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The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams

Philip Zaleski Carol Zaleski

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Farrar Straus Giroux
28 January 2020
Biography: literary; Literary studies: from c 1900 -
C.S. Lewis is the twentieth century's most widely read Christian writer and J.R.R. Tolkien its most beloved mythmaker. For three decades, they and their closest associates formed a literary club known as the Inklings, which met weekly in Lewis's Oxford rooms and a nearby pub. They read aloud from works in progress, argued about anything that caught their fancy, and gave one another invaluable companionship, inspiration, and criticism. In The Fellowship, Philip and Carol Zaleski offer the first complete rendering of the Inklings' lives and works. Lewis maps the medieval mind, accepts Christ while riding in the sidecar of his brother's motorcycle, becomes a world-famous evangelist and moral satirist, and creates new forms of religiously attuned fiction while wrestling with personal crises. Tolkien transmutes an invented mythology into a breathtaking story in The Lord of the Rings, while conducting groundbreaking Old English scholarship and elucidating the Catholic teachings at the heart of his vision. This extraordinary group biography also focuses on Charles Williams, strange acolyte of Romantic love, and Owen Barfield, an esoteric philosopher who became, for a time, Saul Bellow's guru. Romantics who scorned rebellion, fantasists who prized sanity, Christians with cosmic reach, the Inklings sought to revitalize literature and faith in the twentieth century's darkest years-and did so.
By:   Philip Zaleski, Carol Zaleski
Imprint:   Farrar Straus Giroux
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 213mm,  Width: 142mm,  Spine: 48mm
Weight:   592g
ISBN:   9780374536251
ISBN 10:   0374536252
Pages:   656
Publication Date:   28 January 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski are the coauthors of Prayer: A History and editors of The Book of Heaven. Philip Zaleski is the author of The Recollected Heart, coauthor of Gifts of the Spirit, and editor of the Best Spiritual Writing and Best American Spiritual Writing series, and Carol Zaleski is Professor of World Religions at Smith College and the author of Otherworld Journeys and The Life of the World to Come.

