Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: Splintered Light

This is the first edition of Splintered Light by Verlyn Flieger, not the 2002 second edition. The astonishing fact is that I want to read the second edition, even now. This was that much of a revelation. In short, in this book Flieger digs up bits of Tolkien's overall philosophy and shows how that shaped the Silmarillion (and, in one chapter, how The Lord of the Rings fits into the big picture). For an innovative, big-picture analysis type of book Flieger writes well, with pithy comments, well-chosen examples and even a sense of pacing. If all academic books were like this, more people would be academics. Especially in the second half I take issue with some of her points but as a foundation for understanding what Tolkien was up to, this is a fantastic book and I think it's right on. For the first time, I feel like I understand how the different parts of Tolkien's life -- philologist, father, Christian, author, sub-creator of languages -- all relate and feed into each other. I feel fortunate to have a library in which I can find a book like this in its hard-to-find first edition -- but, like I said, I know that some day I'll read it again, and that's rare for a book or even a movie.

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