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On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature Paperback – October 28, 2002
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"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 In addition to these essays, On Stories collects eleven pieces of Lewis s writing that were unpublished during his lifetime.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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 ..." (1), (2)
(1) also published in "Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories"
(2) also published in "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces"
I don't really recommend this book as a first choice.
What do I recommend?
In general, to anyone interested in Lewis's shorter works, my best advice is to get "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces", which, as of the time of this writing, is available from Amazon UK but not Amazon US. That collection consists of about 130 short works by Lewis. Although the works in that collection are mostly Christian, they also include almost everything in this collection, plus Lewis's short science fiction and fantasy from "The Dark Tower and Other Stories".
If your interest in Lewis's shorter works is restricted to literary criticism, and your budget or enthusiasm does not run to "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces", then my second-best advice is to go ahead and get this collection, and possibly "The Dark Tower and Other Stories" as well (Lewis's short science fiction and fantasy).
Fans of Lewis's science fiction who are on a really tight budget may prefer my third-best advice, which is to get "Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories", which contains about half of this collection plus the best of Lewis's short science fiction.
Finally, those interested in Lewis's literary criticism will be interested in the following collections, neither of which overlap with each other or have significant coverage in "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces":
"Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature"
"Selected Literary Essays"*
* ...very hard to come by, but it largely consists of essays unavailable in any other collection.
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. Hating
a subject does not allow one to do an objective review. Lewis also feels that it is improper
for the critic to play amateur psychologist since s/he has not had the opportunity
question the author directly, nor are they trained psychologists.
Other important criteria are: 1) honesty in the review; 2) giving formal cause
on why something is "bad"; 3) using words and language properly.
This is an intelligently written book that is a welcome relief to much of the
literary criticism being produced today. Lewis writes in a clear,
elegant style, and does not hide behind jargon.