Monday, March 7, 2016

Bandersnatch (Kent State University Press)

Any fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and/or C.S. Lewis knows about the Inklings, but for those who don't, the Inklings was a literary discussion group at the University of Oxford that was composed of such men as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charlies Williams (to name a few). They encouraged and inspired each other, and there was also some collaboration among the members when writing their fiction and fantasy tales. The book Bandersnatch offers an insider look at this exclusive group, the authors' collaborative efforts, and how their works were shaped and improved with these efforts.

The book begins with the author, Diana Pavlac Glyer, telling us about the love for Tolkien's writings she developed when she was in high school. It was then she also learned of C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, and her curiosity was at an all-time high. She wanted to know what these men talked about in their meetings, and so she embarked on this adventure, which turned more into a daily grind. It wasn't until years later that she learned that Tolkien had no intentions of writing anything else related to Middle Earth after he wrote The Hobbit. He eventually relented and wrote three chapters of a new Middle Earth story. C.S. Lewis read the chapters and enjoyed them, but he also provided critiques for them, which Tolkien took to heart. We are then provided with a comparison of the original text and the revised text. Frodo's name in the original text was actually Bingo. I don't think Bingo would have been as endearing a character name, so thankfully it was changed.

After this, we get brief glimpses at the members of the Inklings, Tolkien and Lewis in a debate on the English curriculum, their shared love of Norse mythology. However, the heart and soul of this book deals with the collaborations of these men and the numerous examples of original and revised texts. Using all these examples, the author drives home her point that great works are not created in a vacuum. Instead, it takes a joint effort of people reading your drafts, your works, and providing useful feedback. The burden is then on you to swallow your pride and realize that you don't know everything and you might be too close to your work to see some of its flaws. Reading through this book, I discovered lots of interesting revisions in the works of my favorite authors. It was like going back in time to read their notebooks. You get to see how genius develops, not on its own but with the help of others. This is a great book not just for Inklings fans, but for aspiring authors. It will open your eyes to the fact that if these great authors need help writing, so do you. Highly recommended!

This book was provided to me for free by Kent State University Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!