Missing Lewis

narnia2In a preemptive strike against Aslan and his fans, The New York Times has launched an attack today against the mind behind the Land of Narnia.

While I enjoyed Charles McGrath’s article for its freshness and willingness to depart from the standard C.S. Lewis script, he doesn’t provide any new information and simply repeats some of the speculation presented by A.N. Wilson, author of C.S. Lewis: A Biography (Norton, 1990).

McGrath devotes six paragraphs of his article to speculation surrounding Lewis’s relationship with a Mrs. Moore, also known as Minto. McGrath goes as far to call Wilson “the best and most persuasive of Lewis’s biographers,” and states that “there’s no reason at all to think they didn’t [sleep together], leaving us with the baffling and disquieting psychological picture of C.S. Lewis, the great scholar and writer and Christian apologist-to-be, pedaling off on his bicycle, his academic gown flapping in the wind, to have a nooner with Mum.” Here’s the crux of the subject:

For more than 40 years, he lived with the mother of a friend named Edward Moore, with whom he had made one of those earnest World War I pacts: if anything happened to either of them, the other would take care of his friend’s family. In the event, it was Moore who died, while Lewis came down with trench fever and was later wounded, not severely but badly enough that he was sent home.

Lewis, then 20, went to Oxford in January 1919, but he kept his word and moved Mrs. Moore and her daughter, Maureen, to lodgings nearby. In those days, for an Oxford undergraduate to spend the night away from his college, let alone spend it with a woman, was a serious offense, and so Lewis embarked upon a double life, spending the week in college and weekends and vacations with Maureen and Mrs. Moore, or Minto, as she was known. The arrangement persisted for the rest of Minto’s life, long after Lewis earned his degree and became a don.

In 1930, he and Minto bought a house together, and Lewis’s brother, Warnie, a career army officer whose excessive drinking had forced him into early retirement, moved in. But during the term, Lewis still slept in his rooms at Magdalen College. Many of his friends didn’t even know about Minto; others had the vague impression that she was his stepmother.

The exact nature of their relationship is something that many of Lewis’s biographers would prefer to tiptoe around. But Lewis was far from a sexual innocent, and the evidence strongly suggests that, at least until he got religion, there was an erotic component to his life with Minto. Did they actually sleep together, this earnest, scholarly young man, conventional in almost every other way, and a woman 26 years his senior? Walter Hooper, the editor of Lewis’s “Collected Letters,” thinks it “not improbable.” A.N. Wilson, the best and most persuasive of Lewis’s biographers, argues that there’s no reason at all to think they didn’t, leaving us with the baffling and disquieting psychological picture of C.S. Lewis, the great scholar and writer and Christian apologist-to-be, pedaling off on his bicycle, his academic gown flapping in the wind, to have a nooner with Mum.

The true authoritative Lewis biographer, George Sayer, in his Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis (Crossway, 1994), deals with the psychobabble presented by Wilson. Since he knew Lewis closely through this years and talked to others who lived at the house at the time, he is fairly certain that the relationship was innocent.

The NYT piece also fails to even mention when Lewis converted to Christianity. Such a significant event in a person’s life surely deserves at least a mention.

This then leads to a disturbing speculation by McGrath, that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was motivated by some Freudian, drunken, crazy man whose wardrobe symbolizes something a little more disturbing than a place where you put your coats and scarves. Fortunately, McGrath rejects that speculation:

But if in fact there is a psychological explanation for how the books came to be, it is probably a good deal simpler. Lewis was at the time so despondent and worn down, so weary of the world of grown-ups, with their bedpans and whiskey bottles, that he must have longed for a holiday in a land of make-believe.

Lewis later claimed that in writing the Narnia books, he “put in what I would have liked to read when I was a child and what I still like reading now that I am in my 50′s.” Children’s literature — the notion of books written specifically to be read to or by young people — was a Victorian invention, and Lewis as a child was shaped by a typically Victorian reading list. With the indiscrimination that so troubled Tolkien, he cannibalized much of it for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Here’s the NYT elevating speculation on a man’s life that belongs in the gutter. Can’t it find a more serious angle on the man who is still considered the most prominent Christian writer in the last 100 years? How about the discussion that we could have regarding why Lewis has not been replaced and passed up by another?

