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February 10, 1985|SUE MARTIN

The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin: $16.95). The deceased Prof. Tolkien's publishing history is almost longer now than when he was alive! In this volume, the beauty of Tolkien's works and the amazing stretch of his imagination are elucidated even further. What isn't served well, though, is the pure, simple enjoyment of his work. The reverence and the thoroughness with which his son Christopher treats his father's notes and fragments is commendable, but the detailed, meticulous approach--complete with footnotes, appendixes, notes, alternate beginnings and endings, and often two or more names given to the same character--takes all the color and magic out of these tales. I wish that his stories and fragments would just be collected in chronological order without the academic trimmings. After all, Tolkien wasn't writing scholarly papers, but highly imaginative fiction.

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