Reading now: Tolkien's Beowulf

In the years since Hemingway's death, many books have been found among his papers and published so that it feels like he's never left us. The only other writer who impresses me more with his posthumous prolificity is Tolkien. Of course he's had some help from his son Christopher, who's served as an astounding guardian and editor of his father's work (I've got to devote some blog space to that), but that doesn't detract from the accomplishment.

Case in point: Beowulf. Yesterday's mail brought yet another work by Tolkien that's never been published before -- his own rendering of the Anglo-Saxon epic that has tortured most high schoolers for eons. Visit here to read more from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt about the book's release.

I'm so excited about it, and I'm not the only one -- Slate offers an expected comparison in a new article (which is better, the version by Heaney or Tolkien?); while the Christian Science Monitor reserves judgment, simply noting its arrival and summarizing some of the reactions, which are surprising.

One scholar says Tolkien would have tossed it into a shredder if he'd known it would be published. (Really?) Christopher Tolkien is quoted in a way that oddly makes him sound like he's against the publication even though he's the one who made it possible.


Whether or not it ranks as Tolkien's "best" work, does it really matter? It's a contribution to scholarship, and to our curiosity -- maybe in the same vein as C.S. Lewis' "Aeneid" translation.

I'll give you a report soon, my friends. Reading now.