- Paperback: 392 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061448729
- ISBN-13: 978-0061448720
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 66 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis Paperback – April 1, 2008
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“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 only a portrait of a dazzling writer but also a defense of Lewis as a seeker and thinker...” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
About the Author
Alan Jacobs is professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of several books, including most recently The Narnian, a biography of C. S. Lewis. His literary and cultural criticism has appeared in a wide range of periodicals, including the Boston Globe, The American Scholar, First Things, Books & Culture, and The Oxford American.
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Jacobs thoroughly covers Lewis's entire life and makes time for all of Lewis's literary and scholarly work. I had read Lewis's Surprised by Joy and to read a biographical account of the same events, without the pseudonyms for the terrible schools and teachers Lewis had, was enlightening. Jacobs also helps to fill in some of the gaps Lewis intentionally left in his autobiography, such as the events of his service in World War I. Jacobs does a very good job examining Lewis's growth as a person and a thinker and balancing it with the more traditional biographical material, such as places visited, friendships made, schools attended, books written, and relatives and friends lost. Whether he's looking into Lewis's life or imagination, Jacobs never loses track of either. It's an incredibly difficult task for the biographer of a person who spent so much time in "the life of the mind," and Jacobs accomplishes it admirably.
Having already been familiar with the outlines of Lewis's life and body of work, I especially appreciated The Narnian for two things--the time given to the difficult topic of Lewis's relationship with Mrs. Moore, the mother of a friend killed in World War I, and the sections spent on Lewis's excellent but less well-known scholarly work on medieval and renaissance literature. Mrs. Moore, with whom Lewis had a sketchy relationship prior to his conversion but whom he had vowed to look after in the event of his friend's death, has sometimes been used to slander Lewis. Jacobs provides--within the limits of our knowledge, since Lewis was notoriously tight-lipped about his duty toward her--great detail and context to the relationship and its development, especially in the aftermath of Lewis's conversion (Mrs. Moore was and apparently remained a staunch atheist).
The sections on Lewis's scholarly works are especially good and should spur more people to read books like The Discarded Image or The Allegory of Love. Lewis's thinking on God, art, and literature were inextricably bound up with his love of medieval and renaissance literature, and discussion of his books on those topics is sadly lacking even among Lewis's fans and students today.
The only problem I had with the book is minor--some of Jacobs's sentences are simply too complex and convoluted. You can get lost in them. The book by and large is an easy, brisk read but in perhaps one or two places per chapter his writing collapses under its own weight. Again, a minor problem, but one you should be aware of so you don't get discouraged when encountering it. A few reviewers have pointed out perceived problems with the book, such as Jacobs's supposed reliance on Wilson's flawed biography, but since Jacobs never quotes Wilson without correcting or totally discarding what Wilson has to say, I can hardly see the merit in this objection. Throughout the book Jacobs shows good critical sense in the treatment of his sources.
If you're looking for a good introduction to Lewis's art and thinking I have to tell you to read Lewis first. But if you've already done so, this is an excellent place to start digging into the many layers of Lewis's imagination.
Jacobs' approach is that of intellectual biographer. Meaning, he's walking us through the development of Lewis' thought and imagination. This is a great approach, but it can make things a little confusing at points because he doesn't move us through Lewis' life chronologically. But once you can get the basics of Lewis' life to hang in the back of your mind, it's no big deal.
I've read several biographies of Lewis, and this is by far the best. Get it and read it!!!! Seriously, do it. For real. Right now.