Last night I sat down to read more of The Fellowship: the Literary Lives of the Inklings by Carol Zaleski and Philip Zaleski. It's about the literary and spiritual lives of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and their circles.
I am still in the early part of the book, so as I read about their college days, I felt a bit of nostalgia and a bit of sadness for times long gone--both theirs and mine. I was listening to an old Windham Hill disc, Sanctuary, so I was also feeling nostalgia for a time in 1996 when this CD came into my life. Even in 1996, the experience of listening to this music was a throwback to undergraduate days. I used to go home on college breaks and tape my dad's latest finds. On days when it poured rain and thus I couldn't go out and run my 6 miles, I would brew a pot of tea, listen to the acoustic music, and write a bit and read a bit.
By 1995, I had quit most of my poetry writing--grad school had left me with an inferiority complex. But in 1995, as my spouse went back to grad school which ushered in many changes to our lives, I found myself wanting to write poetry again. And bit by bit, I found my poetic voice again.
So, last night, as I sat in my little house in a historic district by a distant sea, I looked up periodically to reflect on these wrinkles in time. I thought of all of the literary circles which have so influenced our cultures. I thought of my own literary circles--how different they are from the Lake District group, the Bloomsbury group, the Inklings--and yet, how much the same.
One of my current groups is writing--well, I'm not sure what to call it. I wrote about it in this blog post and this one--my atheist friend dreams of purgatory and the rest of us are writing in response. I'm writing in the voice of God, but it's a very different God than the one that most of us would expect. In some ways, I'm reminded of The Screwtape Letters by Lewis, but of course, I'm not writing in the voice of Satan. But it feels equally subversive, a God who is preparing tea for Marx and Hitler and Dorothy Day who are discussing our current political season.
I'll be interested, too, in any of the other ways that reading about the literary output of these writers might influence me. Will I end up writing fairy stories?
I find it curious that I can read this book and feel absolutely no desire to read the works of these writers. I have a fondness for some of the theology of Lewis, and I spent my childhood years devouring the Narnia series. I read The Hobbit, and although I enjoyed it, I couldn't make my way through any other Tolkien work.
When I read Paul Elie's The Life You Save May Be Your Own, I immediately went back to Flannery O'Connor (who, truth be told is never far from my thoughts) and Thomas Merton. I wanted to read Dorothy Day and Walker Percy. It was a different experience from The Fellowship.
I am feeling inordinately proud of myself for setting out with such a long book, even though I'm not on a vacation of any type. It's good to remember that I can do this--that although I think I need a huge swath of time to read a book that's over 300 pages, to read something with heavier content than light fiction, it's not true.
I just need the will.
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