I went to [Tolkien’s] public lectures. They were absolutely appalling. In those days a lecturer could be paid for his entire course even if he lost his audience, provided he turned up for the first lecture. I think that Tolkien made quite a cynical effort to get rid of us so he could go home and finish writing Lord of the Rings.
“He gave his lectures in a very, very small room and didn’t address us, his audience, at all. In fact he looked the other way, with his face almost squashed up against the blackboard. He spoke in a mutter. His mind was on finishing Lord of the Rings, and he was really musing to himself about the nature of narrative. But I found this so fascinating that I came back week after week, as did one other person. I’ve always wondered what became of him, because he was obviously equally fascinated. And because we stuck there, Tolkien couldn’t go away and write Lord of the Rings! He would say the most marvelous things about the way you take a very basic plot and twitch it here and twitch it there–and it becomes a completely different plot.”
- Diana Wynne Jones, author of the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, the Dalemark quartet, Howl’s Moving Castle, on J. R. R. Tolkien’s lectures.