At A Pilgrim in Narnia, we are in the midst of the “Nightmare Alley Series,” inspired by Guillermo del Toro’s new film starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, and Toni Colette. Moving back from visually stunning film to William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 psychological thriller, Nightmare Alley–and its first film adaptation in 1947, which del Toro follows closely–we are hoping to provide some background to Gresham’s connections. Notably, Bill Gresham’s wife at the time he wrote the novel was Joy Davidman, who began a friendship a few years later with C.S. Lewis that grew into deep intimacy.
Curious as we are at A Pilgrim in Narnia, this has developed into a playful series with these posts thus far:
- Some of my thoughts about the del Toro film teaser, reworked into a series introduction
- John Stanifer’s thoughtful review of Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, “It Ain’t Hope If It’s a Lie, Stan” (which is a cool title too, I think)
- Connor Salter has written an essay worth reading for those who know Gresham’s novel (and the film adaptations) and Lewis’ late-WWII dystopia, “The Nightmare Alley of That Hideous Strength: A Look at C.S. Lewis and William Gresham”
- Because I had great difficulty finding it, I published William Lindsay Gresham’s Conversion Story, “From Communist to Christian”
- Nick Tosches’ Remarkable Introduction to William Lindsay Gresham’s Novel “Nightmare Alley”
- “The Fine Lines Between Mind Reader and Geek”: Thoughts on Nightmare Alley, Film Noir, and the American Dream by Prof. Mark Osteen
- A book review of the novel, Nightmare Alley, by G. Connor Salter
I am still trying to pull my own thoughts together on the novel and films for a review of some kind, but it will have to wait until next week. Fortunately, later today (at 4pm Eastern, free event signup here) we are holding a special Zoom event at Inkling Folk Fellowship (hosted by Joe Ricke), where John, Connor, and I will join our friends there for a video discussion. Here is the event announcement, and I hope to see you there!
The close of 2021 saw the release of Guillermo del Toro’s critically acclaimed new film, Nightmare Alley, starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, and Toni Colette.
An acknowledged master of dark fantasy, del Toro won Academy Awards previously for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Shape of Water (2017).
Of particular interest to Inkling aficionados and scholars is the fact that the film is an adaptation of the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham. Yes, that Bill Gresham. The first husband of Joy Davidman, the enigmatic poet and prose writer who found her way into an unlikely and tender late-in-life marriage with C.S. Lewis. After Joy’s death, Gresham once visited his two sons and Lewis at the Kilns. Previously, Gresham had written a fascinating introduction for the American publication of Charles Williams‘s novel, The Greater Trumps.
Following the recent “Nightmare Alley Series” on A Pilgrim in Narnia, Brenton Dickieson will join the Inkling Folk Fellowship and host Joe Ricke this Friday, January 7, for a conversation with two students of and writers about popular culture (especially film and fantasy), John Stanifer and Connor Salter. Both John and Connor are IFF regulars, and both are steeped in Inkling lore and scholarship. The conversation will range from Gresham’s original novel to recent and classic film adaptations to the complicated relationship between Bill Gresham, Joy Davidman, and C.S. Lewis.
Brenton Dickieson is a frequent contributor to IFF, as well as being THE Pilgrim who produces the monumental achievement that is A Pilgrim in Narnia. Join us and we will make sure you know how to read more about that.
Alright then, join the Inkling Folk Fellowship (via Zoom) this Friday, January 7, at 4 p.m. EST, 3 p.m. CST, 9 p.m. Oxford and Belfast time, 6 a.m. Japan time.
Invite your friends, especially those who might usually be more interested in del Toro or Tarot Cards or Cate Blanchett than C. S. Lewis. We figure that the Lewis people know how to find us, but others might need your help. If you are a member of the Inkling Folk Fellowship email list, you will receive the Zoom information in an email. If not, please message us here requesting the link.
Brenton Dickieson is a Canadian researcher in literature and theology. He teaches at Signum University, among other places, and curates the blog www.aPilgrimInNarnia.com.
Connor Salter is an American journalist, writer, and editor with hundreds of articles to his credit, including literary critical research on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Connor gave an Inkling Folk Fellowship presentation on the Inklings and English Gothic Horror films in October 2021.
John Stanifer is a librarian and English tutor by day and a crime-fighting vigilante by night. An avid fan conference attendee, John holds an M.A. in English from Morehead State University and has published a book on faith and pop culture, Virtuous Worlds: The Video Gamer’s Guide to Spiritual Truth (2011).
This event marks the second time that Connor and John have co-presented: In 2018, they spoke about H.P. Lovecraft and the Inklings in a “Lewis Tea” event (the forerunner of the Inkling Folk Fellowship) hosted by Joe Ricke at Taylor University’s Lewis Center.
Brenton edited pieces by Connor and John for the “Nightmare Series” on A Pilgrim in Narnia. Among other things he does, he works diligently to feature and promote the next generation of Inkling scholarship and Inkling-inspired artists.