C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings met each week to read and discuss each other's work-in-progress, offering both encouragement and blistering critique. How did these conversations shape the books they were writing? How does creative collaboration enhance individual talent? And what can we learn from their example?
Diana Pavlac Glyer thinks that studying faded pencil marks on dusty manuscripts is more fun than going to Disneyland. That's why she has spent more than 40 years combing through archives and lurking in libraries. She is a leading expert on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. Her book "The Company They Keep" changed the way we talk about these writers. Read more of her work on the Inklings in "BANDERSNATCH: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings." Bandersnatch is practical and really inspiring. Her scholarship, her teaching, and her work as an artist all circle back to one common theme: creativity thrives in community.
In The Company They Keep, Diana Pavlac Glyer established herself among the foremost Inklings scholars. It’s one of those rarities, a deeply academic book that is also immensely readable.
That book proved that the Inklings really were a collaborative group, and not a bunch of lone geniuses who got together regularly to read bits then retreated to their man caves for more solitary labor.
In Bandersnatch, she shows how they did it. To do so, Glyer uses that clear, accessible style to begin with her own search for the Inklings' process, and how long it took before she cracked the case. She then develops an overview of the Inklings’ various backgrounds, and how they came together to form the group. Next she explores—with an eye to writers today who may be looking for ways to form and run a successful writers’ group—how the Inklings worked, and what eventually broke the group.
What bound them together for so long was the question they all faced on arrival, “Well, has nobody got anything to read to us?” Everybody got their innings, whether the work was abstruse poetry, a linguistic paper, a history, or fiction.
Everyone was free to criticize, and according to Warren Lewis, it might have sounded like a battleground as all these articulate, trenchantly intellectual and rigorously trained men picked apart ideas, but there was no rancor nor striving to force others to one’s POV. They did get picky about who could join, sometimes getting irritated if a member brought a guest without consulting the rest. Though one or two of these guests eventually fit right in.
They despised the idea of a “mere butter bath”—nothing but praise, and Glyer makes it clear in a succession of chapters who influenced various famous works, and how. (And not always for the best: at least, I liked the ending for LOTR that Tolkien wanted better than the one we have, but he bowed to what he perceived as universal disapprobation for his own wishes.)
When JRRT began writing what became LOTR (it was called “the new Hobbit” for years) C.S. Lewis was excited by the idea, but he said the beginning bogged down in a lot of hobbit talk. This grieved Tolkien, as he loved his hobbits, and his idea of a good hobbit book included lots of hobbits gossiping, eating, gardening, and pottering about the Shire.
But JRRT got stuck early on—and couldn’t move on the book for several years, until he had lunch with Lewis, who pointed out that “hobbits are only amusing in unhobbit-like situations.”
Bang. That was exactly what Tolkien needed, and the book took off.
In another discussion, Glyer illustrates how Lewis was convinced that no good book can be good for kids unless it is also good for adults: “This is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery . . .Only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth read, will they begin to realize what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true.”
He plainly tried to put that to work in his Narnia series—which Tolkien loathed. Lewis gave up the idea until he got encouragement from Roger Lancelyn Green, who adored the first book—and Lewis went back to it. Narnia’s mishmash of mythologies and the overt religious symbolism were never going to appeal to Tolkien, whose religious convictions resonated tectonically in his work, the fictional landscape above shaped by a painstakingly consistent mythology. But Tolkien reined in his general objection, and either gave specific feedback or else just listened without comment.
Glyer also uses the Inklings to illustrate what can kill a group. Some of the Inklings, including Owen Barfield, didn’t care for Lord of the Rings, but kept silent when it was Tolkien’s turn to read. But Hugo Dyson, a man they all liked and respected, loathed LOTR so much he would complain loudly if Tolkien showed up with papers—now they were in for another load of elves.
His complaints were so loud and consistent that Tolkien stopped reading when Dyson showed up—and though none of them knew it at the time, that was the breaking point of the Inklings. Glyer illustrates the fundamental difference between keeping silence, and silencing someone.
