Monday, October 06, 2014

The Hobbit Book Review (Sort of)

            I guess this isn't really a review because, let’s face it, The Hobbit really doesn't need any reviews. If I even have to tell you it was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, chances are you’re reading the wrong blog. So, I guess this is more like my thoughts on the book rather than an actual review.

            Naturally this isn't the first time I've read this book and it most certainly won’t be the last. I think I was in the area of five years old when my dad read The Hobbit to me and my brother. I loved it, in spite of the recurring nightmare it gave me (Smaug chasing me and my family – actually, when the dragon attacked in the movie, it was almost identical to my dreams. Well done, Peter Jackson). It is, to this day, one of the greatest stories I've ever read.

            It isn't just the story itself that has made this book so great, but the writing. Tolkien’s style in this book has personality. It’s more than just words on a page, its storytelling. The book reads as if Tolkien is sitting there in front of you, a fire crackling in the fireplace while he tells you this beautiful tale.

            As I read the book this time, marvelling at how wonderful and enjoyable it was, I came to notice something that I find to be very sad.

            No one would publish The Hobbit in this day and age.

            It all comes down to the writing and what is expected of us as authors. If you look up writing tips, Tolkien goes against a great many of the ones you’ll find.

            We’re supposed to use “said” all the time. No more dwarves grumbling what they say or Bilbo squeaking when he’s frightened. Apparently readers’ eyes just skip over the “said”s and similar. Personally, I read every word in a book and there’s nothing quite as bland as seeing nothing but “said”.

            Exclamation marks! We’re not supposed to use too many exclamation marks. They lose their effectiveness if they’re used too frequently, it’s true, but the amount they’re supposed to be cut out is unbelievable. Used properly, exclamation marks change the entire tone of a sentence, the feel of the book. You wouldn't believe how many of them Tolkien uses! I agree with moderation, but these days they’re becoming extinct.

            Adjectives. Descriptive words. We’re supposed to avoid them. Some people take this too literally and say to never use them. Instead of a nice word that gives clear and definitive meaning to something, we’re supposed to use excessive space to describe the specific characteristics of those words. To me, that’s a waste of time for both the writer and reader if every time someone waves excitedly their hand waves back and forth in blur with a grin on their face. Tolkien uses adjectives all the time and very effectively. Again, it’s a case of using it in moderation, but elimination clutters the writing.

            So, on the off chance that someone decided to publish The Hobbit, they would first run it through editors to eliminate all these “problems”. I can’t say that I’d want to read the book once it came out the other end of that process. They’d take out the split infinitives.

            If you haven’t read The Hobbit before, you should. There’s never been a book like it before and there never will be one again until people stop clinging to guidelines as rules. Writing is an art and art is an expression of yourself. If you allow rules to remove your personality from your writing, can you still call it art?

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1 comment:

  1. I have to admit, I've never read anything of Tolkien's. However, I'm with you on the blandness of said. It's true that the eye does tend to skip over it, but I tend to think that's because it's such a boring word. What's wrong with exclaiming or grumbling or thundering or whispering?

    Not a darn thing, in my view.