Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Legacy of C.S. Lewis

"Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it." --Lewis, in The World's Last Night

With the new blockbuster premiere of The Chronicles of Narnia film series with "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" coming out Dec. 9 (see trailer) I was hoping that this would be a great opportunity for C.S. Lewis books to start filling up bookstore shelves thus sparking a renewed interest in Lewis. I do think he is the 20th century's greatest apologist straddling the intellectual and popular arenas. Many of his books have the power of silencing anti-Christian ignorance with his sharp and seasoned logic, which is characteristic of a born-again Oxford scholar.
While at Oxford, I had the pleasure of studying at Regent's Park College which is the closest school to the "Eagle & Child" pub, the famous old tavern that hosted the weekly literary meetings of the "Inklings," a fellowship in which C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were key members. In this ancient English pub, the embryonic worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth were developed; a lion, a witch, a wardrobe, hobbits, and a magic ring took shape; Aslan roared in a cloud of pipe smoke while Gollum sipped a pint of ale. The nickname some locals use for the Eagle & Child is the "Bird & Baby." I also spoke to a white-bearded Jesuit priest (fluent in Middle English, i.e. Beowulf-era English) who referred to it as the "Foul & Fetus." Nevertheless, the pub is the same as it was when those brilliant minds sat by the hearth and created a culture.
So... now that I've digressed, I have not seen any other Lewis titles with his Narnia displays. Usually, a bookstore will add related literature to their displays, but his Space Trilogy, Screwtape Letters, etc., etc., aren't anywhere to be seen in the major bookstores-- by "major" I mean the Starbucks-weilding book shops. To be fair, it is still early. The film isn't out yet, there's no Narniamania yet... there's still hope. Has anyone seen any other books on the displays?
I'd like to discuss some specific contributions of Lewis, but for now, I think it's worthwhile to put together a good list of some great C.S. Lewis works. Any of these would be a spiritual and intellectual investment this Christmas for you or for someone else:
AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955)
A Grief Observed (1961)
NONFICTION
The Case for Christianity (1942)
The Abolition of Man (1943)
The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (1936)
Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God (1944)
Mere Christianity (1952)
Christian Behaviour: A Further Series of Broadcast Talks (1943)
The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964)
An Experiment in Criticism (1961)
The Four Loves (1960)
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)
Miracles: A Preliminary Study (1947)
The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (1939)
The Problem of Pain (1940)
Reflections on the Psalms (1958)
CHILDREN'S FICTION
The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: A Story for Children (1950)
Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" (1952)
The Silver Chair (1953)
The Horse and His Boy (1954)
The Magician's Nephew (1955)
The Last Battle: A Story for Children (1956)
ADULT FICTION
"The Dark Tower" and Other Stories (1977)
The Great Divorce: A Drama (1945)
Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
Perelandra: A Novel (1943)
The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity (1933)
The Screwtape Letters (1942)
That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups (1945)
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956)
LETTERS
Letters to an American Lady (1967)
Letters to Children (1985)
ESSAY COLLECTIONS
Christian Reflections (1967)
Fern-Seed and Elephants and Other Essays on Christianity (1975)
God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1970)
Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (1966)
The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1980)
The World's Last Night and Other Essays (1960)
POETRY
Dymer (1926)
Narrative Poems (1969)
Poems (1964)
Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics (1919)