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The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Their Friends Paperback – 2 Jan 2006
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‘A constantly enjoyable volume’ John Carey, Sunday Times
‘A triumph of skill and tact… not one dull or slack sentence’ Kingsley Amis, New Statesman
‘It must be technically very difficult to write a biography of more than one person at a time: it is still more difficult to capture the atmosphere of a group… Mr Carpenter has managed both things admirably’ Mary Warnock, Sunday Telegraph
Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award for Best BiographySee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter's engaging work from 1978, sets out to answer that question. It shows how Lewis benefited greatly from the feedback of others, and how the creator of Narnia conversely aided fellow authors with their respective works. This text also gives the reader helpful insight into how Lewis and Tolkien's philosophical and theological differences led to their regrettable estrangement. It further demonstrates how lesser-known characters, such as Charles Williams, played a role in Lewis' intellectual journey and social life.
If one is looking for an extensive biography on Tolkien, this is probably not the best place to go. Humphrey Carpenter wrote a much-praised volume about him one year before The Inklings, so Tolkien's interactions with fellow Inklings are a primary focus here. As part of that, the reader does get the feeling that C.S. Lewis helped to make the Lord of the Rings a reality through his constant encouragement. At the end of The Inklings, it's obvious that Tolkien never forgot Lewis' personal and professional contributions to his own life story.
This work is full of other "nuggets" as well, including one chapter devoted to creating a hypothetical Inklings meeting. If you're in the market for a Lewis-related biography, you won't go wrong here.
It begins with potted biographies of CS Lewis, and Charles Williams. Tolkien's life is alluded to throughout the book, but he doesn't get this level of attention, apparently because Carpenter wrote a more detailed biography of him. This is the one disappointment of the book.
We get to see Lewis in a different light. Less the dusty academic and more doing jobs around the house for the older woman he had a complex relationship with. We don't usually associate him with DIY.
For me, the potted biography of Williams was really informative. This Inkling is someone we all tend to know much less about. I am reading some of his "supernatural thrillers" and can't help feeling he's been unfairly forgotten.
The book then goes on to explain the Inkling meetings at the zenith of their activity, in Oxford in the 1940s. It even goes as far as to "reconstruct" a typical Inklings meeting - featuring reported conversations but fictionalised. This is very illuminating. This is how "Lord of the Rings", "All Hallow's Eve" and much of Lewis's output got developed.
Just one word of warning about the book itself - the print is very small and difficult on the eyes. Admittedly I read this book a little too late at night, but the print is still too small for very intense reading.
But on the whole, this is a fascinating read.
They were certainly an odd trio. Tolkien had little interest in any literature written in the last half-millennium, and had spent decades devising the intricate languages of his various Elves. Lewis lived in philanthropic martyrdom and a slummy bungalow with his alcoholic elder brother and a cantankerous old Irish lady, twenty-six years his senior, on whom he had developed a crush at the age of nineteen. Williams was fascinated by witchcraft, and had become the focus of a tiny group of admirers who were close to being a cult. There's something immensely ironic about the subsequent trajectories of their reputations. In the 1940s, Tolkien was known to the fiction-reading public solely for his short children's story, The Hobbit; Lewis's only fiction was the Wellsian sci-fi tale Out of the Silent Planet; but Williams had produced a string of supernatural thrillers published by the distinguished house of Faber & Faber, as well as many other books.Read more ›
"A group of writers whose literary fantasies shall fire the imagination of all those who seek a truth beyond reality"
C.S Lewis, JRR Tolkien and their friends were a regular feature of the Oxford scenery in the years during, and after the Second World War. They drank beer on Tuesdays at the `Bird & Baby' and on a Thursday night they would meet in Lewis' Magdalen College rooms to read aloud from the books they were writing. Jokingly they called themselves "The Inklings". C.S Lewis and JRR Tolkien first introduced `The Screwtape Letters' and `The Lord of the Rings' to an audience in this company, with Charles Williams (poet and writer of supernatural thrillers) being another prominent member of this select group of individuals. Humphrey Carpenter (who also wrote the highly acclaimed biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, draws upon unpublished letters and diaries, to which he was given special access to create this thoroughly engrossing story.
This highly enjoyable read is a triumph of skill and tact, for it not only paints a clear and vivid picture of these iconic individuals but it doesn't contain one single dull or slack sentence. I am sure that when Humphrey Carpenter set about producing a biography of more than one person, (certainly not a small feat!) he was presented with difficulties such as capturing the atmosphere of a group of people.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So intriguing that it made me create a group of New Inklings. Absolutely required for Tolkien's fans.Published 19 months ago by Paola
A very good and informative read for anyone interested in the thoughts and works of these authors.Published 22 months ago by Garmon
A wonderful evocative biography of the "inklings". Today most people are familiar with Tolkien and C.S. Read morePublished on 10 Feb. 2015 by Thomas Dana Lloyd
An excellent book. Exactly what I had hoped for - full of unexpected insights and a very good read. Couldn't put it down.Published on 9 Nov. 2014 by Ragdoll Radio
Anyone who has enjoyed the books of CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien should read this book. It is an account of the group of friends who gathered around these two for many years in Oxford. Read morePublished on 26 Mar. 2013 by Mr. J. Hastings
A very atmospheric book, great writing about Oxford, literary criticism and literature of ideas. The Inklings themselves come across as surprisingly odd and unlikeable to this... Read morePublished on 4 Jan. 2013 by 86erbooks