At the end of each chapter is a concise set of suggestions for the writer either on process or as part of a writers’ group, and it ends with a terrific meditation on collaboration in the wider sense.
There’s an excellent quote from Dorothy Sayers: “Poets do not merely pass on the torch in a relay race; they toss the ball to one another, to and fro, across the centuries. Dante would have been different if Virgil had never been, but if Dante had never been, we should know Virgil differently; across both their heads Ezekiel calls to Blake, and Milton to Homer.”
The book ends with a list of sensible—and workable—suggestions for putting together a writers’ group.
I think this book would be ideal for any writer with sympathy or interest in at least one of the Inklings. It would also be an excellent text for a writers’ class, especially within the framework of Christian schools, as the Inklings were Christians, so there is necessarily discussion of Christian viewpoints. But I think there is a great deal of insight and practical suggestion for anybody here, unless you happen to be one of those who has to stick fingers in ears and shout La La La! when a discussion veers toward sympathy with religion.
The book is also handsomely illustrated by James A. Owen.
"Community" is all the rage these days: There's the atheist community and the art community, the scrapbooking community and the UFO community, the homeless community and the homeschool community. But having a common interest or grievance does not forge a set of disconnected individuals into a genuinely connected union. Churches, too, if you're into that kind of thing, have started using the term "community" a lot, though we pretty much just mean the same thing as when we talked about our "membership." Diana Glyer's new book, "Bandersnatch," is not just, as New York Times book reviewer Mark Oppenheimer said in a different context, "another way to finger (C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien's) shroud," not simply another book about the beer-and-pipe group of what Malcolm Guite has called "tweed-covered Oxford dons." Glyer studies the Inklings to find the genius that allowed this boisterous group of strong personalities to form a true "community" that provided the encouragement, opposition, praise, criticism, and fun that sustained what is now being understood as perhaps the only truly counter-cultural, revolutionary writer's group of the mid twentieth-century. "Bandersnatch" could be read alongside the Rule of St. Benedict as a handbook for forming true community. For churches wishing to form genuinely dynamic "small groups," for pastors feeling the isolation of their calling and seeking a new wind in their sails, for Christian students striving courageously on the campuses of hostile secular universities, this is not an entertaining diversion but a field manual for the battle.
This is much more than just a popular version of Glyers' great Scholarly work on the Inkings -The Company They Keep- this is a book that encourages new writers just as much as it tells the story of great writers in the past -its a call to collaboration full of inspiring stories and practical tips, so that we not only admire the Inklings as a writers group, we are given every opportunity and encouragement to learn from them
My only complaint is the lack of chronology. Everything else was incredible. I expected the book to be a biography on the Inklings group (and it is that, as the author had the context to understand the members and their writings).
But more than the WHO, the book addresses the HOW of the group. How did the Inklings impact one another? How did the group operate and for so long?
The most impactful part for me was the WHY. Why did they have a group at all? And why on earth did it become the writing group of the 21st century?
Bandersnatch explores the very nature of community and how the Inklings achieved a proper balance for such a long while. It's more than a biography--it's a study of creativity and community. As a writer, it's an invaluable insight into one of the most influential groups of modern times and a highly practical inspiration.
I enjoyed this book for many reasons--for its stories of the workings of the Inklings, for its insights into the creative process, and for its practical suggestions for writers and other creative people.
For those who love the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, could anything be more inspiring than to enter into the creative relationship of these two friends to see how they influenced one another? This book opens a door to that friendship and to the relationships among the other members of the Inklings to show what a creative difference these writers made to one another.
Bandersnatch is fascinating not only as literary history, but it will also show you ways to transform your own creative life by inviting others into it.
