Thursday, July 10, 2014

Live Like a Narnian, by Joe Rigney

This is the book I was going to write someday.

I howled when I saw a copy of Live Like A Narnian at a conference we attended last fall. "No! No! No!" I muttered to myself as I reached over and pick it up. I had to buy it, of course. I had to buy it knowing that my title was gone and likely everything I wanted to say with it. If this sounds dramatic, it is because it was. (I'm snickering at myself, in case you couldn't figure that out.) It was my best idea for a book and the one I was most passionate about.

Writing this book has been on my "someday" list because I know that I'm not anywhere near ready to write anything down for publication just yet. It is still too early. I don't have enough to say. Piles of books are published every year which could stand to be fleshed out a bit more or to simply be hidden away for all eternity.  Yes, we might all have a story to tell but that doesn't mean we all need to be published. Verbal storytelling should be strongly considered as a fantastic lost art. This to say, maybe someday I will write a book but not now. (Of course, I can't now anyway because my title is gone.)

That explained, I begrudgingly opened up the covers of Live Like A Narnian and - not to be at all rude (even though I know it'll sound rude anyway) - author Joe Rigney, (who is very much alive and well and who I have absolutely NO wish to offend whatsoever), validated my concerns that a book with this title ought not to be written yet. I could stand it if someone could write a book with these thoughts and this title if they were ready to blow their readers' socks off. Rigney wasn't ready. (Of course, I realize that I'm a bit biased in my review here and that someone else out there might truly LOVE this book but it's not the best I've ever read and I think there is so much more for this title than was provided.)

Things to love about this book:

1. Joe Rigney has a passionate love for Narnia;
2. He finds Narnia to be inspiring for life;
3. He has read Narnia over and over again;
4. He has read many books about Narnia;
5. He has some bits of wisdom to pass along.

Things not to like so much:

1. The book is full of quotes from Narnia;
2. The book is full of quotes from other authors;
3. There is very little original thought contained within the covers. At least, not enough to blow my mind or even breeze my socks partly off my feet.

I still think the best book to divvy out practical application for the Christian walk through Narnia is Doug Wilson's What I Learned in Narnia. (Linked to my review.)

Coincidentally, I think Rigney agrees with me because he also quoted Wilson more than once. Also Peter Leithart. I know we're reading the same people. I know we're gleaning the same thoughts. I know we have the same passions. I think he leapt too quickly in publishing this book. And keep in mind the fact that I would have been great with it being published without my name anywhere on it if the book was as mind blowing as I think it could be. But, really, if you have to pick a title to read that is about Narnia which highlights Christian principles from the story then go with Wilson's work. It's insightful, practical, deep, inspiring and unique.

I feel very snobby and condescending when it comes to this book. I truly do not mean to be (even though it sounds like it). Of course I grumbled when I saw it, but I hoped to settle in and read something that would stretch my thoughts further. Alas, I didn't find it. Although I'm tempted to envy him this book, with this title and with his name on it, I'll try not to. (I'm so magnanimous, I know!) It really could have been great, but I just don't think it's full of many independent and unique thoughts. What he says here can all be found elsewhere and that makes me feel like it's not the best to recommend. I honestly think What I Learned in Narnia is better.

Truly, until someone comes up with something better than What I Learned in Narnia, I think they ought not to publish at all.

I know nothing about Joe Rigney. I like the title of his book. I genuinely appreciate his passion for these stories by Lewis. I love that he wants to spread the love with other people. I just think he should have waited to publish for awhile longer, until his very own thoughts were more developed. He might have still beat me to the quick and that would be very much ok. I'll live like a Narnian beside him, breathing Narnian air, and will continue to be inspired but these fantastic, mysterious "children's books" created by Lewis. Through a thousand re-reads of those Narnia books, I will always walk away having learned something new. It's nice to know that the same is true for others.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This tickles me because I've had the same thought--not about this books, but others--"There goes MY title!" ;)

Mark Baker said...

So many duplicate titles are published every year, by the time you are ready to write the book (and I will so read it), this one will be forgotten.

Thanks for the review. Sounds like, despite the title, I can skip it.

Barbara H. said...

I had thought about this one - looks like if he quotes Wilson a lot I should probably just go for that one. I've been reluctant to read any book like that because I want what I learn from Narnia to be my own rather than anyone else's, if that makes sense - yet I know I could probably gain some insights into things I missed by looking at them - or at Wilson's book, anyway.

Sympathizing with your title loss - I think I mentioned I had the same thing happen with Jen Wilkin's book. I truly was thinking about writing a book with the very same title.

Joe Rigney said...


While I realize it's probably a bit rude for an author to walk into a reviewer's website unannounced, I couldn't help myself. There haven't been many reviews of Live Like a Narnian, and critical ones are the most fun.

First, let me say that I'm not offended in the least by your review, nor do I begrudge your passionate opinions. Narnia occupies a special place in many of our hearts, and couple that with the loss of your book title, and I completely understood your (faux)-frustration.

Second, let me agree with two of your points. First, when it comes to wisdom and insight and writing capacity, Doug Wilson's just flat out got me beat. Coming in behind him neither surprises nor bothers me, and I'm delighted that my book even warranted a comparison with his.

Second, I agree that I may not have been ready to write this book, if by that you mean that I wasn't able to do Narnia justice. However, in my calculation, I don't think I'd ever be truly ready to do Lewis justice, so I had to content myself with a small contribution on the 50th anniversary of his death.

I did have a couple of questions about your review, if you don't mind me asking. First, though I certainly recommended Wilson's book in LLAN (a couple of times actually), I don't recall quoting him a lot (or at all, directly). I do quote Leithart twice (though not on Narnia). Am I missing something?

The other question I had was about the notion that my book is full of quotes from other authors. By my count, I only quote other authors 5 or 6 times (Barfield, Leithart, Chesterton, Kilby, and S.M. Hutchens). Most of the quotations from outside of Narnia come from Lewis himself in his other works (which was, of course, part of my aim).

In any event, I do appreciate the review, and while I sincerely apologize for stealing the title from Puddleglum before you were able to (and for not attaching the title to a mind-blowing or sock-breezing book), I do hope my use of it doesn't dissuade you from making your own contribution to our appreciation of Narnia. If you love Narnia half as much as your post suggests, I'd be very eager to read it.

Joe Rigney
First In, Last Out, Laughing Loudest

Annette Whipple said...

Ah, I remember discussing the book idea with you early in 2012. I don't think it's too late. :) (AND I have learned it's much easier to write a book than I ever thought...not that I'm ready to do it.)

The previous comment makes me smile. :)

Carrie said...

:D A nod and a Narnian bow to the good King Lune. @Rigney, your comment is most gracious.

It IS truly a compliment (from my perspective) that I would pick up your book hoping for a companion to Wilson's book (which I think is so great and awesome, etc.) And I AM keeping Live Like a Narnian on my shelf with parts of it underlined because my kids will have to read your book someday.

Yes, by saying that you weren't ready to write the book I I do mean that I don't think Narnia was done justice. As you say though (and I concur) it would be hard to do Lewis justice and that's why I haven't tried it either. You dared to dare. I haven't. That is something I can admire (which is why I say I admire the passion and love for Narnia in the book.)

As to your "challenges" I will answer! I just put the kids down for a nap and I'll peruse the book again. And if I think I was unfair I'll cut off my tail and review the book again! :D

I at least beat you to the blog title.

:D HA! I hope you stay unoffended and chuckling.

Cassandra said...

Ok, I finally circled around and read this review and the author's response. Now I'm REALLY curious as to what you're thinking as you revisit the book. *hint, hint*

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