Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The C.S. Lewis Chronicles

What? You've never heard of The C.S. Lewis Chronicles: The Indispensable Biography of the Creator of Narnia? Well neither had I until very recently. I stumbled across it and I've seldom been more grateful. Published by BlueBridge Books and written by Colin Duriez, (who I looked up and discovered has written a vast collection of book titles I am incredibly interested in), this book is filled with lots of tidbits of random (and otherwise) information about Lewis. (I'll remind you that Lewis is my favorite author of all times which is 1.) why my two sons are named after him (that'll keep you guessing!) and 2. why I'm hosting the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Admirable man, wonderful writing. How can one possibly go wrong?

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeI devoured The C.S. Lewis Chronicles in less time than it will likely take you to read my review of it. I absolutely loved it. Duriez provides so much information that I hadn't heard or seen before and lays it out in chronological order so that you can get a good idea of what was happening in the world along with significant events in Lewis' life.

I probably most enjoyed learning about Lewis' life when he was a young boy and preferred the name "Jacksie." (Although his given name is Clive Staples, he ditched both in favor of being called "Jack" which is how he was referred to by his friends and family until the end of his life. (I'd have done the same thing. Neither Clive nor Staples are very appealing names.) The young Lewis was quite imaginative and loved stories. I was particularly amused by what Duriez shares regarding Lewis' preferences:

"During this happy period Jack, wielding pen and paintbrush like Beatrix Potter, began making a cycle of junior stories about "chivalrous mice and rabbits who rode out in complain mail to kill not giants but cats." These stories were his attempt to bring together his two great pleasures, which were knights in armor and "dressed animals." In collaboration with Warren [his brother], Jack developed he stories into an "Animal-land" with a considerable history. This land of talking animals is strikingly different from later Narnian Chronicles. It is full of a child's view of adult preoccupations." (page 3)

Jack and his brother did create many stories and used their imaginations prolifically during their younger years. Still, Jack liked for things to appear real. Duriez shares a snippet from a letter Jack's mother wrote when he was around 2 years old:

[Lewis' mother writing to his father:] "Here is a story to amuse the old people. I took him to buy a [toy] engine, and the women asked him if she should tie a string to it for him. [Jack] just looked at her with great contempt and said, '[Jack] doesn't see any string on the engines what [Jack] sees at the station.' You never saw a woman so taken aback as she was. (page 13)

The C.S. Lewis Chronicles is filled with little snippets from his parents letters, his brother's journals and from correspondence with friends such as J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a treasure trove of facts on the man behind The Chronicles of Narnia and I would say that this book is not to be missed.

It's hard to narrow down what information to share about this book. My copy has post it notes sticking out from all of the edges. There is just so much here to talk about! One particularly challenging (in a good way) thing that was shared in this book was Lewis' reading list. Here 'tis IN PART:

Agricola, by Tacitus
Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton
Arcadia, by Sir Philip Sidney
The Argonautica of Appollonius Rhodius (in Greek, mind you!)
Jane Eyre, Villette, the The Professor
, by Charlotte Bronte
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Faerie Queen, by Edmund Spenser
Histories, by Herodotus
Rob Roy and other novels by Walter Scott
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
(in medieval French!)
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

I'm showing you a short list of his reading. This, however, is not his life's reading list. The partial reading list you see above is his list from when he was sixteen years old.

It's no wonder he was a brilliant writer. He was a diligent and studious reader. I have much to learn.

I'm very grateful to Colin Duriez for compiling all of this information into one book for easy access. I think it's a must-have for any one who loves Lewis and his writings. It is a joy and a delight and I do hope you'll look into purchasing a copy for your home bookshelves. It's worth it! (And now you can no longer claim ignorance about it.)


Stephanie said...

This looks like a book my husband (and I) would love! And, once-upon-a-time, we planned on naming a little boy after Lewis ... haven't yet had that need as you can tell. :)

So, give me your thoughts ... I've read the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity. After those, what is your favorite book? :)

Alison said...

This has nothing to do with your post. :-) I just finished The Blue Castle on our trip this last weekend. I really enjoyed it. Is the story true or partly true? Now on to reading more of her books!

Stephanie Kay said...

Wow!! Looks like a great book. You'll be happy to know that as I type my husband is beginning The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with my kids. :) And so it begins.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This looks like a fantastic and fun resource, Carrie. Thanks for sharing it!

Like Stephanie (the Mommy Brain one, not the Olive Tree one), my children are also now enjoying Wardrobe.

For Narnia!

Carrie said...

To Stephanie @ Olive Tree --

The Screwtape Letters!

Sherry said...

You have sons named Clive and Staples? Wow, you're brave ---or fanatical. :)

Oh, well, Jack and Lewis are nice names, too.

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