THE LITERARY LEGACY OF C. S. LEWIS by Chad Walsh

THE LITERARY LEGACY OF C. S. LEWIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Walsh does address a need not really filled by the Lewis material in Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings (p. 40) or the 1974 biography by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Cooper; it's a pity he doesn't address it more satisfactorily. What he undertakes is a study of the Lewis writings considered by genre, surely a worthwhile approach to anyone who did as much as Lewis to enlarge our understanding of past literary ""kinds."" In many ways Walsh is a sensible observer, capable of perceiving how Lewis' literary means sometimes militated against the ends of the Christian apologist; at times, as he remarks of the Ghosts in The Great Divorce, ""the damned seem created solely in order to be lectured at."" He makes very interesting use of unpublished or long unavailable material such as the youthful poems, and can turn an instructive phrase: the real feat of imagination in Perelandra, he points out, is that ""goodness is at least as convincing as evil."" Yet this is ultimately a perfunctory and often mechanical treatment. Walsh manages to mention virtually all of the Lewis oeuvre, but the effort is sometimes not much more enlightening than a Chinese restaurant menu. It would have been better not to mention A Preface to Paradise Lost at all than to provide the blank little pr‚cis of that lovely study that one finds here. And there is something pompous and obtuse about Walsh's dissections of the satiric fantasies and the children's books--which become an embarrassment when subjected to overfervent analysis. Certainly their doctrinal content ought to be pointed out. But Walsh's leaden-footed, often silly tracings of biblical symbols are not complemented by any sense of the sheer fun Lewis had imagining the ""infernal Lowerarchy"" of The Screwtape Letters, or the simple sense of delight which is all that can redeem the Narnia books for some grownups. Paradoxically, there might not have been as much dead wood in this treatment if it had been longer and more detailed. For a really thoughtful and independent-minded approach, go to the Carpenter Inklings.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1979
ISBN: 1556358849
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich