16 June 2007
Interrupted Music, by Verlyn Flieger
This review will be more retrospective than usual, as it's been some weeks since I've read the book, but I'd like to review it nonetheless. I had read Flieger's other analysis of Tolkien's mythology, Splintered Light, a while back and was thus looking forward to this book. For lovers of Tolkien, Splintered Light is a truly fabulous book. Flieger takes a close look at the element of light in Tolkien's mythology and analyzes the role it plays. After reading it, I actually managed to derive a topic from it for a paper I was writing on an entirely different genre altogether. But the book was so wonderfully comprehensive in its study of light (and from this, of fantasy) that it allowed me to employ its main ideas in the study of something else.
Anyway, all of this to say that I was excited to find Interrupted Music at the library and was really looking forward to reading it. I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed. The subtitle for the book is The Making of Tolkien's Mythology, and my hope was that Flieger would explore this topic in some depth, as she explored light and fantasy in her earlier book. Instead, this book is little more than an anthologized series of articles that she wrote over a number of years. They are connected in the basic topic of considering Tolkien's mythology, but overall they lack the cohesion that set Splintered Light apart. I was genuinely hoping that Flieger would actually take a close look at the way Tolkien uses music; she takes a look at it, but to me it seems like more of a passing glance than a careful study. This is unfortunate, because the use of music in Tolkien's mythology is fascinating and deserves a better analysis.
The book is not, itself, unscholarly or unworthy of a good read. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that it wasn't what I expected, for which I can only blame myself and not Flieger. That aside, though, I don't think Flieger did quite a good enough job of creating a sense of unification among the various parts. She hints at a union among sections but without much success. I always felt as though I was reading a series of articles--entire in themselves--and not the chapters of a complete book. The result is that I simply didn't understand Flieger's main point, even if I did understand the points in each chapter. This is unfortunate, because the book has a great deal of potential but ultimately fails to deliver.
I recommend this book only for the most devoted Tolkien fans, and only when many other resources have been exhausted. It's not a long book, but I'm sorry to say that even so it really isn't worth the time.