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  • http://auspiciousdragon.com/ holmegm

    Do we even need to say that this speculation says far more about those who engage in it than about the object of it?

    It’s not Lewis’ fault that these people are incapable of imagining living with a woman without having sex with her.

  • ralphg

    The crude joke about the children pushing through the fur opening in the cabinet was made in the CS Lewis movie, Shadowlands. At a pub scene, some of Lewis’ fellow professors are laughing at him writing children’s novels.

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    Ted Olsen recently had a link to an interesting article in the ,i>Sunday Times about Lewis’s puritanical and “misguided devotees”:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1858995,00.html

    BTW, I once watched Silence of the Lambs and Shadowlands back to back – weird experience…

  • Maureen

    It’s a sad world when charity to a dead friend’s mom can only be misinterpreted. The man sacrifices his own life and fun to taking care of people he doesn’t necessarily like and who possibly tried to take advantage of him. (Now there’s a definition of family! Family that’s chosen and not born, even! I thought liberals liked that!) He does more than his duty, and they kick him for it while he’s in no position to argue.

  • http://www.buildchurches.org Calee

    I’ve spent some time with Douglas Gresham (C.S. Lewis’ step-son) and he have some strong opinions on biographers that didn’t even know the man. Gresham has written his own biography called Jack’s life:
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0805432469/qid=1131976018/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-0239069-3614420?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

    Funny, the Times didn’t bother asking someone both involved in the filmmaking and who actually knew Jack for his opinion…

  • angel

    I don’t see what the big deal was, even if he was having sex with her. Supposedly this was before he converted, and it bears no relevance on his writing career. It’s just a bunch of meaningless gossip, if you ask me.

  • Achilles

    Here’s another one:
    http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/051121crat_atlarge

    I guess it’s only to be expected that all the Lewis haters out there would be taking the movie release as an opportunity to get their whacks in. This one is less tone-deaf yet more smarmy than the Times.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Oh my gosh, Lewis had sex before he was a Christian! Scandal. Outrage. He smoked and drank too, enjoyed bawdy jokes. Let’s burn his books now.

    The NY Times and the Times of London are doing what Lewis devotees refused to do–see him as a imperfect person–not as “Saint Jack.” He lived with a woman he was not married to for 30 years, and early on (I think even Sayer admits this–and I think it’s addressed in Alan Jacob’s new Lewis bio)–it’s likely they were lovers. That he never married until she died, and that he also refused to let anyone see the letters he wrote her support that hypothesis. On that account, the Times is reporting, not attacking.

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    On that account, the Times is reporting, not attacking. Sorry, Bob, but the Times is clearly attempting to discredit an important figure in Christian thought by labeling him a hypocrite. The nature of his relationship to Mrs. Moore is absolutely irrelevant to the Narnia series as literature, and to Lewis as a Christian apologist. Its only importance to the Times piece is that it encourages readers to dismiss Lewis and his writings out of hand, and that is not reporting — it is agenda-driven journalism.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    I dunno, Bob. I thought it was a pretty wretched article myself, and there’s plenty I dislike about Lewis.

    The bit I thought was interesting — and actually relevent to the upcoming movie — was the description of how Lewis put into the Narnia stories all the stuff he liked to see in stories. This was also how Isaac Asimov wrote. Contrast it with the description earuly in the NY Times piece of how movie executives make movies, triangulating between a stereotypical Christian audience (who will supposedly flock to anything with a bit of God-talk in it) and an equally stereotypical mainstream audience (expected to avoid same).

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Charlie,

    The Times is reporting on the untidy side of Lewis’s life. His relationship with Mrs. Moore is odd and strange for a Christian apologist. McGrath writes that “at least until he got religion” there was “an erotic component” to his relationship with Moore. This is a part of Lewis’s life that his devotees seem to ignore.

    Philip Pullman’s comments in the piece have some merit as well– Lewis’s treatment of Susan, punished for reaching puberty it seems–is regretable.

