Friday, January 20, 2012

My book now available for Kindle

I’m not sure quite when this happened, but one of my friends has let me know that my book, Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, is now available for the Kindle. If you’ve been waiting to buy a copy, either because of the price, or because you simply prefer an e-book format, then you can follow this link to buy one today. At the moment, the Kindle e-book is only $14.99, which is a big savings from the print edition. Personally, I prefer print books (how does one autograph an e-book?! ;), but it’s nice to have a choice. I know some folks like to have both print and digital formats, and that’s certainly all right with me too! No word on other digital formats, but they will undoubtedly be coming too.

I hope that even more people will be able to (afford to) read the book now. And as always, you have an open invitation to let me know what you think! It’s been about six months since the book was published, and the feedback and reviews have been very positive so far.


  1. Within my price range now, hurrah! Off to Amazon....Bought it and reading it.

  2. Okay, still reading it. There is some mojibake in the book, which you should report to the publisher.

    1) The yogh in Laȝamon (footnote 9 in your essay) is a proper yogh internally, but appears as an empty box on the Kindle for PC.

    2) Worse, though, the name of Bedřich Hrozný in Birns's article shows up as "Bed†ich Hroznï", which is definitely corruption in the ebook file.

    I'll post more comments here as I find more problems.

  3. Finished. A well-chosen collection, and I absolutely learned a lot. But I have to say there was too much of this sort of thing: A book that Tolkien probably read calls someone "high and puissant": Aragorn is called "high and puissant": all right, then! But in fact "high and puissant" is part of the formal style of English princes and dukes, and so what we have here is what biologists call a shared primitive character, one inherited from a common ancestor — in this case, the Primary World. Similarly, plot lines may be similar because there are really only a few of them in all of literature.

    As a result, I have become a skeptic. It seems to me that to prove that a source is actually a source is unreasonably hard, and what really needs to be discovered by this process is common factors between works rather than causal and chronological sources as such. (I realize that may just be a fancy way of saying we don't care about the same things, but if you leave your comments open, that's what you get!)

  4. John, thanks for letting me know about the mojibake — I will certainly pass that along. Another reason I prefer print to digital books (on the other hand, digital books can be corrected more easily than print).

    Thanks, too. for your comments on the substance of the collection. I appreciate your thoughts. You are, of course, correct about “high and puissant”, and if that were the only evidence to suggest the influence of Buchan, it would be scant indeed and a dull comparison. But the point in the book is that this is an additional piece of supporting evidence among a great many others. There can be no proving the influence without Tolkien’s own admission, of course, but a preponderance of evidence can get us almost that far. As for the possibility that two authors share a common ancestor, certainly! I talk about that in my own chapter in the book (see especially p. 38–9).

    But lest I seem too defensive, let me assure you I appreciate your points here, and I value the insights and feedback of skeptics every bit as much as those already convinced. As I put it in a recent interview — with a deliberate nod to Screwtape — “[some, like Tom Shippey, have] been preaching to the choir (and what a sermon!), but in my book, I wanted to address the devils as well. I hope I have offered them a chance for conversion, but if not, then at least the choir will continue singing.” :)

  5. But the point in the book is that this is an additional piece of supporting evidence among a great many others.

    Well, no, it's not evidence, and that's my problem with it. It may be that the author doesn't realize the shared nature of the expression, which is pardonable ignorance, though he could have googled it as I did. But a much more troubling possibility is that he doesn't grasp that a "shared primitive character" like this simply isn't evidence of literary descent, any more than the fact that both humans and opossums have five digits and an opposable thumb means that humans are descended from opossums. It shouldn't be mentioned as an additional piece of support; it should be left out altogether. And like the proverbial thirteenth stroke of the clock, this sort of error tends to undermine the rest of the author's evidence as well.

    I am not attempting to decry either author or editor, simply to point out that on the one hand there are distinctions that must be made if source criticism as such is to be done at all, and on the other that it may not really matter so much whether something is a true source and not merely an analogue or influence, particularly in "popular" works like the L.R. that are founded chiefly on English common ground and literary universals. By adopting the generalized viewpoint, it no longer matters whether Tolkien borrowed a phrase from Buchan; what matters is that they write out of a common tradition.