The fact is, none of my children are particularly keen on Tolkien.
Once upon a time writing such a sentence might have given me a good deal of pain, but the way that I think about books and their place in defining who we are had undergone some changes over the last twenty years.
My parents both came from families not greatly into reading, but they both fell so deeply under the spell of Tolkien, Lewis and the like that they became lifelong influences. I would not exist without their interest in those books, since they met through a group for reading and discussing the works of the Inklings. I was an apple that did not fall far form the tree. I read The Hobbit at seven and the Narnia books repeatedly in my middle school years. I didn't read Lord of the Rings till the summer I was thirteen, but when I devoured it, reading the three volumes through in as many days, then turning directly to The Silmarillion, then reading Lord of the Rings through again. Fantasy and Science Fiction were nearly all that I read for fun in my high school years.
These books were so important to me, and to most of those close to me, that by the time I went to college it was a basic assumption for me that the only really interesting people, the only people who were worth having in depth discussions with, were people who shared interest in these same books and these same genres.
Because the works of Tolkien and Lewis seemed to speak so deeply to the way I understood the world, it also seemed natural to me that people who really read and understood these books would share my own views about life, the world, and its creator. Sure, with the advent of the internet I began to run into people who shared my passion for Middle Earth and Narnia but did not share my other beliefs, but at some level I was sure this must be because they hadn't yet really arrived at a full understanding of these books. Once they went 'further up and further in' in Lewis's words, they would arrive at the same place as I.
If that sounds incredibly naive, it's because it was. It took me a while to realize that lack of interest in what had been my favorite books and genres did not necessarily make someone "a mundane", someone without interest in the deeper truths I saw in my favorite books. What's more, many who did like my favorite books liked them because they liked the spectacle and escapism of a magical or futuristic setting, not because they actually had interest in the what I most valued in these books.
There's still a particular frisson to discovering someone else likes a book that you like. MrsDarwin and I in part became attached through my chance dropping of a Lewis Carol quote when we met at a freshman mixer. There's a real closeness to sharing a book you love with someone and having them love it too. That's in part why book lovers are so eager to provide reading recommendations.
And there's still plenty of time for the kids to come around on some of my favorites. Sure, I loved Tolkien at 13-14, but many people come to it later. I don't think I'd do my favorite books any favors by pushing the aggressively on kids who aren't currently finding them interesting. But even if they never do come to love his books as I do, won't feel it as an apostasy that divides us in the way that I would have imagined I would twenty years ago.
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