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C. S. Lewis: A Biography Paperback – August 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323405
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Known details of the Christian apologist's life, a veritable Freudian case history, appear along with fresh insights about his Oxford circle, the Inklings, and his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien. "Wilson, though attuned to psychoanalytic theory, avoids reductionist psychobiography in this absorbing, intimate portrait of a secretive figure," said PW. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

More probing than the affectionate biographies now available, this is a welcome addition to Lewis studies. Author of the acclaimed Tolstoy (LJ 8/88), Wilson renders yet another extraordinary but thoroughly human life. His Lewis is no "plaster saint." Extremely reticent about his life and canonized by devotees since his death, Lewis was a unique challenge to the biographer. Wilson adeptly considers each of Lewis's books in the context of the life and reveals how the writer came to realize the importance of the imagination in Christian faith. Lewis's conversion to Christianity, his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, and his work on the Narnia books are presented insightfully. Recommended.
- Kathleen Norris, Lemmon P.L., S.D.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Despite all that, I greatly enjoyed reading this book.
Christopher Grant
As he was a professor at Cambridge I think there are plenty of people who would have "blown the whistle" if he as many dodgy things as ANW makes out.
Ethel Red the embarrassed
Wilson doesn't doo much of a job of showing what made Lewis click at all.
Robert Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Cooke on February 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
I cannot claim familiarity with all of the other biographies of C.S. Lewis, but I do know a good book when I read one. This is an absorbing, revealing, if controversial, account of Lewis. Readers should not be afraid to tackle a biography written by someone who did not know Lewis personally-- this distance is one of the strengths of Wilson's book, for it is not clouded by sentimental recollections. Most importantly, you will be encouraged to read more of Lewis himself, particularly the lesser known works and literary criticism. Wilson offers excellent insights into these works which are largely forgotten, due to the popularity of a handful of other writings.

Wilson pushes readers to start from scratch in constructing an image of Lewis: Lewis the entire man--scholar, teacher, brother, lover, and fallen human being. We are discouraged from holding fast to a more typical tidy portrait of Lewis: the affable author of a select group of Christian books and children's fantasy stories. (I love the Narnia books, by the way, and my esteem for them has not been dampened whatsoever by this book.)

I didn't agree with every one of Wilson's assertions about Lewis's character or motivations, but again, Wilson's unwillingness merely to reinforce the accepted line is a great strength. Wilson's analysis is a challenge, not a conclusive rendering of absolutes. Approach it with that understanding, allow yourself to be challenged, and the experience of reading this book will be ultimately satisfying. Antoher tip: read the preface again after you've finished the book for a more complete grasp of Wilson's intentions.

Yes, read other accounts of Lewis for the broadest spectrum of perspectives possible. But don't leave this one out. Not surprisingly, those only interested in pointing out errors and shutting their minds to fresh insights will be disappointed.
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51 of 61 people found the following review helpful By E. T. Veal on April 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There is great, though, as it turns out, pointless, irony in the fact that the English litterateur A. N. Wilson penned this life of a famous Christian apologist while he was in the process of giving up his own Christian faith. One might anticipate from such a juxtaposition some unusual insight into Lewis' (in this case unsuccessful) methods of argumentation. Alas, nothing of the sort occurs. This is simply another Lewis biography, following the familiar outline laid down by Lewis' own "Surprised by Joy" and adding very little, save for catty psychological guesswork, that has not appeared in earlier productions of the prolific Lewis "industry".
The book's great sensation is the assertion that the young Lewis, at around age 20, had an affair with Mrs. Jane Moore, the woman whom he "adopted" as a mother figure for the rest of his life. The theory lacks both plausibility and evidence. Lewis had lost his mother at a young age and had chafed under his father's well-meant but wrong-headed tutelage. Mrs. Moore's son, for a while Lewis' closest friend, had died in the Great War. That the two should have formed a substitute family is not at all surprising. Wilson offers no grounds for supposing that any sexual undertones were present. The kind of "evidence" that he gathers demonstrates little. To take one telling item, he points to the fact that Lewis' diaries use the Greek letter delta (our "D") as shorthand for Mrs. Moore. Of the many Greek words and names beginning with that letter, he singles out "Diotimia", the courtesan who introduced Socrates to eros. That is just a wild guess, evidently made without knowledge of the fact that delta is the first letter of the Greek transliteration of "Jane".
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite a vast amount of literature on C. S. Lewis, there are surprisingly a dearth of good biographies. In most, Lewis emerges as a bit of a plastic saint, just a little too good to be true, a bit of a high-church protestant saint. This is especially true in evangelical American circles, where many imagine Lewis to have been a nonsmoking abstainer from alcohol. Many will react with shock and dismay upon learning that Lewis's smoked so heavily that he was the probable cause of his relatively early death and his drinking was considerable, and may have bordered on the alcoholic.
As a corrective to this goody-goody Lewis, Wilson provides us with a warts and all flesh-and-blood corrective. He gives us the hard drinking, mildly bawdy, addictive smoker who has a relationship with a woman old enough to be his mother and a premarital relationship with a woman he would later marry.
There are two questions to ask here. First, are Wilson's "facts" accurate? There doesn't seem to be much reason to doubt many of them. Second, are these adequate to create a good biography? No. Wilson's biography is valuable for one and only one reason: he delves into the aspects of Lewis's life that the other biographers would prefer to either ignore or pretend didn't exist. He also gives a slightly different slant on many of Lewis's intellectual and religious interests. But apart from the book's valuable debunking, it is a fairly lame biography. Lewis doesn't emerge as a particularly attractive person. He doesn't, in fact, emerge much as a person at all. Wilson doesn't doo much of a job of showing what made Lewis click at all. And while he does do a good job of showing that the St. Jack portraits of Lewis are all mildly bogus, he doesn't really provide us with an alternative.
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