Multitudes of readers and movie-goers are familiar with the names and writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many are also aware that the two literary giants were part of a ‘club’ called The Inklings, though they may not know anything about the group. Fewer realize that there were well over a dozen more Inklings, although some have heard of Christopher Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield. Hardly anyone can name all nineteen, and perhaps nobody has read every single thing ever published by every single one of them – except Dr. Diana Glyer.
From the treasure houses of knowledge accumulated over twenty-plus years of meticulous research, Dr. Glyer presents in Bandersnatch a well-balanced blend of trustworthy factual information and thoughtful insight regarding the individuals who were the Inklings, their personal interactions with one another, and both the public and private workings of the group as a corporate body.
The dual nature of this book makes it particularly helpful: it is not only a genuinely good, accessible biography of the Inklings; it is also an excellent, encouraging guidebook for those who wish to follow their example. Each chapter concludes with a succinct “Doing What They Did” summary, and the final section of the book is an epilogue outlining specific steps for starting a writing group.
Bandersnatch is both a significant contribution to Inklings scholarship and a valuable resource on collaborative creativity. I highly recommend it to Inklings lovers as well as writers and other artists seeking to live and create in community.
How shall I start this post? How about this book is fabulous, interesting, encouraging and a must read for Inkling fans and writers? Yes, let’s start there!
I’m going to continue by saying I absolutely loved this book. This is a fabulously read for Inklings fans as well as writers. Let me get back to the Inklings part. The insiders look into the key members of the Inklings is fascinating to read (like what Tolkien and Lewis thought of each other’s works). I really enjoyed learning more about how they thought, what they liked, etc and how that all played a role in the ways they critiqued. How they meet, how the group grew and how they encouraged and critiqued each other is a lesson anyone can use (no matter the industry they work). I loved that this book was written for all readers and reminds readers why we love story in the first place.
There are also key takeaways of what it looks like to collaborate. Praise and criticism are necessary because they help you grow as a writer. I enjoyed all of it, but especially enjoyed reading Tolkien and Lewis’ responses and encouragement to both praise and criticism. I’m sure that has to do with the fact that I’m a bit of a “fan” of the two, but no matter – this book is a must read for collaborators!
The Inklings were by no means a perfect group, delivering criticism with perfection or anything like that, but they worked through it and truly everyone was a better writer because of it.
Oh and y’all she’s met and talked with Christopher Tolkien. Wha???
Have you had the chance to study or learn from some of your favorite authors?
(Thank you to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)
A glory upon glory. If Diana Pavlac Glyer's monumental The Company They Keep weren't enough to establish her in the echelon of the very best thinkers and writers on the Inklings, along comes Bandersnatch to cinch the deal for scholars and general readers alike, mapping out a collaborative model that cannot help but enrich every life lucky enough to delve into its pages. A MUST-HAVE, for many re-reads, for years to come!
There is something wonderful about good literature. The words, the phrases, the characters, the exciting plot twists – a good story of an amalgamation of many things working together. When we find a story that captures us, that plants its roots firmly in our imaginations, we quickly develop a deep and lasting appreciation for that work.
Have you ever had that feeling? The sensation of being transported to another time, another place? It is nothing short of magical. But how does an author achieve this? How does he or she take bare symbols on the page and create something that blossoms so beautifully in our minds?
Talent and hard work. That is the short, expected answer. However, writing is a difficult and soul-bearing process. There are times when the glorious worlds that an author envisions are not what sweeps across the page. Writers get discouraged; they wrestle with self-doubt. They also need a strong and trustworthy voice to give advice and constructive criticism. Most of our greatest writers had this including two ever-popular fantasy staples, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Tolkien and Lewis were friends and lecturers at Oxford. First they discovered a mutual love for “northerness” – Norse mythology. They began to write and challenge one another, meeting in Lewis’s room at Oxford on Thursday evening. More people joined, and out of this casual gathering came one of the most influential writing groups in history – The Inklings. Here drafts of The Lord of the Rings and certain books from The Chronicles of Narnia (along with many other manuscripts) were read and given critical feedback. This shaped the drafts into stronger pieces, and later into cherished and much-loved classics. The fascinating journey of this writing group, along with beautiful illustrations, is presented in the newest work by scholar Diana Glyer, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings.