    I’m an admirer of Lewis, and the fact that he had feet of clay doesn’t bother me. The Times reporting doesn’t seem to reach the level of “attack.” Lewis’s status as a Christian apologist makes his personal life fair game when writing about his work.

  • http://www.bluffton.edu/~bergerd Dan Berger

    Hmmph. The NYT “story” refers to The Lord of the Rings as “children’s lit.” To quote Lewis in a somewhat different context, after the writer has said that, why should we pay attention to anything else he may have to say on the topic?

  • dpulliam

    Bob,

    I didn’t mind the facts in the story at all. I enjoyed the story and found it interesting, but what bothered me was the weight it placed on certain work without balancing it against other work. Report all you want on the underside of Lewis, but realize and make sure the reader realizes what is speculation and what is fact.

    As far as Lewis’s treatment of Susan, I also found it regrettable when I was younger, but now I realize that it does go with the flow of the overall Chronicles story and shows that Narnia — or Heaven — is not for everyone, which is truly sad.

  • http://www.bluffton.edu/~bergerd Dan Berger

    As a matter of fact, the NYT piece calls urgently for a good fisking. Lewis “knew very little about children,” forsooth!

  • http://www.geocities.com/seapadre_1999/homily-christking-a.html Fr. Phil Bloom

    Maureen nailed it: “It’s a sad world when charity to a dead friend’s mom can only be misinterpreted.”

    Wilson (and McGrath) make the old “invisible cat” argument: If that chair had an invisible cat sitting on it, that is exactly how it would look. Therefore, it has an invisible cat sitting on it. How can you disprove it?

    Moreover, those tempted to expose the sins of others should consider what happened to Ham. (Gen 9:22ff.)

  • Eric Phillips

    Bob,

    Parroting Pullman on the subject of Susan Pevensy just reveals the fact that you haven’t read the book in question very closely. Go read the actual passage instead of the little blurb Pullman yanks from context, and you will see it is quite clear that Susan is banned from Narnia because she stopped believing that it is real. The problem wasn’t the make-up and nylons; it was that she decided the make-up and nylons were the REAL THING, while Narnia was just a fantasy she had imagined as a child.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Eric

    I just listened to the section that Pullman quotes on CD, and for all his gifts of clarity as a writer, Lewis handled Susan badly–
    and if you read the text, she’s no longer a friend of Narnia and is banned from heaven because she reached puberty and became interested in nylons. Lewis is cruel with her–and even though a later letter of his tries to explain that Susan stil has a chance to get into Narnia– in the book, Lewis is clear that she’s no longer allowed in Pullman’s got a point (and yes I’ve read his works as well)

    Having just finished writing a cover story for Christianity Today about Lewis, I’m stunned by how few of his fans are willing to admit to his faults. The Times, I think, still did good work here. Messy, maybe, but their job would have been helped immensely if Lewis had been honest about his relationship with Moore and not pretended she was his mother. It’s not a claim that a journalist can accept at face value.

  • Achilles

    “if you read the text, she’s no longer a friend of Narnia and is banned from heaven because she reached puberty and became interested in nylons”

    I beg to differ. If you keep reading:

    ‘”Grown-up, indeed,” said the Lady Polly. “I wish she *would* grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”‘

    Lewis is taking a whack on teenagers, true, but the underlying message is that Susan has advanced in years without advancing in maturity. She is rushing out of the innocence of childhood without adopting the responsibilities and joys of adulthood. She is desperate to be Popular.

    I have a tentative hypothesis that people who have a problem with this passage were themselves Popular in high school, but I don’t know enough about Pullman’s background to be sure.

    I don’t consider myself a Lewis apologist. There are many eyerolling moments in the Chronicles, but this shouldn’t be one of them.

  • http://raphael.doxos.com Huw Raphael

    The fact that such reporting might be seen as a smear i(rather than possible truth) is a sign that sex causes some amount of trouble among the “puritanical followers of St Jack”. It speaks more, I think, about the followers than the saint.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    I haven’t read Wilson’s biography, but looking around at some of the various things that have been written here and there I have a thesis about the antipathy towards Lewis.

    And antipathy it surely is. As an Anglican I suppose I’ve never had much use in general for the knocking of people off pedestals because I’m not so inclined to put them there in the first place. Whether or not the Wade Center whitewashes Lewis isn’t really my concern– especially since it’s awfully hard to whitewash someone as openly opinionated as Lewis was. Or as changeable.

    But the real problem is this: Lewis stands, for better or for worse, as the most important critic of budget modernism– the most pervasive kind. It struck me, in reading his preface to The Pilgrim’s Regress, that at the point where he confesses to have lost his temper I fail to detect much exaggeration or unwarranted contempt– after the fact. The reference to Bertrand Russell in the New Yorker article reminds me that Russell’s own writing on religion achieves nothing more than sophomoric certainty.

    The whole Lewis-bashing industry is, it seems to me, worthy of its own analysis. Why do people have such distaste for him, anyway?

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    “Budget modernism”?

    My own dislike of Lewis (tempered with respect, for there are things he wrote that I like and admire) stems largely for the disrespect he showed for positions he disagreed with.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    The fact that such reporting might be seen as a smear (rather than possible truth) is a sign that sex causes some amount of trouble among the “puritanical followers of St Jack”. It speaks more, I think, about the followers than the saint.

    Well, not exactly. Part of the focus on Wheaton College is the result of the reality that Anglican readers of Lewis are, on the whole, comfortable with his personal complexity; we are harder to scandalize. The “Mrs. Moore” relationship is inevitably going to be the focus of controversy because conclusions have to be teased out of considerable obscurity. I personally find a certain contradiction in the arrival of Joy Gresham as provoking a sexual awakening on the one hand, and Mrs. Moore as her predecessor on the other.

    The other thing is that the people who are making these accusations have a stake in deprecating Lewis as a commentator on modern secularism in general. There’s an odd point in the New Yorker article where the writer finds Lewis’s conversion based on the Christian literal realization of myth to be strange. And yet it is in this point of the reality of the Christian story that 20th century theology had the most trouble with the Christian religion. It seems to me that they are finding it hard to answer Lewis on this point without resorting to dismissing him as a hypocrite. The “Mrs. Moore” plays into this both as ground for speculation and as reinforcement that everything is really about sex. Which takes us back to Sesan Pevensey, whose rejection from the Narnian fold is based not on growing up, but on how she chooses to interpret growing up. In denying her childhood she ceases to be a whole person, and it is that lack of wholeness which blocks her return.

  • Eric Phillips

    Bob,

    You are completely wrong about the interpretation of that passage. There are three statements made about Susan at the end of The Last Battle:

    1) Jill says, “She’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations.”

    2) Susan herself says (as quoted by Eustace), “What wonderful memories you have! Fancy you’re still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

    3) Polly offers the analysis already posted by Achilles.

    If you can read all three of those statements and come away with the conclusion that Susan “is banned from heaven because she reached puberty and became interested in nylons,” then you shouldn’t be writing articles on Lewis for anybody.

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez

    Bob: “Having just finished writing a cover story for Christianity Today about Lewis, I’m stunned by how few of his fans are willing to admit to his faults.”

    Stunned? By the prevalence of closed-minded, fact-ignoring, sex-negating tendencies among the followers of St. Lewis? I’m shocked. Call the presses! These comments run so far against the grain of all those horrible, untrue anti-Christian stereotypes, nobody will ever believe them.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Eric,

    Susan does not end up in heaven at the end of the Last Battle. Her sin, in this passage, is being a teenage girl who is more interested in nylons and lipstick than in Narnia. For shame. This, despite having been one of the few people to accompany Aslan to his death and being a witness to his resurrection. This strikes me as poor form on Lewis’s part and Pullman’s criticism of Lewis on this point has merit.

    You disagree. Fine. But there’s something disconcerting about your insistance that no other point of view about this section of the story, other than your own, is valid. Thankfully, you are not making editorial decisions.

    Joe:

    Most of the followers of St. Lewis, at least the ones I know, are willing to look at facts. Unfortunately, many have come close to making an idol of Lewis.

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  • Eric Phillips

    My my. If I could learn to cavalierly ignore 2/3 of the evidence on a given subject, like Bob here, I could prove anything about anything.

