New and Noteworthy

Contemporary Review, January 2005 | Go to article overview

New and Noteworthy


This month's column is mainly concerned with literary titles. From HARPERCOLLINS we have the second volume of C.S. Lewis Collected Letters. Volume II Books, Broadcasts and War 1931-1949 ([pounds sterling]35.00) edited by Walter Hooper. Mr Hooper, who was Lewis's personal assistant and who has devoted his scholarly life to collecting, editing and publishing Lewis's works, brings his massive learning to the preparation of this second volume of letters. The collection begins just after Lewis had returned to the Christian faith and covers some of his most important and productive years. It also includes discussions of his home life and of the trials he endured in looking after his adopted 'mother'. During this period he wrote The Allegory of Love and began work on English Literature in the Sixteenth Century. He also emerged as a leading Christian apologist, writer of fiction and, during the war, broadcaster on BBC Radio's Home Service. This honed his writing skills even further. The letters end as the Narnia series is emerging. As in the first volume, these letters are edited with the experienced skill one expects from Mr Hooper and his work draws on his unrivalled knowledge of Lewis and his world. They make a most welcome addition to anyone interested in the impact this great man had in his lifetime and continues to have in our own day.

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS has brought out the tenth volume in The Oxford English Literary History, the series which replaces that for which Lewis wrote. In this new volume, The Modern Movement ([pounds sterling]30.00), the author, Prof. Chris Baldick, covers the years 1910-1940. He argues that the period saw 'new volatile energies' which sought to cut themselves off from the past. The Great War was regarded as a watershed and writers such as D.H. Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf and T.S. Eliot saw themselves in a new world with a new creed, 'modernism'. Yet far more popular were writers such as Arnold Bennett, John Masefield, Waugh, Huxley, Coward, Maugham, Galsworthy, Forster or Walpole: whilst reflecting changed circumstances none of these had much in common with modernism. Prof Baldick seeks to put the 'small modernist vanguard' into proper perspective and to paint a wider picture. He looks at the 'infrastructural components of the literary world'--readers, publishers, and authors, for example, then at the developments during this period in fiction, poetry and drama and finally at themes which arose during earlier chapters. Altogether some 200 writers are covered and the volume gives a healthy corrective to distortions that have arisen in recent surveys.

Among new titles from CONSTABLE we have Tolkien's Gown & Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books ([pounds sterling]12.99) by Rick Gekoski. This collection of twenty essays is based on a Radio Four series, Rare Books, Rare People in which twelve books were discussed. In this collection the number has grown to twenty but the purpose is the same, 'to describe the books' publishing history'. He writes as an academic knowledgeable in the literature of his period, as a book-seller, as someone with interesting stories to tell and, most important of all, as a lover of literature and of books. The essays, the better of which are marked by personal involvement, are a delight and in some ways remind one of the late and much missed, Helene Hanff of 84, Charing Cross Road. …

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