Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers.
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
The Herald’s seventh worst columnist is not a J R R Tolkien fan:
I don’t know what possessed a successful Kiwi film-maker to choose a fey English fantasy for his big number. Lord of the Rings was the book to read in 1971, then deservedly it died.
I tried to read it, four times I think, mainly because it was a gift. It said nothing to me.
Cult books have a short shelf life. Tolkien had done his dash by 1972 and I can’t recall much discussion of his books for the next 30 years. Then Peter Jackson remembered it. He would have been a child when the book was being read and he made a child’s movie of it.
I was a child when I read Lord of the Rings (somewhat subsequent to the early 70s) and I really enjoyed it; and big budget movies are made for children so of course it was a child’s movie. It’s not really accurate to say the book ‘died’ after 1971. In most of the readers polls conducted in 1999 and 2000 Lord of the Rings was voted the most popular book of the century, an indication that many grown-ups liked it too, before Jackson’s movies were made. W H Auden thought it was better than Paradise Lost (although I’ve always been fond of Edmund Wilson’s description: ‘a combination of Wagner and Winnie the Poo’.)
Most of Roughan’s complaints – he didn’t like the movies, they attract the wrong sort of tourists for the wrong reasons – seem to stem from his irritation that money is being invested and people are paying attention to a part of New Zealand that is not Auckland. You’d expect our so-called national newspaper would be a little less provincial about these things.