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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The Neglected C.S. Lewis by Mark Neal & Jerry Root

The Neglected C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Riches of His Most Overlooked BooksThe Neglected C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Riches of His Most Overlooked Books by Mark Neal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that you read and feel like you have a mountain of homework in order to understand everything in it. Outside of Lewis' fiction and apologetic work, he has mounds of works that are largely overlooked. He is a man full of thoughtful opinions about the works of others. I have found some new books by other authors to read that he wrote about.

The thing that has stuck with me from this book is how important reading widely is. Reading takes us into the thought and hearts of others and gives a clear-eyed view into the plight of another. Given our current rioting, I can see how important it is to figuratively peer into the window of another man's house. We can see things and move on the behalf of others because we have developed a sense of care.

"Reading at the level Lewis advocates is a yearning for connection and clarity, to imagine oneself living many lives, seeing through many eyes the many ways the world can be apprehended. It is a way to engage in beneficial iconoclasm, in breaking down those barriers of blindness that keep our hearts and minds fettered. This kind of reading helps us to come awake from the lethargy of self- delusion. G. K. Chesterton noted that “If you look at a thing 999 times, you are perfectly safe. If you look at it for the 1000th time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.”256 This is what the eyes of others can give us, where we finally see beyond ourselves, the windows are opened, the light streams in, and our view of the world clarifies and expands."

This also struck me and left me wondering how we get back to beauty and significance.
"The medievals saw the universe packed with beauty and significance. Our modern sensibility tends to see the universe in terms of fear: as an infinite, empty void."

Synopsis: Readers who can quote word for word from C.S. Lewis’s theological classic, Mere Christianity, or his science fiction novel, Perelandra, have often never read his work as a professional literary historian. They may not even recognize some of the neglected works discussed, here. Mark Neal and Jerry Root have done students of Lewis a great service, tracing the signature ideas in Lewis’s works of literary criticism and showing their relevance to Lewis’s more familiar books. Their thorough research and lucid prose will be welcome to all who would like to understand Lewis more fully, but who feel daunted by books of such evident scholarly erudition.

For example, when you read The Discarded Image on the ancients’ view of the heavens, you understand better why Ransom has such unpleasant sensations when first descending toward Malacandra in Out of the Silent Planet. And when you come across Lewis’s discussion in OHEL of a minor sixteenth-century poet who described the hellish River Styx as a “puddle glum,” you can’t help but chuckle at the name when you meet the famous Marshwiggle in The Silver Chair. These are just two examples of how reading the “Neglected Lewis” can help every reader understand Lewis more fully.

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis is another great book by this duo.


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