Bandersnatch

When I was in college I took “World Lit to the Renaissance” with Diana Glyer. She had recently moved from Michigan to teach at Azusa Pacific in Southern California and was shocked that the hills got greener as we headed into winter instead of brown. If you live in California you know those crushed brown velvet hills go emerald with the rainy season. It has been awhile since I was in college but this is one of the classes that stands out in my mind. Professor Glyer had an absolute joy and enthusiasm for the class she was teaching and she absolutely passed that passion on to us as students.

Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings was released in 2016. I think I actually purchased it about two years ago and it has been on my shelf for awhile. I love to read but definitely go in spurts with what I am reading. I have read quite a few books from Reese’s Book Club lately and while some of them have been great others have not been my cup of tea.I have read Diana Gabaldon’s entire Outlander series twice, I have read all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books, and I have read the first two books in the Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss (waiting on the third). We have been visiting colleges this over this last school year and a couple of the Christian colleges we visited basically have a C.S. Lewis shrine set up in their libraries. Devin Brown (a prolific C.S. Lewis writer and professor) at Asbury spoke at the academic scholarship competition and had a book signing. My daughter and I picked up one of his books but it was relegated at the time to the same shelf just because the busyness of prepandemic life got in the way. I have had quite a bit of time to read this last month and decided it was time to dig into Dr. Glyer’s book.

The first page opens with two quotes:

“You see a minute goes by so fearfully quick. You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch”

Lewis Carroll (in Through the Looking Glass 1871

“No-One ever influenced Tolkien – you might as well try to influence a bandersnatch.”

C.S. Lewis (in a letter to a reader 1959

On those two quotes alone I was hooked. When I think of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis I think of their books and what their writing process must have been like but I really hadn’t thought about them sharing their work with others. Dr. Glyer’s book explores the collaboration between C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and their group The Inklings. Her information is from years of researching primary documents, diaries, rough drafts, letters, etc. Her words paint the picture of what collaboration with others can do. As I read I thought about the friends and mentors that have influenced me over the years and what kinds of groups I should be involved in to grow in my pursuits. Is that writing? Photography? Teaching? Whatever I am working on I should be surrounding myself with experts that can draw me up to their level and in turn sharing my passions with others.

As I was nearing the end of the book in a section titled “Exchange” a familiar name popped up. This section is about how everyone influences the whole. Dr. Glyer mentions Michael Lee and his take on jazz and exchange. “Jazz happens when individuals gather together.Jazz happens when the voice of the group becomes more than the sum of its parts. Jazz happens when the music starts to play the musicians.” When I think of Michael Lee I think of the rebellious piano player that saved the day at my wedding when our piano player did not show up. His influence in music has changed over 22 years but continues to influence the whole as a professor, mentor, and friend. You can see that Dr. Glyer has continued to be a friend, mentor and influence throughout her career just as the people she writes about.

In the Epilogue of Bandersnatch titled “Doing What the Inklings Did” to me one of the most important points was: Criticize but don’t silence. Understanding in your mind the difference between something you don’t like and something that is going no where is imperative to keeping a group alive. Dr. Glyer talks about Dyson who kind of shut down the Inklings by making it a hostile place for new ideas. He didn’t like certain things and didn’t seem to be able to understand why others might like those things. Remembering that in future groups would be helpful for me make sure if I have critiques that they are given in a way that doesn’t shut the person down in the long run.

Often, especially with popular fiction I read fast and enjoy the story but sometimes have to go back and reread to remind myself of the content. This is not fiction and not one of those books to just read. I wanted to sit with this one and ruminate on the relationships between the authors that have shaped so many others. I want to join the Cretaceous Perambulators on a hike. I want to join in at the Eagle and the Child for a raucous discussion. I want to take this to my book club and lead a discussion on it! You should pick up this book today!

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