Monday, November 7, 2011

The best of Jack

Found in an notebook circa 1995 or so, this vignette:

A moment today...browsing 'Recommended Books' in a small local bookstore, I overheard a man ask, "Do you have anything else by CS Lewis?"
"What are you looking for?" the proprietor asked, leading him to the old standards dressed in their matching covers, Miracles, Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity.
"No, it's a small book of essays."
I couldn't help it, I just couldn't. "The World's Last Night?"
"Oh, you know Lewis?" The man turned to me.
"I may have more than a few of his books, " I told him.
"It's the one with 'Transposition' in it." he said.
"Oh," I breathed. "The Weight of Glory. I love that."
"YES. I cried the first time I read it," he said.
" I know." I answered." The end is the best thing I've ever read, where it starts-- 'Meanwhile, the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning...' "
"I know exactly where that is on the page.  I can see it." He grinned.
The clerk stared at us and moved to the counter, trying to see if she could order the book.
"It's hard to get," I offered.
"More esoteric than most," said the man. "I'm leaving town.  I'll keep looking.  Thanks anyway," He said to her.  He looked at me. "Nice talking to you. God bless you."
"Yes." I nodded.
"That was amazing," said the clerk.

This is as good a place as any to talk about my favorite books of the single most influential writer of my Christian life.  When I was a small child, our grandparents bought our family The Chronicles of Narnia in 1964.  These books are hardbound with the original illustrations and have been read and re-read until they are old and broken with love.  But oddly, it wasn't until I was in high school and became friends with EE that I even knew CS Lewis had ever written anything else.

But EE lived in a home fairly swamped with books.  His house was the house of my dreams. At least all those books were.  And once he told me there was more to Lewis than I had known before (I believe it might have been The Screwtape Letters he first mentioned, though it's also possible it was The Space Trilogy or Til We have Faces) I had to get my hands on all books Lewis.  Now there are more dedicated CS Lewis shelves in my bookcases than any other authors'. By a country mile.  So when I considered writing about the books that have most impacted my walk with Jesus, I realized that I needed to dedicate one entire post to Lewis's writings.

And away we go:
I've divided these into a few categories.  And remember, these are just MY favorites. Not a theologians, or heavy-duty scholar, but plain, old me.
1. Of essential importance for every believer:
Mere Christianity--This is like Lewis's book equivalent of Romans, if that makes sense.  In his clear, logical way, he makes the case for our faith, then what that means for lives in response.  Some people will find him dense and hard. But  he's worth the effort.  EVERY TIME.
 The Screwtape Letters. Absolutely, no question about it.  If you have any question about the work of the enemy, you won't after reading Lewis about him.  It's chilling and convicting all at once.  Easy to read-- like a novel--and hard to walk away from in your brain when you've put it down. Just like it should be.  We need books like this to counter what satan (and yes, I realize I didn't capitalize that name--I don't like to give him that honor) wants to do in us.  He doesn't want us to think he exists, so Lewis is Holy-Spirit-inspired to help us acknowledge that he does.
God in the Dock--This large book of essays covers such a variety of subjects I've gone to it again and again when I've needed to glean truth, for myself, for something I'm teaching or preaching.  I can't begin to list all the subjects. Just check it out yourself.
Many would say The Problem of Pain, Miracles, Abolition of Man also belong in this category.  To tell you the truth, I've always had a hard time wading through them.  Just being honest.

2.Delectible Delights:
Weight Of Glory--as implied by the scene at the top, I love this little book.  The title essay is my all-time favorite thing CS Lewis ever wrote. Bar none. It may be my favorite non-Biblical text ever. If you can find it, it's worth it. Wade through the first part for the last page of that essay and you hit the pay-out of all time.  It runs through my head so often you can't imagine.  "There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal..." Powerful and glorious and life-altering in the way we approach our nearest and farthest neighbors.
Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer--There are nuggets here that will change the way you pray. I promise you.
A Grief Observed--Lewis's raw portrayal of his mourning is a balm when we face our own.  It was like a companion when I was stumbling through my own grief after my dad died.  I'd read it before with dispassionate interest, but within my own mourning, it was a light. Kept me from thinking I was losing it.
Four Loves--I don't agree with all of his suppositions, particularly about phileo, because he so definitely sounds like the stuffy old Oxford tutor he was, without much interest in relationship that I find most important in life. But there are things in this book that have clarified how my life, particularly when I was trying to understand myself as a young adult.  I'd still recommend it to my non-married children and other people grappling with such things.
Surprised by Joy--Lewis' autobiography.  WONDERFUL. worth the reading. The moment he comes to Chris--so odd and interesting and surprising you almost miss it.

3.Other worlds:
The Space Trilogy--True confession here.  I didn't even manage to read these three books until I got to Regent College in 1997, and had to read the third one, That Hideous Strength for a class.  It was tough going at first because I'm not drawn to sci-fi. But the class, the prof, the season perhaps, all combined to make me appreciate it so much I read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, and now love them. But I still say, they're mostly for sci-fi fans.  Though wow, what they have to say about our world. Yikes.
Til We have Faces--I should put this on the list, but as I do I realize I need to read it again in order to actually write a synopsis.  It's compelling but not for everyone.  You might have to like Greek mythology to like it.
Narnia--Duh!  I realize that not everyone on this earth likes fantasy or fairy tales, but I'm here to tell you, these are the very most important works of fiction in my life.  THE END.

There are books about him on my shelves too. Anthologies, collections of quotes, and all manner of critiques from Narnian studies to books about his friendships, to his diaries and letters.  But these should do for today.   Enough to get you started if you haven't read him, and to remind you of why you do, if you have.

By the way, he was called Jack from the time he was a very small boy.  After all, who would want to be called Clive? Or Clive Staples?


Elle said...

What's wrong with Clive Staples? (SF)

jeskmom said...

Ooo, nice use of (sf)!