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PostC. S. Lewis (David Gress, Denmark, 01/24/14 4:36 am)
Some people say that C. S. Lewis's memoir Surprised by Joy should in fact have been entitled Suppressed by Jack, which is a triple joke, because C. S. Lewis was called Jack by his friends, because he, being a literary man, was notoriously inaccurate about dates and stories, and because unknownst to him when he wrote it, his later wife was named Joy, and she did surprise him. That last fact is a tremendous irony.
That book played no small part in leading me to Christianity in my early adulthood, and I have not read it since, which is now well over 40 years ago.
His story of the motorcycle ride with his brother may or may not be pertinent to his conversion, but as his biographer Alister McGrath, a Protestant like Lewis and professor at Oxford, makes clear, the breakthrough for Lewis came in the spring of 1931 during and after a night-time conversation which took place on Addison's Walk in the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford, with J.R.R. Tolkien and a mutual friend, Hugo Dyson. The motorcycle ride took place, most likely, a year or so later.
David Duggan (23 January) is right that the TV play with Joss Ackland is superior to the romanticized film with Hopkins and Winger. The whole story is much more complicated and interesting, and can be followed in McGrath's biography, published last year (2013).
To my young mind 40-odd years ago, Lewis's apologetic writings, including Surprised by Joy, were tremendously impressive, because I had never encountered anything like them before, and in particular, as David Duggan suggests, his vivid account of the paradox of Christianity.
Now, in later life, I find Lewis's fiction much more satisfying. Not so much the Narnia stories as his Ransom trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, all of which I re-read regularly, especially the first two. As a writer, he is not really a match for Tolkien, but he had another agenda, and had a very different mind, good friends though the two were for many years. Lewis thought as a medieval person; his imagination was full of the cosmos of the medieval romances, whereas Tolkien was much more authentically Northern and above all a philologist, whereas Lewis was a literary person. Lewis thought in styles and conceits, Tolkien in principles and cosmologies. Lewis could have a faun walking through a wintry wood with gift parcels; Tolkien would never commit the inconsistency of putting a faun, a creature out of Greek legend, into a heroic story derived from a Norse-inspired mythology of his own invention. What arguments those two must have had!
JE comments: Lewis's wife Joy Davidman, an American 17 years his junior, died of bone cancer just four years into their marriage. Lewis himself died on 22 November 1963, the day of the Kennedy assassination. (Aldous Huxley also passed away that same day--uncanny.)