Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Singing Praise for Tolkien

I've defended Tolkien before.

I, too, walked away from him during my jean-jacketed, moppy-haired, vampire-houred grad school days, when I thought I had outgrown his work. Tolkien's stuff was a cute memory and all -- I looked fondly back at the grandfatherly old pipe-smoker who had opened the door to literature for the music-obsessed teenager that I had once been. Now I had moved on to better things. Raymond Carver. Updike. Steinbeck. That sort of thing.

Truth is, I still love the academically-accepted literature very much. I still think Raymond Carver taught me more about writing than anyone, ever. I still find that Steinbeck (and now, Ursula LeGuin -- that's a post to come) brings me closer to the human heart than anyone ever has. But, dammit, Tolkien was a genius and his work was great on many levels.

I'm currently listening to The Silmarillion on CD (thanks to a loan from my brother-in-law). I have read it before, but it is dense. It's very much like reading the Bible -- which makes sense, because it is the bible of Tolkien's world. It can be hard to stick with. But, in listening to it in the car to and from work, I'm really tuning in to its beauty.

Tolkien could write. He chose to write in an archaic way, but he wasn't an archaic writer. It's a shame the world has given way to a love of minimalism. Minimalism is cool. But, sometimes, you have to go poetically biblical.

At any rate, it's nice to immerse myself in such high fantasy for an hour a day.

In fact, in listening to the descriptions of the Valar (the "gods" of Arda -- Earth), today, I think I have found the vehicle for my next orchestral piece of music.

In The Silmarillion, Tolkien's "God," Eru, created the Earth out of a song sung by his "angels" -- the Ainur. Maybe musical impressions of those ethereal singers is the best way for me to show my affection for my old hero's work.

That's what I need -- another project.