Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tackling a Doozy: LOTR

Yesterday I finished reading Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea. In truth, I've had the book for some time but didn't get the inspiration to actually sit down and read it until I watched the movie The Jane Austen Book Club. In the movie, one of the characters mentions several times that one of his favorite authors is Le Guin, which made me think, "I should really read that book and find out what all this fuss is about." You see, that wasn't the first time someone had told me (yes, I realize the movie wasn't directly speaking to me) to read her books--which is why I had A Wizard of Earthsea on my shelf in the first place. I needed a break from heavy reading and thought a 200-page fantasy novel just might hit the spot.

And, for the most part, it did. I was frustrated at times because I wanted more from the story, but I realize that I may need to read the rest of the series to get that something more that I wanted. There were details mentioned but never connected, and--here you can really tell I'm a linguist--none of the names (of people or places) sounded truly authentic. The book mentions that the main character speaks Hardic while others speak other languages; yet, on the maps, the islands have names like "The Hands." I know, I know--it's meant for younger readers, and I'm most likely one of the few to get bothered by so much English throughout the book. However, I did like the depth of intent for the story. For how much is packed into such a small book, the story itself has a lot of character. So, in the end, I enjoyed the book. I'm not sure I enjoyed it enough to go out and buy the next one, but I may check my local library for them...

Once I finished reading A Wizard of Earthsea, I sat in front of my bookshelf for a while, trying to decide what to read next. Some people may remember that I went on a kick a while back to read all my unread books. I had one of those moments when I realized just how many books I owned that I had yet to crack the cover. I'm nearing the end of my reading quest, and I'm down to only 20 books that I haven't read, but some of them are doozies (in the sense that they are pretty darn long and will take some time to finish). So as I sat there, I decided that I should start tackling the doozies to make the rest of my reading quest look easy. The three biggest books swam before my eyes: Pillars of the Earth, Just Enough Jeeves (a collection of Jeeves novels by Wodehouse), and Lord of the Rings. Since I had just finished a fantasy book, I decided I'd tackle Lord of the Rings first (the entire collection--all 1100 pages of it).

I picked it up with trepidation. I tried to read The Hobbit some time ago and stopped about 100 pages in, uninterested in finishing it. I watched all three Lord of the Rings movies but didn't leave feeling like I had witnessed something amazing (just something cool). I figure the movies problem is that I didn't read the books first and missed out on a lot of character development and such (which is why I tell people never to watch the Harry Potter movies unless they've first read the books). My biggest worry was my lack of success with The Hobbit. That in and of itself is pretty funny because I bought the Lord of the Rings long after failing with The Hobbit. You may wonder why I'd do such a thing, and my reason is simple: I teach an invented languages course, and two years ago when I was planning out lectures for my course, I thought I'd need to read Lord of the Rings to speak credibly about the Elvish languages. It may seem silly, but it also seemed very important to me at the time. Once I got the book, though, I had a lot of things going on and put the book by my desk, promptly forgetting to read it. Now, two years later, I'm teaching the invented languages course again: perfect timing to pick the book up again.

I decided I wouldn't pressure myself and would even start reading another book while reading a chapter at at time from Lord of the Rings, if need be. But here's the surprising part: I'm over 100 pages into the book (so roughly 10% finished) and loving it. I haven't bothered picking out a "back-up" book because I'm enjoying LOTR so much. I realize that hundreds of thousands (millions even?) of readers who have read the books before me are probably saying, "Yeah, we know!" For me, though, it's a pretty big deal that I'm liking the book so much. I can't decide if it's that I just needed to give it a chance or if I'm at a place in my life where I can better appreciate the story.

I suppose it just goes to show that books you've purchased are ones that you should at least try to read.

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