Great Expectations


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“People say that we tend to read the books that impress or move us most before the age of 25. Not because we read less in later life but because we get too sophisticated to be so easily awestruck. Once you’ve read Great Expectations, anything you subsequently read would have to be even better than Great Expectations to impress you to the same extent as Great Expectations did – it would have to compensate for your greater expectations as a result of having read Great Expectations. That’s asking a lot of Nick Hornby.”
— David Mitchell in The Guardian

I did not discover Tolkien until I was in my thirties and I still find myself mourning the experience of reading his work for the first time. If you first read Tolkien in your youth, how did it impact your experience of literature after that?

4 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. I first read the Lord of the Rings when I was about 19 and I always viewed it as a one-of-a-kind experience. I did not go out and try to find more books like it because I never dreamed that there would be more like it, and I think I was right. I read a variety of books, including science fiction, which I was introduced to in my early 20s, but when I wanted the comfort of old companions, I would always return to Middle-earth!

  2. I was twelve when I first encountered The Lord of the Rings. Just over a year later, when our family went to Puerto Rico for a second time, I found two of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books at the airport gift shop — these had order forms for Ballantine Books in the back and I wrote to them and got their catalog and over the next several years ordered all their fantasy books. I also got into mythology and epic poetry: Beowulf, Paradise Lost. My old phys ed coach (Coach Wise) retired and opened a gift shop and I told him what I liked, and he would find books for me — like the Conan books. But I agree with Withywyndle; I didn’t ever find anything that had the flavors, textures, and mythic depth of The Lord of the Rings.

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