Saturday, March 16, 2013

"A lively, general introduction"

Michael Dirda likes C.S. Lewis: A Life, by Alister McGrath [and so do I]:
...[H]e bases his new life on a recently completed multivolume edition of Lewis's letters and his own reading, in chronological order, of the complete works. Most of all, though, his biography of Lewis isn't another rehearsal of the vast army of facts and figures concerning his life, but an attempt to identify its deeper themes and concerns, and assess its significance. This is not a work of synopsis, but of analysis.”
That word "analysis" may sound off-putting, but McGrath is a sprightly writer, quite colloquial in tone, speeding over many aspects of his subject's life, but slowing down to reflect on those he finds significant. What are some of these key elements and turning points? McGrath stresses young Lewis's Protestant Irish background, the early death of his beloved mother, the disastrously unhappy years at school in England and the trauma of trench warfare in World War I. He speculates, as many have done before, on Lewis's relationship with Janie Moore, the mother of one of his friends killed in battle. ....
What chiefly interests McGrath is Lewis's religious writing, and in this category he includes The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis lost his faith as a young man but rediscovered it in 1929, according to his own account in Surprised by Joy. McGrath argues from a study of the letters, however, that this should be early 1930. A long night-time talk in 1931 with J.R.R. Tolkien — a devout Catholic — further cemented Lewis's conviction that Christianity was a "true myth." That friendship with Tolkien eventually led to the founding of the now famous literary club known as the Inklings. Over beer at the Eagle and Child pub, its members would gossip, discuss their research and read early drafts of their books (including Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings).  ....
McGrath stresses that the seven Narnia books shouldn’t be viewed as a strict allegory but rather as a “supposal.” As Lewis himself wrote to a fifth-grade class in Maryland: "Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen." McGrath devotes three chapters to exploring the creation and theological implications of the lion Aslan, the White Witch and the four children — Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy — who transform the destiny of Narnia. ....
Lewis...died, after much suffering from “renal failure, prostate obstruction, and cardiac degeneration,” at the age of 64, on the same day that John F. Kennedy was shot. ....
Since then an immense amount has been written about C.S. Lewis, but if you’re looking for a lively, general introduction to this multitalented thinker and writer, Alister McGrath’s new biography is a good place to start. [more]
Post a Comment