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Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman Hardcover – June 19, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Mythopoeic SocietyFinalist (2011)

Debra Winger
—actress, costar of Shadowlands, and author of Undiscovered
"Oh, this book took me back! I remember marveling at how someone so fierce could be so endearing. This volume shows us how America has, for the most part, lost its rigor in offering the sort of criticism that Joy Davidman administered to urge friends/authors/poets to higher goals. Out of My Bone is a welcome reminder of this quality in a dedicated teacher/writer and authentic individual. This assortment of letters, lists, and essays — tracing the journey of a Jew, a communist/atheist, and in the end a true Christian — is sheer Joy. . . . An enthralling capture of the keen spirit, mind, and wit of Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis."

Walter Hooper
— trustee and literary advisor to the C. S. Lewis estate
"Out of My Bone delivers a delicious shock to the system, and is a treat to anyone who likes to read. Don King has given us Joy Davidman's best book."

Marjorie Lamp Mead
— The Marion E. Wade Center
"Letters at their best offer a unique perspective into the writer's life and thoughts, and this collection is no exception. Out of My Bone tells the compelling story of Joy Davidman, a brilliant and gifted woman who records with disarming frankness the disintegration of her first marriage and subsequent struggles as a single mother of two young boys, her courageous battle with cancer, and the great happiness she eventually found in her marriage to C. S. Lewis. These letters will captivate readers with their penetrating wit, lively humor, and — most of all — poignant insights into the realities of faith and suffering."

Bruce L. Edwards
— Bowling Green State University
author of Not a Tame Lion and editor of C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, and Legacy
"Don W. King's Out of My Bone is a magnificent editorial achievement, a major contribution to our understanding of the intellectual rigor and spiritual depth of Joy Davidman. Along the way, it provides provocative new insights into Joy's relationship with C. S. Lewis — and why he would have fallen in love with her and regarded her as his literary equal. With this work Don King continues to establish himself as one of the premier Inklings scholars of our time, and now the reigning expert on the life and work of Joy Davidman."

Lyle W. Dorsett
— Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
"Don W. King, a highly regarded authority on C. S. Lewis, has skillfully collected and edited nearly twenty-five years of Joy Davidman's correspondence, many of her poems, and an important autobiographical essay. The result is an original and significant contribution to our understanding of the exceptional poet, novelist, and critic who became the wife of C. S. Lewis. The Davidman letters reveal the genius of this woman who at once captured the heart of Lewis and infuriated many of his friends."

Choice
"One finds in these letters interesting comments on Lewis's dinosaur' lecture (Cambridge) and on the marriage of Davidman and Lewis . . . on the poetry of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and American Marxists. Good bibliography."

Journal of Inklings Studies
"In this delightful and beautifully produced volume, Prof. King introduces, presents and unobtrusively annotates Davidman's collected letters, which span a period of twenty-four years, from 1936 to her death in 1960. . . . The portrait Davidman's letters paint is scintillating and many-layered, and displays the entire palette of a mind that Lewis justly described as `lithe and quick and muscular as a leopard'. Don King's clear introduction and apparatus, and his pertinent, learned and unobtrusive annotations, make this a volume equally useful to the scholar and the general reader. It cannot be recommended warmly enough."

About the Author

Don W. King is professor of English at Montreat College and editor of Christian Scholar's Review. He is the author of over sixty articles on C. S. Lewis, and his other books include C. S. Lewis, Poet and Hunting the Unicorn: A Critical Biography of Ruth Pitter.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (June 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080286399X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802863997
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've "lived" with this book for a week, and I still cannot stop staring at the undated jacket photo of young (twenty-something?) Joy Davidman. She's staring soberly into the camera, the flash reflecting in her watery eyes. She's stunningly beautiful and hauntingly present. A store browser might be swayed to buy the book on the merits of the jacket alone. But there's so much more to be revealed by reading the hefty volume of letters written by Joy Davidman, whose reputation might have been lost to history had she not married C. S. "Jack" Lewis, famed author of the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The first letters were written in 1936; at age 21, she already has a master's degree from Columbia and is corresponding about her poetic aspirations with Stephen Vincent Benét. This brings up a notable feature of the collection: it is designed for lay readers as well as literary types. The editor provides footnotes that give basic information on virtually all correspondents. If you don't happen to know the import of Benét in his time --- a Pulitzer Prize winner --- it's laid out for you right at the bottom of the page.

By age 30, she is a prize-winning poet and has published her first novel. She's a member of the Communist Party and an editor for its American magazine New Masses. She has married a fellow writer and Communist, William Lindsay Gresham, and is a mother. Many of the early letters focus on her own writing pursuits and also reveal her as a no-nonsense editorial mentor-critic. For example, she is quoted as saying, "What the words do not contain, you cannot add with punctuation.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Don W. King, the editor of this volume, is a literary scholar whose work focuses on C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. Davidman is probably best known today as the divorced mother of two who married Lewis late in both of their lives. (The story of their romance and of Davidman's death from cancer is depicted in Shadowlands, a play and then film in which Anthony Hopkins plays Lewis and Debra Winger plays Davidman.)

"Out of My Bone" is largely a collection of letters written by (and, in a few cases, received by) Davidman, arranged chronologically. King has included in this volume a helpful introduction as well as numerous notes that help to provide a context for many of the letters. While she does mention Lewis several times in these letters, readers who want to see a collection of love letters between Lewis and Davidman will be disappointed: They aren't included in this volume (and aren't likely to be published, even if some still exist). But readers who want to get to know Davidman better will definitely find this collection of letters interesting and valuable. Davidman's personality shines forth in her letters--particularly those with her Douglas Gresham, her ex-husband and the father of her two sons. Readers interested in Davidman's story of her spiritual journey (from secular Jew to atheist and Communist and then to Christian) will also enjoy reading this collection of letters.
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Format: Hardcover
The book begins with a brief introduction on who Joy Davidman is, which I imagine you already know if you are interested in the book, and the context for the different periods of letters. There is also a brief chronology of Joy's life. I've read about her, but I didn't realize that she died at age 45. The first section of letters takes place from 1936 to 1946. The next section is primarily 1948, which is shortly after her conversion to Christianity. The most famous section in this book is "The Longest Way Round," which is an autobiographical essay. We then see letters after her divorce from William Gresham, and lastly there are the letters to C.S. Lewis, which are probably the main reason people would by this book.

I've read other books before that are a compilation of letters, and it always amazes me the amount of work that goes into tracking down and compiling these letters. It's a daunting enough task when the person is famous and people go to great pain to save the letters, but for someone less well-known, like Davidman, it's all the more impressive. Like other books of people's letters, I found myself wishing for the full correspondence. It's nice to read what Davidman wrote, but you wish you could read the letters she was replying to for more context. Reading through someone's letters is a very personal glimpse into their soul. You see them raw and as they were at their best and worst. Davidman's letters were not always flattering and didn't always paint her in the best light, but they were authentic. I always feel a bit conflicted reading someone's letters, because I don't think I would want people to read my letters or emails. However, if that doesn't bother you and you are a fan of Davidman and C.S. Lewis, then this is a book you will want to read. It's certainly not the best book on Davidman I have read (her poetry book was much better), but it serves its purpose and has its place.
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A very nice excursion into the life of the woman that became Mrs. C.S. Lewis. Sorry to say, however, that her letters to him - and every letter he wrote, are gone. (Lewis had his own lifetime of letters destroyed.
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