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Old 08-30-2006, 12:45 PM   #1
zifnab
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Back to my basic reading roots.

Quote:
“What Tolkien wrote is obviously not “serious” but “escapist”.

“Those who read “seriously” have no possibility of escape. They are never inside the world of the story (or at least cannot admit it in their “serious” discussion of it – God forbid they should be caught committing the misdemeanor of Naďve Identification). They remain in their present reality, perpetually detached from the story, examining it from the outside, until – aha! – the sword flashes and the literador stands triumphant, with another clean kill. It is a contest from which only one participant can emerge alive.

“Escapist” literature, on the other hand, demands that readers leave their present reality, and dwell, for the duration of the story, within the world the writer creates. “Escaping” readers do not hold themselves aloof, reading in order to write of what they have found. Escapists identify with protagonists, care about what they care about, judge other characters by their standards, and hope for or dread the various outcomes that seem possible at any given moment in the tale. When the story is over, escapists are reluctant to return to the prison of reality – so reluctant that they will even read the appendices in order to remain just a little longer in a world where it matters that Frodo bore the ring too long ever to return to a normal life, that the elves are leaving Middle-earth, and that there is a king in Gondor.”

- Taken from “How Tolkien Means” by Orson Scott Card – Meditations on Middle-Earth (pg 157-158)
Although I don’t fully agree with this, the basis is solid for me. My experience reading LOTR the very first time was magical. Never will I read it the same again. That applies to all novels of course, but must novels I read I do go into them with an “escapist” mentality. The other times I have read LOTR I went to work with a “serious” mentality, trying my hardest to break down structures, over turn rocks for hidden meanings, searching my heart and soul for all symbols, metaphors and allegories (even though Tolkien declared his distaste for allegory in all its form, when Catholicism is such a part of you…) The experience just hasn’t been the same. I actually hadn’t even noticed it until I read Mr. Cards essay.

“Because Tolkien, like most storytellers in most societies throughout history, values stories as stories, not as essays in disguise.” - OSC

I think the next time I read it, I shall, ‘Get back to my reading roots’ and enjoy it all over again. My experience will never be the same as anothers, but at least I'll have one.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:03 PM   #2
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Great article there zif.

It's always a good reminder - not that there's anything wrong persay with doing the things you mentioned - but it certainly isn't the same way of reading as it was 'that first time.' And there's just something wonderful about reading books in an "escapist" (as he put it) mentality - it does allow you to achieve that escape from the world around you & transports you into the one of which you are reading.

I've found this to be especially true with Tolkien's books.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:58 PM   #3
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I think you are so right zif, I may well have been doing what you say for nearly 30yrs now. The first time I read it, I could not put the thing down, I awoke in the morning with the book resting on my face and carried on. For one magical weekend in March 76, I was utterly transported to another place, one that felt so real, yet unreal. I desperately wanted to know what the end was, yet I dragged my feet every step of the way, soaking in the vision made real by the words. The first time was truly magical and has never been the same since. I now find when reading it, that I re-remember things that have slipped my mind (it is a fault of the old), and find new joy in understanding how other people see and explain things on this website.

Well done zif for a good thread.
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Old 08-30-2006, 02:29 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zifnab
The other times I have read LOTR I went to work with a “serious” mentality, trying my hardest to break down structures, over turn rocks for hidden meanings, searching my heart and soul for all symbols, metaphors and allegories (even though Tolkien declared his distaste for allegory in all its form, when Catholicism is such a part of you…) .
I used to do this. I have shelves full of books I used to help me do it. I used to do it even when I knew it was a mistake. I think for me what finally broke me of it was the CbC read through of LotR. I approached that by reading the chapter each Sunday, along with the relevant section of HoM-e & referrring to various volumes of criticism, volumes of myths, folklore & psychology. I would then write a long essay. I did that every week for over 18 months. By the time we'd reached RotK the whole thing felt like a chore, but, well, I'd started it & I wasn't going to give in.

By the time we finished it I felt I had 'studied' the thing so much that I never wanted to 'study' it again, or even read it again for a couple of years. Of course, I got some insights into the work, partly due to my own background study, partly due to reading the thoughts of others, but overall I kind of regret doing it. Its made me a bit negative about that whole approach (which see the recent 'Spun Candy' & 'Lord of the Bible' threads).

In short, I think its a mistaken approach. When we first read the book we didn't analyse, break down, 'interpret' it. We were just swept along by the story. That's how it managed to work its magic on us.

There is, I suppose, always a desire to know more about something we love. We want to know more about the sources, about what inspired Tolkien, how he could have managed to create this other world which is so 'real' to us. We find out that he was inspired by the Eddas, the Mabinogion, Beowulf; we maybe turn to those same sources (but rarely find what we expected - they aren't Middle-earth).

I've said it before, but I'll repeat myself. We need to leave our baggage on the threshhold as much as we can, forget trying to discover 'sources', interpreting it in the light of psychology or comparative myth, stop trying to find Biblical analogies, allegories of WWII, political messages or anything else. Let Frodo be Frodo, Gandalf be Gandalf & Middle-earth be simply Middle-earth - just as it was when we first found it. Its a bit more difficult the second, third, or even twentieth, time around, but its worth the effort. What we gain from a 'serious' reading is rarely worth having - in my opinion, of course.

Last edited by davem; 08-30-2006 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 08-30-2006, 02:34 PM   #5
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Ah..... the words of Mr. Card hold true for me.

When I read the world drops out around me, I become not just an observer, but a participant in everything that happens. Tolkien's world is so enthralling, you wish to know all the details, of this wonderful world he created. Mr Card's works are just as fascinating, he creates many worlds and places, everyone as in depth as the last. I find the only way to really read is to let go and enjoy the escapism it gives you, It's like dreaming when you are awake, very vivid and enthralling. No matter how many times I read a book, I always read it like it is the first time.
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Old 08-30-2006, 08:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zifnab
I think the next time I read it, I shall, ‘Get back to my reading roots’ and enjoy it all over again. My experience will never be the same as anothers, but at least I'll have one.
ziffie, I'm happy for you, that you have found a way back to the garden. I guess reading Scott Orson Card was a bit of a 'fortunate fall.'
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Last edited by Bęthberry; 08-30-2006 at 08:18 PM. Reason: different wording
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Old 08-31-2006, 10:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I've said it before, but I'll repeat myself. We need to leave our baggage on the threshhold as much as we can, forget trying to discover 'sources', interpreting it in the light of psychology or comparative myth, stop trying to find Biblical analogies, allegories of WWII, political messages or anything else. Let Frodo be Frodo, Gandalf be Gandalf & Middle-earth be simply Middle-earth - just as it was when we first found it. Its a bit more difficult the second, third, or even twentieth, time around, but its worth the effort. What we gain from a 'serious' reading is rarely worth having - in my opinion, of course.
So very right davem

I wish I did this for the first time I read LotR and the Sil... at first, I thought Tolkien was contradicting himself because I found some stuff I thought were allegories. This was some three years ago, and then due to my time-eating (academic) life and because I read works by other authors I did not have much time for Tolkien. Then just some time ago I decided to reread the Sil again, and the allegories I thought I saw I let disapear. I thought again that that time, it was like reading and appreciating Tolkien again.
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