Wednesday, June 6

The Book of the Century: interesting, loooong Salon article on Tolkien (via Jennifer 13).

"I rarely remember a book about which I have had such violent arguments," WH Auden wrote. "Nobody seems to have a moderate opinion: either, like myself, people find it a masterpiece of its genre or they cannot abide it, and among the hostile there are some, I must confess, for whose literary judgment I have great respect ... I can only suppose that some people object to Heroic Quests and Imaginary Worlds on principle; such, they feel, cannot be anything but light 'escapist' reading."

Tolkien issued his own Great Refusal to the myth of Enlightenment, preferring the enlightenment of myth.

Germaine Greer defines the central characteristic of Tolkienian literature as "flight from reality." This is true enough if you understand the ideological content of her terms, so that "flight" means "thoroughgoing rejection" and "reality" means "the accepted liberal narrative of material and political progress."

I don't believe for a moment that it is the best book of the 20th century, or even that such comparisons are meaningful. But it is a distinctive, even definitive, modern work of rebellion against modernity and, in the words of Tolkien's publisher and friend, Rayner Unwin, "a very great book in its own curious way

And, for all of you libertarian-leaners out there:

"My political beliefs lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)"
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