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Ebert's review of LWW: a reply

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  • David Bratman
    Dear Mr. Ebert, I m dismayed that an old fantasy/science-fiction reader like yourself would fall for the canard that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien hated each
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2005
      Dear Mr. Ebert,

      I'm dismayed that an old fantasy/science-fiction reader like yourself would
      fall for the canard that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien "hated each other's
      fantasy worlds." Tolkien did remark privately to a friend that Lewis's
      Narnia "wouldn't do," by which he meant that he considered the imaginary
      world slapdash. But this hardly rises to hatred, and was fastidiousness,
      not jealousy. The year after his _The Hobbit_ was published, Tolkien
      enthusiastically recommended Lewis's _Out of the Silent Planet_ to his own
      publisher, writing that reading it in manuscript he "was so enthralled that
      I could do nothing else until I had finished it," adding that he "should
      have bought this story at almost any price if I had found it in print."
      This is not the act of a man offended that someone else is creating another
      universe next door to his own.

      And Tolkien was a man of narrow literary sympathies. Lewis, who had much
      broader tastes in literature, encouraged the diffident, recalcitrant
      Tolkien in his literary efforts for deaces. He was uniformly and entirely
      enthusiastic about both _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_., and
      published two highly favorable reviews of each work, writing of _The Lord
      of the Rings_ that "I have little doubt that the book will soon take its
      place among the indispensables." He didn't hate Tolkien's fantasy world;
      he loved it as much as any literature he'd ever read.

      (Tolkien's comments on _Out of the Silent Planet_ may be found in his
      published Letters, Lewis's on _The Lord of the Rings_ in his book _On
      Stories_.)

      In A.N. Wilson's biography of Lewis, there's an account of one of the
      Inklings who would make rude interjections when Tolkien read from _The Lord
      of the Rings_. Somehow the impression has gotten around that it was Lewis
      who said this. Perhaps that story has come your way? Wilson has been at
      pains to correct this error when he finds it. His text is clear: the
      objector was Hugo Dyson, not Lewis. Lewis loved Tolkien's story and wanted
      him to keep reading it, and most of the other Inklings liked it too. And
      though Wilson doesn't make this clear, Dyson's objection was not to
      Tolkien's story so much as to any readings at all, because they interfered
      with open conversation, which Dyson preferred because he always dominated it.

      Yours,

      David Bratman
      San Jose, California
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