2.19.2015

Author Focus: C.S. Lewis

I thought that since I talked about a couple books by C.S. Lewis last week, I would bring back the post in which I talk about a favorite author.  You can read the first of these here.

C.S. Lewis is by far my favorite nonfiction author, and his books have made a big impression on my life.  If you're new here, in these posts I do a brief summary of the author's life, do mini reviews of my favorite books by him or her, and list some of my favorite quotes.  Let's get started.

Bio:
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland on November 29, 1898.  As a toddler, Lewis declared that his name was Jack, and was called the same by his close family and friends for the rest of his life.  Lewis was best friends with his older brother, Warren, and the two boys had active imaginations that served them well throughout their childhoods, and for Lewis, throughout his life.  When he was 10, Lewis's mother died, and he and his brother were sent to a boarding school.  During WWI, Lewis served until he was wounded by shrapnel and sent home.  He graduated from Oxford University with a focus on literature and classic philosophy, and he went on to be awarded a teaching position at Magdalen College, which was part of the University.  There, he was taken in by a group who called themselves "The Inklings", a loose, informal collective of writers and philosophers, who counted in their number Lewis's brother, and J.R.R. Tolkien.  Through several of the group's members, C.S. Lewis became a Christian, for he had previously been an atheist.  In the mid-1920s, Lewis began publishing books, and it was during this time when he published the first of his sci-fi trilogy.  During WWII, he gave a series of radio broadcasts in which he dealt with primary Christian beliefs/principles and these were later gathered into the book known as Mere Christianity.  Lewis began publishing his possibly most famous works during the 50's: The Chronicles of Narnia.  In 1954, Lewis joined the faculty of Cambridge University as a literature professor, and in 1956, he married Joy Gresham, an American English teacher.  Their marriage was filled with joy, and so, when Joy passed away in 1960 due to cancer, Lewis was devastated.  He wrote about his grief following her death in his book, A Grief Observed.  Lewis resigned from his position at Cambridge in 1963 after experiencing heart trouble.  He passed away on November 22, 1963, in Headington, Oxford.

Books:

The Weight of Glory:  I "read" this book as an audiobook, and I really enjoyed it.  The Weight of Glory is more of an essay than a book.  Lewis wrote it during wartime, when people were dealing with fundamental issues like truth and justice.  He covers several issues in the essay, including the subject of glory: what it means when used in the Bible, every human being's intrinsic longing for another place, a sense that this world is not our home, and he also writes about people – how there are "no mere mortals" and that each person we meet will essentially become either a creature of unspeakable beauty or one of hideous evil.  I really enjoyed this.  Lewis is again, absolutely brilliant and he makes so many fascinating points.  I highly recommend.  (Note: the audiobook I have included some other essays CSL wrote, but I am only speaking of TWOG here.)

The Great Divorce:  Another brilliant book.  Based off a dream Lewis had, The Great Divorce is an idea of what heaven/hell may be like.  There is a bus that takes people from a place (perhaps hell, but may be purgatory(?)) up to heaven, where they can "visit" and decide if they want to stay.  It is physically uncomfortable for the people, who are ghosts at first, not solid bodies, but those who are already in heaven have normal bodies and are quite at home.  There are fascinating conversations between the residents of heaven and these visitors, whom they are trying to convince to stay.  The visitors each have their own sets of reasons and excuses and problems with the idea of heaven, and thus most of them return from whence they came.  It is an absolutely fascinating look at heaven, and you can read my full review of it here.

The Chronicles of Narnia: You knew this had to be in here.  I am an avowed fan of the Chronicles of Narnia.  I absolutely love them.  They are essentially a series of books for children, some of which are allegorical, and others which are simply symbolical of aspects of the Christian worldview.  I truly love each book, though I would have to say that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or The Horse and His Boy are my favorites.  I am also a fan of the first two movies (LWW, and Prince Caspian).  I reviewed The Chronicles of Narnia back in December, and you can find that post here.

And, of course, the two books by Lewis I spoke about last week (Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters) in my top nonfiction books post are also favorites, and would have made it on this list, too, if I had not already described them/reviewed them last week.  You can find that post here.

Quotes:

There are soooo many quotes by C.S. Lewis I absolutely love, but since this is a long post already, I am going to have to keep it under 20 (just kidding, it'll be less than that).  But I encourage you to find a more exhaustive list of his most famous quotes: you're sure to find some favorites.

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

"Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage." (Love this!)

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world." (And this!)

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

"If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." (He's totally my dude)

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer.  Before your face questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” 

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” 

Oops.  I got a little carried away.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this very long post and I hope it inspired you to read a couple books by C.S. Lewis.  He is such an amazing writer and theologian and his works have made a big impression on my life.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella

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