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March 6, 2003

New literature for a new century. J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as offered at Walmart.com:
On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of eccentrics live in houseboats. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they belong to one another. There is Maurice, a homosexual prostitute; Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man; but most of all there’s Nenna, the struggling mother of two wild little girls. How each of their lives complicates the others is the stuff of this perfect little novel. The adventures of the well-to-do hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who lived happily in his comfortable home until a wandering wizard granted his wish.
[10:20 AM]
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Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on New literature for a new century.:

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 10:48 AM:

How weird... what does it mean?

aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 11:45 AM:

It probably means some person working in the WalMart web division made a horrible cut-and-paste error.

Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 11:45 AM:

This must be the "Complete! Uncut!" version, a la Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND and King's THE STAND, restoring the portions deleted from the first published edition by editorial demand.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 11:52 AM:

Um, that link fails. Context? Source?

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 12:01 PM:

Alas, the page in question is "either temporarily unavailable or no longer exists."

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 12:10 PM:

Penelope Fitzgerald did once remark that the only thing Offshore lacked was a wandering wizard.

Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 12:13 PM:

A Google search on the proper names reveals that this new addition to the Tolkein oeuvre was initially published as the novel "Offshore" under a pseudonym, Penelope Fitzgerald...


Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 02:00 PM:

Bilbo Baggins was part Stoor, right? So I can see the houseboat.

But then I start making all these Travis McGee associations.

alkali ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 03:42 PM:

"Well, I guess the mark of a classic is that you can reread it a thousand times and always find something new."

(Shout out: W. Allen, "The Kugelmass Episode," Side Effects (1982).)

Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 05:52 PM:

I blogged recently on the tendency for classic children's novels to be updated to be more relevant to our modern world; this is clearly another example.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 07:28 PM:

"Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!"

"Hey, guv'nor," leered Maurice, "I'm always like a rock at dawn...just a couple of pence, matey, burahobbit or wizard, s'all the same to me."

Gandalf and Bilbo recoiled. Just then, Richard came into the clearing, grimaced, and moved on, haunted by the grim odor of troll-stink and gunpowder.

Just behind him, Nenna's two girls came dragging a sword. "Glamdring's mine, you little whore!" screamed one. Her sister boxed her about the ears. "Guttersnipe bitch! I saw it first!" A sob came from Nenna, slumping exhausted on a burlap sack containing Ori--or was it Nori? "Damn girls! Always fighting over artifacts of the First Age. What am I to do? Work all day and this is all I get!"

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2003, 04:45 AM:

The link is back, and the text is now fixed. (Although I'm not sure what's up with that "granted his wish" thing.)

The version of _The Hobbit_ they're selling is a trifle kitschy with its leatherette and foil-stamping, but I have great nostalgic fondness for it; it's the same version that my parents had.

I discovered it when I was 5, and loved it. Then I read the fateful blurb at the end: "If you are interested in Hobbits you will learn a lot more about them in The Lord of the Rings:"

Well. How could I resist that? I went looking to see if we had the trilogy in the house. For some reason we only had _The Two Towers_. I tried starting with the synopsis of _Fellowship_ at the beginning, and quickly decided that wasn't satisfactory. (Good call, young me.) So I got my parents to take me out to a nearby bookstore and buy the first and third volumes.

This was 1973 or 1974, and it was the edition with Tolkien's own paintings as covers. I am still imprinted on those as the correct covers. I still have those copies, too, although they are a bit fragile these days.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2003, 10:51 AM:

David: My parents gave me that green fake-leather edition for, hmmm, high-school graduation. It was the first novel I read on my own, so they thought it was appropriate. (Annoyingly, the red fake-leather edition of _tLotR_ isn't the same height or depth.)

We had two copies when I was a kid: a paperback with a river on the cover, which in my memory is heavily brown (googling finds that it was the 1974 Ballatine edition with Tolkien's art), and an oversized hardcover with full-color illustrations, which I discovered just last year were taken from the animated version.

As far as correct covers, I haven't imprinted on any; I do like the British paperbacks I have, purchased circa 1997, though.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2003, 03:30 PM:

I too have an old copy. Perfectly preserved except for the slightly swollen pages in the corner of the book where it landed (for all of a second) on the damp Scituate sandbar where I dropped it one day as I was reading.

I'm still a big fan of reading books in banged up old beach chairs where at least an inch or two of water can swell by your feet as you read (and keep one eye on the incoming tide).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2003, 10:52 PM:

Timothy Burke's fragment is, of course, from Cold Comfort Shire.

He left out the part about the strapping young hobbits Seth and Reuben. Mark my words, there's always a pair named Seth and Reuben.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 12:24 AM:

My copy of the The Hobbit is lovely Haughton-Mifflin trade paperback, with great icon-like art by Peter Sis.

I have the unauthorized Ace edition paperbacks of LOTR. Wollheim found a loophole that allowed him to publish it out of copyright. This why the first Ballantine edition (described by David, above) had that message from Tolkien on the back cover.

When it came time to re-read the books before the Jackson movie came out, I discovered that the Ace set was the ONLY edition I had. I've since corrected that, with a nice trade paperback set.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 03:33 PM:

For a while, the only set of LotR we had in our house was the Ace edition, which Arthur had bought when it came out. When I decided a few years back that I wanted to re-read the novel, I decided that the Ace copies were too fragile to read, so I bought a cheap set of the early 1970s Ballentine pbs in a nice slipcover; this is the set I read before the movies started coming out.

Since then, we've ended up with *another* set; the mother of one of Bernadette's students has bought copies for Bernadette so that she and her student are reading the same edition.

marty ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:26 PM:

By the time I got there, they had edited the discription down quite a bit. Still has serial commas tho.