An excerpt from Rob Caley’s article about Michael Coren’s book “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created The Lord Of The Rings.”
A recent poll in England asked participants to choose the best books of the century. Depending on you spoke to, the result was either a shock or no surprise at all: “The Lord Of The Rings” was the runaway winner, once again proving the enduring popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s remarkable creation.
Clearly, his books have achieved a level of popular consciousness to which few other literary endeavours could ever hope to aspire. And yet, while millions have read (and re-read) The Lord Of The Rings, many know little or nothing about the man who gave the novels life and essentially created the fantasy genre was we know it today.
Journalist and biographer Michael Coren, whose latest book “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created The Lord Of The Rings” provides an introduction to the figure behind the fantasy, thought it was time to shed some light on the topic.
Unlike most readers, who first meet Tolkien as budding genre readers entering the world of epic fantasy fiction for the first time, Coren encountered the author’s work courtesy of another great writer of the era, C.S. Lewis. Lewis and Tolkien shared a famous friendship that had an impact on both their lives and work. In the process of writing his acclaimed biography of Lewis, Coren was introduced to Tolkien the man. Writing about Tolkien seemed a natural follow-up.
“I’d written about Lewis, and of course [he and Tolkien] were friends. I’m very fond of Tolkien’s work, and have a great interest in him. Plus, the movie is coming out soon — I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t an issue. Also, there wasn’t that much out there — I was rather surprised by the fact that there wasn’t a lot of biographical material about [Tolkien].”
The lack of strong biographical information on Tolkien, coupled with the varying interpretations of his books, has created a wide range of opinions about both who Tolkien was and the value of his work. Case in point: the poll that listed Tolkien at the top of the literary pop charts drew smiles in some quarters and resounding derision in others.
Coren says this perspective on Tolkien is far from unusual. Even Oxford — which lays claim to being both the place Tolkien called home and one of the sources of his fiction — is a house divided when it comes to Tolkien.
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