sources and context of the fantasy writings of Tolkein and Lewis
THE COMPANY THEY KEEP – C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein as Writers in a Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer. Kent State U. Press, Kent, OH; www.kentstateuniveritypress.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. 2007. $45.00 hardcover, ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0. chapter notes, appendix, bibliography, index.
The fantasy literature of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein is so imaginative and idiosyncratic that one accepts that they wrote such lasting works somewhat obstinately and mainly privately almost as a hobby with little hope they would ever be published, much less popular. The picture of J. R. Rowling writing the beginnings of the first Harry Potter book sitting along at a table in an English shop comes to mind with this image of the earlier authors. Lewis and Tolkein are known to be good friends as well as professional colleagues at Oxford University. But as professor of English at Azusa Pacific U. in California Glyer puts forward, Lewis and Tolkein were part of a circle of academics and writers who had a large, discernible, and often documented influence on their works. From diaries, memoirs, letters, and other sources, Glyer finds that this influence is most evident with Tolkein. This circle which acquired the name "The Inklings," "modeled the behavior of poets and storytellers, provided feedback on his drafts, helped him develop his own critical faculties, recommended reading material that supported and shaped his imagination, and suggested that certain pieces be started, reworked, completed, or submitted for publication." Glyer continues, "It is no small matter that all of this early influence took place within a highly interactive group setting." What the author says with respect to Tolkein applies as well to Lewis, though not quite so overtly recognizably. In their turn, Tolkein and Lewis were active participants in the group offering the same support and suggestions to its other members. Shortly after arriving at Oxford as a student, Tolkein founded the literary society named the "Apolausticks."
In an appendix by a David Bratman, relevant background on 17 members of the Inklings besides Tolkein and Lewis is given. Most became university professors of English or medieval literature or of language studies, with most doing scholarly writings on literary criticism. This work of literary criticism and author biography is obviously timely given the current interest in these authors as evidenced by widely-popular movies made from books of theirs.