A stirring group biography of the Inklings, the Oxford writing club featuring J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
C. S. Lewis is the 20th century's most widely read Christian writer and J. R. R. Tolkien its most beloved mythmaker. For three decades they and their closest associates formed a literary club known as the Inklings, which met weekly in Lewis' Oxford rooms and a nearby pub. They read aloud from works in progress, argued about anything that caught their fancy, and gave one another invaluable companionship, inspiration, and criticism.
In The Fellowship, Philip and Carol Zaleski offer the first complete rendering of the Inklings' lives and works. Lewis maps the medieval mind, accepts Christ while riding in the sidecar of his brother's motorcycle, becomes a world-famous evangelist and moral satirist, and creates new forms of religiously attuned fiction while wrestling with personal crises. Tolkien transmutes an invented mythology into a breathtaking story in The Lord of the Rings while conducting groundbreaking Old English scholarship and elucidating the Catholic teachings at the heart of his vision. This extraordinary group biography also focuses on Charles Williams, strange acolyte of Romantic love, and Owen Barfield, an esoteric philosopher who became, for a time, Saul Bellow's guru. Romantics who scorned rebellion, fantasists who prized sanity, Christians with cosmic reach, the Inklings sought to revitalize literature and faith in the 20th century's darkest years - and did so.
©2015 Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski (P)2015 Recorded Books
Absolutely fascinating read for devotees of the Oxford phenomenon. I have read several biographies of the key members- Lewis, Tolkien, Williams,etc -but not until filling out the edges with the stories of how they interacted together did I appreciate the joyfulness, intellectual depth and spiritual searching that came from these timely friendships. I have to admit that whilst thoroughly enjoying the intellectual stimulation of following the various paths of philosophy and debate, I also found myself moved to tears a few times! A Great balance of their humanity... and beyond.
It seems that practically everyone loves either Narnia or Middle Earth these days. But what this book does is look at not only the lives and careers of their famous creators (C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien respectively) but also looks at the careers of two other members of the famed literary society, the Inklings, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield. It gave me so much pleasure to learn about how these men (and wow, is this a male dominated book) came together to smoke, drink, and talk. The rich, heady pleasure of creation is very present in this book. Lewis and Tolkien, unsurprisingly, dominate this book as they doubtless did the society itself. Still, the Zaleskis don't just give token notice of the others but try to be proportional in their coverage. Tolkien and Lewis rate much more coverage simply because they are much more influential.
It did make me wistful as I listened to this, to think of the world that we have lost. I think a core message of the lives of all of the Inklings was not only the importance of humans as social animals but also humans as creative ones as well. All of the Inklings spent their lives writing, critiquing, and revising their work. Indeed, the spirit of revision in response to the honest criticism that they offered one another is the strongest message of this book. Also, the overwhelming idea of Christianity as an intellectual impetus for these giants is not as much of the public discourse as it merits. Christianity and the spiritual lives of the Inklings is huge and is well and thoroughly covered in this book. This is a fascinating look at a group of fascinating men (too bad Dorothy L. Sayers didn't get more respect from these men because she was such a fine writer). Not an easy book but worth the time and effort.
Narnia and Middle Earth are places of magic that will doubtless be a source of wonder and delight for many generations to come. This is a grand place to learn about their creators and some of the lesser lights of the time and place.
If my friend was interested and had read Lewis and Tolkien, yes. For the uninitiated, this study may be too dense and scholarly.
Not a character, but a central figure, JRR Tolkien, as I have always admired his devotion to the making of the "legendarium" as a storehouse of tales for our age, from another...
He handles the personalities emerging in the Zaleskis' telling well. He modulates his voice to suit the mood, and over 20+ hours, engages the reader in an intellectual investigation
The Inklings: more than beer at the Bird and the Baby
The Zaleskis' respect our intelligence. They understand the worlds that Lewis, Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams created, and they critique them evenly and fairly, while remaining sympathetic to their anti-modernist credo and their surprising pop culture impact.
If you want some insight into how CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien became the men who wrote their famous works, you'll find that out and more. I finished with a greater apreciation for their place in the literary world. Barfield and Williams do not receive the same exposure, but their place in the lives of Lewis and Tolkien opens the door to their own creativity. I enjoyed it all.
