Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wordy Wednesday: Obviously and Spectacularly Broken

I finished Out of the Silent Planet by Lewis yesterday and fully intended to post some quotes from it that I faithfully annotated on my Kindle.

And, then, I started Alan Jacobs' book The Narnian, and all my plans flew out the window because the introduction is that good.

First of all, Jacobs -an academic- writes highly approachable text and it is even funny in places:
Finally, a word to any lovers or scholars of Lewis who happen to read this book and take umbrage at some claim, description, or argument I have made in these pages.  As Beatrice says of Benedick, "I know you of old" -- so well, indeed, that some years ago I made a great vow never to write another word about Lewis, that I might never again feel your wrath.  That vow I have, obviously and quite spectacularly, broken, and I suppose I must live with the consequences.  But before you write, or call, or fax, or e-mail me with your words of chastisement, please hear me: I am sorry.  Indeed, I repent in sackcloth and ashes.  I bow to your wisdom and knowledge, and I promise that I will never, ever write another word about C.S. Lewis. (pg xii)
We can safely hope he means this vow as much as the last one because he writes so insightfully about Lewis.  Here Jacobs discusses a Preface to "Paradise Lost" where Lewis uses Peter Rabbit to illustrate a point about Milton:
After all, leaving aside the one fact that Adam and Eve's decision was disastrous for all of us, while Peter's was (nearly) disastrous just for himself, the two stories have a great deal in common ... Few writers other than Lewis could open to us that sphere of experience in which John Milton and Beatrix Potter can be seen as laborers in the same vineyard -- that sphere in which a moral unity suddenly seems far more important than those otherwise dramatic differences in time, genre, and purpose. (pg xvii, emphasis Jacobs)
Jacobs clearly indicates his intentions in the rest of the book:
And here I would like to suggest something that is the keynote of this book: my belief that Lewis's mind was above all characterized by a willingness to be enchanted and that it was this openness to enchantment that held together the various strands of his life -- his delight in laughter, his willingness to accept a world made by a good and loving God, and (in some ways above all) his willingness to submit to the charms of a wonderful story, whether written by an Italian poet of the sixteenth century, by Beatrix Potter, or by himself. What is "secretly present in what he said about anything" is an openness to delight, to the sense that there's more to the world than meets the jaundiced eye, to the possibility that anything could happen to someone who is ready to meet that anything.  For someone with eyes to see and the courage to explore, even an old wardrobe full of musty coats could be the doorway into another world.  (pg xxi, emphasis Jacobs)
And, finally, since most of my readers are educators:
. . . no belief was more central to Lewis's mind than the belief that it is eminently, fully rational to be responsive to the enchanting power of stories.  ... Lewis passionately believed that education is not about providing information so much as cultivating "habits of the heart" --producing "men with chests," as he puts it in his book The Abolition of Man, that is, people who not only think as they should but respond as they should, instinctively and emotionally, to the challenges and blessings the world offers them. (pg xxiii, emphasis Jacobs)
I'm looking forward to the rest.

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  1. I read this a few years ago and loved it.

  2. In Lewis's An Experiment in Criticism, which I was reading this morning, he also talks at length about Beatrix Potter. I love Lewis. His willingness to be enchanted must be what saves him from being pedantic.

  3. This looks like a great book. I'll have to add it to my 'to be read' list.


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