Thursday, November 12, 2020

A correspondence

From a review of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis.
.... In a new book, Dorothy and Jack, Gina Dalfonzo delves into the correspondence between these two writers, which spanned more than a decade, beginning with a letter from Sayers to Lewis and ending with Sayers’s death. With this compact tome, Dalfonzo draws out the ways in which the writers might have helped spur each other to greater creativity in their work and to deeper understanding in their personal lives. The book features long quotations from many of their exchanges, following the thread of one topic or another through the course of several letters back and forth, but their text is set inside what is primarily a case Dalfonzo outlines: that the correspondence between them, illuminated by knowledge of their personal lives, illustrates how the friendship altered both for the better. ....

Dalfonzo’s ability to pull the right excerpts from these letters and capture the playful spirit in which they corresponded will make readers feel almost as if they are being immersed in this very real friendship, watching slowly as Sayers and Lewis warm up to each other, their mutual fondness growing over the course of years. It is immediately obvious, thanks to the brief biographies Dalfonzo provides, that Sayers and Lewis had much in common in how they approached their work and in the values that undergirded their efforts. Most notably, both were profoundly shaped by their days at Oxford, and both had undergone significant personal experiences earlier in life — he a conversion, and she a series of troubled relationships — that helped explain their passion for using the written word to influence readers.

But those similarities did not mean they always saw eye to eye, even on those vital matters where their interests aligned. ....

In some of the book’s strongest sections, Dalfonzo explores ways in which this friendship between a highly intelligent man and woman may have shaped — and reshaped — Lewis’s views on friendship between the sexes and on women in general. Lewis didn’t marry until a little more than a year before Sayers passed away in late 1957. By that time, it seems clear from his writing, her presence as a strong female friend in his life had altered his attitude toward women and the possibility of platonic friendship. ....

Dalfonzo recounts that when Sayers passed away after a sudden heart attack, Lewis cried — the first time his stepson Douglas Gresham ever saw the older man shed a tear. That event recalls a passage earlier in the book, when Lewis told Sayers he had “shed real tears (hot ones)” after reading her play-cycle The Man Born to Be King. Perhaps his tears on both occasions were evidence of Lewis’s belief that our most meaningful friendships are those in which we see and share the same truth. .... (more)
C.S. Lewis & Dorothy Sayers: Review of Dorothy and Jack by Gina Dalfonzo

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