Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Love Heads Back to Middle Earth

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When One Book Just Isn't Enough
In last week's book love post we were introduced to Eric Storch, who first read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien in the second grade and with it found his first ever book love. Chris, from The Carpe Diem blog had a similar experience, he says, "Like Eric, I was introduced to The Hobbit at a relatively young age, I think it was the fourth grade," (after both of these stories, I'm thinking my parents somehow failed me - I didn't read The Hobbit until I was in my twenties!), however, Chris was not completely enamored with this one book, "While I definitely enjoyed it, I can't say it was my first book love. It was a good story, but it left me wanting more." Well, young Chris was a smart cookie who set off to the school library on his quest for more, "In the fifth grade I turned to the Lord of the Rings and was immediately entranced."

What Is It About Middle Earth? 
If you have not yet taken the literary journey to Middle Earth like Chris has, Eric has or I have, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Perhaps you are thinking, "I saw the movies. They were cool, there was action, drama and the book fans love it - there's no need for me to read the book. I have experienced this." I will ask you to reconsider. I will ask you to just think about some of these thoughts Chris shared about Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings and the reading experience as a whole:

When I asked Chris what first drew him into his first book love, in general, as a book, he said
It was definitely the sense of being transported to a whole new world, and a complete world at that. No matter how deeply you wanted to delve into the lore and history that Tolkien  created, it was all so consistent and complete. I absolutely loved it, I was so into it. I think at that age I knew the history of Middle Earth better than the history of the real world.
When I asked Chris about his first impressions of Middle Earth, he said
I loved the completeness of it all. I loved the geography. I used to imagine what the landscapes in the maps [from Middle Earth atlases] would look like - the wilderness of Eriador, the soaring peaks of the Misty Mountains, the barren, poisonous environment of Mordor, the majestic and mighty River Anduin.
When I asked Chris if it was difficult to fall in book love again after reading The Lord of the Rings, he said
Definitely. I still read widely, but nothing was able to capture the scope and grandeur of Tolkien.
And when I asked Chris if he recommended The Lord of the Rings to others to read, he honestly replied
Again, definitely, but I think you really have to be interested in books with depth. It's not a casual read!

So there you have it. The secret to the joy of Tolkien's tale - it is not a casual read, but it is complete, grandiose and captivating. If you think you're up to it, pick up the book, you may not be able to put it down, for awhile (Chris begrudgingly confessed to reading LotR 32 times!).

Does Tolkien Approve of Peter Jackson?

For those who read the book and experienced Middle Earth as Tolkien intended it before Peter Jackson transformed New Zealand into Middle Earth and put that tale on the screen, the idea of capturing this  epic fantasy on film seemed a ridiculous pipe dream. Yet Chris, like many fans, gives Peter Jackson due credit for taking on the behemoth,"The standard was impossibly high. Getting it wrong would have destroyed a filmmaker's career. Yet Jackson managed it superbly. For the most part he was entirely faithful to the story. New Zealand was a perfect setting - the geography worked as Middle Earth... The casting was also really well done." But Chris has one sticking point, "The only part that irked me, somewhat, was Faramir's attempt to take Frodo and Sam back to Gondor... that wasn't in the book. But overall... Peter Jackson deserves every accolade he received."

In line with this reflection on the film, Chris raises an interesting question when I asked him what one thing he would ask Tolkien if he could, "I'd have to say - what does he think of Peter Jackson's representation of Middle Earth? ...I'd be fascinated to know if Peter Jackson's interpretation of Middle Earth was consistent with how Tolkien saw his world in his own mind." I was surprised I hadn't thought of this myself. This is usually the number one question I want to ask authors once their story has hit the screen.

Tolkien's (and Chris's) Greatest Lesson

While we may be unable to get Tolkien's answer to Chris's great question, that does not mean he is done sharing with us. Chris points out a fantastic life lesson to be garnered from Lord of the Rings that has little to do with fantasy, other worlds or fiction. It is, in fact, about how we should approach our life, "I think it really showed me that if you are passionate about something, there is no limit to what you can create. Tolkien clearly loved what he did, I think his life work is a great example to people that you can only be limited by your own imagination. Tolkien created whole languages just for the pure joy of it. If that's not loving life I don't know what is. So I'd say the primary lesson is: follow your passions and don't accept boundaries on what you can do and achieve."

(Just wondering... did I mention that the name of Chris's blog is The Carpe Diem?) 

Finding Love After Middle Earth

Although Chris said it was difficult to find book love after reading Lord of the Rings, it wasn't impossible. He found other authors that captured his interests such as
  • Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince series and Exile series
  • The space opera of Alastair Reynolds
  • Stephen King for his mastery of characterizations 

How To Connect With Chris (aka Buzz)

Here are some great ways to connect with Chris to see what he's up to right now:
  • My blog is called the Carpe Diem ... site is  Having been through a marriage separation recently I'm in the process of some significant personal development and growth.  The blog is my chronicle of my journey and also a resource for people wanting to seize the day and learning to live in the present.  The site motto is "Because Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal".  I'm having a lot of fun with it but don't have many subscribers yet! 
  • Twitter: @the_carpediem
  •  FB Page: 
  • Reddit:  I edit a subreddit - unsurprisingly called Carpediem !

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