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On Stories and Other Essays on Literature

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  583 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
The theme of this collection is the excellence of the Story, especially the kind of story dear to Lewis-fantasy and science fiction, which he fostered in an age dominated by realistic fiction. On Stories is a companion volume to Lewis’s collected shorter fiction, The Dark Tower and Other Stories. Edited and with a Preface by Walter Hooper.
Paperback, 153 pages
Published 1982 by Harvest / HBJ Book, NY (first published 1981)
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Mar 31, 2016 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy
Shelves: writing
This collection deserves space next to The Tolkien Reader for students of writing and literature, especially science fiction and fantasy. The titular essay explores story itself and is a notable counterpoint to current interest in plot and character as the dichotomy into which all discussions of writing seem divided.

Further Lewis's reviews of Tolkien, Haggard, Orwell and others expands the readers appreciation of those authors.

Not to be overlooked is the closing "Unreal Estates," a taped convers
Mary Catelli
A collection of essays. All on literature in some way.

There's reviews, and discussions of individual authors. (He doesn't review Orwell, for instance; he writes an essay comparing Animal Farm and 1984 and wonders why the latter is the more popular.) Others are analysis of types of literature, such as the nature of story, or science fiction. Some are about writing, such as for children. One's about words; astute readers will note the germs of Studies in Words. Another is about the teaching of lit
Julie Davis
I have always enjoyed C. S. Lewis' nonfiction more than his fiction. Using a gift card at Barnes and Noble, I came across this collection of essays and picked it up on a whim. What a pleasure the first essay is proving to be. For one thing, I had no idea that C. S. Lewis and I had such similar reading taste. And, of course, his logic about the importance of story and the different types of story is spot on. The essays are uneven, depending on what you are interested in, but all provide insights ...more
When I first discovered this collection of essays by Mr. Lewis, I was admittedly irritated that "nobody had told me" such a collection existed--I had analyzed and defended his stories for years, loved and adored the fairy-tale genre, and puzzled over some people's violent hostility towards it, never knowing that the best answers to my questions were answered by the author himself and that he had published replies to his own critics, explaining and refuting the misunderstandings already present i ...more
Stephanie Ricker
Top to bottom, all of the essays were fascinating. I never read Lewis without a pencil; if I try, I end up deeply regretting my inability to underline every other paragraph. I particularly liked his essay on Lord of the Rings, which was a beautiful tribute to his friend’s work. He says, ”Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart.” While these essays contain a fair bit of literary criticism, they are also hilarious at times. Lewis ...more
Gwen Burrow
Aug 07, 2009 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
Excellent collection of essays and whatnot. My favorites are “On Stories,” “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” and of course, Lewis’ reviews of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The conversation at the end of the book is a must-read; Lewis speaks as neatly and winningly as he writes.
Nicholas Kotar
May 18, 2015 Nicholas Kotar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, reading C.S. Lewis is a labor. I find myself pouring over the same sentence five times to fully grasp the nuance of his meaning. Sometimes, reading C.S. Lewis is sheer pleasure. I was surprised to find this lovely collection of essays in the latter category. It contains essays on everything from the worth of stories in themselves to a panegyric on Dorothy Sayers. Most worthy of note are Lewis's reviews of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as his essay on science fiction.

Carsten Thomsen
What comprises good fiction? Well, not easy to answer - but in these 20 or so essays we get C. S. Lewis' point of view on good and bad literature.

