Literary Badge of Honor: Lord of the Rings
I've completed one of the great literary journeys in nerd literature. I just finished reading The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings (LotR) epic back-to-back-to-back.
It was pretty serious.
I'm currently writing a "quest" novel that's a mix of Lord of the Rings and The Princess Bride so reading LotR was absolutely necessary. I first read the entire epic in the summer of 2003 (between the release of the second and third Peter Jackson films). I worked at the Dollar General at the time and I would hide in the storage room between stacks of boxes and read for a few minutes until I felt guilty and went off somewhere to pretend to work. I love the films (greatest film trilogy of all-time) and I always intended to reread the entire Middle Earth collection and now seemed like the right time.
Let me tell you, it was exhausting.
Without including The Hobbit, my copy of LotR weighs in at a hefty 1,112 pages. That's serious reading. I was physically exhausted by the end of it. I was taking notes throughout most of the first two books, but by Return of the King I was just plowing through trying to get to the top of Mount Doom. As much as I love Tolkien and the entire world of Middle Earth, the series is just too damn long! The descriptions of the locales drag on for dozens of pages, we learn the family tree and lineage of every single character, and Frodo and Sam's sections stretch out for eternity describing the types of rocks they're walking over. Oh, and then there's, like, seven different endings until the last boat finally sets off for the Undying Lands (which I assume is basically Middle Earth's version of Doggy Heaven).
Seriously, reading the books again has made me appreciate the film trilogy that much more. To whittle that mass of words into 557 minutes of coherent film is amazingly impressive. Still, no one can claim to be a TRUE nerd without going on the entire journey with Gandalf, Gollum, and the super whine machine, Frodo. If you want to know how to write a quest novel, Tolkien is your guy.
Next Literary Badge of Honor: Reading James Joyce's Ulysses and pretending to understand 12% of it.