Adequacy front page
Stories Diaries Polls Users

Home About Topics Rejects Abortions
This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
Emily Dickinson #1458
Time's wily Chargers will not wait 16%
At any Gate but Woe's -- 16%
But there -- so gloat to hesitate 16%
They will not stir for blows -- 0%
c.1879/1932 50%

Votes: 6

 Don't waste your time reading this.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Mar 15, 2002
Instead check out Edgar Allan Poe's criticism of Joseph Rodman Drake and Fitz-Greene Halleck. I can think of no better place to look for a demonstration that JRR Tolkien has sucked not just since he first put pen to paper, but even since his whole mode of operation was thoroughly discredited some 150 years ago.

More diaries by elenchos
So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Oh! I'm in such inner conflict and turmoil! Oh!
Stories I'd like to see:
To the management:
K5 and Adequacy at War: the escalation continues.
I don't know enough history to write it, but...
Is this a troll?
Has anyone heard of a book called...
Draft for a WTC joke.
I feel terrible.
You know...
One of my nutty English papers.
Terrorist or freshman?
Why I write nothing but non-fiction.
'My dog barks..'
As I'm sure you can imagine...
Giftmas break calendar.
Win fabulous /. Moderator Points in this exciting contest!
You know...
Meta crap...
The Artist...
Robert Frost: a damn geek.
Who knew?
Paging Dr. Science, paging Dr. Science...
Damn them.
One of these days I'll get around to Epispde II of my Tolkien piece. After having considered and dismissed Tolkien's efforts as a poet, translator, storyteller, and student of human nature, there is still one beast left unslain: that Tolkien had a gift for imagination, and that his work represents a great acheivement of the imagination.

The reasons why that is not the case are already spelled out for me in Poe's scathing attack on Drake's Tolkienesqe fantasy, The Culprit Fay. You have to get past the lengthy introductory bit where Poe defends his publication against its critics (fun in itself) before you get to the Drake part.

Then he spells it all out. Drake is following Spenser's Faerie Queen, but he fails, because, well, because he's like Tolkien. All narrative and mechanics, no character. And most importantly, he sets up a set of conditions or rules that must hold in his fantasy world, and then proceeds to simply follow them to their necessary conclusion. So because Fay is a fairy one inch tall, his lance is a bee sting. His cloak is of butterfly wings. Get it? You will, after the 200th of these cute little bits of "imagination".

My favorite part is when Poe parodies this endless rule-following construction of an alternate reality, showing how easy it is to tediously fill in the details once you have set some initial condition.

Is it any wonder geeks like this kind of stuff?

You imagine some planet inhabited by cat-men, and then proceed to mechanically map each familiar thing in this world to the "exotic" "imaginative" cat world. Red Dwarf does an excellent send up of the cat thing, by the way.

Anyway, there is nothing imaginative in doing what Tolkien did. Tolkien is the equivalent of a guy who built a really huge model railroad. It is amazing that anyone could stick to a mindless task for so long, to take it to such an extreme, but when you realize how easy it is to fill in the details of Hobbit or Elf life once you have decided what the initial rules are, you realize that Tolkien has been fooling his fans into thinking how clever he is. This same failure of creativity is what dragged Monsters, Inc. down. Boring characters and the alternate reality was just what anyone would have come up with given the intitial premise. They should have surprised us. How?

Well, in The Nightmare Before Christmas, the same method sets up the basics. It is the Halloween world, so everthing there is scary, everyone is some kind of monster, etc. Jack Skellington's dog is a ghost. Ha. But then, it is constantly getting twisted, surprising you. Like the vampire band. Where did that come from? Or the dominant plot element of Jack wishing to enact Christmas himself. Or the love theme. Like the way the "evil" doctor turns out to have simply been seeking his own soul mate. The evil child trick or treaters aren't quite what you would have thought of. Disney or Pixar would have made them sweet and good, as is the obvious thing.

What makes it creative is that it takes what you would expect -- a Halloween world -- and then starts throwing you little curves, and some big curves.

Consider how closely all of Tolkien's various "exotic" cultures and races match his familiar Europe -- in fact he doesn't really leave England in his search for models for his peoples. Maybe I should be thankful for his narrowness: seeing Star Trek's wanky bastardization of Japanese samurai culture for their highly predictable Klingon race always made me cringe. How creative.

This isn't a complete argument on the subject. I told you not to read this, didn't I? Go back and read Poe's article, and then you'll know what I mean.

