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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book Ever Written about the Inklings, 6 stars ******, 7 Mar. 2007
This review is from: The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community (Hardcover)
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 In addition, there is a significant amount of previously unpublished material.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 20 pages.

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.

I would highly recommend this book. It is a must have and a must read. It is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive and complete work ever written on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. 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.

"This is an admirably balanced overview of the web of intellectual and literary interactions of the Inklings that is sure to become an invaluable resource for future readers and scholars. I found myself captured by her engaging writing style, the breadth of her research, and the cogency of her argument. Her own work will itself influence the texture of Inklings scholarship for years to come. It's good, very good indeed."

Verlyn Flieger, professor of English, University of Maryland at College Park, Author of _Splintered Light_ and _A Question of Time_

"Not only does _The Company They Keep_ provide a much-needed fresh look at the Inklings, but it also affords rich insights into the creative and collaborative process itself. There is much to learn and much to enjoy in this excellent volume. This engaging study deserves a place in the library of all those who value the works of the Inklings and is also a worthwhile volume for any who are interested in examining the craft of writing and the impact of creating within the community."

Marjorie Lamp Mead, associate director of the Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College

"_The Company They Keep_ is an astonishingly thorough work, lucidly and boldly illuminating the collaborative writing process of Lewis, Tolkien, and their colleagues during the most fruitful period of their careers. Diana Glyer's impressive achievement supersedes in scope and authority all previous treatments of the Inklings and will perhaps become the new standard by which rhetoricians and literary critics should judge the cogency of subsequent research into the phenomenon of writing in community."

Bruce L. Edwards, professor of English, Bowling Green State University
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J. Long
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