This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

But I didn't even get a chance to read the book.

A book caught my eye today. It was dense. I mean, it was really thick. It had a dark greyish cover, no jacket and a drawing embossed in gold coloring. The drawing, some sort of symbol, with foreign writing around it was ominous. I think I always knew whose book that was. It was J.R.R. Tolkien's work. Possibly, it was the whole Lord of the Rings series.

Don't be surprised that I'm not sure. Immediately - and I don't know why, especially as I'm far from a Tolkien expert - a thought hit me: This guy really lived. So, I put the book down. It seemed to have made its point, albeit probably not the one that's contained in the text within its covers.

Tolkien was a language-lover. It was either that or he put an awful lot of effort into something that he didn't feel a great affinity for. He was a professor, a linguist, a creator of languages, a creator of fictional worlds. That much I know. I also know that he was spiritual, a Catholic.

Now, I knew he was a writer. That he was a professor was never surprising. (I don't know if I ever knew about his piety until I was in a seminary bookshop one day and the clerk there, a young, earnest, be-spectacled seminarian, started to talk with me and leapt into a speech about Christianity in the Rings books.) But the language creation really impressed me. To make up a language seemed like such a cool thing. Language is usually organic. But here it is being made by a man, one person. That's one person soaking up the world around him, and feeding back to it his own modest contribution.

And that's the crux of this matter of living. Arguably, to live, you have to engage with the world around you. You have to take in what it offers and, in turn, give back something. I'd say creating a language fits this criteria for living. But Tolkien had more than that. His spirituality meant he believed there was more in life than the world around him. He had a cake and he ate it, too. That's life and then some. That's living.

That's sort of what I was thinking when I saw this book.

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