Friday, January 19, 2007


J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

(Correction January 2014: I gave the wrong email below. It is now correct: My apologies to those who may have tried to respond into the ether, and I hope you will try again. - squire)

Well, the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia that I contributed to (as recounted in my last blog) was finally published this past November. Editor Michael Drout has documented his disappointing experience in completing the book to his preferred standards: a change of management at the publishers led to the thing being taken away from him and published in a rushed reduced printing, with no regard for final copy editing or author review of proofs.

Especially when I heard that the print run would be 800 copies rather than 2500, I raided the piggy bank and bought my own copy (at a contributor discount) for an extortionate $150. Now it sits by my computer and glares at me. I glare back. Whenever I'm stuck for something to write about on TORn, I open the book and read an entry or two.

And then I write my impressions in a diary. Rather than run screaming down the road, I process my emotions into constructive criticism. Because, frankly, some of the articles in the Encyclopedia drive me mad. And some are just frustrating. And some are good, but could be so much better. And some are really fine -- first rate examples of what I thought the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment was supposed to be.

I've written about 40 little reviews so far, and my colleagues from TORn have contributed a few more. That leaves less than 500 articles to go. At this point, I thought I'd bring the diary out and offer it to the Tolkien studies community, as a kind of conversational vehicle for evaluating the Encyclopedia, article by article.

J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

If you have access to one (and so few, so very few, do - $175! 800 copies!), please feel free to email me your short, subjective article reviews.

email your contributions to

I don't know if this has any larger purpose than a giant kind of group hug/cry/vent. I have found it valuable in reminding me that the dodo articles are not in the majority, even if the stellar ones are not either.

I put a lot of myself into my contributions to the Encyclopedia - perhaps you did too. If so, this is a way for us to put a value on that contribution, to get reviewed, to set a baseline of what's acceptable and what's not in this kind of collective Tolkien scholarship. It's also a way actually to read the Encyclopedia - which is not a bad thing to do, after all.

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