Over at The Cimmerian, Brian Murphy posts a nice takedown of Michael Moorcock's "Epic Pooh," perhaps Moorcock's most famous windmill tilting expedition against the work and legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien. The funny thing is that I rather enjoy Moorcock's literary creations -- I'm busily re-reading some of his later Elric stories right now -- but I tend to think his literary criticism is shoddy at best. Unlike many, I won't engage in amateur psycho-analysis of the man and impute jealousy to his career-long denigration of Tolkien. A more likely explanation, I think, is that Moorcock, like a lot of people, simply never really understood Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings is not in fact a simple work and a surface reading of it will undoubtedly leave one with many misapprehensions about it and its author, misapprehensions I think Moorcock has consistently demonstrated in his shallow critiques over the years.
In Moorcock's defense, I imagine that Tolkien was so temperamentally opposite himself that understanding him would probably prove quite difficult. It's little wonder he didn't really get either The Lord of the Rings or Tolkien. In addition, I get the sense that Moorcock believes it's the duty of authors to "challenge" the status quo and, in fantasy, Tolkien is very much the status quo (even if, ironically, the ideas his books champion are not). Combined, these two facts make it all but inevitable that Moorcock would engage in his long-running Quixotic crusade against the good professor. That doesn't mean there's a lot of merit to the crusade, as Brian Murphy quite ably shows in his post.
Speaking only for myself, I read Tolkien voraciously as a younger person and enjoyed it well enough, but didn't really fall in love with his writings until comparatively recently. Like Moorcock, I engaged these books only on a surface level and failed to appreciate just what Tolkien was doing and why. Older and (hopefully) a little wiser, I better see Tolkien's project for what it was and stand in awe of it. It's a pity Moorcock can't do the same, but we all have our blind spots, so I can't be too harsh in judging him, even if I do wish he'd at least recognize that his reaction to Tolkien is a personal one and not necessarily a reflection of anything in the man's writings.