This book, wonderfully illustrated by James A. Owen, traces the journey of the Inklings from its infancy to its full maturation. This included men from a variety of backgrounds – scholars, a doctor, an attorney, a publisher – that met twice a week, once to share drafts and another to engage is rowdy and boisterous conversation at The Eagle and Child Pub. Glyer carefully details how Lewis provided feedback to sharpen sections of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien gave feedback to Lewis on The Chronicles of Narnia (spoiler: he wasn’t a fan). Both men gave substantial criticism which made the manuscripts much better. For example, what were some of the original hobbit names? Glyer tells you, along with how Lewis’s suggestions were incorporated to make the characters better (another spoiler: the first names were kinda hideous).
Additionally, Glyer explains how creative collaboration makes a draft better. This is not “slavish imitation or thinly veiled plagiarism,” she writes. Instead, it is the encouragement of other artists contributing to a wider body of art. Many times, we look to our favorite authors or painters or musicians to lend us inspiration. Why not surround ourselves with artists whom we admire to catalyze our creativity? Glyer writes, “More and more, normal creativity starts to look a lot less like a lone genius stuck with a single breathtaking insight and a whole lot more like a series of sparks coming from different directions, each spark inspiring something new” (149). She has worked for over 40 years in Inklings scholarship, reading all of the works of each Inkling. The fruit of her labor was her award-winning dissertation, The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community.
Glyer’s book is a significant contribution to Inklings Studies. If you are not a Tolkien or Lewis fan, there are still lots of great lessons and stories in the book to pique your interest. Glyer discusses how to create collaborative groups in her epilogue; it is a helpful guide for anyone who wants to create in community, using a wealth of examples from her research on the Inklings.
This book is a MUST HAVE!!! I urge you to add it to your library.
Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings is a remarkable account of the relationships of Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings as they were interwoven in friendship, faith, and work. Dr. Glyer, the world's leading expert on the influence of the Inklings has written magnificently about this set of relationships in her extraordinary book -The Company They Keep. The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community However, while general topic range is similar between these two works, the treatment of the material and the purpose of each is quite distinct. The Company They Keep is a scholars book - a book brilliantly and beautifully written for those who study the Inklings and their work. It is a pivotal work challenging existing notions about the influence and effects the Inklings has on each other and in it Glyer bravely and boldly advances a concept about how creative work is produced in context of community rather than in isolation. The Company They Keep is THE best book written on the nature of collaboration of the Inklings and nothing compares to it. There are some tremendous works done by fellow Inklings scholars including Colin Duriez, Michael Ward, Malcolm Guite, Bruce Edwards, Jerry Root, Judith and Brendan Wolfe, Philip and Carol Zaleski, and Devin Brown. However, no work of scholarship in existence today compares to The Company They Keep for the specific nature of the material that is addressed in it.
Bandersnatch is a book emerging from this illustrious foundation but it is written for a wider audience and for a different purpose. It is designed to have wider application of critical ideas applicable to creatives in many fields - but especially for writers. This is a book using the beautifully told story of Lewis and Tolkien's long friendship and out of each chapter key ideas are drawn with insightful suggestions, aptly titled "Doing What They Did", on how those same practices can be recreated in our own lives as creatives. And a luscious bonus to all this are the illustrations by James A. Owen, fabulous illustrator and author of the Chronicles of Imaginarium Geographica series. The cover illustration is a delight and there is an illustration of Lewis outside Magdalen College that is just riveting! The illustrations have a unique quality of lending a sense of imaginative mystery to the text and serve as portals into the ideas themselves.
Overall, this book is not only not to be missed, it is a book to be followed. There are exciting additions planned in the course of the next year that will continue the legacy of insight into collaboration and creating in community and I believe this is just the beginning of something marvelous!
