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C. S. Lewis On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature Paperback – June 24, 1982

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Though shorter than Haruki Murakami's South of the Border, West of the Sun, it is a more expansive work, delving into frightening territory....Smoothly translated by James Westerhoven, Okuizumi's prose is full of glassy surfaces that tilt to reach vertigo-inducing depths.-Los Angeles Times
"This eloquent, sorrowful, marvelously translated novel is a meditation on the ravages of war, the persistence of violence on the human soul and incredible bravery."-The Washington Post

From the Back Cover

“In life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch in our net of successive moments something that is not successive . . . But I think it is sometimes done—or very, very nearly done—in stories.”

C.S. Lewis is widely known for his fiction, especially his stories of science fiction and fantasy, for which he was a pioneering author in an age of realistic fiction. In On Stories, he lays out his theories and philosophy on fiction over the course of nine essays, including “On Stories,” “The Death of Words,” and “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” In addition to these essays, On Stories collects eleven pieces of Lewis’s writing that were unpublished during his lifetime. Along with discussing his own fiction, Lewis reviewed and critiqued works by many of his famous peers, including George Orwell, Charles Williams, Rider Haggard, and his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien, providing a wide-ranging look at what fiction means and how to craft it from one of the masters of his day.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 24, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156687887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156687881
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,540,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Lewis's shorter works were generally originally composed as speeches or as articles for periodicals. Various sets of them were collected and published in book form both during his life and after his death. Trying to determine what works are in what collections is difficult - most works appear in more than one collection, some works appear under more than one title, and some collections appear under more than one title.
To aid readers, in this review I've listed the works in this collection, with notes indicating other collections they have appeared in. Where a work has appeared under more than one title, I give both titles separated by a slash.
Table of Contents:
"On Stories" / "The Kappa Element in Romance" (1), (2)
"The Novels of Charles Williams" (2)
"A Tribute to E. R. Eddison" (2)
"On Three Ways of Writing for Children" (1), (2)
"Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said" (1), (2)
"On Juvenile Tastes" (1), (2)
"It All Began with a Picture ..." (1), (2)
"On Science Fiction" (1), (2)
"A Reply to Professor Haldane" (1)
"The Hobbit" (2)
"Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'" / "The Gods Return to Earth" & "The Dethronement of Power" (2)
"A Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers" (2)
"The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard" / "Haggard Rides Again" (2)
"George Orwell" (2)
"The Death of Words" (2)
"The Parthenon and the Optative" (2)
"Period Criticism" (2)
"Different Tastes in Literature" (2)
"On Criticism" (1), (2)
"Unreal Estates" / "The establishment must die and rot ...
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Format: Paperback
As a voracious reader and prodigious author, C.S. Lewis had lots of views to air on the art of telling stories. Twenty pieces he wrote through the years are here collected in a compendium that ranges over a wide array of topics. The titles give a good idea of the sorts of things you'll find in this book: The Novels of Charles Williams, On Three Ways of Writing for Children, Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said, A Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard, and Different Tastes in Literature are some of the things that Lewis discourses about with verve and understanding. This is fine reading for those who love enlightening commentary about what comprises good fiction.
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Format: Paperback
This collection primarily contains Lewis' essays and reviews concerning
fantasy and science fiction stories. Many of the essays contained in this volume originally appeared in the magazine
Time and Tide, while others appeared in a variety of regional magazines. The nineteen essays cover such topics as
fairy stories, juvenile fiction, period criticism, and science fiction, plus the writers E. R. Eddison, H. Rider Haggard,
Dorothy Sayers, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.
The title essay sets the tone for the bulk of the essays in this volume.
Lewis takes issue with the critics who downplay the genre of Romance and instead
prefer realism and character development in their novels. While excitement
is important in this genre, Lewis notes that elements such as atmosphere,
ideas and imagery are equally important or more so. Lewis argues these other elements
are what cause people to re-read the classic Romances; the initial excitement is gone, but the
other facets of the story provide opportunities for discovery and wonderment for the reader.
His reviews of the writers mentioned above, while glowingly positive and supportive, are balanced
in that he also notes their shortcomings. For example, while he praises Haggard for being a
mythopoetic storyteller, he notes the man could not or would not write, and worse yet, he tried
to philosophize. With Tolkien, he saw problems in the opening chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, and
notes how all the characters can be split between good and evil.
In other essays Lewis lays out rules he feels reviewers should follow. One of the most
important Lewis argues is that the reviewer must like the subject he is reviewing.
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Format: Paperback
"On Stories" is a collection of essays that C.S. Lewis wrote regarding the very topic he knew most about - literature. His title essay sets the ground for the ones that follow, as he lays bare everything from fairy tales to criticism. Included are reviews and appraisals of the works of his pals and fellow Inklings Dorothy L. Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as reviews of other writers and the writing of juvenile stories.

This collection is cohesive and well-laid out. Although, if read all at once, one is bound to encounter Lewis repeating himself (due to the fact that these essays are taken from a span of time). His arguments are well thought and cogently written, as usual. He takes umbrage in several essays, but always tells 'why' he feels that way. He is adoring in his praise for works he loves, and critical of works that he believes to have failed. His essay on George Orwell is fascinating - Lewis believes "Animal Farm" superior than "1984" and is somewhat flabbergasted by the latter's success.

Reading C.S. Lewis' thoughts on literature, I believe, is the next best thing to having had him as a professor of literature. One can only imagine what it must have been like to be a student of this thoroughly intelligent and well-read man - many of his students must have been intimidated. Yet the reader is given the opportunity to see the ligther side of Lewis in the final piece entitled 'Unreal Estates', a recorded conversation between Lewis, Kingsley Amis, and Brian Aldiss, that is filled with the author's incomparable humor. Having grown up on Lewis' stories, it was wonderful to read his thoughts (and the pictures that sparked those thoughts) behind them.
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