Now, how is it that these long-winded volumes of what looks to this reviewer like balderdash have elicited such tributes as those above? The answer is, I believe, that certain people - especially, perhaps, in Britain - have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash. They would not accept adult trash, but, confronted with the pre-teen-age article, they revert to the mental phase which delighted in Elsie Dinsmore and Little Lord Fauntleroy and which seems to have made of Billy Bunter, in England, almost a national figure. You can see it in the tone they fall into when they talk about Tolkien in print: they bubble, they squeal, they coo; they go on about Malory and Spenser - both of whom have a charm and a distinction that Tolkien has never touched.
As for me, if we must read about imaginary kingdoms, give me James Branch Cabell's Poictesme. He at least writes for grown-up people, and he does not present the drama of life as a showdown between Good People and Goblins. He can cover more ground in an episode that lasts only three pages than Tolkien is able to in one of this twenty-page chapters, and he can create a more disquieting impression by a reference to something that is never described than Tolkien through his whole demonology.Shall we apply this to the love of Rowling's "Potter" and whosit's Twilight books? Quite possibly to any or all of the best sellers--to all of our writing generally, and hence a revealing expression of our very "selves"?
Perhaps the lament for the demise of reading in a culture where hundreds of thousands of books are published and so many thousands of acres of trees are felled (this is, generously, waste product) to accommodate this (please use an e-reader for your fictions and your faux-political-populist propaganda) is, really, a lament for the demise of the grown-up.
America, land of the immature. Perhaps Lawrence was most prescient in his acknowledgment of what might be the prescience of Fenimore Cooper:
What did Cooper dream beyond democracy? Why, in his immortal friendship of Chingachgook and Natty Bumppo he dreamed the nucleus of a new society. That is, he dreamed a new human relationship. A stark, stripped human relationship of two men, deeper than the deeps of sex. Deeper than property, deeper than fatherhood, deeper than marriage, deeper than love. So deep that it is loveless. The stark, loveless, wordless unison of two men who have come to the bottom of themselves This is the new nucleus of a new society, the clue to a new world-epoch. It asks for a great and cruel sloughing first of all. Then it finds a great release into a new world, a new moral, a new landscape.
Natty and the Great Serpent are neither equals nor un-equals. Each obeys the other when the moment arrives. And each is stark and dumb in the other's presence, starkly himself without illusion created. Each is just the crude pillar of a man, the crude living column of his own manhood. And each knows the godhead of this crude column of manhood. A new relationship.
The Leatherstocking novels create the myth of this new relation. And they go backwards, from old age to golden youth. That is the true myth of America. She starts old, old, wrinkled and writhing in an old skin. And there is a gradual sloughing of the old skin, towards a new youth. It is the myth of America.Which is as much to say that this is a land of erasure and our social and cultural work has been in the service of this returning to the blank state of emptiness.
These books for the immature--these are not for children; rather they are the balm for the wound inflicted upon us by modern industrial society. The phases of your life are entirely in the service of a social "master" and you have no opportunity to become fully a man or a woman, a fully mature human. Our popular literature reflects that situation perfectly.
Your thrills and excitements are childish; but the worst of this is that your childishness is not childlike--rather you are warped by the too-long viewing of "adult" secrets. In this you are become the stunted version of the human, de Sadian in your pleasures and pains. So much is de Sade's vision our common ground that it seems to me now no longer even worth asserting...are you a sadist? No, you are the 21st century human locked into the new normalcy of a grotesquerie.
Perhaps the catastrophe to come will strip this bare and, as noted by Lawrence and illustrated by Cooper, those of you left will be able to stand as though newly born at the beginning of the world; and so to inhabit this desolate, infertile Eden.