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J.R.R.Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth Paperback – 20 Jun 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press,U.S.; New edition edition (20 Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762413379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762413379
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.3 x 1.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,728,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Grotta is a writer, author, and journalist who has written literally thousands of articles, columns and reviews for a wide variety of prominent magazines and newspapers, as well as authored numerous books, including the first biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. Grotta has been a photojournalist, war correspondent, relief worker, investigative reporter, features writer, book critic, book editor, classical music reviewer, travel journalist, and technology writer. He has lived in, been on assignment or traveled through over 100 countries and islands. Grotta's varied life experiences and the many different kinds of people he has known along the way flavor and energize both his fiction and non-fiction. When he was a Contributing Editor at Philadelphia Magazine, he was told by a manager at Reading for the Blind that his articles were the most requested, because of the aural quality of his narrative prose. Grotta is a member of The Overseas Press Club, The Authors Guild, and the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Much of Grotta's non-fiction is co-authored with his wife Sally Wiener Grotta. Though their fiction is authored separately, they have created the village of Black Bear, Pennsylvania as a literary folie à deux. Both Daniel and Sally are dipping into the same pool of invented locale and characters to write a series of separate stories and novels that will, eventually, paint a full picture of the diversity of life and relationships in a small mountain village.

Daniel Grotta may be reached via the email link at www.Grotta.net, or at www.Facebook.com/DanielGrotta and www.Facebook.com/PixelHallPress.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
JOHN RONALD REUEL TOLKIEN, the first child of Arthur and Mabel Tolkien, was born one hot Sunday morning in 1892 after a difficult labor. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
No stars would have been more appropriate. . . 1 Nov. 2000
By David Zampino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a work of minimal value, written by someone who seems to have an axe to grind.
The book left me with two impressions. The first impression is that the author did not really have anything new to contribute to an understanding of the life of Tolkien, instead relying on humorous anecdotes, rehashing of Tolkien's relationship with CS Lewis, and materials found elsewhere. The second impression is that the author bears a serious grudge against the Tolkien family for not permitting the access to family papers that was accorded to the authorized biographer, Humphrey Carpenter. This grudge is manifested in snide asides about Tolkien's literary executors. Finally, I must criticize the author for his excursus into the politics surrounding the Nigerian civil war. What this has to do with Tolkien is unclear at best.
Money is far better spent on Humphrey Carpenter's biography, and his edition of letters (especially the letters). It is in the letters where the spirit and genius of Tolkien best comes through.
Give this volume a miss.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Grotta should have read Tolkien on Tolkien. 31 Jan. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I must say that as a college student I would like to have my 15 dollars returned to me from the purchase of this book. Although there are some interesting "facts" in this book, it is largely not credible. I believe Grotta used questionable resources in compiling this biography which Tolkien himself refutes in many of his letters. i.e. Grotta writes of Tolkien's garage work shop on Sandfield Rd., which in "The Letters of..." Tolkien himself states that he "...had never written any literary matter in it..." and that the room was only used by his secretary. Grotta was clearly perturbed at his lack of "access" and seemed to want to portray one of the most prolific writers in history as a "lazy" individual. Obviously Grotta has never balanced a teaching post at Oxford, an ill wife, several children, along with creating one of the most fully imagined "secondary worlds" ever created. Hats of to all things Middle Earth and Grotta back to the drawing board.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A nominal effort by someone with an axe to grind. 15 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book left me with two impressions. The first impression is that the author did not really have anything new to contribute to an understanding of the life of Tolkien, instead relying on humorous anecdotes, rehashing of Tolkien's relationship with CS Lewis, and materials found elsewhere. The second impression is that the author bears a serious grudge against the Tolkien family for not permitting the access to family papers that was accorded to the authorized biographer, Humphrey Carpenter. This grudge is manifested in snide asides about Tolkien's literary executors. Finally, I must criticize the author for his excursus into the politics surrounding the Nigerian civil war. What this has to do with Tolkien is unclear at best.
Money is far better spent on Humphrey Carpenter's biography, and his edition of letters (especially the letters). It is in the letters where the spirit and genius of Tolkien best comes through.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Glossy coffee table book 19 April 2000
By Rosemary M. Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This glossy coffee table book, with uncaptioned Hildebrandt illustrations in apparently random locations, provides interesting tidbits about the background of Tolkien's environment. If you can tolerate the whining about not having access to Tolkien papers and the ignorant pronouncements about Tolkien's character ("lazy") and activities wrt the Silmarillion, it may be useful. However, if you wish to read a real biography of Tolkien, it would be far far better to read Humphrey Carpenter's biography.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Virtual Cornucopia of Misinformation 22 July 2004
By Lawrence G Coatney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I must say that this biography created an odd sensation in me while in the midst of reading it. I was both enthusiastic and unsettled at the same time that it should be finished. The book is filled with ideas going in the wrong direction, misinformation, mediocre writing, a misrepresented Tolkien, a misrepresented Christopher Tolkien, a misrepresented Silmarillion, a misrepresented, ah, but I digress. The enthusiasm I felt was obviously about being able to complete it quickly, (it was written very simply, almost as if for a young adolescents), but the unsettlement arose from the fact that once I found some idea that was really out there, or some totally wrong info, I started to like looking for these, enjoying the non-fact filled fun of it all.

