Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Guys Walk into a Bar

Three guys walk into a bar.

No, really. 

But not just any guys, not just any bar.

This bar is an English pub, the Eagle and Child in Oxford.

And the guys? None other than J. R. R. Tolkien and the Lewis brothers, Jack and Warnie. They are soon joined by Hugo Dyson and Owen Barfield. Oh, and here comes Charles Williams, late again.

Jack and Warnie Lewis
Pints are ordered, pipes lit, and another meeting of the Inklings literary discussion group is in session.

The barkeep hears only scattered snippets of their conversation.

"So. . .who’s reading today?"

"Well, Jack could read from his Chronicles."

"Oh yes—fauns and talking beasties and Father Christmas. A bit of a mythological mishmash, isn’t it?"

"Actually, I think it’s Tollers’ turn to read."

J. R. R. Tolkien, aka "Tollers"
"Please, no more flippin' elves! How about we hear from Warnie?  Some nice history about real blokes in a real world."

"Oh, come on,  I find Ron’s little story quite engaging."

"Little? Ron's little story? He’s been writing it since the days of Beowulf." 

"I say, Ron--I hope you’re getting paid by the word. Or even by the pound!"

The barkeep motions to a girl to refill the gentlemen’s glasses. He thinks this group likable enough. Good-natured and, all in all, rather harmless. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt the lot of 'em if they had a bit of real work to do. But then again, this is bloomin' Oxford.

Perhaps a few of the onlookers and eavesdroppers longed to be admitted to that elite group of thinkers and writers—mostly because they seemed to be having a great deal of fun in each other’s company. 

And many people in years to come would feel that same sense of longing. Ah, to match verbal wits with those great thinkers, to drink in their wisdom. Perhaps their special brand of creative genius would rub off on us! 

Alas, only in our imaginations can we turn back the clock by half a century and pull up a chair with the Inklings at "The Bird and Baby."

But then again, we have so many opportunities for literary companionship that weren't available to the Inklings. Writers conferences. Online crit groups and communities. Web sites. Chats. Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. 

Still, there's nothing quite like writer friends getting together informally, in person. To talk shop. To share stories. To swap manuscripts. To encourage each other on the writing journey.

The Inklings were great men of destiny. Yet they needed the fellowship and consolation that come from hanging with friends. How much more do I--the not-so-great--need friends and crit partners and people to build me up?

Ask a writer friend to lunch this week. And by the way, my calendar is pretty open. How about Thursday, at our usual place?


  1. Great post! How 'bout next Wed. at our usual place?