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The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 1, 2005

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Just in time for the major motion picture Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from Disney, comes this biography of the man who dreamed up the land and tales of Narnia. Jacobs, a Wheaton College literature professor, does so not in typical chronological style, but according to themes important in Lewis's life. So, in the chapter entitled "red beef and strong beer" (a Lewis quote about what was satisfying and nourishing to him), we encounter the strong male mentors from his young adult years. Jacobs is obviously taken with early 20th-century English literature and history, and it shows in his writing, which is accessible and unobtrusively documented. However, the thematic organization could leave some readers a tad confused as he skips back and forth in time. Also, to fully appreciate this book, one needs to have read not just the Narnia series but Lewis's writings on Christian apologetics, as Jacobs is intent on making connections between the two genres. Amidst a sea of entry-level Lewis portraits being published this fall, this more substantive book is for hard-core Lewis lovers eager to soak up historical minutiae and savor salient Lewis quotes for years to come.
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Review

“It is hard to imagine a more insightful and even-handed treatment of the life and work of Lewis.” (Frederick Buechner, author of Beyond Words)

“A book about Lewis that will fascinate even those readers who think they aren’t interested in reading about him.” (Edward Mendelson, author of Early Auden and Later Auden)

“An erudite and welcome addition to the C. S. Lewis canon.” (Mary S. Lovell, acclaimed biographer and national bestselling author of The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family)

“The most influential Christian apologist of the last hundred years has found a worthy biographer.” (Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things)

“This is the book on Lewis we’ve all been waiting for: probing, generous, lyrical and entertaining.” (Charles Marsh, author of The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today)

“An amiable, uncluttered biography...” (Kirkus Reviews)

“...[B]est appreciated by the Narnia enthusiasts seeking to learn more about the man behind the stories.” (Presbyterians Today)

“[Jacobs] provides excellent context by explaining authors and literature that influenced Lewis…his matter-of-fact approach is welcome.” (The Christian Science Monitor)

“The Narnian is thoughtful, intriguing and inspiring—a treasure for Narnia fans, as well as aficionados of fine biography.” (Booklist)

“Jacobs has written[...]not onlya portrait of a dazzling writer but also a defense of Lewis as aseeker and thinker...” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Jacobs provides a fluent and sensible re-telling of the main outlines of Lewis’s life...” (Richard Jenkyns, The New Republic)

“Combines fine scholarship with winsome writing . . . it is an important contribution.” (Books & Culture)

“A deeply insightful yet broadly accessible intellectual biography, written in an engaging voice.” (Christianity Today, (a CT Book Award winner)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco (October 1, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0060766905
  • ASIN: B000GG4LT4
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,361,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in Alabama, attended the University of Alabama, then got my PhD at the University of Virginia. From 1984 until last spring I taught at Wheaton College in Illinois. This summer my family and I moved to Waco, Texas, where I am now Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program. My dear wife Teri and I have been married for thirty-two years. Our son Wes is a rising junior at Wheaton.

My work is hard to describe, at least for me, because it revolves around multiple interests, primary among them being literature, theology, and technology. I also watch soccer and write about it, but that's purely recreational.

You can find out a lot more about me online: Twitter, Tumblr, my blog, my home page. Google is the friend of inquiring minds.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Portianay VINE VOICE on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Alan Jacobs, you did your homework for this one. That becomes apparent by the end of the introduction. I think I have probably read everything still in print about CSL, and what I appreciate about your book are the following: Your data is correct; there are no hazy vaguenesses ignored, all are fully "admitted" (I refer to events in the life of CSL about which biographers have always had to guess); and "put-downs" by modern authors, such as Philip Pullman, are answered. (That last mattered to me especially, as I resent terribly PP's reference to Narnian "drivel." Pettiness prompts me to remark about some of PP's own drivel, but I digress.)

Mr. Jacobs also handled the Joy Gresham era masterfully, considering how Hollywood, and the BBC, have managed to change it into something it never really seemed to be. Mr. Jacob's account, though admittedly speckled with his own personal guesswork, seems so much nearer the mark, so much more in keeping with the sense of CSL's personality we get through the previous bios.

Well done, Mr. Jacobs!
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By David Zampino VINE VOICE on January 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
. . . about this review -- and really wanted to give this book a fourth star. I just could not bring myself to do so, however!

First, I want to thank the publisher of "The Narnian" for the complimentary copy sent to me.

I, myself, have been a serious student of Lewis, having began reading his works more than 30 years ago (and an even more serious student of Tolkien, having begun reading HIS works more than 26 years ago.) I have given lectures and presented papers on the subject, and include a great deal of both Lewis and Tolkien in the classes I teach. I will probably be using this book as a secondary -- "SECONDARY" -- reference work in some of my classes. To this reviewer, it fails as a primary source.

"The Narnian" was presented as a "literary" biography. As such, I expected a great deal more literary criticism than actually appeared in the book.

"The Narnian", it is to be presumed, was supposed to place Lewis within the context of his great fictional creation -- the land of Narnia. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

The author, in his introduction, suggests that he will pass over much material which one might find in a traditional biography in order to concentrate on more literary concerns. Whether he succeeded in concentrating on literary concerns is for the reader to decide -- but he DID include most of the pertinent biographical information of Lewis' life -- the enormous majority of it having been presented elsewhere.

There were some things I learned from this book, much to my delight.

1) I was greatly interested to learn more of the background behind "The Abolition of Man" -- a text I require for my Introduction to Theology students.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Narnian is a literary/theological biography of C.S. Lewis. Although it covers the basic facts of Lewis' life as competently as any other biography, the real strength of Jacobs' work lies in the fascinating discussions of Lewis' thought processes and religious/literary development.

Jacobs makes no bones about his deep admiration for Lewis, which makes his work seem rather defensive when dealing with Lewis' critics. At times this defensiveness seems justifiable, especially when it is employed against critics like Philip Pullman who obviously haven't studied Lewis very thoroughly. At other times it seems rather overdone, as when Jacobs abruptly dismisses J.R.R. Tolkien's (one of Lewis' closest associates) critiques.

This is nevertheless a very satisfying work which will illuminate much for people who seek more information on Lewis' life, work, and theology.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Does the world need another biography of C. S. Lewis? Probably not. Jacobs admits even that he did not need to write one -- it was his agent's fault. Still, he does a generally excellent job in this book. As another life-long reader of Lewis, who had already read several biographies and almost everything by Lewis several times over, I learned quite a bit from this biography. Having sampled several Lewis biographies, like a fan of Hamlet who waits impatiently for Polonius to appear on stage, one gets to like and enjoy reading about other characters just as much -- Lewis' brother, Warnie (who wrote at least one pretty good book, too), the dramatic character he married, and all those incredibly bright friends he hung around with and swilled beer. (A reprise, perhaps, of Chesterton's friendships with Shaw & Wells etc.)

What I really liked about this book was the good sense Jacobs brings to the project, and his own deep reading in many of the works and people that inspired Lewis. He swerves nimbly around the road-blocks that tumbled Wilson. True, he might have consulted Sayer. But he more than makes up for the occasional error in judgement or lapse in biographical expertise by offering frequent insight into dozens of works that were so much a part of Lewis' thought world. One gets the feeling that Lewis would have enjoyed talking with Jacobs.

Jacobs is careful to maintain a critical distance from his subject, (some fail here) though he obviously admires him much, which keeps the book from becoming cloying. One area I did not think that worked was the rather tiresome pages in which he takes Lewis to task for (essentially) failing to conform to 21st Century orthodoxy on sexual equality.
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