Sunday, March 30, 2008

Column : Pick Up a Reading Hobbit

Oregon Daily Emerald - 04/05/01

With the conclusion of finals two weeks ago and 10 homework and class-free days stretching ahead, I decided to indulge myself during spring break. I wasn't flying off to get obnoxiously inebriated in Cancœn, or to backpack through parts of Europe, or even hitting the slopes in Tahoe (which the rest of my family happened to be doing without me). A new job had me anchored to Eugene during the prized week of freedom college students look forward to, but I was eagerly looking forward to catching up with an old friend ... a good book.

When I was a child, books kept me company on the bus ride to school, intrigued me during boring lectures in school (hidden safely in a text book), were my dining companions as I ate breakfast, and suffocated under the covers with me as I read with a flashlight, one ear listening for the approaching footsteps of the parent patrol.

Determined to catch up on old times with my old friend, I enthusiastically set out for Knight Library, armed with a wish list of the books that would claim my free time during the break. A Dean Koontz novel, something by Toni Morrison, and yes, even Nora Roberts. But most of all, I was looking forward to re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings."

After seeing a trailer for the cinematic release of the trilogy (which I desperately hope beats the disappointment of the return of the "Star Wars" movies), I decided I had to re-read the novels. It's been a decade since I pored over the pages of Tolkien's masterpieces, which hold a special place for me, as my dad read them as a young man and named his first boat after Gandalf, the wise wizard from The Hobbit. My family's first dog was named Brandy after the Brandywine River, one of the landmarks in Bilbo's adventures.

Back at Knight Library, I located the Tolkien area and browsed the shelves, scanning them for the desired titles. And failed miserably. The two copies of "The Hobbit" were checked out and the two shelves containing Tolkien's works included his biography and dozens upon dozens of collections of his notes or scholarly opinions about his writing.

But I didn't want to read why he chose to name the hobbit "Bilbo" instead of "Bozo" or what an Oxford professor thought of Gollum. I wanted to form my own opinions about the story and the characters. And I didn't want to spend beaucoup bucks at Borders for the set, so I took my first trip to the Eugene Public Library.

After I failed miserably at finding my way around the library (sadly enough, I'm practically a college graduate), I enlisted the guidance of the children's section librarian (at the counter marked "HELP!"). She pointed me in the right direction, toward dozens of Tolkien books -- actual works of fiction, not notes -- distributed in both the young adult and children's section.

I was so excited to actually find the books after the fruitless search on campus, I wasn't even fazed by the fact I was hauling an armful of "children's books" -- I think Tolkien can be enjoyed by all ages. As I exited the library, I clutched my new library card almost as fervently as I had my ID on my 21st birthday. After all, both were opening new possibilities for me, though the library card was probably a bit more productive.

As I headed off to the nearest coffee shop to indulge in my new books, I reflected over the irony of the situation. The University wasn't able to provide me with the tools needed to fulfill my literary desire, and our library, which boasts thousands upon thousands of volumes of books, wasn't able to offer some classics to its patrons.

Memorizing the timeline of the French-Indian War or the scholarly opinion on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," while beneficial to our overall general knowledge and education, probably fails to ignite our creative spirit or our imagination. So don't expect to get all of your literary needs fulfilled by the assigned reading from your classes, or even from a list of the greatest American novels.

Instead, head down to the local library and thumb through the dog-eared, well-loved pages of some of your old favorites, or select a random book to dive into. Not only is the check-out time a month, but you won't have to sell your textbooks to be able to pay hefty late fees that (ahem) some academic libraries charge. Nourish your literary needs with some reading you choose.

1 comment:

sdm12469 said...

So which is better the movie or book? I already know your answer. The movie is someone's view of the book...not yours! Yours in better because it is from you!