Sunday 26 December 2010

My hopes for The Notion Club Papers - separate cover publication


Although I am forced to admit that when I have recommended reading the NCPs I have found that other people's responses have usually been under-whelming; nonetheless my main hope is that at some point this will be published under separate cover; prefaced by the relevant Lost Road material, and marketed as something-like:

'The Notion Club Papers: an unfinished novel by JRR Tolkien'.

This might conceivably happen if, or when, the History of Middle Earth is re-issued - at which point the present Lost Road volume might be shorn of its Lost Road material and re-named The Quenta Silmarillion.

(This would itself provide a much more readable,  'Silmarillion' than the current 1978 compilation - and highly marketable, especially with its Last Battle/ end of time conclusion.)

The Lord of the Rings material might be re-organized into a three volume unit (instead of three and one third volumes, as at present) - with the great selling point of the Epilogue.

This would liberate volume IX of such a putative second edition of HoME to be dedicated to The Notion Club Papers, and might attract a smallish but devoted 'cult' readership of people like myself; that is to say, Tolkien-o-philes who (for some reason) might become utterly obsessed with this story!

And the prospect of a 'new novel' by Tolkien would surely attract enough publicity to justify the venture.

Well, I can dream...



David Bratman said...

I do find it occasionally awkward to have to explain to non-Tolkienists that The Notion Club Papers, while a novel (and I italicize the title, rather than using quote marks), is contained within a larger volume with a totally different title. But I consider that a minor annoyance at most. My gratitude to CT for having issued all this treasure makes any quibbles as to how it was packaged seem ridiculous.

However: Rayner Unwin used to say that the key to continual sales of older material was continual repackaging. If HarperCollins feels the same, then perhaps we may see more new editions like The End of the Third Age. But that would be merely reprints in a new box, not rearrangements of material, e.g. readers' editions like The Children of Hurin was of the Narn - which may be more than could be hoped for, and might not be as appealing to the general reader as we might hope or think.

Bruce Charlton said...

My gratitude to Christopher Tolkien for having released this material, and in the form he has done so, also knows no bounds.

I find the History of Middle Earth - with CT's commentary integral - to be a world of unplumbable depths and delight. I have never 'finished' reading it, and I hope I never do...

On the other hand the accident of serial production and segmented publication of HoME menas that the composition of individual volumes of the HoME is clearly sub-optimal - and could very easily be 'fixed' without disturbing the content or doing anything so radical in editing as the CofH involved.