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On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
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On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  757 Ratings  ·  70 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
Paperback, 153 pages
Published October 28th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1981)
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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
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.

Gwen Burrow
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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

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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 06, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Barnabas Piper
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There are books to read from cover to cover and there are books to skip through and dip in here and there. This, for me, was the latter. But those chapters that I dove into were fantastic. Reading Lewis's writing about writing is truly marvelous.
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
A decent collection of essays from C.S. Lewis, mostly talking about science fiction and fantasy as genres, though with some forays into writing & storytelling in general. It's a fairly insightful view into his perceptions of the early days of those genres (though if dates had accompanied the essays, that might have provided some clarity into the context of what he was speaking). Unfortunately, outside of that, I didn't find it particularly insightful to me as a writer. Maybe it's because I'm ...more
Barry Shettel
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
IT ALL BEGAN WITH A PICTURE (Chapter VII), made this book especially meaningful to me. Because of my interest in writing and illustrating children's books, I was greatly encouraged when C. S. Lewis wrote, "The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood." He went on to say, "But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it." That was when the six other Narnian books came to him. 'Suddenly' was when Lewis was 'about forty.'
The rest of the essays were inte
David Leemon
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many of these see -- I see this computer is not going to let me correct my typing errors today -- Many of these essays are about specific writers, reviewers, and reviews that might not be familiar to the modern reader. But other essays about the nature of science fiction and fantasy, what makes a good story, etcetera, are interesting both to the aspiring writer and to a person why just wants to understand one of the exalted writers of the 20th Century.
Brian Collins
Oct 05, 2013 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
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed Lewis' thoughts on fairy tales, Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers and children's lit because those are subjects dear to my heart. The other essays (on authors and topics that were unknown to me) required perseverance. This is a perfect book for reading in short spurts, giving yourself time to mull over and digest its ideas.
Tommy Grooms
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have to note again the difficulty of reviewing collections of essays written at different times for different purposes. Suffice it to say that reading a sharp mind like C.S. Lewis' pontificate on a subject near and dear to him (and at which he was successful himself), particularly on the genres of fantasy and science fiction, is a real treat.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some of my favorites were his sharing on how he came to write the Chronicles of Narnia and his critiques on his friend Tolkien's works. Also found great interest in his writing for children as well being a the best critic of your own work and ideas on how science fiction was being received in his time.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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
More about C.S. Lewis
“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.” 469 likes
“He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods; the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.” 39 likes
More quotes…