Now... My friend Jon (Paka on LJ) found the a rant by Michael Moorcock ( http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.html?id=953 ) in which he demonizes Tolkien at great length, and rhapsodizes briefly about Joyce and Faulkner. This irritates me more that a bit, because I am inclined to regard Joyce and Faulkner as unreadable drivel.
It's like this: The reputations of Joyce and Faulkner are largely based on their approach to metastory, essentially, the freak show value of their writings. Yes, they did interesting things with the structure of the novel, but in the end, the destination is not worth reaching, and the trip isn't any fun, either. It's just... unusual.
I have no illusions about Tolkien; he was writing in a style that was at least fifty years out of date when he published, now fifty years ago. If this does not qualify, by his own terms, as "a good story, well told", it certainly qualifies as a VERY good story, adequately told. (Moorcock, for my money, gives an adequate story adequately told; ok characters and story, GREAT setting.)
Metastory only matters if the story that supports it is sound. It doesn't matter HOW innovative the drive train is if the tires are all flat...