The Case of the Curious Christian

By DigAnderson | The Spectator, November 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Case of the Curious Christian


DigAnderson, The Spectator


C. S. LEWIS by Michael White Abacus, £10.99, pp. 268, ISBN 0349116253 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

THE NARNIAN by Alan Jacobs SPCK, £12.99, pp. 332, ISBN 0281057842

Alan Jacobs quotes Philip Hensher on C. S. Lewis: 'Let us drop C. S.Lewis and his ghastly, priggish, half-witted money-making drivel about Narnia down the nearest deep hole ... They are mean-minded books, written to corrupt the minds of the young with allegory, smugly denouncing anything that differs in the slightest respect from Lewis's creed of clean-living, muscular Christianity, pipesmoking misogyny, racism and the most vulgar snobbery.' He doesn't like the 'science fiction' trilogy or Screwtape either.

Mr Hensher is not about to be obeyed.

The Narnia Chronicles have sold 85 million copies and, as a special Christmas present to keep Hensher sputtering, Disney is bringing out its first Narnia film this December. There are more to follow. I do not know if these two books on Lewis were written in that knowledge, but they certainly highlight Narnia in their title. In fact neither are books on the Narnia Chronicles.

White has a very small section on them, Jacobs more but still a minor part of the book. Both are more or less biographies, White's more, Jacobs' less.

Why do we need two more biographies? It seems as if anybody and everybody gets his biography written nowadays. I eagerly await the first biography of a weather forecaster.

Lewis of course is more than a weather-forecaster and certainly deserves a biography but he already has some. Why more? The genre of biography is suitable for someone whose whole life was directly interesting or who was living in an interesting environment or with other people who were interesting. There were episodes in Lewis's life that were interesting, notably his conversion and the establishment of his peculiar form of Christianity and the relations with Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien. His books are interesting.

But most of his external life was commendably dull. There are some people, White is one, who are very interested in whether he went to bed with his 'Mother', Mrs Moore.

Even here Lewis is not helpful, refusing to discuss it and destroying the evidence of letters. This does not stop White going on about it. He has nothing much new to add. Some people, including many of those who are interested in Mrs Moore, are also interested in Lewis's love for and 'marriage' to Joy Davidson. But this has all been written about before. White drags us through the childhood, schooling, the sad relationship with father yet again. …

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