Sorry, I got half way through your post and got bored.
I got this far & laughed so hard I popped a rib..
"his efficiency and ability to paint indelible pictures with a few carefully-crafted paragraphs"
Thats so the opposite to reality.
It was probably in old old blitz when I spoke on JRR, but I read the Hobbit as a kid, & went on later to LOTR, at maybe 12 - 13?
Remembered getting into it but not finishing it.
So when the movies are coming out a mate gets it & reads it & I borrow it to do the same. I get halfway through & it all comes back to me why I didn't finish it the 1st time. It was like deja vu.
I'd put money on it that I stopped & consigned it to the bin on exactly the same page. A more long winded, unending, unmitigated borefest I've not encountered.
Fantasy is hard enough, but 10 15 pages describing some hollow they camped in o/nite in a forest was beyond ridiculous. I've never been back to the genre in books movies or TV, life is too short to waste on such things.
Lightweight SFF just gives me no reason to invest in the story.
Someone recommended the hunger games books to me. "There was a girl who was poor and everything was hard then she went in a competition against people better prepared and won and all the bad guys got what was coming". Plastic characters, no weight to anything, predictable action, conclusion. Guessed the whole story from the first chapter, and was right. Eye roll.
It's the depth & detail that builds the attachment to characters. The craft of Tolkein (or any great fantasy writer) isn't in the story, it's in the back story, the world.
If you were picking up a 1200+ page book expecting to knock it off quickly, then that's on you.
If you want an action book, pick up an action book.
It's mainly non fiction nowadays really, but any book but fantasy mate.
Like I said, life's just too damn short to waste on something not based in any semblance of reality.
Anyone that has the time to wade through so much long winded unimportant boring sludge just to get to the end of a fkn fairytale, I do not envy.
Rather create & live my own.
So don't read it,
nobody's forcing you.
But don't pick up a fantasy book then have a crack at it or the author for you hating the whole genre.
"Hey, I hate soup, I'm gunna order the soup OH MY GOD I HATE SOUP"...
FWIW (out of interest) what do you find more fantastic - a Game of thrones type thing or those schlocky Matthew Reilly/Tom Clancy type action books?
Cos I gotta say if you're reading LOTR or ASOIAF and not picking up any realism, (lack of) humanity, political manouvering (all very real and pretty well depicted) - you're missing a fair bit.
And if you find any of the "and then I shot the russian guy and diffused the bomb and saved the day la la la" books realistic, then, well, you're on a whole other level.
Good fantasy - good writing full stop - works on different levels.
A hell of a lot of my favourite authors (other than fantasy & non-fiction I read a lot of beat & beat-inspired stuff) delve into the fantastic at least as much as the 'fantasy' novels I read... there's such a thing as an allegory...