If you’ve been waiting to pick up a copy of Diana Pavlac Glyer’s landmark study of the Inklings, now’s the time. The publisher (the Kent State University Press) allowed the hardcover to go out of print (regrettably) — but they’ve made up for it now by releasing the book in paperback a couple of weeks ago. This says a lot, actually; most books on Tolkien, Lewis, and the Inklings never get a second printing, or never go from hardcover to soft. The book is now also quite a bit more affordable than it used to be. So if you’ve been dilly-dallying for while now, then just follow this link to The Company They Keep and order yourself a copy. :)
If you still need to be convinced, let me just point out that Diana’s book won the 2008 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies (beating a set of very impressive finalists), and was even nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Book, which is practically unheard of for Tolkien, Lewis, and Inklings studies. In The Company They Keep, Diana challenges the conventional wisdom (from Humphrey Carpenter on) that the Inklings really didn’t influence each other in any particularly striking ways — challenges and overturns it decisively. The work was something like twenty years in the making — and some of us can remember getting the first inklings of it (pun intended ;) almost that long ago in Diana’s paper, “More than a Bandersnatch: Tolkien as a Collaborative Writer”, delivered at the Tolkien Centenary Conference in 1992 (and published in its proceedings, which are now, sadly, out of print — see what I mean about most of these specialized books of the Inklings?).
And maybe a couple of blurbs would help. In his review in Tolkien Studies 4 (2007), Dale Nelson wrote that “Glyer is to be commended for restrained use of jargon despite writing about a subject that must have offered much opportunity for displays of literary theory. [...] Glyer shows incontrovertibly that the Thursday evening sessions did function as a writers’ group, as such groups have been anatomized by recent theorists. She is thorough.” Dale’s review is available online if you have Project Muse.
In his review for Mythlore, Andrew Lazo went even further, calling it a “deeply satisfying feast,” and asserting (rightly, in my view) that “Diana Pavlac Glyer has vaulted herself into the company of the very best thinkers and writers on the Inklings.” As if that weren’t enough: “Glyer stands on the shoulders of giants, and yet with balance, style, and sheer hard work she manages to dwarf them.” You can read this review for free, online.
The Tolkien Library also has some good information, here, including this assessment: “While the content of the book is very great, important facts are discussed and compared, and there is tons of interesting information, it remains easy and is very enjoyable to read. This book will probably become the standard book when people need to know something about The Inklings.” They also have an interview.
Hopefully that’s all the convincing you need, but let me just close with this: The Company They Keep belongs on the bookshelves of all serious readers of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, Barfield, and the rest of the Inklings — and indeed on the bookshelves of writers and students of writing and writers’ communities, too. And now, with an affordable softcover, there’s just no excuse not to pick up a copy. I hope this hasn’t sounded too much like a commercial, hahae, but there are certain books one just feels strongly about. And it’s annoying when they go out of print — but then surprising and wonderful when (as so rarely happens) they appear again. ;)
P.S. The appendix and index by David Bratman are, collectively, a work of art, ne plus ultra. Would be bibliographers and indexers should take them as a model.
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