Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Bored.

Becoming bored with the whole thing again. May take a brief hiatus.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Gaffers

It's my blog, and I'll discuss Tolkien if I want to.

Curious over at Tolkien Fan has a post up about the Gaffer and the socio-political system of the Shire. I like it and agree with most of it, but have a couple of minor quibbles. I don't know that I would call the term "Gaffer" condescending. No, it would never be used as a title for Bilbo, but that doesn't mean that it's condescending. No one would call Bilbo "Thain" or "Lord" or even "Sir Bilbo". But this doesn't mean that any of these are derogatory or even condescending. They're just not appropriate. Both the Gaffer and Bilbo know their places in society and have the titles and respect due to them because of their age, wisdom, experience, social standing, etc. A hobbit gardener could probably aspire to no higher title and praise than to be a "Gaffer". He would be respected by hobbits of his own social standing and by hobbits of Bilbo's social standing. While Bilbo may not socialize with him, Bilbo would certainly respect his expertise in his field (if you'll pardon the pun) and thinks highly enough of him to hire his son as his own gardener and take him along on a perilous quest as his personal manservant or squire. Bilbo also does not refer to him as "Gaffer", but instead calls him "Master Hamfast" and comes to him as an authority on gardening questions.

The Gaffer does know his place, but he is not unsatisfied with it. Just as Sam does not wish to be in the same place as Frodo, but takes joy in being able to serve one who is great, the Gaffer understands his place and is content with it. This is the secret to happiness, contentment. Sam, Frodo, the Gaffer, and the other characters that turn out well are content with their lot, improve themselves as they are able, but know not to overreach and try and take that which they do not deserve. Those that do, Denethor, Sauron, Saruman and Lotho come to bad ends.

But most of this post is spot on. I'm looking forward to more.

Classics

What makes a book a classic? Why, precisely, is one book better than another? What objective standard is there, really? Isn't it all rather subjective? One person likes Hemingway and thinks that The Sun Also Rises is the greatest book of all time. (And of course, we are all limited by the number of books that we have read.) Another thinks it is dreck and that the pinnacle of literature is Shakespeare's Hamlet. Or Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. Or Tolstoy's War and Peace. Or Melville's Moby Dick.

But since there is such wide agreement that, say Lord of the Rings is a better book than Starship Troopers, and because books like War and Peace and Shakespeare's plays have survived for so long when their contemporaries faded indicates that there is more to it than total subjectivity. Is this actually outlined anywhere? Has anyone collected the rules and objective standards for what makes great writing?

New Link

Added a link to another blog. Curious from the Reading Room (who is named Tim in real life it seems) has started a blog over here to create a record of his thoughts and so forth on Tolkien. Sadly, he has no email link up yet, but hopefully he will soon so that people can provide him with feedback.

Literary Update

Finished The Road to Serfdom this weekend. Excellent book, though his last couple chapters were a bit weak. Still, it's a book every high school student ought to read. If not then, then in college. I'm working on President Kennedy: Profile of Power full time now. Though that may change when the books I requested from the library show up.

This week is Chapter 4 of Book IV of the Lord of the Rings over at the Reading Room.