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Books: Lewis the lightbearer

Books | The C.S. Lewis centennial inspires more excellent books

Issue: "Peretti on publishing," Oct. 25, 1997

Solomon said, "Of making many books there is no end." Indeed, of making many books about C.S. Lewis there is no end. A spate of new works examining the life and influence of this remarkable man only adds to an already burgeoning cottage industry that is on the verge of becoming a publishing genre in and of itself. With the centenary celebration of his birth just a few months away, it seems that yet another burst of new books is imminent-but these four volumes are certain to be among the best of the lot.

Michael Coren is a respected G.K. Chesterton scholar. He is thus uniquely qualified to draw a new portrait of the man Chesterton so profoundly affected. In The Man Who Created Narnia, he is able to show how the various elements of C.S. Lewis's life were ultimately reflected in the fictional world of Narnia. Avoiding the pitfalls of all too many of the recent biographies of the amazing English-don-turned-apologist-biographies which have been by turns wildly hagiographical or boorishly psychoanalytical-Mr. Coren has managed to actually produce a balanced and thus welcome addition to the vast Lewis canon.

Thomas Peters, another renowned Chesterton scholar, has undertaken the task of producing a provocative introduction to the works of C.S. Lewis. And he succeeds remarkably. Simply C.S. Lewis is one of those rare books about books that actually provokes readers to rush right out and plunge right into the primary works themselves. I found myself anxious to revisit the realms of Perelandra, to explore the Dark Tower once again, to be tantalized anew by An Experiment in Criticism, and to lose myself in Narnia all over again. If you've been promising yourself to buckle down and read the Lewis classics, this fine volume may well be one of the best inducements you could find.

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Surprised by Laughter by Terry Lindvall explores the comedic sensibilities of Mr. Lewis. To be sure, his sense of humor, his delight in the ordinary things of life, and his serendipitous gladness are among the most attractive aspects of his writing. Here Mr. Lindvall shows that the infectious rapture of C.S. Lewis's books was an integral aspect of his life as well. Displaying an encyclopedic knowledge of the great man's published works, private correspondence, and personal relationships, this is a unique intellectual biography-one sure to bring hours of enjoyment to anyone who has been surprised by the joy of Lewis.

Last, but by no means least, among this new crop of Lewis books is a collection of provocative essays edited by Angus Menuge. Lightbearer in the Shadowlands brings together some of the brightest minds in Christian academia to wrestle with what is perhaps the most enticing aspect of C.S. Lewis's influence: his evangelistic vision. Exploring all the personal, literary, philosophical, and theological methods Mr. Lewis employed as an apologist for the gospel, the wide-ranging essays are insightful, provocative, and accessible. I was particularly impressed by the immediacy and relevance of the contribution by Wayne Martindale on C.S. Lewis's "inadvertent evangelism," with Reed Jolly's contribution on his relevance to "generation x-ers," George Musacchio's contribution on his ability to "exorcise the zeitgeist," and Ed Veith's contribution on the pertinence of his work to the world of "postmodernists."

I confess that I am more than a little grateful for the deluge of new Lewis books like these-because like so many others, I just can't seem to get enough of the untamed literary lion of Oxford, Cambridge, and the Narnian realms in between.


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