Any writer, no matter how talented, can benefit from the creative collaboration of a writing group, in giving honest advice and encouragement. Demonstrating this, Diana Glyer provides a unique, inspiring and captivating resource for the writer-in-group (even a small group) She draws richly upon the experience of the Inklings, one of literature's most well-known groups: their art of collaboration that can still mentor and sustain writers today.
Good little book on how the Inklings worked together. We’ll researched, even a bit academic at times. The last two chapter were helpful in learning how to apply the lessons learned from the study. Micheal Ward is not only an Lewis academic in his own right but also an excellent narrator for this book.
A delightful addition to scholarship on the Inklings. I really enjoyed this particular contribution because it is as much an analysis of the mechanics of the wildly successful writing group as it is about the individual members as writers. It left me longing for a group of friends who are all committed in heart and time to producing quality writing and who happen to thoroughly enjoy each other's company.
Glyer focuses on Charles Williams more than other books I've read on the group, and I am so glad she does. Williams is my new favorite Inkling. Though I don't know his body of work well, if he was anything like Glyer presents him than he was a rather remarkable friend and person. These are character goals for sure:
From his biographer, Alice Mary Hadfield: "C.W. could make each one [strangers and friends alike] seem important and interesting, a vital gift to most of us, but even more than that, he could make life important and interesting, not some life removed from us by money, opportunity or gifts, but the very life we had to lead and should probably go on leading for years."
From Gerard Hopkins: "He found the gold in all of us and made it shine."
Glyer also describes a principle of his life as being "Everyone, all the time, owes his life to others. It is not only in war that this is true. We cannot eat breakfast without being nourished by some life that has been laid down. If our breakfast is cereal or toast, then it is the life of grains of wheat that have gone into the ground and died that we might have food. If it is bacon, then the blood of some pig has been shed for the sake of my nourishment." Such a beautiful way to appreciate the world and those who participate in it with, for, and because of us.
So yeah, this book has started my little obsessions with Charles Williams and writing groups.
Also, the sketches are delightful and somehow Sehnsucht-inducing.
I was so looking forward to the release of this book and it was WELL WORTH THE WAIT! I am a huge fan of Glyer's The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, so much so that it never occurred to me the book is "scholarly" and therefore "over the heads of" some readers (I personally question that - Diana Glyer writes with such accessibility and her footnotes are full of wonderful information; I wonder if some people are just intimidated by the idea of a book with footnotes or an author who talks about doing a lot of research into the subject matter...?) - but BANDERSNATCH covers much the same ground in a very reader-friendly way, focusing on the power of collaboration with a lot of "how to do what the Inklings did" details for modern writers, artists, and musicians.
I think Bandersnatch is very accessible and highly engaging and encouraging - I cannot imagine a creative person coming away without being greatly inspired and stimulated.
Wow, this book is a treasure. For a non-academic lover of Lewis and Tolkien, and now the other Inklings, like me, this is a great find. As a practical working person who also has a passion to create and express through design, invention and story, this work brings new direction and hope. Its practical direction and inspiring hope changed my view of my own writing from a little hobby into something that I now know, in community, can grow into something of real significance.
Bandersnatch is no selfish dragon. Because of its very nature, you will be compelled to share this book with friends. Its treasures may be contained between two covers, in its intricate illustrations, its wealth of valuable information and many inspiring stories, so full of interesting character(s), but its full value will be realize as it changes lives through its many practical, usable nuggets of advice. I know my life will be enriched as I share, explore and follow the examples it contains, within my group of like-minded friends.
This is an incredible book that I enjoyed more with every new inside look at the collaboration of the Inklings, and every new insight into how such collaborative friendship can bolster creativity today. The author shows that timeless works like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were not solo acts, but impacted and formed by honest critique, witty conversations, and deep friendships. It was fascinating as a reader to enter into the world of these creative masters and follow along in their collaborative processes.
