New Books

New - and hopefully interesting - Books to come 2003:

Gregory Basham and Eric Bronson, eds: The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All

ISBN 0812695453 ( BN


This book, despite the ostentatious title which Tolkien himself might've disavowed (he might humbly have thought that the Bible and other works, not his own books, were the true "books to rule them all"), is well worth reading. It covers many aspects of philosophy and thought, including Plato, Nietzche, existentialism, Eastern religion, etc., which do not always receive the discussion vis-a-vis Tolkien that they deserve. One of the best essays is Alison Milbank's "'My Precious': Tolkien's Fetishized Ring", an analysis which resembles Brenda Partridge's (in)famous 1983-or-so essay "No Sex, Please, We're Hobbits: The Construction of Female Sexuality in The Lord of the Rings", in its commentary on Shelob's scary voracity. Milbank also mentions Karl Marx's "commodity fetishism" as a factor in Tolkien's work (and the Ruling Ring is certainly one hot commodity in Middle-earth, even before Frodo "gives Gollum the finger" on Mount Doom and the action heats up a bit)...though Milbank notes that Tolkien probably had no "People's Republic of the Shire" in mind when writing Lord of the Rings!! Another standout essay is "Happy Endings and Religious Hope: The Lord of the Rings as an Epic Fairy Tale" by John J. Davenport. Of all the essays, it perhaps draws most deeply on a variety of Tolkien's works, including the Silmarillion and Tolkien's influential essay "On Fairy-Stories?". Davenport, whose essay is the last in the book (and, significantly, at the end of the "Ends and Endings" group of essays), poses the hope that "Day will come again" ("Aure entuluva" in the Elvish spoken at a desperate battle in the Silmarillion) not only in Middle-earth but also on our own earth, at least from Tolkien's Christian point of view which hopes for eventual reward for those who strive for right throughout their lives. Davenport ably invokes the Beowulf epic, the tales of King Arthur, and the Tolkien-favorite medieval story of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in showing how Tolkien's goal of finding "joy, poignant as grief" is forwarded through The Lord of the Rings' combination of epic narrative with "eucatastrophe", Tolkien's brilliant term meaning more-or-less "a catastrophe of good" or "a surprise turn for the better, such as found in fairy tales". And indeed, as Davenport notes, the various "eucatastrophes" in Tolkien's trilogy do leave one with a taste of hope for something better in our futures, dark as the interim may be. Back to the book as a whole: although the still photo of the resurrected Gandalf from the Two Towers film gracing the cover looks a little cheesy (though still impressive), the light-from-above in the picture does remind us that there is something gleaming or "eternal" caught in the mesh of Tolkien's work, not mere idle fantasy. Though lacking the coherence and focus that a book-length piece would have, as opposed to the various scattered and short essays in "One Book to Rule Them All"--and I was sorely tempted to give only 4 stars for this book, because of this scatteredness--"One Book" does a fine job of reminding us of the genius of Tolkien not only for entertaining narrative but also for offering serious thought about the meaning of life, and "One Book" does so all the better by its drawing on his fellow geniuses throughout the millenia to illustrate or complement his points.

Two thumbs up (and any ring-fingers left on one's hand).

David Boyle,

From the Editors of Roverandom and JRR Tolkien-Artist and Illustrator:

Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull: J.R.R. Tolkien Companion

ISBN 0618391134 ( BN


Designed to be the essential reference works for all readers and students, these volumes present the most thorough analysis possible of Tolkien's work within the important context of his life. The Reader's Guide includes brief but comprehensive alphabetical entries on a wide range of topics, including a who's who of important persons, a guide to places and institutions, details concerning Tolkien's source material, information about the political and social upheavals through which the author lived, the importance of his social circle, his service as an infantryman in World War I -- even information on the critical reaction to his work and the "Tolkien cult." The Chronology details the parallel evolutions of Tolkien's works and his academic and personal life in minute detail. Spanning the entirety of his long life including nearly sixty years of active labor on his Middle-earth creations, and drawing on such contemporary sources as school records, war service files, biographies, correspondence, the letters of his close friend C. S. Lewis, and the diaries of W. H. Lewis, this book will be an invaluable resource for those who wish to gain a complete understanding of Tolkien's status as a giant of twentieth-century literature.
Description from

Brian Rosebury: Tolkien - A Cultural Phenomenon

ISBN 1403915970 ( BN


This comprehensive and discriminating account of Tolkien's work has been revised and expanded, to take account both of recent developments in scholarship, and of the recent films directed by Peter Jackson. Tracing the development of Tolkien's creative technique over several decades, it explores the bewildering profusion of shorter works, as well as devoting an extended analysis to The Lord of the Rings. Chapters consider Tolkien's contribution to the history of ideas, and review the reception of the Lord of the Rings film adaptations and other popular adaptations of his work.
Description from palgrave [1]


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