Monday, January 23, 2012

A Book Love Begins With Bilbo

I knew when I wrote my post on first book loves that the name J.R.R. Tolkien would come up. Eric Storch sent me an e-mail on the day I published that post which began with the following sentence: "I just read your post and without hesitation I can say my first book love was “The Hobbit” ..." I was so excited. I could tell from the content of that e-mail alone that Eric was the epitome of who I had imagined. I contacted him with my interview questions and, personally, have found his story of book love fascinating! So, without further adieu, here is Eric's story of his first book love, in his own words...
Here's Eric with his ORIGINAL copy of The Hobbit from 1978!
It Began With A Gift

My first book love was “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. When I was in second grade in 1978, my father gave me a paperback copy for my birthday. I had never been a big reader and I remember thinking that I was a bit intimidated by being asked to read a novel. Luckily, my birthday always fell on the winter break in late February, so I had a week of being stuck indoors with not much more to do than read the book.

I read the entire thing that week. I had never experienced anything like it. A world of dwarves, elves, wizards, dragons and … hobbits! The book took me to a strange and unknown place – a place I was sorry to say goodbye to when I turned to the last page.

A Reader Was Born 
I was hungry for more. My dad also had paperbacks of the “Lord of the Rings” dating from the mid-sixties. Those he let me borrow, and I ate up that story with as much relish as “The Hobbit.”

As the years went by, I delved into whatever fantasy fiction I could find: “The Prydain Chronicles” by Lloyd Alexander, The Elric of Melnibone books by Michael Moorcock, the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Frtiz Leiber, The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin and so many others. All classic sword and sorcery books.

When I couldn't find sword and sorcery, I discovered mysteries and started reading Agatha Christie, Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Then on to science fiction, mythology, classic literature; I was a book junkie and I always needed a fix.

I always came back to Tolkien though. Since that week in 1978, I have read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” once every year. So that's … thirty-three times. Yikes! I had never counted it before. I still have those old copies of Tolkien's books. In fact, I still have almost every book I ever bought. The house is full of books! I just can't get rid of my friends.

When the Stories Hit the Silver Screen
Over the years, I had always thought that the Tolkien books would make great movies. My father took me to the movies ages ago to watch Ralph Bakshi's animated version of the Lord of the Rings and we were both disappointed when the movie ended half way through the story. I don't even want to discuss the Rankin/Bass debacle of The Hobbit and Return of the King.

When I discovered that a live action version of Lord of the Rings was in the works, all I can say is, “Thanks the powers that be for the internet!” I was able to follow as much of the movie making process as was allowed and grew very excited for the final product. I was not disappointed. I know many Tolkien fans were upset by the changes to the story and out-right omissions, but LotR would just not have been very good as a direct translation from book to film. Changes had to be made and I think Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh did an excellent job with the script to say nothing of how visually stunning all three films are.

Needless to say, with Jackson helming The Hobbit, I'm not worried in the least. I know both films will be great (they are using information from the appendixes of LotR as well as other works that Tolkien wrote to fill in the gaps between the events of The Hobbit and LotR). I can't wait for them!

The Long Term Effects of Being a Tolkien Fan
Fantasy fiction has become my life blood. My wife has jokingly said that I need to read fantasy as much as I need to breathe. It's true. It has become a major part of what and who I am. Reading fantasy led to playing role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons which in turn led to life-long friendships. I have a small group of friends I have known since the mid-eighties who I am still in touch with because of this.

Reading has also led to a desire to write. I write often, though sometimes not very well. I haven't ever been published, but it isn't a serious goal. I write stories that I would like to read, but haven't found written by anyone else. Most often, I'm the only one who enjoys them.

Reading in general and a shared love of fantasy fiction was one of the things my wife and I connected on when we first met. We have been exploring new books together such as The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and the Shadow March series by Tad Williams. It's been quite a journey.

The Greatest Interview of All
If I could ask Tolkien one thing, I think it would be, “What was it like being the first person to discover Middle-Earth? Were you as amazed as the rest of us?” That might be a kind of lame question, but I like to think that he loved visiting Middle-Earth most of all. I know I did. His books gave me a place to go for a short time that took me away from the troubles happen to and around me. His books helped me discover a love of reading and writing. His books helped my find life-long friends and the most wonderful woman a man could ever ask for.

Thank you, Professor Tolkien.

How To Contact Eric

If you are looking to connect with Eric, or read some of his writing, then you need to check these links out:

Have you read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien? 
If so, what was your first impression?
If not, what's stopping you?? 
(The movie comes out later this year - you should ALWAYS try to read a book before you see the movie!)

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