Took or Baggins? Part 2

I am reading The Fellowship of the Ring, which is the first of the LOTR trilogy. (ISBN 0-345-33970-3) At the time I bought it, years ago, it cost $6.99 for the paperback copy. It’s the Ballantine edition, containing a foreword by Tolkien himself. 

One thing that drew my attention is that toward the end of the foreword, Tolkien complains about other paperback editions being published without his consent. He states that only the Ballantine edition is the one he approved and encourages readers not to buy any other! And here I was thinking that stealing authors’ work was a recent thing born of the internet. Obviously not. 

While most readers skip the Foreword (I seldom pay a second’s attention to it), this time I have made a special effort to trudge through it. I’m glad I did. First of all, this is Tolkien himself talking about his work. In my mind, silly as it sounds, he’s talking from beyond the grave, as he’s been dead many years. 

Tolkien denies that his books had anything to do with the war (WWII) and points to the fact that his work’s origins go back way before the war. His main motive in writing the works was to “…hold the attention of the readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.” Those are the reasons any true writer writes. 

The writing of the series (LOTR) went on from 1936 through 1949! Today, authors put out a book every three months. Anyone who doesn’t produce in numbers is not considered a true writer. But Tolkien, one of the most beloved and successful authors in the English language, did not write every day! His duties, his interests, and the war got in the way. It took him thirteen years, but he never gave up. 

A final point of observation I have is in the way Tolkien writes, primarily his sentence structure. His sentences are complex, often taking up the space of a small paragraph. He uses plenty of commas and an abundance of semicolons. He also does not skimp on the word “that.” 

I don’t find his work difficult to read.  I don’t see many extremely hard or out-of-date words. Words like “laborious, decrepitude, and allegorical” are few and can be easily Googled by anyone who has never heard them. 

The one thing that may make him difficult for today’s reader is that he requires the reader to hold more than one line of thought within one sentence. Today’s readers want to get there fast. They have little patience for the meandering way. 

Tolkien’s Foreword is not without humor. At one point, he talks about his reviewers: 

Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writings that they evidently prefer. 

Here is a genius writing books that eighty years later are still selling, and he had reviewers who put him down! Some of the indies on Facebook and Goodreads should learn from him.

At the end of his Foreword, he dedicates his book to us across the water. America. He obviously knew that we, across the water, would continue to buy millions of his books for many years to come. Smart marketing move, the dedication!

On to the Prologue, where we are filled in on all kinds of background info on the Hobbits.

Took or Baggins? Part 1

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This morning, early, I got a text message from my daughter. She is married to a great guy named Alex and living and working in Kendall, Florida. Kendall is a suburb of Miami, closer to Homestead than Miami proper. Miami is home to my children; they grew up there.

Anyway, she texted me the following message: “Alex just called me a Took. He says I’m a Took and he’s a Baggins.”

The message brought a burst of laughter to my lips. I experienced a sweep of emotion that most of you would be hard-pressed to understand.

First, you’d have to know the frame of reference. What are Tooks and Bagginses? If you ever read The Hobbit  and remembered it, you’d get it.

Years ago, when I first read Tolkien, I also quickly identified myself as a Took.

Tooks love adventures. They take chances. They get restless and shun the accepted and conventional. Tooks make a difference! They are a pain in the ass. We all want to be Tooks, but mostly, we are Bagginses.

But why did her text bring me such pleasure? Because she is carrying on my ways. She is doing something I did and thinking like I did. She is carrying on tradition. She does this also when she listens to Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix, artists who were dead long before she was born.

Why is she suddenly reading Tolkien? Most of today’s generation are happy to watch the movies and take the plot as true to the books.  However, my children are not your average stock. I did a good job raising them. They seldom shrink from a challenge.

A few days ago, in a telephone conversation about my writing, I said to her that most young people today cannot read the books I grew up reading. They have lost the language. To them, reading Tolkien is like me reading Chaucer or Shakespeare in the original text.

