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The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewisby Alan Jacobs
Synopses & Reviews
The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil — all these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the past half century, children everywhere have escaped into this world and delighted in its wonders and enchantments. Yet what we do know of the man who created Narnia? This biography sheds new light on the making of the original Narnian, C. S. Lewis himself.
Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential religious writer of his day. An Oxford don and scholar of medieval literature, he loved to debate philosophy at his local pub, and his wartime broadcasts on the basics of Christian belief made him a celebrity in his native Britain. Yet one of the most intriguing aspects of Clive Staples Lewis remains a mystery. How did this middle-aged Irish bachelor turn to the writing of stories for children — stories that would become among the most popular and beloved ever written?
Alan Jacobs masterfully tells the story of the original Narnian. From Lewis's childhood days in Ireland playing with his brother, Warnie, to his horrific experiences in the trenches during World War I, to his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien (and other members of the "Inklings"), and his remarkable late-life marriage to Joy Davidman, Jacobs traces the events and people that shaped Lewis's philosophy, theology, and fiction. The result is much more than a conventional biography of Lewis: Jacobs tells the story of a profound and extraordinary imagination. For those who grew up with Narnia, or for those just discovering it, The Narnian tells a remarkable tale of a man who knew great loss and great delight, but who knew above all that the world holds far more richness and meaning than the average eye can see.
"In what amounts to a love letter to C.S. Lewis, Wheaton English professor Jacobs dutifully traces the development of Lewis's imagination from its childhood roots — when he sought the companionship of books, including fairy tales, adventure stories and the writings of Beatrix Potter — to its mature expression in the Chronicles of Narnia. For many years, he struggled with the meaning and existence of God and the value of Christianity, and Lewis's conversations with fellow members of the literary group called the Inklings, especially Tolkein, led him to a reconversion to Christianity (which he had abandoned in his youth). Lewis's delight in God, according to Jacobs, provides the foundations of both his more apologetic works and the Narnia books. In addition, Lewis developed a 'willingness to be enchanted' that marked his fervent love of the poems of Milton, Spenser, Philip Sydney and Tennyson. As Jacob points out, Lewis combines these traits, as well as a desire to be entertained by a good story, in his Narnia books. However, Jacobs's stilted and pedantic prose ('Let us pause for a moment to reflect...') makes for uninspiring reading. Readers would be better advised to turn to Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper's definitive biography." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A journey into the imaginative life of C.S. Lewis exploring the themes and life events that allowed an Oxford don, a scholar of medieval literature who loved to debate philosophy at his local pub, to write one of the most enduring classics of children's literature.
C.S. Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day. Yet among his poetry, literary history and criticism, novels and Christian apologetics stands a unique, delightfully imaginative children's series called The Chronicles of Narnia, which have become enduring classics. Alan Jacobs takes this imaginary world of Narnia, that has captivated children and adults alike for years, and uses the themes and stories found within to explore the imaginative life of C.S. Lewis.
Few things are more interesting to human beings than trying to figure out how another human being (espeically a profoundly gifted one) works. Not just a conventional, straightforward biography of Lewis, Jacobs instead seeks a more elusive quarry: an understanding of the way Lewis's experiences, both direct and literary, formed themselves into patterns--themes that then shaped his thought and writings, especially the stories of Narnia. It is in the Narnia stories that we see the most of Lewis, and this illuminating biography delivers a true picture of the life and imagination of the Narnian.
A journey into the imaginative life of C. S. Lewis exploring the themes and life events that allowed an Oxford don, a scholar of medieval literature who loved to debate philosophy at his local pub, to write one of the most enduring classics of children?s literature.
About the Author
Alan Jacobs is Professor of English and Director of the Faith and Learning Program at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of several collections of essays, including Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling, and A Theology of Reading: the Hermeneutics of Love. He has written for a wide range of periodicals, including First Things, The Boston Globe, Books & Culture, The Weekly Standard, and The Oxford American.
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