It probably says a lot about me that I remembered this morning that it was Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' birthday.
June later informed me that it was Nick Cave's birthday too. My mind is having a hard time associating Nick Cave with hobbits. All kinds of unwanted and infinitely creepy images are being formed. Eek.
It's hard for me to talk about Tolkien, in some ways. I discovered The Hobbit when I was six or seven, and Lord of the Rings at ten. The Silmarillion at fourteen. Joined TORC at fifteen. Am still a member. People I met there have entered my real life and become some of the most important things in it. I have all the qualifications of the Tolkien fan. I have debated on the relative merits and demerits of John Howe and Alan Moore as Tolkien artists. I have most of the History of Middle Earth books. I engaged in passionate purist vs revisionist arguments before the movies were released.
And ironically, it has been my Tolkien fandom which has led me to the people who first led me away from Tolkien. Sometime in late 2001 I moved away from Tolkien to other stuff. Beckett. Joyce. I must have been the most insuffereable kid alive at that point.
And then there was Gormenghast. This is not the right entry to talk about Peake, but Gormenghast stunned me - this was the book I wanted to have written. I never felt that way for LOTR. I almost resented LOTR for dragging fantasy in the direction it did.
Yet it's hard to escape Tolkien. I stopped the frequent rereading of the trilogy, but I still go back sometimes. I tire of his occasional old-boys-clubness and sometimes find him rather pompous. I'd rather be reading Leaf by Niggle, Smith of Wootton Major, Farmer Giles, or The Hobbit than The Lord of the Rings...some of his loveliest prose is when he isn't taking himself too seriously. But I still go back.