We all need people in our lives in order to keep the creative spark going, and this book will serve both the writer/artist who are interested in supporting the creative process and the academic who really wants to know how C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Warren Lewis, Charles Williams, and others supported and critiqued each other.
It should be noted that this book was written after The Company They Keep was published (Kent State University Press). With this version of the book, Diana Pavlac Glycer wrote about their collaboration in a more academic way. She then decided that the subject needed a wider audience and subsequently wrote Bandersnatch.
The first chapter, "Dusting for Fingerprints", explains the writers journey into researching the lnklings and what she was hoping to find. She even has a story about a senior researcher who tells that she is never going to find what she is looking for in the research that she is doing. She cries for a week before deciding that she may not find what she wants, but she will find something.
"As I learned about the Inklings, something else began to dawn on me, something wholly unexpectedl. Something bigger. I wasn't prepared for just how important this group was, how essential it had become to the work of these writers. I thought that being an Inkling was probably helpful and encouraging. But I was starting to see that the group was, somehow, necessary" (p. 8).
"An Unexpected Party", the second chapter, goes over the early beginnings of the Inklings. It speaks of Tolkien and Lewis and their life at Oxford. They did not get along at first. It was when Tolkien started a club called Kolbitar, an old Norse word for "old cronies who sit around the fire so close that they look like they are biting the coals". Lewis was drawn in with his love for Norse mythology. He enjoyed getting together with Tolkien weekly to read Icelandic poems and stories.
From here, the various players in the group decide to meet once a week to read each other's works, engage in word-play, and critique each other.
"The Heart of the Company", the third chapter, goes over how the Inklings dealt with discouragement. The term resonator comes up. This, of course, includes words of encouragement, but also includes helping to put in an idea for a new project to promoting the work to the much larger, general public.
C.S. Lewis was a resonator for others. He encouraged Charles Williams and Tolkien in what they were doing.
A take away from this chapter is that writers should be resonators for each other. We all need encouragement and we all need other people's input to make things happen in our own worlds.
Chapter four, "I've Got a Good Mind to Punch Your Head", goes over the criticism each member of the group endured. Because many of the Inklings were used to operating in academic circles, "dialectical swordplay" was a regular activity. The language of fighting and fighting was everywhere, so a thick skin was needed. The diversity of personalities and points of view was great thing for developing manuscripts.
Chapter five, "Drat that Omnibus" looks at the art of giving feedback. Being critical is one thing, but this needs to be balanced with specific feedback. Specific suggestions could be: Shorten the dialogue. Pick up the page. Combine these three paragraphs. Invert these three lines. The idea is to envision a possibility that you may not have considered before.
There is also the art of receiving advice in chapter five. It takes some humbleness for the author to accept, reject, or modify anything that is offered. Author is very much related to the authority and the ultimate decision is up to the writer.
What else does this good book have to offer? I suggest you get your hands on a copy and have a look for the many gems that are awaiting your discovery. Remember, creativity thrives in community.