I told her that as indie authors, we are encouraged to write at no higher than a seventh-grade level because that is what the average reader is comfortable with. Classic works that have been the reading bread and butter of generations, are now considered too wordy and “purple” because they contain adjectives, adverbs, and complex sentences.

One of the biggest challenges I face in my editing is cutting down my sentences into palatable pieces that modern readers can digest. Sometimes I feel that my work looks more like a shopping list strung together than a creative endeavor.

Back to my daughter- it seems that she took my words as a challenge. She immediately picked up a copy of The Hobbit, and she loved it. Of course, an immediate discussion followed on the vast differences between the movies and the book.

She started the LOTR  series this morning. I told her that the series is quite different in tone, themes, and reading difficulty. Unlike The Hobbit,  the books that followed were not written for children. Just the foreword can be daunting. I offered to read along with her so that we could discuss as we go along.

That should be fun. For me, anyway. I will post once in a while about our progress.

2nd Novel from Top 100 Free in Kindle

I again chose my next book from the “Best Sellers in Kindle eBooks- Top 100 Free.”

The title of the book is The First Time I Said Goodbye by Claire Allan. It was at number #2 on July 19th. It has 147 reviews and with a 4.3 stars average. It’s not the usual type of story I normally read. It starts out with a funeral. A funeral at the start of any book is depressing, to say the least, unless you’re looking at the start of a Marvel’s Avengers story.

Chapter 2

It caught my attention, and I’m definitely invested in it! The main characters, mother and daughter, are headed for a trip to Ireland. I love Ireland. (A good comeback from the funeral.) The trip is the mother’s way of getting on with life after the death of her husband. Annabel, the daughter, appears to be caught up in a relationship she seems to be ambivalent about, but the story is really about her mother and the love of her life, the one that got away.

The book is well-written. The About Author states that Claire Allan is a reporter and columnist, so her writing should be good and it is. It definitely gives a sense of place, especially after they get to Ireland, and it gives hints of a mystery regarding the mother’s reason for the trip. Yes, I am hooked. I will read more!

Now, wait a minute! Where has the book gone? It’s no longer in the Top Free list. I do a search for the title, and see that it’s back on regular price. That brings up the point that the books on the Top Free are not necessarily there by popular demand. One good promo on ENT or BookBub or Amazon’s Marketing Ads can put a book at the top of the list, usually for a day or two.

This does not mean that the book is regularly popular. It means that thousands of readers are downloading anything they can get for free from the promo sites. As soon as the promo is over, the book drops off the list.

The Top 100 Free list changes constantly. The book that is #2 today, can be #40 tomorrow or disappear entirely, as this one did. The Top 100 Paid list is far more stable, and there are many $0.99 through $4.99 offerings. However, you’re more likely to discover something new  and unexpected in the free list.

Now, to keep reading.

Final report: Oh, my God! I’m crying! Not a sad-ending cry but a happy-ending cry. This book is definitely worth reading, and this words are coming from a woman who does not do sappy romantic well. In my opinion, and once again- I must emphasize that my opinion may not be anything like yours, this book is definitely worth reading.

Normally, I like my reads spiked with the occasional sex scene. This book has not one of those!

I like my books to be fast-paced, full of action reads. This has none of those things.

I like my books full of vampires, tortured heroes, and sexy rogues. There are none of those hunks in this book.

This novel is a sweet, gentle, nostalgic, bittersweet tale that switches back and forth between the years 1959-1960 and 2010. Yes, the two characters whose story we’re told in flashbacks are in their seventies! However, the story grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I read it in two seatings. And I finished reading with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. If I ever meet the author, I will punch her in the nose for making me cry.

The First Time I Said Goodbye is well-written, definitely above 7th-grade reading level. It gives a good sense of time and place. The characters are interesting and they speak in intelligent dialogue. Finally, I could not let go until I knew what happened! By the way, it’s based on a true story according to the author. I loved it!