Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Let's talk about: The Fellowship, The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski

 The Fellowship, The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski tells the stories of four of the main "Inklings": J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. 
We get a LOT of information not only about these four men but also those they surrounded themselves with and how they met.
I put a lot of tabs in this book while reading it. There were so many things I wanted to remember and go back to. There are so many good quotes. 

We began with Mr. Tolkien.

 They talked a lot about his mom. Mabel gave him a great world to grow up in. She taught him Latin, French, German, about linguistics. Her influence created a thirst for knowledge of languages, alphabets, and etymologies that would last throughout his entire life. 
She taught him to draw and paint and introduced him to the children's stories of the time such as Alice in Wonderland and other fairy tales.
We also learned a lot about his wife and children. He was so devoted to them. It seemed that like most of us, he always felt like he should be doing more and yet he was doing so much. 
I was so impressed with Tolkien. Obviously I already really enjoy his work but this book just opened my eyes to him as a man and not just the creator of the marvelous world of Middle Earth. 
He was such a good man. It has given me some information on some of his other books that I will be talking about soon as well. 

C.S. Lewis grew up with his brother as his main companion. One of my favorite parts of his story was when they were quoting a letter he wrote about his brother Warnie coming home. 
"Horra!! Warnie comes home this morning. I am lying in bed waiting for him and thinking of him, before I know where I am I hear his boots pounding the stairs, he comes into the room, we shake hands, and begin to talk... well I was glad to have him but of course we had our rows afterwards..."
It is just such a telling quote about siblings. 
I was surprised by Lewis. I knew that he grew up religious and at some point became atheist and then later accepted Christianity again. 
What I didn't know was that while he wasn't my least favorite of the Inklings, he was certainly not my favorite person during his teenage and atheist years. He seemed to be quite the sadist and sexist man.
We followed his life through his affair with Mrs. Moore and then his romance with Joy. 
Later he improved greatly in my estimation and I found his transformation very interesting.
His quotes gave me a lot to think about. 

 I had never heard of Owen Barfield before reading this book. I enjoyed learning about him. I am curious to read his book, The Silver Trumpet, but haven't had any luck finding a reasonably priced one. Owen seemed like a nice gentleman. He was depressed a lot, or at least seemed to be. 
He had a stutter and found that reciting poetry and singing helped it.
Owen seemed to always think he wasn't good enough and I felt so sad for him and the fact that he seemed to always be unhappy with who he was and what he was doing. 

Charles Williams was the Inkling that I never liked throughout the book. 
"Charles Williams was a man that everyone had trouble describing. He seemed ugly but beautiful, a swirling mass of contradictions. He wrote shockers that failed to shock. He worshipped women but 'liked to beat them with a ruler'. He was a faithful husband with a harem of besotted acolytes. He was orthodox but heretical, a devout Anglican who practiced magic. He had a face at once hideous and beautiful."
He also kind of looks like the mean teacher in Anne of Green Gables... or is that just me thinking that? 

The Inklings were actually begun by Edward Tangye Lean. He founded the group when he was an undergraduate. He created it so that a small society of literary students could " pay homage to those who express themselves through ink as well as those who discover through their inky labors, inklings of a higher world." Tolkien and Lewis joined his group and took over when he graduated.
I found it interesting that Tolkien's son Christopher became an active inkling as well when he came to read English at Oxford.

Overall, this book was really well written. There was a lot of information. So much that it could be a bit tedious at times. However, I really enjoyed reading it and finding out so much more about these men and the times they lived in. It is a very interesting book and well worth the time it takes to read it.


The Kings said...

I am putting that book on my Christmas list. I really thought it sounds like a good one. You are right...Mr. Williams does look like the mean teacher in "Anne".

cheryl said...

I think you would really enjoy it and if you can read it before April then it will add some depth to our time at Oxford!