A bountiful literary history that maps the work of “an intellectual orchestra, a gathering of sparkling talents in a common...

THE FELLOWSHIP

THE LITERARY LIVES OF THE INKLINGS: J.R.R. TOLKIEN, C.S. LEWIS, OWEN BARFIELD, CHARLES WILLIAMS

How a “circle of instigators” thrived in mid-20th-century England.

From 1930 until the 1950s, a small group of friends who dubbed themselves the Inklings met weekly, usually in the rooms of C.S. Lewis, at Magdalen College, Oxford, to talk, argue, cajole one another, and read their works-in-progress. Writers and painters, physicians and theologians, historians and actors, the men (no women allowed) shared “mythological, medieval, and monarchical” sympathies; “their great hope was to restore Western culture to its religious roots, to unleash the powers of the imagination, to reenchant the world through Christian faith and pagan beauty.” In this well-researched, consistently engaging group biography, the Zaleskis (Prayer: A History, 2005, etc.), who have written widely on religion and spirituality, follow the lives of the group’s major figures: Lewis (1898-1963), whose prolific output includes The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series; playwright and literary critic Owen Barfield (1898-1997); and poet, playwright, theologian, and novelist Charles Williams (1886-1945). The Inklings, the authors assert, were interested in theological issues, but they differed in their viewpoints, derived from a range of Christian affiliations. They most certainly identified common enemies: “atheists, totalitarians, modernists, and anyone with a shallow imagination.” Their own imaginations gravitated to mythology and especially to fantasy, “the sheer excitement of the genre, the intoxication of entering the unknown and fleeing from the everyday.” Fantasy, moreover, intimated the spiritual and a “higher, purer world or state of being.” The Inklings, the authors maintain throughout this richly detailed biography, revitalized “Christian intellectual and imaginative life” by producing literature that served as “a sanctuary for faith.”

A bountiful literary history that maps the work of “an intellectual orchestra, a gathering of sparkling talents in a common cause, each participant the master of his own chosen field.”

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0374154097

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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