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Several years ago I read a ton of books by and about CS Lewis. I am still fascinated by Lewis, and there is still more to read by or about Lewis, but at this point much that I read about Lewis is repetition. So I was a bit reluctant to read The Fellowship because one of the complaints about it, is that it is too much about Lewis and not enough about the others. That complaint is valid. Although the Zaleskis managed to include new information about Lewis and the others, once I got past the initial introduction of the characters.
The Fellowship is not a short book. I listened to it on audiobook and it was over 26 hours (nearly 700 pages). While I did set it down a couple times, it was interesting and well written. Primarily I was interested in the biography of Charles Williams. He was one of the earliest Inklings to pass away (1945), but he was an important, but odd, member. Williams was the only member that was not highly educated (never competing a college degree). Gut as an editor at Oxford University Press, Williams came up through an alternative system of learning about writing. Williams was certainly odd. He was fascinated with the occult and magic and seemed to have a certain sexual appeal that he took advantage of, potentially to the level sexually abusing some women. At the very least he was a serial adulterer.
William is just one example of a mix of people that surrounded JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Both Lewis and Tolkien, were clearly orthodox Christians, and at least after Lewis’ conversion, they were both very conventional in their morality. But many of the others around them were not. It was not just Williams. Barfield was fascinated by, and a proponent of, Anthroposophy, a pseudo-scientific, semi-religious rationalistic philosophy. Most manifestations of it were clearly not compatible with orthodox Christianity.
But what the Inklings did do is create a community that encouraged writing. Not everyone was a fiction writer. Lewis wrote a number of non-fiction works, Warren Lewis (CS Lewis’ older brother) was primarily a historian, Barfield and others wrote a mix of non-fiction and fiction. But it was through fiction, primarily fantasy that the Inklings really changed the course of 20th century literature. I tend to think of epic fantasy as an old genre. But epic fantasy, as it is not understood, really is dependent on The Lord of the Rings. And lighter fantasy has been significantly influenced by the Chronicles of Narnia. The Zaleskis assert that the Inklings did not start to fall apart upon Williams’ death, as some have proposed. Instead, they suggest that, while his death was important, the group started to wane as a natural progress of the aging of the group (and being pulled by work and family needs) and the inclusion of some of the newer members that were less compassionate toward fantasy writing. (Tolkien never read any of the Lord of the Rings to the group and Lewis seems to have not read much of the later Narnia books to the Inklings because the group was not particularly supportive by the time the books were being worked on.)
Part of what is fascinating about the group is that while it is viewed as incredibly successful group of writers now, much of their fame was posthumous. Lewis was genuinely famous prior to his death. But his fame grew much larger after his death. Tolkien, through the editing of his son, published much more after his death than prior to his death. Williams, while much less known, died early and was not particularly successful prior to his death. Barfield retired as a lawyer when he was 60 and spent most of the rest of his life (he passed away when he was 99) as a traveling speaker and professor and finally getting to write in ways that he did not have opportunity while the Inklings was active.
The early part of The Fellowship was fairly boring because it was basic info that I was very familiar with. It was only later when the other characters were introduced and there was actual analysis of writing or the group that the book picked up. I was ready to give up about half way through the book. But I am glad that I did not. The second half of the book was much better.
Yes. Definitely from the Zaleski's. The recording is terrible, but I don't think it is the fault of the narrator--the speed is too slow on the recording and neither the 1.0 or the speeded up 1.25 sound natural. The 1.25 is at least bearable, though the faster speed makes the voice unnatural.
The book is non-fiction, so it's not "plotted" for thrills.
[see above] The recording is terrible, but I don't think it is the fault of the narrator--the speed is too slow on the recording and neither the 1.0 or the speeded up 1.25 sound natural. The 1.25 is at least bearable, though the faster speed makes the voice unnatural. If you play it exactly as it downloads, the voice is artificially slow, drawling, and robotic. Speeded up makes it less annoying, but the tone is still wrong.
Look up more books by the Zaleskies.
Please don't make this kind of recording with the speed of the voice manipulated to fit different speeds on different devices. Keep the natural voices of the readers.
Home Theater Hobbyist
I learned so much about these popular authors and what influenced their writings. I looked forward to getting in the car and listening.
This book gives a great background of wonderful Christian writers. I felt I got to know Lewis and Tolkien and look forward to hearing more of their books.
Thorough, thought provoking presentation of the lives and ideas of the Inklings! If you relish details and discussion of ideas, you will truly enjoy this as I did.
there is a lot of detail here, some of which is a little more than I would have liked. while they obviously were an important part of the story for the author I was less enthralled with Williams and Barfield, and am not tempted to find out more about them
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