The Library’s fall book discussion series will feature three masterworks of British fantasy. Discussions of works by C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and T. H. White will be free and open to the public.
The series is entitled “The Fantastic Fifties: British Fantasy at Mid-Century or, What’s With All the Initials?” The discussions will feature: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis on Monday, October 14; The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien on Monday, November 11; and The Once and Future King by T. H. White on Monday, December 9. All discussions begin at 7:00 PM and copies of the books will be available to borrow in advance.
These three books, published in the fifties and still enormously popular, played a crucial role in transforming fantasy from an esoteric taste to mainstream entertainment. They have each been repeatedly adapted to other media, they have spawned legions of imitators, and they have generally increased the public’s tolerance of and appetite for the fantastic. From boy wizards to lovelorn vampires, works of fantasy today dominate the bestseller lists, the cineplex, and the television screen, thanks in part to these books.
This series will allow readers to visit – or re-visit – works that have each become icons of popular culture. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) was the first book to be published in Lewis’s seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955) became a cultural phenomenon and set the template that works of epic fantasy would follow for the next several decades. The Once and Future King (1958) collected and concluded White’s tetralogy of Arthurian fantasies. Readers will come to understand why these works enjoy such enduring appeal.