And Other Essays On Literature
A minor but occasionally stimulating collection (nine of the 20 pieces originally appeared in Of Other Worlds) on fiction, fantasy, and related topics. Some of the items look suspiciously like fillers (a one-paragraph tribute to E. R. Eddison, for example, or the transcript of a chat on science fiction with Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss); and none of them is truly memorable. But Lewis' wide reading and sturdy common sense (in some ways he was a scaled-down version of Dr. Johnson) make him a rewarding, if not illuminating, critic. Even when his case is dubious ("bad art never enraptures"), his debating skills are formidable. And while not steadily eloquent, Lewis can hammer out a well-turned phrase: "We must not listen to Pope's maxim about the proper study of mankind. The proper study of man is everything." Lewis has no all-encompassing system to offer, thank goodness. He praises the work of his friend J. R. R. Tolkien indiscriminately, and he often fails to substantiate his prejudices (against The Arabian Nights, for instance). Still, when it comes to fundamentals, to showing why Animal Farm is a classic and 1984 is not, to defending H. Rider Haggard's creative importance despite his wretched style, to explaining the appeal of The Wind in the Willows, Lewis does a more than satisfactory job. The book won't stir up a great deal of interest except among his admirers, but their number seems to be large--and growing larger.