    If I pay close attention, perhaps I will learn this powerful method.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Eric,

    Why is it so threatening to you that someone criticizes Lewis? This isn’t Scripture we’re talking about here. It’s a novel and open to subjective interpretation.

    Thank you for making my point, BTW. Any critique of Lewis is seen as an attack.

  • Jonathan S

    I would disagree with Bob’s assessment of why Susan’s excluded, but I agree that many (mostly evangelical) fans have a tendency to idolize Lewis. There are a number of passages in “Mere Christianity” and “Reflections on the Psalms” where I think Lewis is flat-out wrong. And I guess if I really want to start a firestorm, I can bring up a passage which, to many orthodox (not Orthodox) Christians, is more troublng than speculation of the reason behind Susan being barred from Narnia: how a Calormen who worships Tash faithfully is allowed into Narnia at the end of “The Last Battle”. (But I won’t) ;-)

  • mr tall

    C. Wingate: I just wanted to say that ‘budget modernism’ is one of the most economical and elegant phrases I’ve come across in ages. Thanks for that.

  • MT

    Both the NY Times and New Yorker pieces were complete hatchet jobs. It’s perfectly fair to point out an individual’s flaws in a biographical sketch, but to focus on them at the expense of a balanced representation suggests an agenda at work. It is likely the very common “gotcha!” game that liberals love to play with Christians. “You say you believe in these standards, but I know you did X, Y or Z.” It’s really tiresome.

  • Anne-Marie

    If you want to “prove” that Lewis is a hypocrite because he violated Christian sexual ethics before his conversion, look no further than his own admission. “It is quite true that at this time [about 1912 or -13] I underwent a violent, and wholly successful, assualt of sexual temptation.” Suprised by Joy, p.59 in the Fount paperback edition.

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    By the way, Shadowlands is coming up next week on the radio, via LA Theatreworks:

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/latw/

  • Joe

    Having been an Evaneglical and read Lewis for over 20 years, I have never been “stunned” by the blindness of his devotees for the simple reason that I have not encountered it. At least no more than to the same degree there are zealots among the devotees of anyone famous. I have found instead a typical mix. What has stunned me is all those who insist on acting as if the information on Lewis’ earthier side is some blinding revelation. It is old news to anyone fairly informed, and acts like publishers airbrushing pipes out of pictures says more about theri underestimation of the reading public than it does about Evangelical close-mindedness.

    As for Susan, Lewis’ comments ring true for anyone who has watched a believing friend become seduced by worldliness and gradually become too sophisticated for faith. An excellent and sad distant example would be Betrand russell’s reported comment in the New Yorker of abandoning faith as he discovered “F-ing.”

    No, Lewis was no saint, but not one, and certainly not Catholics who actually believe in saints, say he was.

    But nor was he a flaming hypocrite, as all these writers try to suggest. A highly dishonorable group on this subject.

  • Richard

    Hello Mr. Smietana,

    I wouldn’t quibble with your assessment that there is more than a little idolization of Lewis in some quarters – nor should any objective observer. A nerve has clearly been struck here.

    Yet I fear that here, the desire to counter or critique this tendency has allowed a certain excess in the opposite direction.

    The Times, which buys its ink by the barrel, has the editorial freedom to say whatever it wants and McGrath is entitled to his own view of Lewis – and to express it. Neither isunder any obligation to make themselves adjuncts of the C.S. Lewis industry. But let us not pretend the results here are anything close to objectivity or fairmindedness. Here we see McGrath takeup what seems – to modern eyes – an odd episode in Lewis’s life, and takes up the most unfavorable interpretation possible of it, i.e., that of A.N. Wilson (himself a man of no few controversial opinions) to the exclusion of pretty much any other view. Now Hooper is a man worth listening to and it is fair to note that he does not rule out the possibility (after all, who really can?). Yet there is no effort at balance – no opposing view from other Lewis biographers, like Sayer or Pearce, or friends and family who knew him, such as Gresham. Instead, simply a flat assertion:

    “But for decades before that, Lewis also had a secret life, another marriage of sorts, that was both mysterious and a little weird.”

    And:

    “Lewis was a progressive in nothing except his choice of women to sleep with.”

