The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer (11.01.07)

Fans of Tolkien, Lewis, Charles Williams, and the other lesser-known Inklings will be excited by this book... This important study challenges the standard interpretation that Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and the other Inklings had little influence on one another’s work, drawing on the latest research in composition studies and the sociology of the creative process. Here is a nice review of this book written by Josh B. Long.

Type: Hardcover
Estimate: 288 pages
Publisher: Kent State University Press
Publication Date: 30 Dec 2006
Language: English
ISBN: 0873388909
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.3 inches

In 1978, Humphrey Carpenter published Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends. Although Carpenter’s book is perhaps more a biography of C.S. Lewis than anything else, it remains an important and seminal work. However, if Carpenter erred in anything in his book, it was his persistent conviction that the Inklings did not influence one another. For instance, he states matter-of-factly, "It must be remembered that the word 'influence', so beloved of literary investigators, makes little sense when talking about their [the Inklings’] association with each other.  Tolkien and Williams owed almost nothing to the other Inklings, and would have written everything they wrote had they never heard of the group" (160). 

Wholeheartedly disagreeing with Carpenter, Diana Glyer sets out in The Company They Keep to show how and why the Inklings did, in fact, influence one another. Her work is a conglomerate of biography, composition theory, and literary criticism. She not only illuminates your understanding of this remarkable writing group but also expands your concept of the word influence. She persuasively argues that through encouragement, opposition, editing, and collaborating, the Inklings influenced each other’s writing in a rich and profound way. 

Had this been the book’s only strength, I would say that Glyer’s book had achieved more than any work written on the Inklings in the last three decades. However, the book’s remarkable appeal does not stop there. Another great feat of this book is the amount of time and effort the author poured into her research. To say that the author was exhaustive in her research is perhaps an understatement. There are very few primary and secondary sources she leaves unexplored. In addition, there is a significant amount of previously unpublished material. To put this project in perspective, her Works Cited is over 40 manuscript pages (8.5 x 11).

Again, this would be enough to encourage most readers to purchase this book. However, I would add one final note. The beauty of this book lies in the clarity and eloquence of the author’s prose. It is one of those extraordinary academic works that is actually easy and enjoyable to read. Whether you are a new fan of these authors or you have been studying them for years, you will find plenty to enjoy within the pages of this book.

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