Some essays on critics from his own day went over my head - but most of them were very good. Different Taste in Literature, On Three Ways of Writing for Children, On Science Fiction and Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said is essential Lewis - also there's A Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers and essays on Lord of the Rings and H. Rider
I loved this book. I didn't always completely agree with Lewis's ideas but he certainly had some very good ones. At the moment, at least, I admire, among other things, his distinctions between 'good' art and 'pop' art, his ideas on the basic differences between 'literary' literature and 'fantastical' literature and why different criteria must be drawn up when considering the two, and his belief in the pointlessness in reading a book only once and fluent arguments for rereading - in each case, he ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a different kind of C. S. Lewis book, though I still enjoyed it. As famous as he was for apologetics and Narnia, this series of essays shows just how much he loved science fiction and fantasy (at that time called scientifiction or just science fiction). I read it mainly for his reviews of Tolkien and Orwell, but I thoroughly enjoyed his essays on science fiction, what its purpose is, and what makes good/bad sci fi. Lewis also revealed how he came up with ideas and wrote his stories, in ...more
This is a collection of vignettes concerning what Lewis feels about the art of a story, or more so, the art of enjoying a story not because it is just so gosh darn exciting, but because you just enjoy reading a good story.

Also included is an essay on how words have changed their real meaning over time, to Lewis' disappointment.

I DO enjoy reading for readings sake..but my modern mind MUST have a connection and sense of anticipation and excitement to the story. I can't just read a book of poetry
Oct 15, 2011 David rated it really liked it
The master of storytelling gives his thoughts on the process of writing books, the snobbery of those who do not think fantasy or science fiction are appropriate for "serious" readers (or writers), the right and wrong way to write for children, what science fiction is especially appropriate for, why Tolkien and Charles Williams are great, et multa alia. My favorite essays were "On Stories," "On Three Ways of Writing For Children," "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's To Be Said," "On Juve ...more
Luke Paulsen
Apr 30, 2016 Luke Paulsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great collection, up there with Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories" and Sayers's "The Mind of the Maker" (both of which get call-outs here) as an analysis and explanation of the story-teller's art. There's plenty of variety, too. In form, these pieces vary from stand-alone articles to book reviews to unfinished drafts and even a recorded conversation. In content, they cover any number of important and fascinating authors, as well as Lewis's own work and his overall principles as a writer and ...more
Nov 26, 2009 Lady rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, non-fiction
Although academic in style (and therefore a little dry), I found this book to be really interesting. His ideas about criticism and fairy tales were definitely worth reading and have subtly found their way into my point of view. I like Lewis and even though this isn't his most engaging work, the ideas are well formed, well explained and definitely worthwhile.
Audrey Hammer
Jun 05, 2016 Audrey Hammer rated it liked it
Professor Lewis has such a distinctive, personable writing style. It's very pleasurable. This is a collection of his thoughts on writing and reading.

He criticizes the idea that if you have fun reading, you aren't doing it right. He praises the imagination of science fiction writing. He laments how movies can ruin the books they're based on. He criticizes that notion that children are total aliens and therefore adults and children can't like the same thing. He argues that really good stories are
Mar 04, 2014 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This anthology deserves four stars, despite its randomness. I appreciated the fact that many items were included in this collection, unlike some texts. I loved seeing Lewis's review of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. "On Stories," "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," and "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said," are all wonderful and popular essays included. I also love "On Criticism."

There is much overlap between this book and Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. But t
R.A. Derdeyn
Aug 01, 2014 R.A. Derdeyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to know what C.S. Lewis thinks about the craft of writing, including writing fantasy stories, this is a great place to look. There are several essays, among them, "On Stories", "On Three Ways of Writing for Children", On Juvenile Tastes" and "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said" that lay out many of his thoughts in this area. As usual, his writing is full of interesting ideas and most are well explained.

There are also a number of other interesting essays including
Some of the essays in this collection are brilliant, but a lot of the material feels haphazardly thrown together. There are some good ideas expressed here, but few that Lewis has not expressed better elsewhere.
Michael Joosten
Nov 19, 2014 Michael Joosten rated it really liked it
To put down but a few thoughts inspired by this read:

Lewis is one of those excellent sounding-board authors for testing your literature literacy. He is astoundingly well-read (as befit a professional in his field--but not only in "literature," but right through to the contemporary science fiction of his day). If you can follow most of the proper names in his work without constant reference to Wikipedia, your English education is robust.

