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C. S. Lewis and His Circle: Essays and Memoirs from the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society Hardcover – July 2, 2015
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"This book is a treat. Just when you might have thought there wasn't much more to say about Lewis, Tolkien, and their friends, we have a rich and diverse collection of reflections, reminiscences, expositions, and engagements from angles both expected and unexpected. By retaining the spoken style of the original contributions to the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society (not quite a new Inklings, not quite a new Socratic Club, but sharing the heritage of both), the editors give us the sense that we are there in Oxford, thinking through issues old and new, always being challenged to fresh visions of literature, faith, and a hundred other topics. There is here much to ponder, much to praise." --Rt. Revd. Prof. N. T. Wright, St. Mary's College, St. Andrews
"Among the many worthwhile studies of C. S. Lewis which have been published in recent years, this will prove to be among the most important. It gives us authentic and candid insights into his personal as well as his literary and scholastic life, adds significantly to our understanding of why his reputation continues to expand worldwide, and deepens his influence." --Aidan Mackey, Senior Fellow, G. K. Chesterton Institute
"The Oxford C. S. Lewis Society has always been a beacon for students of C. S. Lewis, his friends, and their shared vision. In this splendid collection, the editors share with us the choicest fruits of thirty years of scholarship and conversation. The result is an illuminating tribute to Lewis and an intellectual feast worthy of the liveliest of Inklings gatherings." --Carol Zaleski, co-author (with Philip Zaleski) of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
"The book is a treasure for Lewis fans. Highly recommended."--J. R. Griffin, Colorado State University, CHOICE
"The satisfactions of this volume are legion- far too numerous to be contained in this brief review. It is far better to find the book itself, along with a comfortable chair."--Sehnsucht: The C. S. Lewis Journal
About the Author
Roger White is curator of the Inklings Special Collection for the University Libraries as well as Professor of Ministry for the Seminary at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.
Judith Wolfe is Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Theology and the Arts at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. She has published widely on C. S. Lewis and is the founding general editor of the Journal of Inklings Studies.
Brendan N. Wolfe is a Germanic philologist at Oxford, editor of the Journal of Inklings Studies, and past president and secretary of the C. S. Lewis Society of Oxford University.
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The book is divided into two parts - Essays and Memoirs. The essays focus on philosophy, theology, and literature with the memoirs focusing on memories of both C. S. Lewis and the Inklings. There are some pretty big name contributors in this book including Owen Barfield; Alister McGrath; Rowan Williams; and a personal hero of mine, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. However, not all the selections were of equal interest to me. Some I had to force myself to get through, but others kept me so engaged that I was sad when they were finished. This is all a matter of personal preference, though. What I find interesting you might find a bore and vice versa.
Anyone who has read my other reviews knows I am a sucker for anything Narnia, so of course I found Chapter Ten: "It All Began with a Picture: The Making of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia" to be the most fascinating. In this essay, Lewis's biographer Walter Hooper references a Lewis quote which goes, "At every tick of the clock, in every inhabited part of the world, an unimaginable richness and variety of 'history' falls off the world into total oblivion." This is the basis for Hooper's essay in which he talks about how so little of Lewis's work on Narnia survived because Lewis destroyed most of it. Thankfully, some of it did escape the trash bin, and Hooper shares with us how the stories came into being, grew, and evolved into the series we know and love.
Overall, this was a worthwhile read and one that will be of interest to C. S. Lewis fans and to a lesser degree, Inklings fans. I have read many books which offer opinions on Lewis and the Inklings, but few of them had contributions from people who actually knew the man. Therefore, it was refreshing to glean some first hand knowledge of the man. As I said earlier, not everything that captured or even kept my attention, but the essays and memories that did made the book worthwhile to me. If you are a serious fan of C. S. Lewis, like me, then you'll definitely want to check this book out.
The essays are arranged in thematic categories - "Philosophy and Theology," "Literature," "Memories of CS Lewis by His Family and Friends," and "Memories of the Inklings." Within each section the topics and styles vary, reflecting the varied nature of the actual talks. The Philosophy section contains gems such as Elizabeth Anscombe discussing Lewis's famous re-write of Miracles after his debate with her; the Literature section includes pieces by Rowan Williams and noted Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey; the Memoirs section includes fascinating new material by a range of those who knew Lewis. Scholars will find much of value in the more academic pieces, but interested non-academic readers will also profit by reading both the academic and the more informal pieces. One of the great strengths of the Lewis Society is that it is open to anyone who wishes to attend, whether they be student, scholar, or simply a reader who enjoys the Inklings' work - and introduces them to the world of lively discussion and debate by a range of views on the Inklings.
The diversity of the Society is reflected in the talks. Some of the essays prompted me to disagree with certain points of interpretation - but in a productive way, very much in keeping with the spirit of discussion of the Society meetings themselves. Lewis Society talks demand attention, and reward it. So too with this volume. It's not a light read (but there are plenty of light-weight volumes on the Inklings already!), but one that is worth reading slowly and attentively.
In addition to having a solid and interesting selection of essays and memoirs, the book also has an excellent closing essay by Michael Ward on the history of the CSL Society. It's well worth reading this essay immediately after the Foreword (about the founding of the Society) as it provides context and a sense of what the Society is all about - and it will deepen the reader's appreciation of the essays included here. And it's also beautifully edited and produced, which is the icing on the cake. This volume is both a rewarding testament to the depth of Lewis studies over the past thirty years, and a case study in the sort of environment that produces excellent scholarship and lively community. Since the Lewis Society is still going strong today, this book is a good sign for the future of Inklings Studies as well as valuable in its own right. It's a must-have addition to the bookshelf of anyone who's seriously interested in Lewis and his fellow Inklings.