Yesterday, a student came to see me to talk about switching his major to English. He’s interested in writing fantasy, so he was sent to me, the lone light of popular fiction in our tres literary department.
He was the kind of kid who knows everything and is infinitely wiser than his peers and his professors. When I was younger, that type of teen/young adult really annoyed me, until I got older myself and realized that a) often that attitude is hiding social fear and b) many such youth outgrow it. So I was going along, doing my teacherly/advisorly thing, nodding and smiling, until he said this:
“I really think Tolkien is overrated. He just got good press. Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind are much better writers.”
After smothering a very unQuakerly urge toward violence, I asked if perhaps Tolkien and Lewis hadn’t paved the way for modern fantasy writers (I didn’t mention that The Sword of Sha-na-na, or whatever, is a complete rip off of, say, Tolkien).
He just shook his head, quite evidently in pity of my ignorance, and said, “No.”
Well, I guess it’s good to know that I’m not too jaded to be aghast and appalled.