05 August 2002

The Pleasure of Rediscovery

I recently finished off Tolkien's "The Two Towers," reading it right the way through for the first time since 1975 or so. Goodness me, what a book. It takes a while to get used to Tolkien's now-considered-flowery dense prose, but once you're into it, the trilogy gets a grip on you and doesn't let go. I actually caught myself thinking inner thoughts in the language of the characters after finishing it! "What ho, what's this? Thou hast forsaken me again, dear one?" and all that sort of thing.

Those of you who picked up "The Fellowship of the Ring" and started to read it thanks to the movie -- but couldn't wade through the labourious descriptions of any and everything in the Shire and so on -- I urge you to slog through the setup and bear with it. Break it into small chunks if it helps. Listen to the excellent BBC adaptation instead if you must. The payoffs -- both in the second half of that first book and the entirety of the second -- are handsome. I've decided not to reread the third book until after I've seen the second movie (this xmas, I believe). I'd prefer to have the details of the "The Two Towers" still relatively fresh in my mind and not befuddled.

This experience reminds me of how much fun it is to put something down for a couple of decades ... in this case 27 years or so ... and then pick it up again. Sometimes the thing you pick back up really doesn't hold up to the scrutiny of age, but even then it can be insightful. I look at the dusty jackets of my many Peanuts hardcover books and wonder who it was that was so into every move Charles Schultz made.

On the other hand, sometimes -- like with Tolkien -- when you come back to it the thing is just as valid and wonderful as you remember, still crackling with the magic that made you love it in the first place. Monty Python, Doctor Who, Greek drama, Punk Rock, the Prisoner ... some things do not diminish in the passage of time. If you're the sort of person who thinks that most of what they've put away is junk and doesn't deserve a repeat visit, I think that says more about your poor ability to distinguish true craftsmanship from cheap thrilling junk. If, however, your occasional forays up to the attic (or into the storage shed, or wherever your time-frozen friends await you) yield a wonderful afternoon or more of barely-forgotten delights and nostalgia, you can pat yourself on the back that even back then you could tell a classic from a fad. Timeless things are such a joy.

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