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More about A. N. Wilson's biography

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  • WendellWag@aol.com
    I ve thought about A. N. Wilson s biography of C. S. Lewis a number of times since its publication, and I think that the basic problems with it are Wilson s
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 4, 2006
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      I've thought about A. N. Wilson's biography of C. S. Lewis a number of times
      since its publication, and I think that the basic problems with it are
      Wilson's laziness and the publishers' cheapness. Wilson is the sort of natural
      writer whose first drafts sound polished. Given that, and given that Wilson
      didn't really seem to care very much for Lewis, I suspect that it basically is
      a first draft. I think that Wilson would have rather been writing about some
      other subject, but his publishers convinced him that he (and they) could
      make a lot of money from a biography of Lewis. Wilson did as little research as
      possible for the book, and the clever "conclusions" he comes to about Lewis
      are really just his off-the-top-of-his-head observations from a quick reading
      of Lewis's works. They look like deep observations because Wilson is a
      slick enough writer to make them look deep without having to do any actual
      research.

      How else can one explain his misunderstanding of when Douglas Gresham saw
      his mother and Lewis having sex or his misreading of the "Nazi, homosexual
      pleasures" letter or one-sentence dismissal of _Till We Have Faces_ (probably
      because Wilson didn't read it) or his writing "Ann Arbor University in Michigan"
      for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor? And how else can one explain
      the publishers letting such slips get by? They didn't even care enough about
      the book's accuracy to let a Lewis scholar read the manuscript before
      publication. I don't think they even had an editor read it carefully. Had they
      done so, at least the obvious errors could have been fixed.

      I think that the book is also an example of a general problem with much
      critical writing about Lewis, the tendency of both his fans and his detractors to
      write as if the status of Christianity in the present-day world stood or fell
      solely on the quality of Lewis's writings. This causes Lewis's fans to
      overpraise his writings, to read their own views into them, and to assume that
      Lewis's body of work is a _Summa Theologica_ for the modern world with
      statements about all essential aspects of Christianity. Something similar happens
      to detractors of Lewis. Wilson was losing his Christian faith at the time he
      was writing the biography. He often seems to be attacking Lewis not for
      Lewis's own virtues and faults but for Wilson's objections to Christianity. I
      think that this may explain Philip Pullman's "moral insanity" in his wildly
      overstated objections to _The Chronicles of Narnia_. It's as if he thinks the
      status of Christianity today depends solely on the popularity of the Narnia
      books.

      Wendell Wagner


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • John D Rateliff
      Just found out about this one, and passing news of it along in case anyone on the list is interested in Tolkien-inspired art. There s a new book out by one
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 6, 2006
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        Just found out about this one, and passing news of it along in case
        anyone on the list is interested in Tolkien-inspired art.
        There's a new book out by one Ruth Lacon (THE ART OF RUTH LACON)
        from ADC Books (www.adcbooks.co.uk). It's fairly pricey at thirty
        pounds.
        The samples on the flyer sent to me seem to indicate that her
        style is more what I associate with children's books than fantasy
        illustration: deliberately flat, most unshaded, a preference for
        solid blocks of color. Oddly enough, the cover shows Bilbo in the
        tree in Mirkwood surrounded by the black "purple emperor"
        butterflies--except that all the butterflies are a vivid indigo blue,
        not black. Very odd to choose a scene and ignore the most distinctive
        thing the author says about it, I thought.

        --John R.
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