‘The Four Loves’ By C.S. Lewis


I bought this because I had recently read a book about the Inklings and because Solid State Books has a wonderful selection near the bar (yes, they have a bar) on the philosophy shelves.

While I always bring my nook with me to Thailand, I always bring at least one paperback book. Something that is not too big and which stands rereading. Past international travel selections have included Wordsworth and Wuthering Heights (which I once read three times on a summer trip to Spain).

I had forgotten what an engaging writer Lewis can be (the last book I read of his was the turgid conclusion to his Space Trilogy). He reminds me of Thomas Merton and the G.K. Chesterton of Orthodoxy. Perhaps more like Chesterton’s conversational style, but even more so. I know that he honed a lot of his style via radio broadcasts and this has that feel of a fireside chat to a small group of curious acquaintances.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives Of The Inklings


This is a somewhat half hearted effort to convince the reader that Barfield and Williams are at least half as important as Lewis and Tolkien, undermined by the authors’ own apparent lack of belief in that aspect of the project and by a consensus of opinion which they seem disinclined to challenge.

Towards the end, they set up poor Barfield, by describing his intent to meet the challenge laid down by his peers’ successes and to write his magnum opus. It’s a big set up, narratively, but ends with the admission that few liked it and barely more than that even noticed it was written.

Structurally, they probably could have just focused on Lewis and Tolkien and then included a wider variety of other Inklings.

But, I learned a lot about them and it was interesting, because I like Tolkien and Lewis. I like ’em a lot.

The Zaleskis, without becoming prurient or even mentioning it again, makes a good argument that Lewis and Mrs. Moore were having a sexual affair, which convinced me. It doesn’t change my opinion of him, it’s merely nice to have some resolution, in my mind, on the matter.

Likewise, I had not realized just how devoutly Catholic Tolkien was nor how important it was to his Middle Earth novels (he went to mass daily for most of his life).

But… I can’t help but be a little disappointed. I had been hoping to learn about another Bloomsbury group or another Transcendentalist circle or another Paris in the twenties, instead, learned about a group of intelligent and interesting academics, two of whom happened to become very, very famous and were very important writers. And I put the book feeling that the authors didn’t really like the works of Lewis and Tolkien all that much, which feels almost like a personal insult to one such as I, raised on Narnia and Middle Earth (though they seemed to like two lesser read Tolkienalia, Farmer Giles of Ham and The Smith of Wooton Major, both of which I loved and read over and over again as a child).

The Brightened Mind


For the life of me, I can’t remember what possessed me to put this book on hold. The best guess I have is because I read it was about Thai Buddhism. But, while the author appears to be a convert to that practice, it’s really just another, new age-y book about mindfulness and meditation for the keenly felt stress of being white and having money in a country that values both those qualities immensely (and where both those qualities are deeply intertwined).

Meh.

Poetry East


I just finished reading the latest copy of Poetry East, one of my favorite poetry magazines.

One could criticize it by saying that it publishes too little work by new and emerging poets and too many by dead poets (like, Shelley levels of dead). But when you read it… well, it’s hard to criticize such a well put together publication with so much great poetry and beautiful (if not original) artwork.

This one (actually from Autumn 2017) features Carvaggio paired with passages from the Gospels (do you consider that poetry?). Ovid and Bernini. Facing pages with the Italian and English translations of Petrarch. Selections from American writers who visited Rome. English writers (the earlier mentioned Shelley, for example).

And yes, some new poetry. As part of three short poems collectively entitled Storyflowers, Suzanne Rhodenbaugh included this small gem, called Iris:

Once I was all lips and tongue.
Now I am a fist.

Can’t wait until the next issue.