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Roots and Branches [Paperback]

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Item Number 215204  
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Item description for Roots and Branches by Shippey Tom...

Professor Tom Shippey is best known for his books 'The Road to Middle-earth' and 'J.R.R. Tolkien. Author of the Century'. Yet they are not the only contributions of his to Tolkien studies. Over the years, he has written and lectured widely on Tolkien-related topics. Unfortunately, many of his essays, though still topical, are no longer available. The current volume unites for the first time a selection of his older essays together with some new, as yet unpublished articles.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   432
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.06" Width: 6.14" Height: 1.02"
Weight:   1.32 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2007
Publisher   Walking Tree Publishers
ISBN  390570305X  
ISBN13  9783905703054  

Availability  90 units.
Availability accurate as of May 26, 2017 09:07.
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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > English
2Books > Subjects > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > History & Criticism

Reviews - What do customers think about Roots and Branches?

Fascinating collection of shorter works by one of Tolkien's most interesting commentators  Mar 26, 2008
Tolkien's readership still seems to be largely composed of people who read him and other fantasy novels, and are maybe not so interested in what is sometimes referred to as 'mainstream' or 'literary' fiction - meaning the stuff written by people who tend to end up being at least nominated for the Booker Prize. By the same token, the much smaller but more vocal and influential readership (one is tempted to say 'market') for the Booker-oriented end of contemporary fiction tends to dismiss Tolkien's work as at best uninteresting and at worse contemptibly 'escapist'.

This is a shame, because a commentator as erudite as Tom Shippey is perfectly placed to talk about what Tolkien is good at in terms which the average literary novel reader can understand. Given that most readers of contemporary 'serious' fiction are not usually very expert in ancient languages, which were Tolkien's and which are Shippey's stocks-in-trade, this is quite an achievement.

Shippey's best book on Tolkien is 'The Road to Middle-Earth', but it's not an easy book (in fact it's one of the densest works of literary criticism I've ever read) and it's hardly likely to appeal to anyone who has not already read a lot of Tolkien. His much later 'JRR Tolkien - Author of the Century' is somewhat polemical, being aimed at people who perhaps need to be convinced that Tolkien is a writer worth reading and worth taking seriously. This book is a selection of his essays, articles and lectures on Tolkien, and as such is intended for people who are familiar with the work. There is much food for thought here, including a fascinating essay on the connections and disconnections between Tolkien's work and Richard Wagner's, which might have been written specially for my father-in-law, a great guy (and a classically trained musician) who nevertheless refuses to read Tolkien on the grounds that he thinks Wagner's stories are silly.

The book is full of wonderful close readings and clear-eyed analysis, and Shippey is familiar enough with the so-called canon of modern English literature to be able to draw enlightening connections between, say, Tolkien's attitude to class and Thomas Hardy's.

As time goes by, and the Tolkien industry kicks in (largely thanks, it would seem from the rather spartan look of this book, to the availability of cheap desktop typesetting), Tolkien comes to seem less and less like an embarrassingly popular writer of escapism and more and more like a serious author, someone who - like W.B. Yeats - had perhaps troubling and unfashionable but nevertheless strong, vivid and persuasive things to say. That this is so is due in no small way to the work of Tom Shippey and people like him - intelligent and erudite people who are unprejudiced enough to think that Tolkien might be a writer worth taking seriously.

I was a teenage Tolkien nut. In my late teens and early twenties I read a lot of 20th century literary and postmodernist theory, and decided that Tolkien was bad because he was popular; everyone knew that the great mass of people were hopelessly swayed by the ideology of late capitalism (or maybe they were just repressed, or maybe they just hadn't deconstructed themselves enough yet, or something, anyway) and in any case they couldn't be trusted to understand who they really were or what they really wanted - it was the job of intellectuals to help them realise what their true needs and interests were.

In my late twenties I read Tolkien again because the movie was coming out, and to my surprise I greatly enjoyed it. I have regained my earlier interest in folktales, storytelling and old languages (although I'm not really interested in re-learning all the Elvish I admit to once knowing) and am no longer convinced that it's worth the effort of trying to understand what Jacques Derrida was talking about in his more deliberately opaque pieces. I no longer believe that Tolkien's immense and enduring popularity entails a lack of integrity and literary quality. I once caught a supposedly left-wing journalist saying that Tolkien was so popular because his work appealed to the most ugly and atavistic impulses in people. It seems to me now that that attitude is not only illogical (because if it were so, then Nazism would command huge public sympathy, instead of almost universal disapproval and hatred) but that it also betrayed what was, in a supposed fan of the people, a remarkable fear and mistrust of the imaginations of most readers. The good thing about this is that the battle to convert the majority of readers to the idea that Tolkien is worth reading is already won. The problem is that the most heavily indoctrinated class, the intelligentsia, still largely refuses to read him, preferring to talk drivel about him instead. Books like Prof. Shippey's may help to change that.
One of the Essentials  Feb 28, 2008
Professor Tom Shippey is one of the foremost commentators on the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, having written two excellent studies, THE ROAD TO MIDDLE-EARTH and J.R.R. TOLKIEN AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY; as well as been featured as a speaker at Tolkien conferences around the globe. This collection of essays addresses many of Tolkien's philogical interests and studies, shedding new light on not only the origins of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT, but also on his watershed study of the Anglo-Saxon poem "Beowulf" and some of his lesser works including "Smith of Wootton Major." This book is not for the casual reader of Tolkien, but essential for those who have been inspired to learn more about those subjects that interested Tolkien.
Wonderful collection of lesser-known work by Tom Shippey  Jan 25, 2008
Most people know Tom Shippey by his two seminal books on Tolkien (The Road to Middle-earth and Author of the Century), and rightly so. But he has also published a great many individual essays and reviews on Tolkien over the years. The present collection brings together 23 essays by the man most of us consider the primus inter pares of Tolkien studies.

The collection is grouped into four broad categories, each representing a part of the larger metaphor of the ramifying Tree of Tales. These are 1) The Roots: Tolkien and His Predecessors, 2) Heartwood: Tolkien and Scholarship, and 3) The Trunk: The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and 4) Twigs and Branches: Minor Works by Tolkien.

Of the 23 essays, five of them are previously unpublished (having been delivered as conference papers but never printed). Many of the others have been expanded or revised, making this a fresh and up-to-date body of work easily the match of any comparable collections being published on Tolkien today. The topics and approaches to Tolkien are varied, as are the works Shippey considers. Even the Peter Jackson film trilogy is not left out.

The only criticism I would make is that most of the essays are in fact still in print and could -- with time and expense -- be assembled by any dedicated collector. This seems to be in contradicton with the stated purpose of the collection, as stated by Thomas Honegger in his Preface. In fact, many of Shippey's older, more genuinely rare essays are not reprinted here, though one expects they could have been. And this would have made the collection even more valuable. But regardless, the book is a tremendous coup for Walking Tree and deserves a place on the (overburdened) bookshelves of any serious admirer of Tolkien.
J.R.R. Tolkiens's best compliment   Nov 25, 2007
Dr. Tom Shippey has graced me with a few responses to my less than cutting edge questions to his par. I have read this 'complementing' work done for the 'daro' or 'tree' of etymons/ philologies that Tolkien did not branch to (at least in printed work). Quite an effort to be the branch of Tolkien!

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