I had some good stuff to say about Moulin Rouge and The Queen of the Damned too, but I have busy adult work stuff to do so I can't play all day. I will say that The Queen's big problem was that it wasted half the film on exposition, on the mistaken assumption that all the rules and details were critical to the work. That just keeps the fucking geeks happy. They would bitch if we didn't get a full explanation of who Marius is and what Rice's vampire rules are. Blah blah blah. Should have given the symbols and the visuals more screen time and let those who cared so much about mechanics go read the book.

Which is why Moulin Rouge is so vastly superior. Doesn't try to explain or justify every last thing; it just throws it all at you and lets your subconscious put the meaning together.

I bet the anoraks hated that movie, didn't they?


Moulin Rouge. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
by hauntedattics on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 02:40:27 PM PST
I loved that movie. I could sit there and watch Ewan MacGregor sing inane pop songs all night. I was disappointed he didn't pull his usual full-frontal, but I guess it was because the movie was rated PG-13.


p.s. Was Richard Roxburgh channelling Snidely Whiplash or what?

I'm actually not that familiar with these people. (none / 0) (#2)
by elenchos on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 02:46:57 PM PST
But I hope to watch it a few more times. They were showing it every Friday and Saturday at midnight, and the crowd was starting to shout out lines, perhaps heralding the successor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Inane? What's wrong with silly love songs?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

I thought... (none / 0) (#13)
by tkatchev on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 09:17:52 PM PST were supposed to be into depression? Go on, do your "life is pointless" schtick!

Peace and much love...

Well, it is. (none / 0) (#14)
by elenchos on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 09:27:54 PM PST
The only real meaning or purpose at all in this black, dead-end existence is the fleeting split-second of pleasure we derive from seeing the ESL dorks fail to get pop culture references.

It's mean, yes. But there it is. What can you do?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Like I said many times previously, (none / 0) (#15)
by tkatchev on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 11:08:30 PM PST
I do not engage myself in trash-pop culture.

If you're into it yourself, that's fine. But don't assume that knowing about white-trash "culture"[1] gives you some sort of intellectual badge you can brag about. It just highlights the trashy provincialism inherrent in your lifestyle.

[1] "Culture" as in "algae culture", I guess.

Peace and much love...

You don't? (none / 0) (#17)
by elenchos on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 11:45:51 PM PST
Then why did you jump into a thread discussing Moulin Rouge, Palul McCartney & Wings, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show? For a guy who disdains pop culture, you sure do wander afield.

Isn't there a "Does God exist?" diary for all you deep ones to pontificate in?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

I "waded in"... (none / 0) (#18)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 12:33:32 AM PST ridicule your sad, sorry liberalist ass.

Peace and much love...

I'm beginng to sense both anger and denial. (none / 0) (#19)
by elenchos on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 12:56:00 AM PST
Have we ever discussed your relationship with your father? Do you feel he was too critical towards you? That you were never good enough for him, and that he always had something harsh to say no matter what you did?

Be honest.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Now.... (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 01:32:06 AM PST
Adequacy turned into a talk show....

What's next?

"Go ask elenchos!"

" Self-help for fuck-ups"

Please stop before this gets out of hand

fuck you (none / 0) (#23)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 02:44:25 AM PST

Peace and much love...

Tell me about your father, tkatchev. (none / 0) (#24)
by elenchos on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 02:53:12 AM PST
This is critical. What was it like living under a tyrant? What did you have to do to survive?

And how many times did you swear that you would never be like him? You said no matter what, you would be different right? But then... something went wrong, didn't it?

We can work through this but you must be honest with me here. You have to trust me. Once we have the facts of the father relationship, it is pretty much like luge after that, you know?

Now. Answer.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Would you two (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by jvance on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 07:19:23 AM PST
please get a room?
Adequacy has turned into a cesspool consisting of ... blubbering, superstitious fools arguing with smug, pseudointellectual assholes. -AR

fuck you again (none / 0) (#31)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 08:23:00 AM PST
are you getting excited yet?

Peace and much love...

I was expecting an amazing come back... (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 08:20:50 AM PST
But i think you touched a nerve. Good. I feel no pity for tkatzup, he is a jackass.

You must be... (none / 0) (#20)
by poltroon on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 01:07:45 AM PST
unfamiliar with the ass of elenchos, as it is surely neither sad nor sorry.

