Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Fellowship: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXV

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings is the first major comprehensive study of the influential group of Oxford writers since Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings. This is above all a book whose time has come. Since Carpenter's initial study, a veritable floodwater has passed under the academic bridge. Philip and Carol Zaleski do a fine job of organizing and synthesizing this vast body of literature into an appropriately hefty (644 pages with the notes) portrait of the group that not only covers the Big Four (Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield, Williams), but also the second tier and allied-periphery (Warnie, Coghill, Dyson, Havard, Wain, Dundas-Grant, Cecil, Christopher Tolkien, Hardie, Sister Penelope, Ruth Pitter, Eddison, Sayers, and Eliot). The Zaleski's are at their best when they are weaving the complex stories of these authors' individual biographies and group interactions into a coherent narrative. They do have a bad habit of repeatedly snipping(making sharp, undefended judgements) at anything and everything in the authors' extensive corpuses that they don't like. While a persistent irritant, it is the only fault I can find in an otherwise triumphant work of scholarship. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings has every chance of becoming a standard text on the group in the years to come.

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