Mon Nov 5, 2012, 08:34 AM
mgc1961 (1,184 posts)
On How I Fell In Love With Tolkien's Middle Earth
I’m not generally comfortable with the kind of grown man who embraces the word “geek” as a self-identifier because most of those who do so seem to be making an active attempt to forestall adulthood by barricading its way with sky-high piles of endlessly replicating, increasingly self-referential, post-juvenile pop-culture junk. But when the trailer for “The Hobbit” first appeared nearly a year before the film’s Dec. 14 release (which is just plain goofy — like marketing on geologic time), it prompted what one Facebook poster termed a collective online “nerdgasm” — and I wasn’t immune. And so it must be said that those of us who do manage to move comfortably about in the larger world are evidence that a certain Y-chromosome tendency to gibbering fannishness does in fact exist, and many of us have points of contact with this phenomenon that we tend to coddle and then feel guilty about it later.
And some of us wonder why.
I first read the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in college, in a four-day heat during which I first stopped going to class, then stopped eating and then stopped sleeping until I finished it. It profoundly reordered my brain and sent me off on a decade-long pursuit of anything that seemed remotely similar — which the good-old American marketplace was only too happy to supply in quantity: tidal waves of rubbishy wizards and elves and dragons and swords crested against my helpless psyche, and I nearly choked on rank, stagnant rip-offs until at some point in my early thirties I spat out the whole lot of it, wiped my mouth clean and swore NEVER AGAIN.
Compelled by the first film in Peter Jackson’s adaptation, I reread the “Rings” trilogy several years ago, and I was amazed to find myself as deeply enmeshed, as deeply invested, as I had been at 18. I didn’t see how this could be possible. I’d long since settled into a frosty disdain for “fantasy” and its tired, tin-eared tropes; my appetite for the exotic was far more happily fed by stories set in real-world settings: ancient Rome, medieval Japan, imperial Russia, Civil War America.
I remember those days though I may have been a bit younger. These were some of the first books I truly devoured. They were followed closely by Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.
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