Chris's Reviews > The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
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's review
Oct 26, 2008

liked it
Recommended for: anyone looking for a quick fantasy fix
Read 5 times. Last read September 1, 2008.

One night, my friend Josh son of Roy came over to my place, and we drank mightily, punishing our poor, withered livers with reckless abandon. We’d gone out, under the guise of 'grabbing some brews', when in reality, we were merely trying to find out where the cougars dwell in these fair lands, so that when my man Mike son of ‘Big Jim’ visited next time, we could watch him practice his newly discovered Cougar-Slaying prowess on the unsuspecting masses of suburban Chicago Soccer Moms. We were met with little success, after hitting the scummiest places within a three mile radius, beginning with a bowling alley. Our rationale seemed quite reasonable: Cougars should obviously know that a bowling alley bar is a phenomenal place to meet men and rob them of their youth, as it’s guaranteed they are getting bird-shitty, and unlikely any of their marks’ womenfolk are going to accompany them to waste their time at such a lame place. Also, they would see this as a wise location to lay their strapping-young-stud-trap, seeing as the competition shouldn’t be very fierce. Lo, we were disheartened with our scant findings, and sallied forth to the nearest alternative watering hole, one of those places that strive to be classy and charges too much for their half-assed selection of swill. Yet, there were cougars, and we made a mental note of this before rolling out to shotgun beers in my townhouse basement, and to shamelessly geek out.

Well, some nights are for Cougar-Slaying, and other nights, those difficult to recall ‘why-did-I-wake-up-on-the-couch-with-my-hand-down-my-pants-cupping-my-overly-large-balls-in-front-of-another-dude-and-where-the-hell-did-that-case-of-beer-we-bought-go’ nights, those my friend, are for Dragon-Slaying. Surely, finding a dragon in this day and age isn’t so easy, but if it was, wouldn’t everyone be proudly displaying a severed dragon-skull on their wall? So, sometimes you just have to discuss the honorable deed of dragon-slaying, and where better to start with drunken ramblings concerning fantasy books…

My current companion, Josh son of Roy, once sported a fantastically huge, awe-inspiring, and curly mullet (‘may it never wither!’ we would exclaim when he’d done someone a good turn); this might be all I need to say in order to prove he’s spent his time in the role-playing trenches, but if it wasn’t, let me now state that he bamboozled and perplexed me on this night with his equally badass narrative on a hardcore sonovabitch named Lord Soth, with whom he spent many an hour while engrossed in the Dragonlance series of books. He also took this time to openly scoff at me for being unaccustomed to the ways of this dastardly Death Knight, and proceeded to ask what, if any, were my credentials in the realm of ‘fantasy’. I was wasted and grasping at straws, sputtering, stuttering, slurring, and groveling for a chance to explain myself; all for naught, as he viciously punk-slapped me upside the head, demanding a reasonable and articulate answer.

“I’ve got a Bowflex you, wretched knave, I will kill you!” he shrieked (managing to drown out Shellac’s ‘At Action Park’ kicking ass on volume 84, no easy feat). “I expect a sensible answer immediately!!” Another well-placed slap laid me to the ground prior to a few deserved weasel-kicks. I curled in the fetal position and begged for mercy, and seeing none coming as he prepared for another, more thorough thrashing, spat out the only thing which seemed promising.
“I’ve read ‘The Hobbit’, don’t kill me,” I wept pathetically, “Brother, I‘ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well, spare my worthless hide!”
“Prove it, lowly dog, besmirched descendant of rats!” Josh son of Roy demanded. I scampered off, half-crippled, to fetch my copies of “The Hobbit” and the LotR series, and brought them hastily for his scrutinizing perusal.

Upon seeing what I had hastily laid at his majestic alter I was sincerely crestfallen. I had originally acquired all four books at once during once of those Scholastic book drives in elementary school, swindling my folks with the twofold promise of some insignificant discount for purchasing 'the lot' and a pledge to potentially read a little more instead of scouring the house for dad’s porn. Each spiffy volume sported a somewhat-appealing black cover announcing it was a member of the much-sought ‘50th Anniversary Edition’. While this obviously kicked ass back in the day, I was thunderstruck on closer inspection of their current condition, immediately recollecting that during my last re-reading that “The Two Towers” was in such dilapidated condition I had to chuck it and buy a new, post-Jackson-movie copy. This would not go over well, an incomplete set; he’d smell my fraud as easily as the Great Smaug would recognize elven beer-shits in his cavern.

