Sean Barrs the Bookdragon's Reviews > A Secret Vice

A Secret Vice by J.R.R. Tolkien
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
27788046
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, non-fiction, tolkien, 4-star-reads

Let’s just face the facts people, Tolkien was a genius. He was the inventor of languages and mythology; he was the designer of races and cultures: he was the creator of worlds. He created modern fantasy. So here’s a book that gets right down to the nitty-gritty of Tolkien’s wonderful world; it explains the logic, and the success, behind his imagination: the language itself.

description

Tolkien’s essay “A Secret Vice” is replicated in here. Certainly, the essay is available, along with many others, in editions that collect his writings. You may even be able to find it for free online. That’s great, but this edition goes into a great deal of detail. The scholarship of the editors is of the highest quality. The introduction, notes and explanatory sections are extensive and illuminating. In all honesty, I don’t think I would have appreciated the full importance of Tolkien’s arguments without the extensive efforts the editors have gone to. This really is good stuff.

Tolkien lays down his process of creating languages, a process the introduction explains perfectly. The original essay is high level academic work; Tolkien was a professor after all, so the introduction is rather vital before actually attempting the essay itself. Firstly, Tolkien wanted his words to sound aesthetically pleasing; he wanted them to be artistic and beautiful. Such can be seen with the elven language; it reflects the people themselves. They are a graceful race, powerful yet kind. This can be taken further. The language of the orc reflects their twisted beings. So, in a sense, Tolkien suggests that the words should reflect the speaker. And perhaps his actions.

description

Secondly, Tolkien wanted a high degree of association between the written word’s form and its actual meaning. This is an extreme case of onomatopoeia that would only really make sense if you spoke the language itself. Thirdly, the language requires an original grammatical structure; it needs to be individual to each specific one. Thus, Tolkien displays his genius. How did he actually manage such a thing by himself? It’s rather mind-boggling.

The final aspect, and I’d argue the most important, Tolkien advocates a sense of history. He says that the language needs to have evolved over time, like real language, it needs to have changed as people have changed. This can be seen in his work. If you’ve read The Silmarillion, you’ll have seen how his peoples change over time. Hypothetically speaking, their language would have done the same. Isn’t Tolkien just great? His world of middle-earth is so rich and vibrant. This was a really interesting read, but perhaps only to those who have a strong, perhaps even keen, interest in the groundwork in which Tolkien built his world.

I though I'd leave you with another Elrond gif because he just looks so badass in that armor!

description


105 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Secret Vice.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

May 4, 2016 – Started Reading
May 4, 2016 – Shelved
May 4, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
May 4, 2016 – Shelved as: non-fiction
May 4, 2016 – Shelved as: tolkien
May 26, 2016 – Shelved as: 4-star-reads
May 26, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Yasmin (new)

Yasmin Fantastic cover!!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Yasmin wrote: "Fantastic cover!!"

I know :)


Layla ✷ Praise the sun ✷ Beautifully designed!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon LaylaNoir wrote: "Beautifully designed!"

it so is ;)


message 5: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Excellent review! I can't wait to get my hands on this.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Amy wrote: "Excellent review! I can't wait to get my hands on this."

Thanks ;) I hope you like it too


message 7: by Remeres (new)

Remeres Jacobs Wonderful review, but I have to disagree with you, on something. Tolkien, despite his acclaim, was only copying, essentially, the early Victorian fantasy novels. Sure, he built more into his world, but all the same, Dunsany's language and story was better. I disagree with what everyone is saying; Tolkien is not the father of it all. He's only a child of what came before.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon James wrote: "Wonderful review, but I have to disagree with you, on something. Tolkien, despite his acclaim, was only copying, essentially, the early Victorian fantasy novels. Sure, he built more into his world,..."

Thanks- and you are right. Tolkien isn't the farther of all fantasy, but I'd argue that modern fantasy wouldn't be the same without him. He took parts of Norse mythology, elements of Ovid's work and even aspects of the bible to create what he did. And every fantasy writer since him has been affected by his work. They can't escape it. After he published his work, many similar works followed.


message 9: by Margaret (new)

Margaret A clear and informative review. Thank you, Sean. And even if Tolkien didn't invent it all, he definitely built the 20th century version of it all. Every writer is derivative in one way or another; one cannot help it.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Margaret wrote: "A clear and informative review. Thank you, Sean. And even if Tolkien didn't invent it all, he definitely built the 20th century version of it all. Every writer is derivative in one way or another; ..."

Thanks- And it is very true. Not just plot wise, but even on the level of phrases and words. I’ve noticed Tolkien’s terms in many books since.


message 11: by Remeres (last edited May 29, 2016 06:29AM) (new)

Remeres Jacobs Bookworm Sean wrote: "James wrote: "Wonderful review, but I have to disagree with you, on something. Tolkien, despite his acclaim, was only copying, essentially, the early Victorian fantasy novels. Sure, he built more i..."

However, I'd argue that many similar books were released exactly at the same time Tolkien's Lord of the Rings were. The Broken Sword, for one. It has much of the same plot and world-building; it's just not painted in the same Black and White strokes Tolkien used. The characters were more grey and human, though some of them weren't human. Don't know. I should probably not make any comments on Tolkien. I have huge issues against him. Forgive me.


back to top