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On Stories and Other Essays on Literature

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4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  400 ratings  ·  38 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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Ron
Jun 20, 2011 Ron rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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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
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
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.
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
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B
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
Josh
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
Wendy
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
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David
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
Perelandra
Reading this collection of essays by C. S. Lewis highlights a man who thought well, communicated well, and attempted, arguably with success, living out honesty. What I particularly enjoyed about the collection was Lewis's logical and persuasive defense of the Fairy Story and explanation of why it is not something only for children. Furthermore, the collection has moments of downright hilarity as Lewis was a very funny guy - ever wielding the perfectly timed quip.
Lady
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.
Kris
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
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R.A. Derdeyn
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
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Jonathan
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
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
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Brian Collins
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
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Brian
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
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M.
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
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
T.E.
Very, very good. Good, solid, interesting points--always nicely laced with that quiet, understated humor of his. Wonderful defense of Chesterton.
Peter Owens
Some intriguing essays, some essays that I don't even really recall. Worth an afternoon.
Kyle Hatfield
The opening essay on stories is fantastic.
Daniel Roueche
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.
Julia
Lewis' thoughts on story and literature, like many of his essays, are clear and whimsical. It gave me a renewed desire to gobble up fairy tales and re-read my favorites, remembering that the excitement induced by the initial reading is interior to the Romance that attracts the deeper imagination.

One of many choice quotations: "[Fairy tales] strengthen our relish for real life. The excursion into the preposterous sends us back with renewed pleasure to the actual."
Melora
A few of these were good, but most were dated, or about issues or authors not of interest to me. I'll admit that I skimmed quite a few (I'd probably have given it two stars instead of three if I'd felt obliged to wade through every bit of the essay on Rider Haggard!).
Tim VanderMeulen
Here's a piece of the dialogue that inspires my own writing. 'On Stories', 'On Three Ways of Writing for Children', and 'Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said' are timeless essays on the fantastic. I owe much to C.S. Lewis, and his work will always be among my favorites. Here's to some of the best of human thought, philosophy, and endeavor in literature.
Ryan
Deeply serious, piercingly insightful (especially about the piercing insights of critics), and fabulously funny. Lewis is among the greatest writers who ever put pen to paper, and he gives his wisdom - born of his leisure, his study, and his work as an author - about what stories and *why* stories are. Not to be missed!
Cara Meredith
While I'm a big Lewis fan, this collection of essays wasn't my favorite. There were, of course, various chapters I did enjoy, and perhaps I contemporary of Lewis, I'd gain more from his criticism. Those authors and genres I do enjoy (that he mentions), I therefore gained more from.
Jenni
From what I've read, this book is just fantastic when it comes to convincing to the reader that fantasy, especially for children, is not "evil" like some people may believe. Not that I needed convincing, but I loved to see the words come straight from Mr. Lewis himself.
RE de Leon
Perhaps the best introduction to the person who wants insight into CS Lewis as a writer. "On Three Ways of Writing For Children", "On Juvenile Tastes", "On Stories", and "On Science Fiction" being notable must-reads.

More details on my next reading of the book.
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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
More about C.S. Lewis...
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

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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.” 300 likes
“The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat, otherwise dull to him, by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savory for having been dipped in a story…by putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it.” 13 likes
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