    Even if this is only a swipe at Joy Gresham, it’s a fairly obnoxious one.

    “A little weird?” So it seems to most of us. And given human nature we can never be entirely sure if Wilson is wrong, or so quick to dismiss it out of hand. But the contemporary tendency to sexualize all matters wherever possible has reached a point of being oblivious to all othr possibilities: the perennial bachelor must be gay, sexually repressed or having a life on the side, rather than, well, simply to be what he appears to be.

    And all of this would perhaps be more easily overlooked if the results did not also happen to feed into certain agendas for which the New Yorks Times is all too well known.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Given that the Narnia film is being promoted to the “Passion” crowd, and that groups like Focus on the Family have heartily endorsed the film, and churches see the films as an evangelistic tool, I’d still argue that the Times is correct in its decision to report of Lewis’s weird family life. It does not fit the Focus on the Family or the Evangelical model. Is the Times reporting completely accurate or unbaised. Probably not. But it’s certainly appropriate and to characterize it as an attack is misleading.

  • Todd

    “Is the Times reporting completely accurate or unbaised. Probably not.”

    Then does this not imply that they are doing a poor job? I have always been under the impression that a primary mission of a newspaper was to at least attempt to be completely accurate. And while “unbiased” is in general impossible, it is not too much to ask for balance. Unfortunately, the NYT is not generally known these days for possessing that particular journalistic virtue.

    “But it’s certainly appropriate…”

    If it is inaccurate, why is it then appropriate?

  • Eric Phillips

    Don’t be ridiculous, Bob. I’m not complaining that you’ve criticized Lewis; I’m complaining that you have made false claims about one of his stories, and are not willing to retract them when confronted with the facts.

    If you want to criticize Lewis for something he actually DID do or think, go right ahead.

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  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    Given that the Narnia film is being promoted to the “Passion” crowd, and that groups like Focus on the Family have heartily endorsed the film, and churches see the films as an evangelistic tool, I’d still argue that the Times is correct in its decision to report of Lewis’s weird family life.

    Well, if they wanted to report some actual news, why don’t they report on why the “Passion crowd” and Dr. Dobson like Lewis so much? Why not ask them about the Lewis’s supposedly scandalous life? I have to suspect that the reasons they don’t is (a) the Times reporters have contempt for these people and can’t deal with them on a level above using them as usual suspects, and (b) to file that report would require really getting into the religion of the matter.

    Of course, lots of “why is Tolkien so popular” articles were published when those movies came out– because the overt religious themes in Tolkien’s writing are hidden in The Silmarillion where the reports could ignore them.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    I have always been under the impression that a primary mission of a newspaper was to at least attempt to be completely accurate.

    That’d be nice, Todd. Me, I started noticing a bit over a decade ago that generalist news articles on subjects I was familiar with tended to contain glaring errors. I started figuring that the ones on matters I wasn’t familiar with probably also had them.

    Fortunately, along came the Internet, making it easier to hunt down material written by people with actual experience in a subject.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Todd

    My comment was that the Times story was not “completely accurate or unbaised,” because the writer took on a complicated subject in a limited spaced under the constraints of a deadline. The reporter also collected information from a variety of sources and made a judgment call about how it should be told–a judgement that’s going to be affected by the writer’s experiences, biases, and the timeliness of the sources he tried to contact. Journalism is always an inexact science. The job of a journalist is to get as close to the truth as they can. They will always fall short.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    Eric

    We’ve been disagreeing about the interpretation of the facts–what the text in question means. I disagree with your interpretation. You disagree with mine. That’s what makes blogs so entertaining.

  • Carl

    I think the New Yorker piece was interesting, because it was like Gopnick had to become a reverse apologist. In ‘Apaptation’ the writer had no need of explaining why the man’s love of orchids was misfounded, but for Gopnick, to just accept Lewis’ Christianty without comment seems a bridge too far.

    Also, I think it’s funny that the MSM hasn’t realized that the Religious Right doesn’t care what people did before they were saved. Take the Rather memos– even if they had proved Bush skipped the National Guard, the Right wouldn’t have cared about it, since it was all back in his wild years before Christ. Similarly, in this story, no one cares if Lewis was a sadomasocist, so long as it was before his conversion.