Reviews for The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams

This is a long overdue study of an abidingly fascinating and creative group of writers. There has not been a serious treatment of the whole group and their interactions for over thirty years, and this excellent book brings together a great deal of new discussion and discovery about them in a lively, readable, sympathetic but not uncritical survey, which allows all these remarkable figures to emerge in all their human complexity and diverse gifts. The authors deserve warm congratulations. --Rowan Williams, former Archbiship of Canterbury and author of The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia This is a long overdue study of an abidingly fascinating and creative group of writers. There has not been a serious treatment of the whole group and their interactions for more than thirty years, and this excellent book brings together a great deal of new discussion and discovery in a lively, readable, sympathetic but not uncritical survey that allows these remarkable figures to emerge in all their human complexity and diverse gifts. The authors deserve warm congratulations.--Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and author of The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia Like expert commentators at a fencing match, Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski give a sparkling account of how J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, those friendly duelists, and their eager teammates, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams, sharpened one another's wits and dazzled the world with words. The Inklings were that rare thing, an elite with an inclusive spirit, and the Zaleskis share the same ethos, brilliantly mastering the details of their brief but never forgetting to be readable. Thorough, lucid, balanced, and well judged, this is literary biography of the very best kind.--Michael Ward, University of Oxford, author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis [A] prodigious work . . . [ The Fellowship, ] which is extensively researched, provides a fascinating look at British literary society during the first half of the 20th century. . . For all fans of Tolkien and Lewis, this excellent title will also appeal to readers interested in Christian scholarship and 20th-century British literature and history.--Erica Swenson Danowitz Library Journal (starred review) The husband-and-wife team of Philip and Carol Zaleski bring to bear both extensive scholarship and a neatly interwoven narrative; this is a story about storytellers, and it shows . . . In The Fellowship, the authors never cease to feel for the Inklings, particularly sympathizing with their yearnings for spiritual and professional fulfillment, with occasional wry asides on the nature of their marriages and their politics to take note of shortcomings both personal and institutional. Taken together, it makes the overarching life of the group something greater than the sum of its parts.--Genevieve Valentine The New York Times Book Review A gutsy, glorious adoration of the English fantasy and faerie traditions, which celebrates what sometimes seems like a fantastical time when religion didn't destroy art but created it.--Joshua Cohen Harper's Magazine A highly readable group biography . . . The Zaleskis do an impressive job.--Elizabeth Hand Los Angeles Times The Fellowship makes a convincing case that [the Inklings's] cultural legacy deserves comparison with that of the less Christian, more intellectually austere Bloomsbury group.--Lev Grossman Time Magazine The Zaleskis deftly interweave the four stories [of Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, and Williams], showing how, when read together, these very different men can help us more clearly see the state of literary and religious culture in mid-century England and beyond.--Anthony Domestico Christian Science Monitor A fascinating overview of this 'intellectual orchestra' . . . a captivating story of young writers finding their literary footing while trying to rectify competing desires for happiness, love, fame, and faith.--Ethan Gilsdorf The Boston Globe The Zaleskis have produced a major work of biography and criticism, and if you are a devotee of any of the Inklings, you will want to read it.--Michael Dirda The Washington Post The Fellowship . . . is a mental map, a religious journey, and the biography of a brotherhood. Plenty of distinguished Inklings came and went over the years . . . but the Zaleskis zoom in on (and out from) the primary axis of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield . . . . Christians all, these men formed what the Zaleskis call 'a perfect compass rose of faith': Barfield the proto-New Ager, Tolkien the rather prim orthodox Catholic, Lewis the noisy and dogmatically ordinary layman and popular theologian, Williams the ritualistic Anglican with a taste for sorcery . . . . Who can compare with these writers? . . . . The Inklings . . . are still gathering steam.--James Parker, The Atlantic Named Book of the Year by the Conference on Christianity and Literature The husband-and-wife team of Philip and Carol Zaleski bring to bear both extensive scholarship and a neatly interwoven narrative; this is a story about storytellers, and it shows . . . In The Fellowship, the authors never cease to feel for the Inklings, particularly sympathizing with their yearnings for spiritual and professional fulfillment, with occasional wry asides on the nature of their marriages and their politics to take note of shortcomings both personal and institutional. Taken together, it makes the overarching life of the group something greater than the sum of its parts. --Genevieve Valentine, The New York Times Book Review The Zaleskis have produced a major work of biography and criticism, and if you are a devotee of any of the Inklings, you will want to read it. --Michael Dirda, The Washington Post The Zaleskis deftly interweave the four stories [of Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, and Williams], showing how, when read together, these very different men can help us more clearly see the state of literary and religious culture in mid-century England and beyond. --Anthony Domestico, Christian Science Monitor A fascinating overview of this 'intellectual orchestra' . . . a captivating story of young writers finding their literary footing while trying to rectify competing desires for happiness, love, fame, and faith. --Ethan Gilsdorf, The Boston Globe The Fellowship makes a convincing case that [the Inklings's] cultural legacy deserves comparison with that of the less Christian, more intellectually austere Bloomsbury group. --Lev Grossman, Time Magazine A gutsy, glorious adoration of the English fantasy and faerie traditions, which celebrates what sometimes seems like a fantastical time when religion didn't destroy art but created it. --Joshua Cohen, Harper's Magazine A highly readable group biography . . . The Zaleskis do an impressive job. --Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times This is a long overdue study of an abidingly fascinating and creative group of writers. There has not been a serious treatment of the whole group and their interactions for more than thirty years, and this excellent book brings together a great deal of new discussion and discovery in a lively, readable, sympathetic but not uncritical survey that allows these remarkable figures to emerge in all their human complexity and diverse gifts. The authors deserve warm congratulations. --Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and author of The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia It's difficult to overstate the influence of the two most famous Inklings, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, on varied fields including Christian apologetics and fantasy writing. The Zaleskis trace