by Thomas Shippey
J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
Houghton Mifflin, December, 2001.
Hardcover, 347 pages.
Recent polls in both England and the United States have consistently placed The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien at the top of the lists for the greatest books of the 20th century. And with the release of the multiple Oscar nominated film based on the books, interest has never been higher. Yet Tolkien has never received the literary accolades from the critics that he so richly deserved. Enter Dr. Thomas Shippey, the world's foremost Tolkien scholar, and an expert on Old English. A philologist who has taught the same syllabus as Tolkien himself did at Oxford, Professor Shippey convincingly makes the case that Tolkien deserves the same literary respect as his contemporary writers, such as James Joyce.
Dr. Shippey also provides fascinating insight into Tolkien's life and works, especially when explaining that to Tolkien, the source for the entire story was linguistic. Tolkien loved language, and didn't believe that it could be separate from the stories that it tells. Professor Shippey also deftly addresses the interesting issue of religion in The Lord of the Rings -- although Tolkien was a devout Catholic there isn't even a hint of religion in the work. Tolkien: Author of the Century is a brilliant piece of literary criticism, written in a witty and entertaining style which sets it apart from the work of many other scholars. Highly recommended.
--Claire E. White
J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March, 2002 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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