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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Light in the Shadowlands

I have been gradually working my way through the C. S. Lewis corpus one book at a time over the past few years. Whereas some people will find an author they like and plow through all their works in a short span, I prefer to take my time and jump from author to author. While I think the other approach has its benefits, I find this way suits me. I gain a sense of balance by constantly feeding on various writers and sources that I wouldn't have by only picking one author. Also, I tend to approach some books in a research-minded way – that is, gathering information. So I'll come up with an issue I want to know more about, and then I'll gather all my books on that issue in a pile. I don't usually work through the pile, but I get at least a start on learning more about that issue. One can't always approach books this way, however, as it can have it's own defeciencies, especially in dealing with certain types of literature, and therefore can be a hinderance to the reader.

Part of the experience in reading Lewis has been trying to just enjoy a book rather than racing to the index to find that piece of information I'm looking for. Lewis's Narnia books are especially good for working against that tendency. They are fiction, and as they were written for children, they are not especially complicated. Nonetheless, they are spiritually and intellectually rich and, as I have found most every time I read one of them, convicting of soul. Because I find them so enjoyable compared to little else, I have taken my time working through the series. I think of them as an especially thick steak or a rich chocolate dessert. Whenever I find myself in a reading rut, I can always go to the next Narnia book and it will get me reading again.

I just started The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last weekend and am halfway through. At the same time I am listening to The Screwtape Letters on audio. Until recently, however, I hadn't picked up any Lewis in awhile, mainly due to studies in other authors.

About three weeks ago I started reading a book not by Lewis, but about Lewis. It is called Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C. S. Lewis, and was written by Kathryn Lindskoog. A friend had told me about it a couple of years ago, and I picked it up not long after that, though I just read it for the first time. It is an interesting read for anyone desiring to know more about Lewis's legacy. Lindskoog (who died a couple of years ago) was a Lewis scholar and had met Lewis as well as corresponded with him several times. The concern of the book has to do with what has happened to Lewis's estate since the time of his death. In a strange turn of events, the Lewis estate fell into the hands of one Walter Hooper, who, it seems, didn't know Lewis nearly as well as he has portrayed. Since Lewis's death, many writings have come out bearing his name which Lindskoog questions for their authenticity. She questions the integrity of Mr. Hooper (who, sadly, is from nearby Reidsville here in North Carolina) as well as many involved with him and otherwise in Lewis scholarship. She talks about Lewis's various romantic interests through his life and how the circumstances around them are generally portrayed (she would say, inaccurately). She discusses the strange events that took place regarding the Kilns, Lewis's house and property, which he shared with his brother Warnie, after his death. She addresses issues surrounding the production and release of the movie Shadowlands, which chronicled the portion of Lewis's life involving wife Joy Davidman. She even argues against the notion that Lewis was progressing on his way to joining the Roman Catholic Church, an event which many Roman-leaning individuals seem to think would have been inevitable had Lewis not died before it happened.

The book comes with endorsements from many well known authors and scholars, such as Sheldon Vanauken, Ursula K. Le Guin, Martin E. Marty, Tim Powers, Russell Kirk, Richard Wilbur, Gilbert Meilaender, Robery Siegel, Frederick Buechner, Philip Yancey, and Walter Wangerin. I cannot say for sure that her accusations are completely accurate. To do so, I would have to have done all the research she had done for myself. But I can say that I find her case(s) overwhelmingly compelling, and therefore I find myself fully convinced. If nothing else, the list of endorsements should make one stand up and take notice. Sadly, Lindskoog's charges have never, to my knowledge, been answered, a matter she addresses in the book as well.

There is an updated version of this book, called Sleuthing C. S. Lewis: More Light in the Shadowlands, which you can get here. Since this was the last edition published by Lindskoog, I suspect this is the one a person would want to get. I was not aware of its existence until after I read the earlier version.

It isn't an especially enjoyable read in one sense. It is tragic to think of what has been done in Lewis's name since his death. It is an easy read, however, and an indispensable one for anyone seeking to gain a complete understanding of Lewis's works. I highly recommend it.

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