So, next month the new biography of Charles Williams by Grevel Lindop comes out from Oxford University Press.* This book, called CHARLES WILLIAMS: THE THIRD INKLING, has been a long time in the works (I first heard of it back in 2010) and marks only the second time Wms has been the subject of a full-scale biography (the other being the two versions of Hadfield's biography appearing in 1959** and 1984, respectively). And at 544 pages it shd indeed be full of information about a figure who is paradoxically relatively little-known (the OUP write-up calls him a "shadowy figure") despite having lived a massively documented life.
Previous works on Wms tend to be highly selective, focusing in on a single aspect of this complex and elusive man: as an Inkling, as a mid-century Xian poet, as a writer of thrillers, et al. It looks like Lindop will have none of that: the online description of his book calls Williams a "poet, theologian, magician, and fantasy writer". So maybe we'll finally get a more rounded look, a better idea of this secretive writer who charmed so many and yet who left so little legacy behind. Here's a link to the OUP website's entry on the book:
They're having a launch party at Blackwell's in Oxford on the night of Thursday October 29th (the book's official release day), including a reception, a talk by the author, and a Q&A session. Wish I cd be there. There's a fee (five pounds), but they'll be offering the book for sale at 20% off, so it all balances out.*** I'm particularly glad to hear of this event, since during the 1992 Centenary conference at Oxford I and several other Burrahobbits wore buttons with "Charles Williams" and the international No image (the circle and the strike-out)**** as our way indicating that while we found him a fascinating figure we didn't think he belonged as a writer on the same shelf with Tolkien and Lewis. I thought it a telling moment when a Blackwells employee came over and asked who this 'Charles Williams' person was; she and her co-workers had been wondering. That his name wd be unknown at Blackwells, of all places (a bookstore he used to patronize), really drove home to me how utterly forgotten Wms was outside of American Inklings-studies circles.
Which looks to be changing now, what with this book, and the Zeleskis' inclusion of Wms as a co-equal with Tolkien and Barfield and Lewis. My own point of view is quite different from Lindop's,***** which is why I'm all the more eager to see how he presents Wms: whether he can change my mind and convince me I've been wrong about Wms all these years.
So, another interesting book eagerly awaited.
current (re-)reading: THE ROOK
*fittingly so, since they were Wms' longtime employer and published several of his books during his lifetime.
**making it about as old as I am. It has the advantage of having been written by someone who knew Wms, indeed one of his disciples; it also has the disadvantage of having been written by one of his disciples.
***for those who, like me, can't make it, the book can be pre-ordered from the O.U.P. website at the same discount with the promotional code TREVN14
****I still have my button, proudly on display in our curio cabinet
*****my own ranking wd be Tolkien 1st, Barfield 2nd, Lewis 3rd, Wms 4th
Tolkien Notes 14
1 week ago