Each story in Bandersnatch about the Inklings is masterfully told in rich detail. This plus the added insights into creativity today inspired me in my own friendships and creative pursuits. Anyone pursuing imagination and creativity--whether in writing, art, music, academia, the business world, or literally anywhere else--will discover through this book how collaboration can transform whatever work they are doing.
Anyone who knows me knows I love Tolkien’s works and the world that he has created. So, I have always known about the inklings and friendship of Lewis and Tolkien, but I never knew the true extent of it. As far as I knew was that they were friends and that Tolkien played a part with Lewis conversion to Christianity. I knew nothing about how they influenced each other’s writings. And even at that I had no idea the extent to how many people were in the inklings. All that said I immediately bought this book when I saw it, expecting to only learn about Tolkien and Lewis, but man was I wrong. This book showed so many intricate details about how the inklings help and influenced each other, how well they knew and cared for each other, and even how well they critiqued one another. I would 100% recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Lewis, Tolkien, and the inklings writings. I am an engineer, the farthest thing from a writer, but I really learned a lot from this book about the importance of collaboration in creating.
In the early chapters I struggled a bit with how the book shares stories out of chronological order. As the book went on I realized that the author wrote each chapter with a central idea or theme about the inklings. Which really help establish ideas as the book progressed.
This is a book about the collaborative life of the Inklings. Parts of it were rather plodding but then other parts of it positively soared. It was surprising to read of the frank disagreements, the lack of graciousness at times among the group. I never realized how much the members of the group contributed to each other’s work. I definitely would like to read more about each of the Inklings.
What new great works might arise if we were to form Inklings-type communities for our own creative projects? Diana Glyer's new book, Bandersnatch, gives aspiring artists a lively birds-eye view into the internal workings of one of the most famous literary groups of all time and provides a roadmap for the aspiring author who dreams of a new "Narnia". Her guidebook provides the impetus for creating in collaboration with others. Based on her own scholarly research over twenty years, Bandersnatch identifies what it was about the Inklings that enabled each of them, not just one, to be prodigious in their output during the years they were collaborating. And it gives the reader the necessary information to do the same.
Dr. Glyer clarifies what makes a collaboration between friends successful. Her book is an invitation to, as she puts it, "rethink the process of invention" in order to create works that stand the test of time. Within the pages of Bandersnatch, Diana defines for the reader why "resonators" are necessary in order to move forward on personal projects. She also helps the reader to identify folks to play this critical role.
And there are bonuses. Diana gives the reader a glimpse of "northernness" as Lewis and Tolkien would have understood it. She cites a portion of Lewis's first letter to Charles Williams, which could form a study on what makes Lewis' own work so compelling and she provides a snapshot of how Lewis might have imagined angels. She also gives readers (through the eyes of Lewis) a reason to read Charles Williams. Her epilogue alone, with its specific recommendations for those seeking to form a group of people with whom they can collaborate, is worth the price of the book.
Our finite minds are forever balking and bolting, like a Bandersnatch. We need others who are willing to invest in our creative endeavors, to help refine and define and keep the creative impulse alive. Diana's book enables the reader to search out and assimilate those in our larger creative circles who can help us individually reach greater productivity than we ever could alone.
As a teenager, Diana Pavlac Glyer became fascinated by the Inklings, and how this group of accomplished writers may have influenced each other's work. Unfortunately, she found a great deal about the Inklings generally and as individuals, and almost nothing about how the Inklings may have engaged in mutual criticism and collaboration. Reading every published work about the group and its members brought her no closer, and at last she plunged into the primary sources--the letters, journals, and other papers left behind by the Inklings.
Few writing groups become famous, and the Inklings are among the most famous. Aside from writing and residence in or around Oxford, the Inklings were a diverse group, of varied professions, backgrounds, and interests. As Glyer lays it out, this very diversity is one of the reasons for their success: They each had something to learn and something to teach; they challenged each other, and reacted to challenges from the others; they had sparked new ideas and new directions from encounters with new ideas and perspectives.
Each chapter examines one aspect of how the Inklings worked together and contributed to each other's success. Mutual encouragement, criticism, editing, collaboration, and providing mutual accountability with their weekly meetings and readings of works in progress all played a role. In addition, they met frequently outside those formal meetings, informally, in twos and threes, taking walking tours, and other activities. Tolkien's first audience was the youngest and last of the Inklings, his own son Christopher, who became a formal member of the Inklings at age twenty.
This is a fascinating look at this important literary group, aimed at reaching a popular audience and at extracting from the Inklings' experience lessons that may help nascent writers' groups become useful to and supportive of their members. For all the practical lessons to be found, though, it's also just an absorbing look at some of the most important and interesting figures in 20th century fantasy literature.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
My initial impression of this book was that it would be a specific and somewhat thorough examination of the kinds of conversations surrounding Tolkein and Lewis and their seminal texts (i.e. how their conversations with each other and The Inklings influenced the works), but the examination never felt developed; it remained at a very superficial level of discourse. This may be because the author wrote this book for the layman after realizing that her initial text might be too academic. Had I known that, though, I probably would have chosen to read her original publication, because this version was filled with, what I thought to be, universals and vague generalizations that tried -- unsuccessfully -- to negotiate the space between academia and the layman's understanding. More frustrating for me was the author's disjointed jump from an account of something like one of the group's meetings and peer review sessions to a kind of unsolicited advice section on how to apply the principles of peer review to the reader's own work. This assumes that the reader is also an aspiring author; of course there's nothing wrong with that, but, again, I'd assumed that this text would focus on the creation and development of LOTR and Narnia rather than attempt to function as both a very general account of The Inklings and a kind of author's self-help book. My final criticism is the lack of organization throughout; this book was choppy, choppy, choppy. Wait, my final, FINAL criticism is that the book was self-referential: it's only 200 pages and not difficult to understand, so I find that kind of "We'll cover this is chapter four" attitude to be a little displaced in this particular project. For all of my harping, though, this was a good book, and I did learn more about Tolkein and Lewis as both authors and individuals. Just don't expect a detailed account of either of their works and you'll be pleased; this is simply a general introduction to The Inklings (so, like, it actually talks a fair bit about the others members of the group; whomp whomp) and what they did.
I'm not sure whether to be envious of the Inklings as a literary group, or relieved as a writer, I don't have to face such merciless literary criticism!
The author sought to find out how much influence each member of the Inklings had over their friends within the group, and found an extraordinary amount of evidence that collaborations, discussions, ideas-sharing, debate, and criticism caused changes in Lewis and Tolkien's works in particular. She spends a lot of time on Tolkien's revisions, mostly because they're all documented (in full or in part) but Lewis, Warnie, and others do get some attention. If she has a favorite, it's not apparent -- each member is treated fairly.
It's an interesting read, although sometimes I found it a tad laborious when describing changes. She does point out how only circular and useful criticism works -- generalities aren't helpful, but specific problems and suggestions on revisions are. The Inklings fared well as long as everyone was contributing (and thus, receiving praise and criticism equally) and no one shut anyone else down. Sadly, the end of the group came when one member decided he'd had enough of Tolkien's hobbits and elves. Oh, well. They had a 17 year run, and many of them produced some of the previous century's greatest literary achievements in the meantime.
No one else that I know of, save Christopher Tolkien, knows The Inklings like my former professor Diana Glyer. She's devoted much of her life to passionately researching them. Bandersnatch focuses on the communal nature and practices of The Inklings, namely Tolkien and Lewis.
A few surprising facts that stood out to me: 1. There were 19 Inklings in total, and they met for 17 years! 2. The Inklings greatly encouraged one another, even going so far as writing publishers to encourage them to publish one another's books. 3. While they encouraged one another, the group members fought and criticized just as easily. 4. Tolkien didn't like The Chronicles of Narnia. Like, at all. 5. But not all of the Inklings liked Lord of the Rings, for that matter, namely Hugo Dyson.
In the last section of the book, Glyer outlines how we can learn from the Inklings collective, making their successful group dynamic our own while avoiding their nasty pitfalls.
Engaging, fascinating, inspiring and full of practical wisdom and encouragement, not just for writers and artists, but for anyone who wants to be a good friend. It will stay on my desk for quick reference and rereading. "There is no such thing as life that does not owe itself to the life and labor of someone else." Thomas Howard on Charles Williams, from Bandersnatch pg. 157
Bandersnatch is a well-written, accessible window into the lives and relationships of the famous writing group known as the Inklings, whose most prominent members included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The amount of research poured into the book is staggering, representing many years of diligent pursuit. Some of the fragments and breadcrumbs discovered would impress even the most keen-eyed of sleuths. For anyone interested in the vibrant role the Inklings played in the lives of these men, or for those who have enjoyed the works of Lewis and Tolkien and are eager for information about their lives, this is a must-read.
The book focuses primarily on Lewis and Tolkien, and to a lesser degree, Charles Williams, but there were many other Inklings (nineteen in all) and all are named and many of them given significant ink. What strikes one most about this group was the sheer length of the time they met—seventeen years—as well as the heterogeneous nature of the group. They had different temperaments, backgrounds, and ages. They had wildly different and sometimes clashing personalities. They disagreed vigorously with each other, and yet, the overall impact of the group was more good than bad. In fact the author makes the case that the writing that was forged in the fires of their meetings together would have been quite different had the Inklings not influenced it.
There are dozens of wonderful anecdotes, conversations, quotations, and letters referenced in the book. The author saves the references to the end which is disappointing because it simply meant that I never bothered to look them up. And for all the prodigious first-hand material shared in this book, the final two chapters move to more of a summary of the Inklings and a practical guide of how to emulate what they had. These felt out of place and belong properly in some other work, but what does belong is so good that perhaps this misstep can be overlooked.
This book takes a well-deserved place amongst the Inklings literature. It's an engaging, fascinating read. While not comprehensive, it takes a broad look through all that went into the life of this group. Though no researcher could ever fully plum the depths of all that this group was and meant to its members, it's hard to imagine a book written for the general public giving better insights. It would take a scholarly work, and one of much greater length to do that. But this book (aside from the final two chapters) is a marvelous survey of this most eminent literary group and how it fostered and shaped some of the greatest writing of the twentieth century, but also how it molded the men who were blessed enough to be a part of it.
It's been a while since my Inklings fandom was at it's peak, but I had the privilege of hearing Diana Pavlac Glyer speak at three conference sessions last week, and she's as lovely a person as her book is brilliant. With illustrations by James A. Owen (author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica), Bandersnatch is a lively and easily readable account of the Inklings' creative collaborations. C.S. Lewis famously said "No one influenced Tolkien. You might as well try to influence a Bandersnatch." This quote has been taken out of context and grossly distorted in scholarship and public awareness. Of course Tolkien was influenced by others! As a specific conversation between Lewis and Tolkien while Tolkien was wrestling with the beginning of his "Hobbit sequel" attests, the Lord of the Rings as we know it would never have been written without C.S. Lewis' input and encouragement. Bandersnatch is apparently the layperson's companion to Glyer's more scholarly-oriented book on the Inklings, The Company They Keep. Now I need to read that one. Bandersnatch should be indispensable to creatives fascinated by mastermind groups, or looking to create one.
I'd give this 3-1/2 stars but am rounding up for authorly enthusiasm. This is indeed about the many ways the Inklings collaborated with and supported each other's work. I'd say it is also a close-up look at a group of like-minded friends. Many of the points that are lauded, such as writing good reviews of each others' books are the sort of things that I've read about groups of painters doing and so forth.