- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: The Kent State University Press/Black Squirrel Books (July 10, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1606353497
- ISBN-13: 978-1606353493
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Faun's Bookshelf: C. S. Lewis on Why Myth Matters Paperback – July 10, 2018
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In his brief but penetrating book, Charlie Starr delves into the centrality of myth to Lewis s work and thought, defends Lewis s traditional view of gender and the complementarity of the sexes, and explains how and why Lewis combined myth and history, paganism and Christianity, the Greco-Roman-Norse and the Judeo-Christian in his fiction and non-fiction. . . . Starr is to be commended for helping us see the world of Lewis and our own world through the eyes of myth."--
About the Author
Charlie W. Starr is an expert on C. S. Lewis’s handwriting and the author of Light: C. S. Lewis’s First and Final Short Story. Starr has lectured on Lewis and Tolkien for two decades, consulted on the dating and transcription of hundreds of Lewis manuscripts, and written dozens of popular and scholarly articles on Lewis as well as chapters for several books on Lewis and Tolkien.
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I don’t know how many times I have read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I do remember how I would pause each time upon reading of Mr Tumnus’s books on his own shelf and wonder, “What were those books about? Who is Silenus? Just what are nymphs and fauns?” I even wondered how fascinated Mr Tumnus might have been upon meeting Lucy Pevensie for the first time, possibly thinking to himself, “Okay, maybe man isn’t a myth after all!”
As I have gotten older and the Internet has embarked into our daily lives, I have made several attempts to look up Mr Tumnus’s books but have failed miserably to find them. Additionally, while many fantasy television shows have been produced and blogs written on such mythical creatures, I have not been completely satisfied with what has been produced and written. Until now.
In your hands you hold a peek into the mind of C. S. Lewis as seen through one of his most knowledgeable experts, Charlie W. Starr. Charlie and I attended college together. As I got to know him, I found him to be both friendly but also a deep thinker who seldom took things at face value. His ability to look past the written word and thought both fascinated me but also taught me to give pause as well when I read literature or viewed film. It was through many personal conversations over the years and the many years Charlie researched, taught and wrote about Lewis which helps me to see C. S. Lewis in a different light and appreciate his works deeper.
In his latest book, The Faun's Bookshelf: C. S. Lewis on Why Myth Matters, Charlie not only gives a clearer depiction of Lewis’s descriptions of nymphs, fauns and other creatures, but also provides us with Lewis’s understanding of the meaning of mythology behind these creatures and why Mr Tumnus’s books meant so much to Lewis. Throughout the book, Charlie uses both his own personal experiences as well as many sources in detailing how C. S. Lewis cares why myth should matter to us as readers.
The book is divided into four parts, each with three chapters. In Part One, Starr explores the general definitions of myth, including the idea that myth may not mean fictional. Rather, Starr presents a vision of myth that is consistent with Lewis’: Myth may well be the careful retelling of true stories in an evocative, imaginative manner. Part Two examines how Lewis used pre-existing cultural myths in his fictional work to deepen the myth he is creating. For example, Lewis borrows Silenus from Greek mythology and puts him on the shelf of a Narnian faun with the book title, The Life and Letters of Silenus. Starr explores how that title reflects the Narnian longing for a better time of feasting and celebration.
In Part Three, Starr flips the script to examine the way that Narnian mythology questions the reality of our world, especially with titles like, Men, Monks, and Gamekeepers; A Study in Popular Legend. The reader knowns that men, monks, and gamekeepers exist—or that they existed—but those realities appear to be distant legends in Narnia. So may our myths bear the echoes of truth with a great deal more clarity than we realize. Part Four takes up more general questions necessary to understand Lewis’ approach to myth, by considering Lewis’ broader thinking on myth, the influence of Norse mythology in his life, and taking up a somewhat obscure but important possible contradiction in the writing of Lewis on myth.
The Faun’s Bookshelf is a worthwhile book based on two distinct contributions. First, Starr has done good work in synthesizing Lewis’ thought on myth and providing context for much of his use and reuse of myth. This makes the book a valuable resource for Lewis studies. Second, the book takes up the important question of the power of stories to shape culture. As people continue with the grapple with the acquisition of meaning and the power of myth, a study that shows how an expert used fiction to deepen reality is a welcome contribution.
NOTE: This is a revised version of a review posted on the website Ethics and Culture. I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.