The Hobbit, 1985 Ballantine ed., J.R.R. Tolkien
I recently reread this, for the first time in…about two decades. Tolkien’s mannered writing doesn’t bother me as much as it does some people, but I am sympathetic to those who find that they simply cannot slog through his work. It takes “twee” to new heights, at times, and his sense of pacing and import is…peculiar. For example, while Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum and the fight against the spiders each take about half a chapter, only a few pages get devoted to Smaug’s attack, and the entire business with the Necromancer is dealt with in a sentence. Meanwhile, it takes roughly eleventy billion chapters for the dwarves to bicker with the humans and elves outside the mountain. Which is great if you’re into people bickering about money, not so great if you want a rousing conclusion to your fantasy adventure.

4 Responses to “Paperback Book Club”
  1. elsie says:

    I first tried to read it in about the fifth grade. I remember being offended by what I called the “daddy’s lap” style of The Hobbit. It felt condescending to me as an eager young reader. It wasn’t until I fell in love with Lord of the Rings in high school that I went back to read The Hobbit. But it never engaged me the way the trilogy did.

  2. Tolkien’s style of writing never grew on me, which is why I haven’t read anything of his since high school (once is more than enough), but I did see the trailer for The Hobbit this week. It looks not quite as twee.

  3. Tim O'Neil says:

    I think that his sense of import is probably one of the most crucial elements of the book . . . if he hadn’t been so chary with what many readers would consider the “important” stuff, there wouldn’t have been such a huge gap for the imaginations of his most devoted fans to fill.

  4. Arynne says:

    I never saw anything odd about his giving short shrift to Smaug’s attack and the Council of the Wise…but I was ten years old. I was interested in what happened to Bilbo and the Dwarves, not what was happening “offstage”.

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