Friday 18 October 2013

Review of Paul Kocher's Master of Middle Earth

This was the first really good piece of book length critical work on JRR Tolkien - published just before Tolkien's death, therefore written entirely on the basis of the works published during Tolkien's lifetime; so embodying a lost perspective on Tolkien which was innocent of all the posthumous publications.

For this reason, I believe Kocher's book has not been superceded (even though it is no longer the best overview critical book) and has permanent value in the Tolkien critical canon.

Reading it now, we can recall (if we are old enough) or reconstruct (if we are not) how much an astute and alert reader could infer without any confirmation or elucidation from Christopher Tolkien's vast efforts with the Silmarillion and History of Middle Earth, or from Carpenter's biography and selected Letters, or TA Shippey and Verlyn Flieger, or John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War etc and all the other major breakthroughs of the past four decades.

So how much of Tolkein (as we now know him) does Kocher get? The answer is nearly-everything of prime importance is at least flagged-up; and the book has its own distinctive perspective as we expect from a real critic.

If you haven't read it, you should.

NOTE: another very good, but very little known, work from this era is Colin Wilson's pamphlet - Tree by Tolkien.  It is only 30 pages, and seems grossly over-priced on Amazon - but it is very worthwhile for taking Tolkien seriously as an important existential writer.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For out-of-print books, Abebooks is often a better source than Amazon. (It's owned by Amazon, is essentially a network of rare and antiquarian bookstores.) It offers several reasonably priced copies of Wilson's book.

--Chris Burd