  • The Mighty Thor

    Agendas abound, and they all have some purchase on facts which reveal a complex man in a different time that few people today can understand. Maybe all can agree that he was a 2nd rate novelist in his best work and a horrid poet. In his main vocation, english literary history, he was first rate.

    Lewis had enough stuff in his life to upset Puritan Prides and Prurient Secularists alike. He was a fornicator and a dabbler in occultism prior to his conversion, but then there is his long association with Chas. Williams of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, with many skeletons of his own and whom Tolkien (the man who “led him to the lord”) denounced as a witch. CSL was also a mild homophobe; he has a few somewhat racist characterizations in his fiction; he was a considerable anti-feminist. He denounced artificial contraception like an unreconstructed papist, and he made JRRT feel like “a shabby little catholic” at time when he and Warnie acted on ingrained Ulster bigotries.

    P.S. Gresham, an amicable nut, knows little of value to biographers. He arrived late in Lewis’s life and left before long. Sayer is pretty good and does, as I recall, leave to door open on Minto. My sense is something was probably going on. Though it is pure speculation, at a time when I read pretty much all the primary material by or about Lewis, I got a strong sense that he had a celibate marriage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • RJSteve

    Quote: “but realize and make sure the reader realizes what is speculation and what is fact.”

    Frankly, I don’t think the New York Times is capable of grasping the distinction.

  • Molly

    smear: “To stain or attempt to destroy the reputation of; vilify: political enemies who smeared his name.”

    I hardly think anyone is going to burn Lewis’ books based on this article.

    Attack? “To set upon with violent force.
    To criticize strongly or in a hostile manner.”

    Hardly. Unless you refer to most folks on this blogs’ attitude to the New York Times or anything that leans left, that is.

    Suck it up, dudes. Lewis is Lewis is Lewis. People will take him or leave him based on his own merits.

  • Maureen

    Susan didn’t want to come back to Narnia; she wanted to stay in the “real world”. So she did.

    One more demonstration of how people like Pullman aren’t really pro-choice.

  • tmatt

    Maureen:

    Perfect. This leads straight to “The Great Divorce.”

    Ultimately, everyone gets what they want.

  • http://auspiciousdragon.com holmegm

    >Why is it so threatening to you that someone
    >criticizes Lewis?

    That’s the point here; it *isn’t* threatening to us, but you (and McGrath, and …) *think* that it is.

    When we point out that 1. it’s inaccurate, and 2. we don’t care anyway, you just take that as confirmation of our “denial”. It’s really weird to watch.

  • James D. Davis

    I share Pulliam’s puzzlement that McGrath thinks A. N. Wilson was the best of Lewis biographers. Although it did divulge facts about Lewis I hadn’t seen elsewhere, Wilson’s book had several holes.

    One holiday was the claim that every relationship Lewis had with women sprang from a search to replace his mother, who died when he was a boy. Not only did Wilson never prove the claim in print; the relationships he reported — especially between Lewis and Joy Davidman — contradict it.

    So, for McGrath to cite Wilson as gospel is like — well, like many of us evangelicals citing Lewis as gospel.

  • James D. Davis

    Whoops. Typo. I meant of course, one “hole,” not “holiday.” A pitfall of typing on Thanksgiving weekend.

  • BabyBlue

    What happens to Susan is what Dylan alludes to in his funny (though pointed) criticism of the seduction of modernity in “Brand new Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat.” That song could be about Susan, sadly enough.

    It is no wonder then, that modernists would be highly critical of Lewis’ depiction of Susan’s character. It is indeed tragic that Susan trades in her form of the trendy “leopard-skin pillbox hat” for what truly matters in this life and the next. For the modernists, such as the atheist Pullman, there is no other value than secular materialism, which I think is what Susan is seduced by is, as Aunt Polly said so well, “to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.” It’s not adolescence that is at fault here, but of perpetual adolescence that worships materialism and youth and never grows up. Sounds like America to me. Dylan was right.

    Interesting note, the title of Bob Dylan’s latest album “Time out of mind” is a phrase from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Who would have thought?

    bb


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