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Poe, Veneman book brings Inklings, Oxford to life

"The Inklings of Oxford," written by Hal Poe with photography by Jim Veneman, tells the story of the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

JACKSON, Tenn.Dec. 14, 2009 – A new book by Harry Lee Poe and Jim Veneman explores the friendship between C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other great writers at Oxford University, through both text and photography.

Written by Poe, the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University, “The Inklings of Oxford” also includes hundreds of photographs by Jim Veneman, assistant professor of communication arts and director of visual communications at Union.

“This is a book that I always wanted someone to do so that I could have a copy of it to flip through,” Poe said. “I always expected someone else to do it. I suggested it to a number of people, who just never did it. I wanted it, so I decided to do it myself.”

The book tells the story of the Oxford “Inklings,” a group of writers who met together every week to discuss their writing and other topics of interest. Lewis and Tolkien were the most notable members of the group, which met together for 30 years.

“I wanted to do a picture book,” Poe said. “I wanted people to get a sense of the town where the Inklings lived and worked, and as much as possible to get a sense of the feel of the place where they created Narnia and Middle Earth, and to see how the setting could have stimulated their imaginations.”

Poe said the book was intended primarily for those who had seen the “Lord of the Rings” or the “Chronicles of Narnia” movies and wondered more about the authors of the books. As such, “The Inklings of Oxford” is an introduction to Tolkien and Lewis, and not a critical text. For those who are already familiar with the authors, Poe said the photography in the book would be the main attraction.

“This book includes pictures of a lot of places that have never been included in studies of Lewis and Tolkien before,” Poe said. “For someone who has actually been to Oxford, I think the book is a great souvenir. It’s a memory piece. It’s something that people would enjoy having to flip through over and over to remind them of the experiences they’ve had in Oxford.”

A subtext to the book is how and why Lewis became a Christian, and how the Christian faith of the Inklings influenced their writings and affected them on a day-to-day basis.

“So in that sense, the book is a form of apologetic for the Christian faith,” Poe said. Published by Zondervan, “The Inklings of Oxford” retails for $24.99 and is available online from Amazon.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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