Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, And The Creative Collaboration Of The Inklings, by Diana Pavlac Glyer
The subject of the Inklings and their collaborations together is a subject I have long been interested in, perhaps ever since becoming aware of their status as a group of writers involved in each other’s work and serving as both severe critics and encouragers . This author appears to have made her career in writing about the workings of this group of immensely talented writers, seeking to understand what influence they had on each other and how that can be replicated by others. I found this book deeply interesting to read, and it was sufficiently enjoyable that I will be on the lookout for other books of hers I can find in our local library system, as I found this book while idly looking through some books near the Shakespeare section, and this book had a beautiful cover and an interesting title and subtitle, all of which led me to be interested in reading it. Sometimes one can judge a good book by a good cover and have everything work out well in one’s reading, and such was the case here.
In about 170 pages this book is divided into eight chapters. After a lengthy list of acknowledgements that points to the collaborative nature of this book, the author begins her discussion of the Inklings by talking about herself and her own efforts as a researcher to look for verifiable influence between various members of the group (1). After that, the author moves to discussing how it was that the Inklings formed thanks to the friendship between Lewis, Tolkien, and others (2), as well as the heart of the company’s work as a working writer’s group that met every Thursday for tea in Lewis’ Magdalen office (3). The author then moves to a discussion of both the resonating as well as the intense criticism that the Inklings offered to each other, criticism that was often deep and searching (4) and shows the way that the Inklings acknowledged each other for the specific help provided on various projects (5). The author then looks on the difficult process of collaboration and the way that creative people working together sparks imagination and new ideas and joint projects (6). The author closes with a discussion of the creator as being in a center of a network of cooperating people (7) and the way that creative people can recognize the support they get from others who have helped them out at every step of the creative practice (8), before closing with an epilogue that encourages readers to do what the Inklings did and gain from their own collaborations (9).
Although Lewis seemed do doubt his influence on Tolkien late in life and Tolkien himself seemed to minimize the benefit he gained as a writer from others, this book demonstrates the deep and serious nature of the collaboration among the Inklings and the way that all of the writers involved were benefited by it. Whether it meant having first class editing and coaching assistance from a stable of world-famous writers, of being forced to make their writing more accessible because of the feedback they received from others, the author does a solid job at pointing out the threads of influence and connection between the Inklings. She also demonstrates the way that the group ended up eventually fading away because one member of the group took offense to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings story, which hindered the group’s ability to discuss their works openly as had been the case at the beginning. Although as a person I tend to be somewhat solitary, I know that my own writing has been immensely helped by the connections I have made with people whose questions and suggestions have spurred my own thinking and writing and given an appreciative but also critical audience to me, albeit somewhat informally. Hopefully others may be inspired by this book to seek to capture the collaborative magic of the Inklings for themselves.
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