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Review of Tolkien's Modern Reading, by Holly Ordway (2021)

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Meneldur Olvarion
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Review of Tolkien's Modern Reading, by Holly Ordway (2021)

Post by Meneldur Olvarion »

The ultra-conservative Mormon dude has an interesting new post on his blog: ... ng-by.html

A few excerpts will illustrate my interest:
Bruce Charlton wrote: [...] Ordway solidly proves her core argument; which is that Tolkien read a great deal of 'modern' fiction (defined as post 1850 - but including works right up to the end of his life); that he enjoyed much of it; and took some works seriously enough to affect his own writing: often fundamentally.

[...] The importance of Tolkien's modern reading should have been obvious to everyone, all along - but was not. To the extent that many authors have, with greater or lesser degrees of exaggeration, made vast and sweeping assertions regarding Tolkien's knowledge and liking of such fiction, and denying any significant influence from it.
And, for this, the main fault lies with Humphrey Carpenter and his authorized 1977 Tolkien biography, the selected letters (1981), and The Inklings group-biography of 1978. 
It was Carpenter who so deeply-planted the idea that Tolkien had read very little modern literature and liked even less. And this has (by a kind of 'Chinese whispers') grown over the years among writers on Tolkien to wild assertions that he had read very little since Chaucer - or even since the Norman Conquest!
Based on Carpenter's excessively simplified and distorted accounts; this further led onto other false assertions such as that Tolkien tried to impose (or did - somehow impose) his irrational personal preferences and limitations onto the Oxford English syllabus. 

[...] Ordway documents something I had long-since inferred from internal evidence; that Carpenter (by his own account, on public record) did not like Tolkien or his work - nor indeed did he like any of the Inklings; and that his original motivation with the biography was to write a subversive account of Tolkien.

I did pick up on Carpenter's antipathy years ago, but not having any direct proof, I didn't mention it to others. I think this shall prove to be an interesting book to read when I can get myself a copy.
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