C.S. LEWIS: A Biography by A.N. Wilson
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C.S. LEWIS: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fitting follow-up to his wonderful Tolstoy (1988), Wilson's new critical biography unmasks the interlocking life and work of the much mythologized chronicler of Narnia. The prolific Wilson begins by exposing the falsity of the ""sinless image"" of C.S. Lewis, worshipped by rival factions of Christian followers. Deliberately ""realistic,"" the author fleshes out the odd and sometimes difficult ""argumentative and bullying"" Christian apologist who loved to smoke and drink, compartmentalized his life, thrived on the companionship of his Oxford circle (the Inklings, which included J.R.R. Tolkien), sustained a 30-year devotion to a much older woman, Janie Moore, and kept his later marriage to Joy Gresham a secret. Writing with wit, logic, and vision, Wilson tracks the external and internal events that influenced Lewis' writing of over 50 books (including The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity) and his evolving religious conversion. The most decisive event in his life was the death of his mother in 1908, when he was nine. Forty years later, Lewis retrieved that stolen childhood by writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Narnia took him through the wardrobe that had stood in the Belfast room where he and his little brother played, and into a rich imagination ""always threatened by a terrible sense of loss. . ."" Wilson champions the Lewis who was ""a mind abundantly stocked with reading,"" an Oxford scholar and teacher of literature, and praises The Discarded Image and A Preface to Paradise Lost. Yet, he argues that the persistent sanctifying of Lewis plays a major part in the story of a 20th-century myth-maker. As Wilson keeps pace with Lewis' intellectual and spiritual quests, his engrossing book (with photographs, not seen) draws us into a constantly interesting account of Lewis' life and ""imaginative impact.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1990
Publisher: Norton