Looking back, at least I can firmly state I was right about that much. He quickly snatched the once-read copy of “The Two Towers” and made a face which showed utter contempt, the face a dwarf might make if you told him you considered pewter the most precious of metal alloys. Upon examining the other three in the collection, he seemed relatively reassured in my decency as his associate. Both surviving LotR books have obviously been re-read multiple times and generously mistreated, but the coup de grace that saved my lowly esteem was “The Hobbit”, which is just plain bedraggled; you couldn’t tell what the hell it was by examining the binding, and the pages fell out in clumps of about one-hundred apiece. Hell, he almost seemed impressed by this.

“Read it again,” Josh son of Roy intoned, dropping this battered tome at my feet, and hastening towards the dwindling cache of beer. Misunderstanding the urgency of this haughty command, I picked the book up and dove right into chapter one, An Unexpected Party, and got so far as the first use of the word ‘hobbit’ when I was pelted in the junk by a beer can. “Don’t read it now, retard, creeping Christ,” he muttered, and sauntered into my basement, where we managed to get more unhinged and resumed talk about finding a place where we could send our man Mike on a Cougar Hunt.

With that weird weekend out of the way, I faced another week of work on Monday, and, per usual, had about two minutes left to catch the train, and was frantically spazzing out affront my two classy Ikea bookcases looking for something to read. I’m such a nimrod that I even have a shortlisted selection at hand for just these moments, but never seem to want to read any of them in these situations…go figure. They’re almost exclusively re-reads anyway, (let's drop some names); Borges’ “Collected Fictions”, Ellison’s “Deathbird Stories”, Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, Suetonius’ “Twelve Caesars”, and a few collections of stories by Lovecraft, Bukowski, and Twain. The books I haven’t read in that pile don’t seem to tickle my fancy at these moments either, so I just freak the hell out, hoping to find something before being relegated to playing Vortex on my iPod on the train. On this particular morning, amongst the many articles dislodged and eventually collected to be returned to their rightful places over the weekend, I espied the book which assisted me in narrowly escaping a righteous beat-down: “The Hobbit”. I gathered the several clumps of pages which somehow manage to remain bound together and chucked them into my laptop bag, realizing that this would probably prevent a future asskicking should the acolyte of Lord Soth feel like honoring my abode again any time soon and remember his decree.

I can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about “The Hobbit”, hell, I’d forgotten so much I was surprised the damn thing reads like a children’s book, I’d go so far to say that it makes the Harry Potter books read like Pynchon. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for some reason I was somewhat shocked. I also wondered how this worked as an introduction to the Lord of the Rings, for some reason I thought that the LotR trilogy was pretty highbrow literature during my last reading, but upon reflection I have to admit I was probably smoking too much grass for my own good around that time, even the ‘Mr. Man’ books probably would have struck me as some hardcore philosophical insight.

That said, “The Hobbit” still kicks an adequate amount of ass to demand a reading for several reasons. First, I strongly advocate everyone take a break to geek out with some swords & sorcery once in a while; sure, it’s nice to be well-read and to tackle books of great import (or so I’m told), but it’s far more important to flex your imagination muscle, and since your own is probably atrophied from years of tedious junk foisted upon you in the cookie-cutter educational system we have, let Tolkien be your guide and launching pad for your own bizarre thoughts. Secondly, everyone has read this and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so actually reading the books is a good way to help appreciate the references which our culture will bombard you with, as everyone from Zeppelin to The Simpsons is going to pull material from J.R.R.’s oft-praised realm. And lastly, do you really have the stones to tell me you get enough great adventure in your days? Are you really so caught up in your own glorious quests that you can’t spare the time to hear a hobbit’s tale, in which an unassuming little-dude from the Shire is duped by the wizard Gandalf into venturing forth at risk of life and limb to assist a crew of dwarves in regaining their rightful homeland from the dread dragon Smaug?

Don't wait to be muscled into reading this by a guy who has lost his mullet; take some initiative and be prepared.
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September 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
October 26, 2008 – Shelved

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