The Dinglehopper

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Review: C.S. Lewis – A Life

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C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath

Eighteen months ago, what I knew about C. S. Lewis was pretty much summed up in “Lazy Sunday.”  That is to say, I didn’t know much.  There was something about that lion…

Surprisingly, at the time anyway, researching chiastic and triumphal forms lead me to C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy.  And then there were books.  And other books. And so on.

Eventually, wanting context, I figured I’d check out a biography.  Sometimes choosing one biography among many can be daunting.  Sometimes there’s only one available on WILBOR.  This was the one.

What sets C. S. Lewis – A Life apart is its distance from the subject.  It’s a truly academic study, exploring personal correspondence and archival materials in chronological order and considering the emergent portrait in comparative conversation with previous biographers, students, and friends.

The result is an engaging and provocative story about one of the twentieth century’s most enduringly popular authors.  McGrath is perhaps less concerned with the minutiae often characteristic of biographies than he is with exploring how that popularity came about.  I found that delightful.  After all, I vectored in through an interest in how stories work.

Much of the book is focused on Lewis’s belief, or early lack thereof, and how that belief affected his career and his output.  This subject is given the same responsible chronologically evolving examination as, for example, his educational history.  That thing about the lion can’t be ignored, but it can be understood.

All in all, I’d recommend this book to anyone wondering what all the fuss was about.

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