Thursday, May 20, 2010

A new style for A Long-expected Party

Given that my childhood experience with Tolkien began with The Hobbit, I now understand, as an adult, why it also ended there. Nonetheless, tonight our quest for cultural literacy entered new territory as E and I commenced The Fellowship of the Rings. Happily, we can already tell this book differs considerably from its predecessor. Indeed, a mere five pages into the tale, we came upon this remarkable sentence:

"The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sunflowers, and nasturtians* trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round windows."

Yes folks, there's a colon in that sentence--the first of several in just the opening chapter alone! And semicolons abound in the book, not to mention commas and all other variety of punctuation. And there are italics and ALL CAPS to add emphasis and clarify meaning, and verbs and subjects enjoying intimate proximity, and pronouns pointing to clear antecedents. Just as Bilbo provides a rich abundance of foods for his birthday feast in Hobbiton, so Tolkien provides a rich abundance of linguistic cues in his prose, contributing greatly to the ease of reading out loud and, consequently, to our overall conviviality. Let the next adventure begin!

*According to the OED, "nasturtiums" predates "nasturtians," but it is nasturtians that grow in Middle Earth.

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