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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A LITERARY ODDITY

When my son Jefferson Barnes Fordham Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Tobias Barrington Wolff was a little boy, I used to read to him every evening before he went to sleep.  After I had read The Hobbit to him and had worked through several volumes of the Narnia stories, I cast about for something else to read and thought it might be fun to go through Around the World in Eighty Days.  But it turned out, to my surprise, that the vocabulary was too difficult and I had to give it up.  Despite the elaborate mythology, Tolkien was much easier for him to understand then Jules Verne.

9 comments:

RobertD said...

If I recall rightly, 'The Hobbit' was written as a children's book. 'The Lord of the Rings' might have been more difficult - I found its vocabulary quite hard when I was reading it to practice my Spanish.

Seth said...

Jules Verne might suffer from French to English translation. He liked to dwell on arcane technical matters too, which would make for challenging vocabulary.

Ted said...

"Hi, I am Jefferson Barnes Fordham Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Tobias Barrington Wolff."

"Hi, Jefferson Barnes Fordham Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Tobias Barrington Wolff. I'm Ted."

"Pleased to meet you, Ted. My dad is Professor Robert Paul Wolff. Who is your dad?"

"My dad is Hank."

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Ted, I trust you recognize a joke when you encounter one

Anonymous said...

"Lloyd George knew my father,
Father knew Lloyd George."

[repeat incessantly]

Michael Llenos said...

If you have ever read The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, then you know where Tolkien got a lot of his ideas for The Hobbit. It seems Tolkien knew what he was doing by making The Lord of the Rings into three books. Personally I lose interest after reading the third book of a fantasy series. After reading Robert Jordan's The Dragon Reborn & George Martin's A Storm of Swords their series of books doesn't hold my attention as the first three books originally did. Some may say that A Song of Ice and Fire is superior in imagination to The Wheel of Time, but I strongly disagree. If holodecks existed now I would rather see Tear or Tar Valon than Winterfell or Dragonstone any day of the week.

Charles Pigden said...

Okay, Books to read with you grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Have you concerned the works of Dina Wynne Jones? Particularly the Chestomaici series. Also why didn't you go for 'Alice in Wonderland' one of the first paper books I ever read (aged about five) and which is now going over very well with my four-year old grandson (my wife is reading to him on her days of Nanna -duty).

s. wallerstein said...

My mother read me Tom Sawyer and Hucklebery Finn, which I enjoyed immensely. I'm not sure if they're still considered to be politically correct, which is too bad because they're very funny.

I've never read Tolkien or fantasy literature of that type in general.

Jason said...

Philip Pullman's stuff is great, read the His Dark Materials trilogy to my boys a few months back. Now we're on to Tolkien, just about done with the Fellowship.

I feel like we need to hit some classic sci-fi soon, although some of my favorites like Dune and Neuromancer might be a little too much for my 7 and 9 year old 😉