Author of the Century
By Tom Shippey
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618127641, 384pp.)
Publication Date: May 2001
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Recent polls have consistently declared that J.R.R. Tolkien is "the most influential author of the century" and THE LORD OF THE RINGS is "the book of the century." In support of these claims, Tom Shippey, the prominent medievalist and scholar of fantasy, now presents us with a fascinating companion to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, focusing in particular on THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION.
The core of the book consists of three chapters that examine THE LORD OF THE RINGS as a linguistic and cultural map, as a twisted web of story, and as a response to the meaning of myth. Shippey presents a unique argument to explain the nature of evil and gives readers a compelling insight into the complicated interweaving of many strands as the narrative moves between characters and into the remarkable skill behind the construction of such a rich and complex story. Other chapters examine THE HOBBIT, explaining the hobbits' anachronistic relationship to the heroic world of Middle-earth; the fundamental importance of THE SILMARILLION to Tolkien's canon; and an illuminating look at FARMER GILES OF HAM, LEAF BY NIGGLE, and other lesser-known works in connection to Tolkien's life.
With a clear and accessible style, Shippey offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy, and to the importance of language in literature. He demonstrates how THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION form part of a live and continuing tradition of storytelling that can trace its roots back through Grimms' FAIRIY TALES to BEOWULF. J.R.R. TOLKIEN: AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY not only gives readers a deeper understanding of Tolkien and his work, but also serves as a learned and entertaining introduction to some of the finest and most influential works of fantasy ever written.
Tom Shippey taught at Oxford University at the same time as J.R.R. Tolkien and with the same syllabus, which gives him an intimate familiarity with the works that fueled Tolkien's imagination. He subsequently held the chair of English language and medieval literature at Leeds University that Tolkien had previously held. He currently holds the Walter J. Ong Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University in Missouri.
Professor Shippey's commentary is the best so far in elucidating Tolkien's lovely myth.
"Shippey is a rarity, a scholar well-schooled in critical analysis whose writing is beautifully clear." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Authoritative and timely" Boston Globe
"Shippey presents a remarkably insightful account of the origins of Tolkien's use language and myth." The Chicago Tribune
"Full of things-we-hadn't-known . . . As scholarship, it's one of the more enjoyable works I've run across." The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Wonderfully readable . . . Shippey makes an impressive case for why the creator of Middle-earth is deserving of acclaim." Publishers Weekly
"One of the best, if not the best, piece of ... literary criticism I have ever read on Tolkien." Midwest Book Review
"Delightful exploration of the relationship between Tolkien's fiction...his scholarly work and the mythical, linguistic and philosophical history underlying both." Salon
"[Tolkien] deserves his full due, and Shippey's appreciative assessment of his unique achievement provides it in full and satisfying measure." Philadelphia Inquirer
"[Shippey] deepens your understanding of the work without making you forget your initial, purely instinctive response to Middle-earth and hobbits." The Houston Chronicle
"An invaluable study...It illuminates the text and enables the reader to better appreciate the works under discussion." The Washington Times