Magazine article Newsweek

A Man and His Myths; the Creator of Narnia Was a Scholar, a Drinker-And a Believer

Magazine article Newsweek

A Man and His Myths; the Creator of Narnia Was a Scholar, a Drinker-And a Believer

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Miller (With Ben Whitford)

In 1949, the year he finished writing "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," C. S. Lewis was leading at least four different lives. His reputation as a Christian apologist had already been launched with several books and a series of BBC radio speeches. He was a charismatic Oxford professor, an expert in Milton and Spenser. He was a generous host who presided over long, drunken nights of bawdy talk and badinage. And he was the head of a household that, even by today's standards, would be considered unconventional. His domestic partner for nearly three decades was a woman 25 years his senior, whom he called "my mother," but who was not, in fact, his mother. In 1949, Janie Moore was in declining health and crankier than ever. "I am," wrote Lewis at the time, "a man in chains."

Biographers suggest that Lewis's foray into children's literature was an attempt to escape, to recover his own boyhood and, through myth and metaphor, dive more deeply into his faith. Whatever the impulse, his friend J.R.R. Tolkien thought he'd missed the mark. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was a hodgepodge of images, Tolkien said, an incomplete rendering of an imaginary world. But never mind. Each year, for seven years, Lewis released another volume, making him the J. K. Rowling of his time, and, in the minds of Narnia fans at least, erasing whatever he was before. Since 1950, the Narnia books have sold 95 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 41 languages. Now, thanks to the movie, devotees can brace themselves for a blizzard of books and biographies, including a revision of Paul F. …

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