of this book, her preface wasn't anything to write home about. Okay, I'll say it. It was DUMB.
George R.R. Martin- Martin, being stuck with the introduction, gives a short, concise read of what fantasy is and how Tolkien changed it. Well written and likable.
Michael Stanwick- I have never had the pleasure of reading Mr. Stanwick, but this gives me the desire to. He relates his experiences reading LOTR, gives a very nice piece on some of the dynamics of the characters, and talks of Tolkien's thoughts on allegory. He then finishes with a wonderfully heartwarming rendition of him reading the books to his young son, and how much more Sam's last words "Well, I'm back." meant to him then.
Esther Friesner- This essay was just plain funny. That is all I really remember. She didn't seem to have much to convey, but she did make me laugh.
Terry Pratchett- In true Brittish style, Pratchett brings real comic relief to this book. Just reading a short work as this brings to mind Monty Python, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and his very own Discworld. This time he jumps headlong into the question" why is LOTR's still considered a cult classic, when it is the most popular book of the twentieth century?".He answers this in a way that would make Terry Gilliam or John Cleese proud to have written, showing how Mona Lisa and Pride and Prejudice fit into the equation. Bravo.
Ursula K. LeGuin- This was probably the best written of the bunch. Bypassing the "this is how I was first introduced to Tolkien's work" that pervades this book, Ursula gives a nice review of how Tolkien wrote his prose almost in a poetic metre. Taking one chapter of the fellowship, she shows how the different beats of action all corelate into a masterful work. Wish I had wrote it.
Orson Scott Card- The first page or two was alright, but after that it quickly detiorated into a study of "serious" vs. "escapist", that lost me in almost every paragraph. While making a few interesting points, it seemed mostly like he was just writing at random, and then forgot to put it into a cohesive format. All I can say is that Card should stick to writing fiction.
Hildebrandt Brothers- Before I write anything else, let me say this. I have never liked the brothers art. Sorry, but my bias will probably show in this one. Personally, I don't think that this should have been included in the book. Why not have John Howe or Alan Lee write something instead of this (rather lame) interview. Mostly they just banter back and forth about how skilled they are, talking about all their various projects, and occasionally thanking Tolkien for giving them the source material that made them famous. Pass.
Terri Windling- More so than all the others, this essay truly moved me. It recalled the wondefully romantic (in the classical sense of the word) thoughts, ideas, and feelings that I have always ascoiated with Tolkien, Indeed all fantasy in general. Interestingly enough, it wasn't the LOTR's that made her feel this way, But Tolkien's excellent lecture "On Fairy Stories", a beautiful work on the role of fantasy in the adult life. She also makes some great points about how Disney has changed the way we look at fairy tales, making them something just for children. Placing this essay at the end of the book definatly makes it feel as if they left the one of best for last.
Should you read this book? If you are a fan of tolkien, and don't mind a little light-hearted writing about him, then yes. If however you just happen to like a particular contributer, then you should probably shy away from this one.