The interview with Amis and Aldiss was particularly full of
Brian Collins
Oct 05, 2013 Brian Collins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of essays contains interesting observations by Lewis on the writings of Tolkien, Orwell, Sayers, Charles Williams. Lewis also discusses writing for children, writing fantasy and writing science fiction. Insights include:
"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty—except, of course, books of information."
"Another very large class of stories turns on fulfilled prophecies—the story of Oedipus, or
Nov 09, 2015 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-author-studies
Full of wisdom and well-executed arguments. Several essays I merely skimmed because I am not familiar with the authors or titles or circumstances of which he was writing, though many of those still taught me much in the way of writing in spite of not knowing about his specific examples.

Of the rest, I found it difficult not to quote and highlight the whole thing. Lots of rich wisdom on writing stories for people. Lewis argues that the best stories are those that are written for all. This is prob
Apr 17, 2014 M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a wide ranging and fascinating collection of essays by Lewis, hitting on every aspect of fiction. He writes widely on the value of science fiction and fantasy as legitimate forms, on education reform, on good v. bad literary criticism, and on a good number of his favorite works and authors. Well work reading if you're interested in thinking critically on literature and genre fiction. Lewis may not always be right, but he is always thinking very deeply, logically, and practically about every ...more
Jason Custer
May 15, 2013 Jason Custer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of essays is not for everyone, but if you are looking to understand story better, I would highly recommend you read it. I have never read many of the contemporary authors or books he talks about (besides Lewis, Tolkien, and the other well known authors he mentions), but I still really enjoyed most of the essays regardless. This book is an insight into the mind of a great writer of fiction (and non-fiction) and his understanding of stories. Intriguing essay's on how he wrote Narni ...more
Very, very good. Good, solid, interesting points--always nicely laced with that quiet, understated humor of his. Wonderful defense of Chesterton.
Sep 29, 2015 Mia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I really enjoyed almost all of these essays. Lewis writes in a way that is, at once, mischievous, passionate, and intellectual. I agreed with his ideas in most (though not all) of his essays, particularly those on the value of children's and fantasy literature, though the age of these essays do necessitate a few cringe-worthy phrases, such as one regarding the pleasure a housewife feels pouring jam into a clean jam jar (though to be fair, our recently ousted prime minister made a similar sort of ...more
Peter Owens
Some intriguing essays, some essays that I don't even really recall. Worth an afternoon.
Kyle Hatfield
Apr 22, 2014 Kyle Hatfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening essay on stories is fantastic.
I will admit, I didn't read this one cover to cover. I borrowed it from the library because there were specific essays I was interested in reading which I have now read, so I'm calling it complete :)

The essays I was most interested in were specifically about children's literature and they were just as interesting and thought-provoking as I hoped they would be. As a lover of all kinds of books including children's books and YA as well as "adult" books, I really love CS Lewis's insights and thoug
Feb 27, 2016 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-s-lewis
A fine collection with nary a dull essay in it.

Favorites: everybody should justifiably swoon over Lewis talking about Lord of the Rings. He really understands the thrill of these books.

All Lewis's essays about writing children's literature are terrific and almost classic.

I love the vignettes about Orwell, Charles Williams, Sayers, and G. Rider Haggard.

On Criticism, though unfinished, takes the cake for me and makes me very suspicious about discerning hidden plans (but I am unrepentant in my love
Daniel Roueche
Jul 11, 2013 Daniel Roueche rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had some excellent thoughts on stories in general - some things I've felt in the back of my head at times, put down here very sensibly in writing. He puts his finger on some of the ways stories fail to take the reader places and be memorable, and some of the ways the good stories stick with the reader and bring them back for rereads. In addition it includes a lot of other thoughts and critiques of some well-known stories, including Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and 1984 and Animal Farm.
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CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than th ...more
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“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” 385 likes
“Hence the uneasiness which they arouse in those who, for whatever reason, wish to keep us wholly imprisoned in the immediate conflict. That perhaps is why people are so ready with the charge of "escape." I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, "What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and hostile to, the idea of escape?" and gave the obvious answer: jailers.” 24 likes
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