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On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

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4.27  ·  Rating details ·  974 ratings  ·  98 reviews
“In life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch in our net of successive moments something that is not successive . . . But I think it is sometimes done—or very, very nearly done—in stories.”

C.S. Lewis is widely known for his fiction, especially his stories of science fiction and fantasy, for which he was a pioneering author in an age of realistic f
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Paperback, 153 pages
Published October 28th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1981)
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Dean
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without discussions, this is definitely a five star book!!!
Excellent, superb, light sheading and rewarding.....
If you love literature,
If you love C. S. Lewis books,
If you want to know what's going on in the mind of one of the finest authors ever, about bookish things,
Then, and only then will I say, you will join me without scruples or remorse and doubts of any kind in my evaluation of this essays collection!!!
So, folks, I've enjoyed immensely this collection, and at the same time have learn a lo
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Shiloah
Reading Lewis is always an enriching experience. Each read through his works offers meals with delightful and interesting food for thought. This was my first experience with this book. One of the take-aways that has taken root is something I was already feeling impressed to do. Now it’s more cemented within me and it’s given me a deeper understanding and reason for what I’m working towards. That is to reread. I have reread some books, but not with the energy and purpose I’m working towards now. ...more
Ron
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy
Shelves: writing, lewis
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
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sarah
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a writer or author, read this.
If you want to be a writer or author, read this.
If you are a lover of Story in general, read this.
Just read it.
It's worth the time.
Emily
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
Nicholas Kotar
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.

I
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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
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Elizabeth
This book was so lovely. I read this with my friend and we discussed the essays every morning. There is so much wisdom and food for thought in this book. We discovered that this book contains some of our favorite Lewis quotes!

I got chills when Lewis discussed how he came up with the Narnia stories and how the stories practically wrote themselves and the morals came when the stories showed him the morals.

I have a few images in my mind from this book that will stay with me and some of them surrou
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Ashley Tegart
What a wonderful book! I loved C.S. Lewis’ insights into both reading fiction and writing it. While I don’t agree with Lewis on everything, many of his insights are profound and have given me much to think about as I work on my own novel-in-progress! I also loved his reviews of different books that are now classics (I am currently rereading Lord of the Rings, so reading his review of Tolkien’s work was delightful). His responses to critics of his own work were intriguing. Lewis is witty as alway ...more
Joellen
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading my favorite author discuss one of my most favorite subjects was like coming Home.

His snark and vivaciousness towards some of the literary critics of his day made me adore him all the more.
Brian Cooper
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a hidden gem. Among all of Lewis' work this is a unique book -- I loved his essay on Charles Williams, and his ode to Dorothy Sayers had me misty eyed. Then there is the technical end of writing, literature, and Lewis' approach (which I found to be more broad and open to admitting his own limitations -- an incredible and rare insight into his humble confidence). But, the final recording of a conversation between himself and two other professors transcribed was wonderful -- "I think we s ...more
Jordan
Reread for the first time in probably ten years. Good collection of essays on literature, genre, and criticism, not all of them complete. Interesting in the unfinished ones to see earlier versions of ideas Lewis developed more fully in later essays.
Whitney
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
“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.”

Remember that thing I started in January, about reading CS Lewis every month? I promise I haven’t given up, but I’ve definitely fallen behind in #thecslewisproject 🤦🏼‍♀️.

But thankfully I did finally finish April’s (!) pick! As a quick
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Jenny
Most of Lewis's collections of essays have been delightful, but I find myself particularly attached to his essays on literature.

A number of the essays in this collection I read earlier this year in other collections (that is, perhaps, one of the most irritating things about trying to read all of Lewis's work--that essays appear in multiple collections, and without a clear memory of the title of every single essay, it's difficult to be sure if you're getting new content or not) but the repeats w
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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
G.M. Burrow
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary, inklings
Excellent collection of essays and presentations. Favorites: "A Reply to Professor Haldane," “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.

Reread in May 2018.
Fred
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I laugh at books I agree with. People think I'm reading a hilarious comedy when I'm reading C. S. Lewis. He's the only who understands some things.
David
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an absolutely brilliant series of essays on reading stories. I'd put this alongside Lewis' An Experiment in Criticism as good reading for anyone who wants to think about reading. Lewis also frequently cites his friend Tolkien's essay On Fairy Stories which is found in The Tolkien Reader. Speaking of Tolkien, one of the benefits of this book is it includes Lewis' reviews of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (as well as essays on Dorothy Sayers and George Orwell).

A few themes come up throug
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John
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These essays are not C.S. Lewis on Christian subjects, although he is the same Lewis. It is Lewis as an expert on literature -- all sorts of literature, including science fiction and children's stories. It's the delightful mix of wit and insight with small helpings of the curmudgeon and the snob one always finds in him. "Curmudgeon" and "snob" might not be endearments, but in Lewis I find them to be part of the appeal.
Samples:

An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. The
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Dana Schnitzel
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am I even qualified to review Lewis's work? And to give it 4 stars? This series of essays is excellently written. My only drawback was that several of the essays were reviews or responses to authors or works that I had not read, but that's more a reflection on my reading repertoire than Lewis's writing. I particularly loved his review of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and his essays on the importance of stories. Since Lewis does a far better job of speaking for himself than I, I'll leave a few not ...more
Diana Maria
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, it's done and I have a disconcerting feeling that I have not gotten a quarter in of what I ought to have taken, though that is not due to any fault of thel author, but the fault lies entirely on me and my dormant areas of the brain which have been shocked into awakening, to put it starkly. The book actually is a collection of essays wonderfully written and exquisitely explained (though some I would have liked to have beena little bit longer), with C.S. Lewis' comments (with a good deal of ...more
Jeremy
Aug. 1, 2016: I read "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said," "On Juvenile Tastes," and "It All Began with a Picture . . . ."

Aug. 26, 2016: I read "The Hobbit," "Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings," and "Different Tastes in Literature."

On Stories

The Novels of Charles Williams

A Tribute to E. R. Eddison

On Three Ways of Writing for Children
31–32: bad way of writing for children: figure out what kids want, and give that to them
32: good way: writ
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Jill
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like water in desert; Lewis takes the pretentiousness and presumptions out of modern writing and storytelling.
Austin Hoffman
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this for "The Parthenon and the Optative." It had some great essays, especially those on Tolkien, children's stories, and criticism. I recognized many famous Lewis quotes that I had heard before.
Carsten Thomsen
Oct 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 25, 2009 added it
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
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Lydia
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A combination of essays, papers and even a couple interview/conversations written by Lewis (or where Lewis is one of the talkers). The topics are either on a specific authors works, story contents (often exploring the realm of science fiction or fantasy) or the methods of literary critics.

Depending on your interests will depend on which of these you enjoy the most. My favorite was On Three Ways of Writing for Children as it had so many quotes I just loved!

"But there may be an author who at a pa

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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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Clive Staples Lewis 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
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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.” 538 likes
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