Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, by Diana Pavlac Glyer (author), James A. Owen (illustrator)

Kent State University/Black Squirrel Books, ISBN 9781606352762, November 2015

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.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.