Just wanted to clear up that bit of confusion... Carry on.

I see. (none / 0) (#22)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 02:43:45 AM PST
This must be True Love.

Peace and much love...

Richard Roxburgh (none / 0) (#27)
by hauntedattics on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 07:31:05 AM PST
is an Australian actor, who played the evil Duke. I must say I was impressed with the way he not only chewed the scenery, but swallowed it, regurgitated it and spit it back out.

Not, of course, that you could accuse anyone of underacting in that movie. But I think that was the point.

Yes. And Ewan MacGregor (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by chloedancer on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 03:58:55 PM PST
seemed to be doing his very best David Cassidy imitation, in my opinion.

Still, it was wonderful eye-candy, Moulin Rouge... Watching it was a little like being trapped in a runaway train with the entourage from Cirque du Soleil.

El Tango De Roxanne was brilliant, eclipsing the uninspiring creative license applied to Lady Marmalade.

Drooling over Ewan. (none / 0) (#29)
by hauntedattics on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 08:15:51 AM PST
David Cassidy wishes that in his heyday he was as sexy as Ewan MacGregor's left front incisor. Which he flashed in dazzling smiles throughout the movie, by the way.

(Excuse my teenybopper behavior. It's just that certain men just bring it out of me.)

Ewan... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by poltroon on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 07:41:51 PM PST
is so transformative. Or maybe I'm just being dense. I just looked up his list of roles and realized he's been in a number of great movies that I've seen while fully conscious, like Velvet Goldmine, Little Voice, The Pillow Book, Trainspotting, etc. But I didn't realize that was him in all of those... The characters are so distinct.

E.A. Poe: Funnyman (none / 0) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 04:08:19 PM PST
Like many depressive people, Poe could be pretty hilarious when he wanted to. His parody of the literary scene of his day, "The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, ESQ." is an amusing bit of ur-Monty Python silliness.

With all due respect, drug addicts... (none / 0) (#5)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 04:41:24 PM PST
are creative but many of them look back at their own work when sober and do not understand it.

This form of creativity (like Poe's) has its place, but there is no skill involved (IMHO). The artist just captures these stray thoughts.

As you say, once you create the outlandish part in fantasy (whats it called?) the rest fills itself in automatically, allowing you to create much detail and fill in the world. But clever twists and turns in story are a true art form and one that, indeed, LOTR lacks.

Oh my God, I just did (none / 0) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 05:03:08 PM PST
and a novel appeared! Without even trying! Now I'm going to go and try some opium, and I'm pretty sure that by the time I come down, I'll have written the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Or Kubla Khan at least.

Try it with that intent in mind. (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 05:11:22 PM PST
I doubt you have.

Actually, I have (none / 0) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 06:42:05 PM PST
I'm a published novelist, and I write all my work under the influence of one drug or another. I don't understand what I write, or even why I write it. In fact, I never re-read it at all. I just throw words at the paper, and for some reason, people like to read them. Who gets people?

Anyway, yeah, the drugs thing, with the writing and the not understanding. That's not just some anti-intellectual nitwitticism invented to dismiss modern fiction by people who couldn't appreciate Ulysses. It's for real, man. All you have to do to be an artist is take some drugs. Seriously.

Woah (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by poltroon on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 07:55:15 PM PST
Thank You!

Here I went to art school and tried and hoped that something would rub off, but it never really did. I'm no artist. And now I'm at a point in my life where I've become resigned to existing as a simple typist. But you've just now managed to spark a little flame in me!

Are there any particular drugs you recommend?

Yes, there are (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 11:24:56 PM PST
In previous centuries, opiates were the best substance for synthesizing creativity in the minds of would-be artistic geniuses, and they still are today. If you can't get your hands on some heroin (and shame on you if you can't), you might be able to get some morphine by faking a severe injury and going to the hospital. It really depends on what sort of health cover you have. When they ask how much pain you feel, always say that it's the most pain you've ever felt in your entire life. That's your express ticket to narcotic bliss and the attendant flights of imagination.

There are those who might offer the psychedelic drugs of the sixties and seventies as an alternative to the opiate family, but these people can be safely ignored, much like every artistic or literary endeavour of those two decades, except for rock music. If you want to be a rock musician, ditch the guitar lessons and start smoking pot all day. It's foolproof.

Now if you don't mind, I'm off to chase the dragon and write, I dunno, Dune or something I guess. Someone seems to have cut my white lotus with white dishwashing powder again.

