m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

The Idea of the Author

I’ve been trying to catch up on the aggregator, and one interesting old link I found was a Tor.com post from mid-December about Verlyn Flieger’s “Tolkien and the Idea of the Book”:

[T]he Red Book of Westmarch was modeled in name after “the great medieval manuscript books whose names sound like an Andrew Lang color series for the Middle Ages … most important(ly) … the real Red Book of Hergest.” Yet Tolkien’s Red Book is more coherent narratively and more specifically traceable back to earlier manuscripts than most of these. These qualities were not always present: it was not until the second edition of LotR that the Red Book covered history as far back as the First Age, or was given a line of named “author-redactors,” or was said to consist of the hobbits’ personal diaries plus Bilbo’s three annexed volumes.

I suppose I’m so accustomed to the idea of the author as translator of some rare and marvellous text that I missed the fact that with Tolkien, as always, it’s so much more complicated than it looks at first glance.