Monday, September 12, 2005

Book Log: Defending Middle Earth, by Patrick Curry

I picked up this book on a whim while vacationing in Duluth. The bookstore is in Canal Park, and Denise and I were just doing some leisurely browsing. (This was the first trip with just the two of us that we have taken in many years. Technically, it was not just the two of us since we did have Kathryn along. But, as she had not yet been born, it was easy to pretend she wasn't there.) The store was a little, independent shop. Its content ranged from the ridiculous (Women's Studies, New Age, etc.) to the sublime (a descent collection of classics and Christian writers). We overheard the clerk tell someone that they had sold more than 700 copies of the latest Harry Potter book during the special release party/sale they had the previous night.

The title caught my eye because we had recently finished re-watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies. I dove into it with relish, and found that it was something very different from what I had expected. It was defense of the literary seriousness of Tolkien's works, but Patrick Curry was really coming at it from the point of view of a Post-Modernist literary critic. His attempt is to show the relevance and deep meaning of Tolkien to an audience that does not give much currency to ideas of absolute truth, organized religion, or authority.

Because he was coming from this point of view, I had a hard time relating to him. I appreciate that he was defending one of my favorite writers from unfair criticism, but at the same time I felt a little uneasy that Tolkien could be so effectively rallied to some causes (like radical environmentalism) that I tend to regard with deep suspicion, if not outright hostility.