Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Classic Revisited

I recently started re-reading my favorite book from younger days: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. It's been many years since I last visited the written world of Middle Earth, so it's high time for a little reunion.

I think the movies have done wonders for bringing the sheer breadth, creativity and passion of his story to a broader audience. I was one of the few people who relished the numerous "fake endings" at the end of The Return of the King (Peter Jackson was really in a bind here, since purists would've probably burned him at the stake if he'd made the ending shorter). I used to maintain a pseudo-tradition of re-reading the book every summer (I naively thought I could keep that up indefinitely). Every time I finished the book, I'd try to conjure up my own depiction of the endings. So for me, it was a thrill to see it all on the big screen.

But as with nearly all cinematic adaptations, the movies fall far short of the depth offered by the original text. It's hard for me to believe, but I'd actually forgotten just how elegantly the book is written. The book is best read slowly and with care. Those who just want to quickly absorb some gimmicky plot to pass the time will probably find the book quite boring and somewhat old fashioned. While some aspects of the writing style do feel a little dated, I think the linguistic shifts of the last 50 years have left the book largely unscathed. What is required is simply greater commitment from the reader.

Anyhow, enough of writing blog posts. There's serious reading to be done!

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