A muse, submitted for your consideration... (none / 0) (#25)
by jvance on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 07:13:53 AM PST
Adequacy has turned into a cesspool consisting of ... blubbering, superstitious fools arguing with smug, pseudointellectual assholes. -AR

Tolkein (none / 0) (#11)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 09:01:14 PM PST
You are seriously jealous of Tolkein. You keep trying to convince yourself he didn't write anything special.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic. (none / 0) (#12)
by tkatchev on Fri Mar 15th, 2002 at 09:13:47 PM PST
So what you wrote is simply more liberalist propaganda.

I bet you are the type of liberalist deviant who thinks Ulysses is great literature -- because of the swear words in the book, no less.

Peace and much love...

A question. (none / 0) (#28)
by Buddha on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 07:39:28 AM PST
Why do you care so much about Tolkien?

Because... (none / 0) (#32)
by elenchos on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 03:04:17 PM PST
...I'm interested in literary criticism. This is a subject that few people know or care about. But if you mention Tolkien all of a sudden a whole lot of brilliant armchair literary theorists come crawling out of the woodwork, ready to inform the world that this guy's stuff is great literature.

I don't think they can give good reasons to support this. I think I can give good reasons why his books are mere entertainment and not great at all. More importantly, the same set of theoreitcal criteria I use to say why I think Thomas Hardy is great should be capable of also being applied to Tolkien or anyone else. I should be able to get consistent answers if my method is sound.

I could just write about the flaws of Theodore Dreiser or Christopher Marlowe, but no one would reply. With Tolkien, I have an army of Tolkien fans to check my work.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Firstly (none / 0) (#33)
by Buddha on Sat Mar 16th, 2002 at 07:27:02 PM PST
I think you need to establish that Tolkien's work is actually literature, rather than simulated literature. Some would say that his stories are merely artifacts of his synthetic Anglo-Saxon mythology. Certainly, if you enter a mode of thinking which accepts this mythical simulation as real, then its literature must also be real. It follows then that any prima facie criticism of this literature must also originate from the same mode of thinking which accepts the simulation as real. In other words, your literary criticism of Tolkien also needs to be a simulation. The ramifications of this are not trivial. By proceeding with this course of action, you would be contributing mythical literary criticism to Tolkien's simulation. Your criticism would therefore serve to further validate Tolkien's work, regardless of what it actually says.

Nifty! (none / 0) (#34)
by RobotSlave on Sun Mar 17th, 2002 at 03:29:18 AM PST
I like this line of thought quite a bit.

Your meta-criticism, of course, similarly validates Tolkien's labors, via a simple transitive application of your argument. Your argument also, however, serves, by its own logic, as a validation of elenchos' view, and thus as a confirmation of the unworthiness of Tolkien's scribblings.

Now, if the readership of the adequacy were a bunch of credulous fools, you might be able to argue that your post is thus fully in keeping with your user name.

But we're more sophisticated than that. We know a charlatan when we see one, because we know what would prompt a being with the true Buddha nature to remain silent.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

This author is an idiot (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Mar 17th, 2002 at 06:01:07 AM PST
He obviously doesn't know anything about Tolkien,

"Consider how closely all of Tolkien's various "exotic" cultures and races match his familiar Europe"

Well duh, he did that on purpose. He wrote these books as a history or mythology for the Anglo-Saxons. A story of what happened in the Dark Ages, somewhat like Arthur. He wasn't trying to make a new world.

IF you want to see someone who simply borrows from real cultures just check out Robert Jordan, but this is something Tolkien did not do.

That excuse... (none / 0) (#36)
by elenchos on Sun Mar 17th, 2002 at 01:06:48 PM PST
...might cover Tolkein's ass on the specific question of why the people of Middle Earth are so dull, but the larger and more important issue is Tolkien's imagination. Or lack thereof.

Don't you think Poe's criticism of Drake can be applied directly to Tolkein?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest ® 2001, 2002, 2003 The name, logo, symbol, and taglines "News for Grown-Ups", "Most Controversial Site on the Internet", "Linux Zealot", and "He just loves Open Source Software", and the RGB color value: D7D7D7 are trademarks of No part of this site may be republished or reproduced in whatever form without prior written permission by and, if and when applicable, prior written permission by the contributing author(s), artist(s), or user(s). Any inquiries are directed to