the history of this informal club of Oxford-educated, Christian intellectuals, which first coalesced in the early 1930s, by focusing on four of the most prominent Inklings: Tolkien, Lewis, mystic Charles Williams, and philosopher Owen Barfield. As scholarship, the book is immensely successful, describing its protagonists' strengths and shortcomings with insight and facility. --Publishers Weekly (starred review) Like expert commentators at a fencing match, Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski give a sparkling account of how J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, those friendly duelists, and their eager teammates, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams, sharpened one another's wits and dazzled the world with words. The Inklings were that rare thing, an elite with an inclusive spirit, and the Zaleskis share the same ethos, brilliantly mastering the details of their brief but never forgetting to be readable. Thorough, lucid, balanced, and well judged, this is literary biography of the very best kind. --Michael Ward, University of Oxford, author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis [A] well-researched, consistently engaging group biography . . . richly detailed . . . A bountiful literary history. --Kirkus [A] prodigious work . . . [The Fellowship, ] which is extensively researched, provides a fascinating look at British literary society during the first half of the 20th century. . . For all fans of Tolkien and Lewis, this excellent title will also appeal to readers interested in Christian scholarship and 20th-century British literature and history. --Erica Swenson Danowitz, Library Journal (starred review) The Fellowship . . . is a mental map, a religious journey, and the biography of a brotherhood. Plenty of distinguished Inklings came and went over the years . . . but the Zaleskis zoom in on (and out from) the primary axis of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield . . . . Christians all, these men formed what the Zaleskis call 'a perfect compass rose of faith': Barfield the proto-New Ager, Tolkien the rather prim orthodox Catholic, Lewis the noisy and dogmatically ordinary layman and popular theologian, Williams the ritualistic Anglican with a taste for sorcery . . . . Who can compare with these writers? . . . . The Inklings . . . are still gathering steam. --James Parker, The Atlantic Named Book of the Year by the Conference on Christianity and Literature The husband-and-wife team of Philip and Carol Zaleski bring to bear both extensive scholarship and a neatly interwoven narrative; this is a story about storytellers, and it shows . . . In The Fellowship, the authors never cease to feel for the Inklings, particularly sympathizing with their yearnings for spiritual and professional fulfillment, with occasional wry asides on the nature of their marriages and their politics to take note of shortcomings both personal and institutional. Taken together, it makes the overarching life of the group something greater than the sum of its parts. Genevieve Valentine, The New York Times Book Review The Zaleskis have produced a major work of biography and criticism, and if you are a devotee of any of the Inklings, you will want to read it. Michael Dirda, The Washington Post The Zaleskis deftly interweave the four stories [of Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, and Williams], showing how, when read together, these very different men can help us more clearly see the state of literary and religious culture in mid-century England and beyond. Anthony Domestico, Christian Science Monitor A fascinating overview of this 'intellectual orchestra' . . . a captivating story of young writers finding their literary footing while trying to rectify competing desires for happiness, love, fame, and faith. Ethan Gilsdorf, The Boston Globe The Fellowship makes a convincing case that [the Inklings's] cultural legacy deserves comparison with that of the less Christian, more intellectually austere Bloomsbury group. Lev Grossman, Time Magazine A gutsy, glorious adoration of the English fantasy and faerie traditions, which celebrates what sometimes seems like a fantastical time when religion didn't destroy art but created it. Joshua Cohen, Harper's Magazine A highly readable group biography . . . The Zaleskis do an impressive job. Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times This is a long overdue study of an abidingly fascinating and creative group of writers. There has not been a serious treatment of the whole group and their interactions for more than thirty years, and this excellent book brings together a great deal of new discussion and discovery in a lively, readable, sympathetic but not uncritical survey that allows these remarkable figures to emerge in all their human complexity and diverse gifts. The authors deserve warm congratulations. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and author of The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia It's difficult to overstate the influence of the two most famous Inklings, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, on varied fields including Christian apologetics and fantasy writing. The Zaleskis trace the history of this informal club of Oxford-educated, Christian intellectuals, which first coalesced in the early 1930s, by focusing on four of the most prominent Inklings: Tolkien, Lewis, mystic Charles Williams, and philosopher Owen Barfield. As scholarship, the book is immensely successful, describing its protagonists' strengths and shortcomings with insight and facility. Publishers Weekly (starred review) Like expert commentators at a fencing match, Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski give a sparkling account of how J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, those friendly duelists, and their eager teammates, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams, sharpened one another's wits and dazzled the world with words. The Inklings were that rare thing, an elite with an inclusive spirit, and the Zaleskis share the same ethos, brilliantly mastering the details of their brief but never forgetting to be readable. Thorough, lucid, balanced, and well judged, this is literary biography of the very best kind. Michael Ward, University of Oxford, author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis [A] well-researched, consistently engaging group biography . . . richly detailed . . . A bountiful literary history. Kirkus [A] prodigious work . . . [ The Fellowship, ] which is extensively researched, provides a fascinating look at British literary society during the first half of the 20th century. . . For all fans of Tolkien and Lewis, this excellent title will also appeal to readers interested in Christian scholarship and 20th-century British literature and history. Erica Swenson Danowitz, Library Journal (starred review) The Fellowship . . . is a mental map, a religious journey, and the biography of a brotherhood. Plenty of distinguished Inklings came and went over the years . . . but the Zaleskis zoom in on (and out from) the primary axis of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield . . . . Christians all, these men formed what the Zaleskis call 'a perfect compass rose of faith': Barfield the proto-New Ager, Tolkien the rather prim orthodox Catholic, Lewis the noisy and dogmatically ordinary layman and popular theologian, Williams the ritualistic Anglican with a taste for sorcery . . . . Who can compare with these writers? . . . . The Inklings . . . are still gathering steam. James Parker, The Atlantic Praise for Prayer: A History A finely written, accessible, and informative thematic history of prayer. -- Library Journal A rich study . . . [The Zaleskis] rival Karen Armstrong in their lucid prose and expansive vision. -- Kirkus Reviews


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