When authors impact your life so dramatically, you have this urge to know and understand them better. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien continue to impact my life to this day, but most significantly impacted my youth. The first time I opened the pages of The Hobbit, I was transported to a world of fantasy that I would happily never return from completely. To this day, I read The Hobbit at least once a year and The Lord of the Rings every year or so. Soon after The Hobbit, I was introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia, and my journeys in the fantastical realms of story grew and continued. I also make it a point to read at least a few of the Chronicles of Narnia books each year, especially my favorite, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia built the foundation for my passion for fantasy literature, art, movies and games. I do love science fiction and other genres, but the worlds I always return to year after year are Middle Earth and Narnia. When I entered college, I learned more about Tolkien and Lewis, and came to be aware of the Inklings at that time. Since then, I have sought out and read more books by the Lewis, Tolkien, and then Barfield and Williams…all members of the Inklings. I even took time out of another trip to make a side excursion to Oxford, England to see where the Inklings taught and studied, including a visit to the Eagle & Child to toast the Inklings for the joy they have given me all these years.
When I heard about a book being published that delved heavily into the lives of the Inklings, then I was very curious and requested it for Christmas. Only recently did the book bubble to the top of my reading pile. I am surprised the 600 page massive tome didn’t crush my other books in the reading pile. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski is a weighty tome not for the lighthearted reader. I even have to admit at times its scholarly pursuit for depth and accuracy can get a bit overwhelming, and a little dull at times. If you stick to it, you will find some very revealing information into the history and character of the Inklings and those they associated with. The book also gives a great history and creation story of some of the Inklings’ greatest works of literature.
“In The Fellowship, Philip and Carol Zaleski offer the first complete rendering of the Inklings’ lives and works. The result is an extraordinary account of the ideas, affections and vexations that drove the group’s most significant members. C. S. Lewis accepts Jesus Christ while riding in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle, maps the medieval and Renaissance mind, becomes a world-famous evangelist and moral satirist, and creates new forms of religiously attuned fiction while wrestling with personal crises. J.R.R. Tolkien transmutes an invented mythology into gripping story in The Lord of the Rings, while conducting groundbreaking Old English scholarship and elucidating, for family and friends, the Catholic teachings at the heart of his vision. Owen Barfield, a philosopher for whom language is the key to all mysteries, becomes Lewis’s favorite sparring partner, and, for a time, Saul Bellow’s chosen guru. And Charles Williams, poet, author of “supernatural shockers,” and strange acolyte of romantic love, turns his everyday life into a mystical pageant.”
I think this dust cover flap describes the Inklings the best. “Romantics who scorned rebellion, fantasists who prized reality, wartime writers who believed in hope, Christians with cosmic reach, the Inklings sought to revitalize literature and faith in the twentieth century’s darkest years–and did so in dazzling style.”
Do I recommend this book? I am mixed on that. It is a fascinating history of the lives of some very influential authors and gives great insights into the creative process they used and publication processes of the time. If you love biographies, if you love the Inklings, and you want to know more, then I highly recommend this book. If you just want to enjoy the creative worlds of the Inklings, then do not delve into this heavy tome, for it will pull back the curtain on the lives of authors and the books they wrote, perhaps more than you desire.