2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A jewel in Tolkien's canon as valuable as a Silmaril, July 25, 2005,
This review is from: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (Paperback)
Of the plethora of Tolkien books available on the market, not only is this one of the most essential, it is also one of the most highly enlightening. Naturally, that's because it was written by Tolkien himself.
Highly illuminating, frequently entertaining, and always interesting, Tolkien's LETTERS give us a remarkable look into one of the 20th century's most popular and widely read authors. Whether he is talking to his son about marriage, struggling to publish LORT in the early 1950s, addressing fans' various questions and concerns, writing about his scholarly life or his books, Tolkien is sharp-witted, engaging, and extremely intelligent. To his credit, he never sounds condescending, and ultimately, of all the writing about Tolkien, this is ultimately the most humanizing of them all.
What makes some of the most interesting to the letters are when Tolkien is discussing his own works. Much like UNFINISHED TALES, the LETTERS are a wonderful sumplement and a great source of information about Middle-earth that cannot be found elsewhere and is incredibly enlightening, whether it be a die-hard Tolkien researcher or a first time reader.
For those familiar with the older editions of LETTERS (I have a hardback version, well before this came out), the newly revised index, prepared by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, make this alone worth purchasing. The index is so much better and makes this edition a lot easier to navigate through
What makes Tolkien's LETTERS such a valuable addition to the Tolkien canon is because, of all his books, this is the most intimate, naked look we will ever have into his mind other than through a mythological lens of his core books. The LETTERS are a treasure-trove of intellectual delight, and with such keen, piercing wit, humility, and a beautiful Catholic faith, it is wonderful to know that Tolkien was as wonderful as we all secretly hoped he would be. What is also so humanizing about it is because you also see Tolkien frustrated, hurt, and just trying to provide for his family. He's not perfect by any means, which makes LETTERS all the more endearing. The most heart breaking line in this book is the very last: "It is stuff, sticky, and rainy at present - but forecast are more favourable." This was written a mere four days before death overtook him. He was moving to a much better place.
Tolkien once said if you truly wanted to know him read LOTR and THE SILMARILLION. Those are, naturally, the best places to start, because Tolkien's mind moved primarily along mythological grooves. However, for a more conventional portrait of this remarkable man, there's no better place to start than THE LETTERS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN.