Confession time: I am a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy books. Ray Bradbury, Jack Vance, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Brandon Sanderson…so many great authors and amazing books. Of the many great authors in this genre, my two favorite are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Although most of you have probably heard of these authors (or at least their books) you may not be aware of the many bonds that linked these men who were, in fact, close friends, colleagues at Oxford University, and members of a group of writers who called themselves The Inklings.
So it was with great expectation that I began reading Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings. The book explores the friendships of this group as well as the evidence of how the Inklings influenced each others writings. Written by Diana Pavlac Glyer, English professor at Azusa Pacific University and world scholar on the Inklings, this book does not disappoint for fans of these authors.
The book provides an insider’s look at the Inklings based on the Dr. Glyer’s extensive studies of their personal letters and manuscripts. This intimate look reveals the many ways that these writers influenced each other and their works, and not just in subtle ways. Fans will enjoy reading how Tolkien was dissuaded from naming the LOTR main character Bingo and how Lewis wrote the Space Trilogy on a dare from Tolkien. There are many examples of how these writers influenced and encouraged each other, examples that enhanced my own love of these authors. I was also introduced to writers that I had not heard of but now I am curious to discover their work.
Interwoven throughout the book are Dr. Glyer’s insights into how writers and other creative types thrive when they are working in community. She provides advice to writers using the Inklings as examples and the book concludes with practical steps for creating a group around a shared passion, hobby, or idea. This aspect of the book really got me to thinking about what topic I would choose if I were to start a group of my own and who I would invite.
Two other things jumped out at me as I read. The first is that as I read about the Inklings and glimpsed their friendships from the inside via their letters, diaries, etc I felt I was seeing an example of male friendship that seems rare today. These guys not only shared a love of writing and would hang out together but they seemed to enjoy a depth to their friendship that seems uncommon. Was that a hallmark of this group in particular? Was it more common back then than it is now? It left me wishing for deeper friendships with other guys.
A second question that was raised in my mind was: who are the Christian story-tellers today? Lewis and Tolkien wrote stories that, though they are fiction, reveal truths that are undeniable to the reader. I am left wondering who are the church’s great storytellers of our day who can weave a tale that is universally enjoyed. Stories that need not be overtly Christian and yet convey a biblical worldview that, presented as it is in story, is accepted by the reader?
In all, this was a very enjoyable read for me and I think that if you enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis then you will enjoy this book too!