There’re a few things I have to talk about before I launch into a digressive blog about Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first is to address my online absence. I’ve been away from the blogging sphere over the holidays, but fear not, for I’ve still been reading, writing, thinking, and traveling. In fact, I’m in Chicago now, at the Common Cup in Rogers Park, forcing myself to write this blog when I’d much rather write a new short story.
Can I say that I love Rogers Park? The rent here is dirt cheap, which may explain my cousin’s toilet—it is literally hobbit sized. I have aptly dubbed it Rumplestiltskin’s throne. And yeah, her apartment got broken into once, and uh, it is a four-story walk up, and nocturnal critters live in the walls and freak me out when I’m trying to sleep on the futon, but the place has a faux fireplace and is steps away from the lake! Public art is everywhere. I passed a sculpture of a Monarch butterfly erected from four bike frames on the way to this coffee shop. And okay, so every other storefront along the Red Line is vacant, but amazing smells (pizza anyone?) and interesting people (DANCERS!) fill the windows of the small business that are here. This neighborhood is ripe for artists and students. Just carry mace and be sure to write in your Aldermen’s name on the election ballot…
Second, I’ve utterly failed at my original goal of the blog, which was to read all the books I own without buying or renting anything new, unless it was for research. Just how bad off am I? Well, on Thursday I checked out four library books, and yesterday, I bought another. Technically all five of these books fall under research, but I still harbor a small bit of guilt about them. Key word being small. On the other hand, I recently sold a whole mess of books I’d either read or realized I would never have time to read, at least not in this decade. I can’t explain how hard it was to stand in the bookstore while they checked over my order and not buy something else with my thirty dollar refund.
Now, without a smooth transition or further delay—Lord of the Rings: one of the worst reading experiences I have ever had in my life. Allow me to explain.
It’s one of Husband’s books, but being how it was in the household and I am writing a fantasy saga I thought it would be an important read. A lot of famous writers, people I trust and respect, rave about the trilogy. It can be career altering. There’s top-notch characterization and imagery. Varied sentences. Epic battle scenes. Normally I make it a point to never say anything bad about books. But.
To be honest, reading this book was equivalent to striking my head on the wall seventeen hundred times and then being locked in an elevator with Michael Bolton blaring uncomfortably loud on the Muzak and a two-year old that hasn’t napped…all week. One day I spent seven hours—seven hours—reading forty pages.
I can’t find any reason for that much exposition. It took everything in me not to take a pen to the thing and start cutting and chopping all the unnecessary. Why does almost every character have to have a confusing name? I mean, honestly, dude why do your two antagonists have like, practically the same name? Ask me if I care what land this tribe of people are from or what absurd lineage they have or what allies they had seven thousand years ago. Husband told me to just skim or read ahead, but I’m not that type of reader. I had to make myself go over every single sentence in that book. In order. No glossing. No skimming. Except for the songs and poems. I seriously just skipped those. Italics? I think not.
Give me more elves.
And Lord please, why are there only three women in the book? Two are strong, so that’s a plus. But. But. But. One of the strong female leads only goes into battle because she’s in love with a dude, and then she throws down her sword to get married. I mean, WTF. And the other strong female lead just gives the heroes gifts to help in battle. What’s the point of that? It’s like, you set up this bad ass chick only to make her give the male leads like a bottle of star dust, excuse me, starlight and a bag of seeds. Really? Really? Because she could have put the wreck to that Sauron.
And, yeah, if you’re gonna write an evil villain and basically give him no screen time, what’s the point? He’s just a vague puppet master. I read over a thousand pages in itty-bitty font and still had no real clue about the guy. He was just there. And bad. One-dimensional bad.
But whatever. It’s a hero’s journey story. I get it. Back to my Joseph Campbell notes, I guess.
Making matters worse, all the books were bound into one big hardcover copy. Lugging that thing around gave me a backache, and I had to be real careful with it since it was one of Husband’s most prized possessions. That meant no dog earing, no eating while reading, no picking my nose and wiping the buggers on the cover, being careful with the spine, no tea drinking near it. No leaving it open on the coffee table without being scolded to use a bookmark.
You may be underestimating Husband’s love of the tale at this point. Please don’t do that. He has an exact replica of Gandolf’s sword hanging on his bedroom wall at his parent’s house. It was his favorite Christmas gift of all time. He told me he went to see the movies in the theater like twelve times or something; I wasn’t really listening. I made the mistake of watching one of the movies with him. This led to a nonstop quoting marathon on his end and a “it didn’t happen that way in the book” whine fest from me. Also,he paused the movie several times to explain bonus features—
Aragorn’s scream sound realistic? That’s because Viggeo Mortensen broke his foot kicking that helmet! It was real metal. See that banner over there? The one that just flew off? That really happened and Peter Jackson just went with it! It was a windy filming day.
Well, I hate to tell you, but no banner flew off in the book. I remain unimpressed. No offense but can we get some collaboration with Guillermo del Toro on some of these monsters? Orks and Uruk-hai sort of look the same to me. But, you know, the casting was spot on for the whole. So there’s that. I dug Gollum.
He was a book highlight. Wins the most interesting character award. Not gonna say anything about how a supporting / secondary character has more depth than the antagonist. No, I won’t talk about that here.
Nor will I mention, you know, that action chapter that takes place after the climax. That’s not misplaced or anything. I bet JRRT was like, ha, these fools have already suffered through a thousand pages of my writing, why wrap things up efficiently after the climax? Why not roll on for another few thousand words and add in another battle, just ‘cuz. I been to war! I don’t care about the rules of commercialism!
I wanted to full on like this book. I wanted to love it. I wanted to place it proudly on my shelf next to the other really influential books I’ve read, and maybe I still should if only to remind myself not to go on for thousands of pages about stuff that isn’t important to the story. I feel criminal for writing a blog post like this. But, I mean, when I had to pretend that Aragorn was Amazon, king of the booksellers, and fantasize he was ravaging small businesses instead of small towns, there’s something wrong with the book. I won’t tell you all the nicknames I made up for the characters and the more amusing plot lines I devised for them. Clearly there were multiple reasons for me taking seven hours to read forty pages…
And in fairness I liked the setting descriptions. I felt comfortable in the worlds, was never confused, and felt like JRRT knew a lot more than he was letting on. I took notes on Shadowfax.
I just didn’t get it. A thousand something pages is too much for me to handle in one long read, if only for the fact that my bird like wrists simply cannot hold half a tree for several hours at a time. Which is why the next book I am reading is slim at 96 pages and that includes the preface, forward, notes, and glossary. Plus, I own it, so butt scratching and page turning can occur consecutively without worry.
*Being that I am traveling, this is not the ISBN number or book cover that I used. These are generic stand-ins taken from the internet.