Monday, May 11, 2009

The promise of his company

In a review of Laura Miller's The Magician's Book, Jordan Davis provides, first, a good, short, fair biography of Lewis, and then a good critical review of the book, in which Miller attempts to account for the affect the Narnia Chronicles had on her as a girl. Davis doesn't think she entirely succeeded:
.... Miller judges the various books—she prefers the episodic (and to my mind, static) quest narrative Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the freed-slave-royal-twin story The Horse and His Boy—but she does not provide a coherent theory of their magic.

I'll take a crack at it. What holds the story together is Lewis, or rather, the benevolent, attentive, encouraging narrator and his occasional presence in the story disguised as a professor, a dwarf, a badger, a lion. His is a sane and playful presence, not tame and never thoughtless. Though great danger is always imminent in Narnia, there is a profound sense of excitement, of mystery, of being loved. This sense is difficult to accomplish but also impossible to counterfeit. Lewis manages it partly through frequent second-person digressions keyed to the experience of any bright but otherwise ordinary 9-year-old, the age at which he lost his mother. Most of all, he forms a bond with young readers by pledging again and again to believe them by proxy: in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy persists in believing that she has gone to another world, and despite the betrayal of her brother Edmund, the other children go there with her. (To my knowledge, no one has followed up on the aside that Edmund's perverse, hateful behavior began when he was sent away to boarding school.) What continues to draw children to Lewis is not only the pleasure of traveling to a world that sounds better than this one but the promise of his company, so entertaining and learned, and so light about it. .... (more)
Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis's Narnia

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