honest fantasy

June 1, 2019

The fantastic literature of my childhood centred around two authors: Tolkien and Lewis. Anyone more than familiar with both men will know their religious history, that Lewis was an atheist who, under Tolkien’s guidance, became first a theist of no particular affiliation, and then a good Anglican whose works on Christianity, while touted by modern American Evangelicals, were radical enough to place him well outside of the conservative mainstream in this country even now. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, very conservative, to the point that when Vatican II changed the liturgical response from Latin to English, he refused to make the transition. What has always interested me about these two is how that religiosity impacted on their primary works. I always knew Narnia was a thin metaphor, even as a child. It wasn’t until I was much older that I met people who read the books as honest fantasy, and were surprised when shown the undercurrents. I think that says something about how thoroughly the core themes of religious metaphor have penetrated the expectations of our collective genre narrative. Tolkien, on the other hand, did not write didactically. I’ve had more arguments with earnest Christians about this than I care to think about, but Tolkien is on record as saying that he despised didactic writing, chided Lewis for the thin veil of metaphor that he employed in the Narnia stories, and insisted that his Middle Earth wasn’t a secret instructional manual for anything. He did, however, say that The Lord of the Rings was a “fundamentally Catholic” story. That’s because Tolkien was a Catholic, and anything he produced was going to be coloured by that thought system. And yet these two imaginations, both men professors and therefore prone to instruction, both men devout in their belief, both wonderfully creative in their storytelling, these two writers produced very different sorts of stories, especially when viewed as religious works. It’s always fascinated me, and confounded my father. It’s something we talk about a lot.

Tim Akers
Faith in the Fantastic

demons

May 10, 2019

People shouldn’t call for demons unless they really mean what they say.

C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle

he inhabits a tiny world

February 8, 2019

Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.

C.S.Lewis
An Experiment in Criticism

dark like blood

December 11, 2018

 

Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.

C.S. Lewis
Till We Have Faces

I hope you do this too

December 3, 2018

try to tell the truth

April 14, 2018

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

his real genius

February 3, 2018

george bernard shaw

(George Bernard) Shaw was a very great man indeed. The danger is that when all the froth and nonsense about his being a philosopher has died down (as it must) a reaction should set in and lead people to forget his real genius. He was a comedian, in his own time, of the very highest order. . . .He was a humorist of the more intellectual kind, a master of satire, art and fantasy like Gilbert, Wilde and Aristophanes. In that class no one had more continuous vitality. He is also, in his prefaces, one of the great masters of plain prose. I have often, in that capacity, held him up as a model to my pupils and have learned much from him myself. Peace to his ashes!

C.S. Lewis
Comedian of Highest Order
Published in The Mark Twain Journal, volume 9 no. 4 (Summer 1954)

dark like blood

January 28, 2018

Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.

C.S. Lewis
Till We Have Faces

A Hobbit book

It must be understood the [The Hobbit] is only a children’s book in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. Alice is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown-ups. The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and its own way so true.

C.S. Lewis
A world for children: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: or There and Back Again

eyeminiature

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw – but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of – something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clapclap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain