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The C.S. Lewis Chronicles: The Indispensable Biography of the Creator of Narnia Full of Little-Known Facts, Events and Miscellany Paperback – September 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
This authoritative daybook (like the biography reviewed below) is neatly timed to the December 9 release of Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia, and filmgoers will be pleased to find informative Narnia background material here. Duriez, who has filled a shelf with such books as The C.S. Lewis Encyclopedia and A Field Guide to Narnia, employs an approach not unlike recent Beatles and Monkees day-by-day books: "I go through the years of his life [1898–1963], from birth to death, selecting varied but representative days.... These give vivid insights into the events of his life, his books, his attitudes, sense of fun, wit and wisdom, beliefs and friends." Such entries illuminate Lewis's friendship with Tolkien and his meeting with the "amusingly abrasive New Yorker" who would become his wife. Other entries cover Lewis's science fiction, theological reflections, literary criticism, BBC broadcasts and Tolkien's influence, as this from a 1944 entry: "May 29 (Mon) Tolkien reads the latest two chapters from The Lord of the Rings.... Lewis approves of them with unusual fervor, and is moved to tears by the second chapter." More than 100 sidebars of lists and trivia ("Some Meals in Narnia") offer delightful detours throughout this absorbing cradle-to-grave chronology. (Oct.)
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Top customer reviews
CS Lewis was a great man that had more than his share of pain and suffering. I'm thankful for all he's given me.
Duriez offers many details from Lewis' life in the chronological order they occurred with few contextual notes from the past or present. Each chapter is labeled with the years it covers, and after several paragraphs introducing those years, the biography flows according to the date. He includes plenty of historical context in each section, noting the deaths and births of pertinent individuals and events of that year, which may be valuable to literature students who need to be reminded no author writes in a vacuum.
The CSL Chronicles has other context too, lists mostly. For example, the January 31, 1919, entry notes: "This evening, upon invitation, Lewis joins a literary and debating society of the college, the Martlets, as secretary. Membership is limited to twelve." For context, an explanation of the Martlets with a list of papers delivered by Lewis to the group is on the following page, including this note: "There was another but short-lived undergraduate society, called the `Inklings'; in the 1930s its name was transferred to the later famous circle of friends around Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis and Tolkien did attend the original undergraduate `Inklings,' but only as invited dons."
Duriez leaves many details unwritten, perhaps an irritation to readers who already know a good bit about Lewis; but I think this biography is respectably complete. I know I've learned some things (but this is also my first Lewis biography to read). For instance, I was disturbed when I learned earlier this year about sadism in Lewis' letters before 1918, but a note in The C.S. Lewis Chronicles suggests it is evidence of the impact of the abuse Lewis suffered while in boarding school under the care of madman. Such perversion was a part of his imagination as it were.
I recommend this small, fragmented biography to readers interested in Lewis or his Oxford friends. I think it would be especially useful to trivia fans.
I think that this biography falls more into the category of a reference item. The arrangement makes it easy to look up events in particular years, but there is no subject index, which, in my opinion, is detrimental.
I have read "Surprised by Joy", Lewis's own account of his early life, as well as the A. N. Wilson and Alan Jacobs biographies, and I read the Chad Walsh, "C.S. Lewis, Apostle to the Skeptics" when I was first devouring Lewis's works. Each one has its good and bad points, and this one is certainly worth reading