That is not to say that the book is all bad (hence the two stars) . Lacking the goodwill and blessings of the Tolkien Estatein writing this book, (that was given to the much praised Humphrey Carpenter,) he ends up basing it upon other writings, a few interviews of Tolkien fans and friends, and a large amount of guesswork, so he does a decent job of establishing Tolkien's early life and getting a few of the good professor's friends and old students to make a quote here and there.He also tells an interesting and factual (!!) tale of The Lord of the Rings' first print run and its subsequent print history. So far so good huh?

The problems start to arise almost at the begining when Grotta states that Tolkien was exceedingly lazy and noncommital, flitting from one project to another, hopelessly muddling things. While there is some degree of truth to this,there is no way anyone can say that these exaggerated terms are true.When you are a highly respected childrens author, , almost unarguably the best writer of English literature in this century, one of the highest decorated professors of language in western culture, and you create an entire world with history and multiple languages along with it, you don't really find time to be lazy.

Also, as in almost every other review of this book, Grotta shows a definate grudge against the Tolkien Estate, not pulling any punches when he mentions it. It is understandable that one might be hurt at the rejection, but hey, it is their choice who gets access to Estate holdings. You don't just let anyone who comes along wanting to write a biography have total and free access to your things, do you?

I will give him some slack because the main bulk of his text was written and published before the Silmarillion was released. This glaringly shows throughout the book though. He later (in a subsequent printing) includes a chapter about the Silmarillion, but he never goes back and fixes his inferrences about the early histories of Middle Earth. He says that there wasn't any evil before the creation of the world, but in the Silmarillion, the first part tells how Morgoth came to be before the creation! There are many more like this.

Another annoyance is in his new chapter on the Silmarillion, you can see that he just skimmed it, or maybe he just bought the cliff-notes. He makes out the Valequenta to be a lesser, almost nonessential work, (is he insane?), and the only real description of any of the stories found within is of Beren and Luthien. He does a quick and ugly job of it, making it sound rather boring, meanwhile he keeps saying that Thingol (the king and father of Luthien) is really Luthien's brother! Arrrggg.....

But one of the most glaring irresponsabilities is this, taking Christopher Tolkien's name and rubbing it around in the dirt. Grotta puts him down at almost every chance. He claims that Christopher actally rewrote huge sections of manuscript (in the Silmarillion), and that it could obviously be told because they weren't worded the way that Tolkien did in his other works, saying they were much more ameturish. Sorry bud, but there isn't any bit of ameture within any of his books, and there was never any intention of it being written in the same style. Actually, most of it was rewritten by Tolkien himself in an effort to fit in with his now published works (Hobbit and LOTR), and at the same time to condense it to a more readable narrative style, because the original works were to large to all be published together. He later goes on to say that he hopes that Cristopher doesn't have any intentions of writing his own fictions, Middle Earth or otherwise, because we can now see how poorly he writes. Ouch! On another note about Christopher, Grotta slips into calling him Tolkien as if it were his father's name, making for total confusion if your not paying close attention.

Another danger point of this book is the choice of artwork. Once again someone has taken the Hilderbrandt brothers' art and strewn it chaotically across the pages of a book. I guess it is rather fitting though that an irresponsibly written book should have irresponsible paintings. I know that these are just their interpetations, but come on, we don't have to make them so popular. Most of their work looks like it belongs in a children's fairy tale, which would be alright for the hobbit maybe, but perhaps they should have taken a que from Tolkien and when he changed his style to epic writing, they should have followed suit with epic paintings.Thay also seem to have a poor eye for the proper details, painting peoples and castles as if Tolkien didn't descibe them properly.

My final word is to avoid it at almost all costs, unless you find a cheap copy like I did to at least make the booksheves look nice.
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