Esteemed thinker: C.S. Lewis

travel If you journey far from home either by car, train, plane, or bus…whatever mode of transportation you may elect to service, it can often be somewhat tedious. Tedious in the sense that unless the route is new and the sites are interesting, the many hours spent in transit from destination to destination can be…shall I say…downright boring. So, in order to ward off the doldrums, we devise methods of diversion from listening to the radio, downloading our favorite music, or borrowing a book on CD from the library. I often listen to a book that I have read before and have found that this audio method of a “reread” is quite entertaining; especially if the reader is animated and acts-out the character’s dialogue, making the author’s title come alive. Listening to someone else read offers a different perspective compared to your first encounter with the story; it is similar to being the passenger in a car on a road that you are familiar with. You see sights that you may have missed while behind the wheel since your focus has been redirected.

Children are delighted to listen to the rereading of a story, for it seems that youngsters never tire from hearing the same book over and over again; even though the adult tries to cajole with an offering of a newer or prettier text… yet we all know it is the grownup- reader who yearns for the change, not the young listener. Reading a book for a second time allows us to discover elements within the plot or quirks within the character in a way that we wonder, “how could I have missed that the first time around?” And then… it is simply fun to rediscover a book that you may have enjoyed years ago, perhaps the novel or story you were assigned to read for class where the teacher seemed to have tortured you rather than inviting you into the imaginary world of the author. (Now you can give it your personal attention without having to answer questions!)

C.S. Lewis And so, in today’s blog I introduce you to our esteemed thinker: Irish born, C.S. Lewis, ( Clive Staples Lewis: 1898–1963) 20th century intellect, Oxford professor, novelist, essayist, and literary critic. He gained popularity for his science fiction Space Trilogy and the Narnia fantasies for children and continues to be one of the most read authors to date. Some believe that his work, the Chronicles of Narnia, served as a model for our modern children’s literature such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, Artemis Fowl, and Harry Potter. Regardless if one agrees with this connection or not, C.S. Lewis’s work holds a prominent place on a majority of children’s’ book lists.

Snipped from his essay, “On Stories” here is C.S. Lewis in his own words…..

“… As I have admitted, it is very difficult to tell in any given case whether a story is piercing to the unliterary reader’s deeper imagination or only exciting his emotions. .. The nearest we can come to a test is by asking whether he often re-reads the same story. It is, of course, a good test for every reader of every kind of book. An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only… There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell, or *Tristam Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he “has read” them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter? …the re-reader is looking not for actual surprises (which can come only once) but for a certain suprisingness. The point has often been misunderstood. …In the only sense that matters the surprise works well the twentieth time as the first. It is the quality of unexpectedness, not the fact that delights us. It is even better the second time. Knowing that the ‘surprise’ is coming we can now fully relish the fact that this path through the shrubbery doesn’t look as if it were suddenly going to bring us our on the edge of the cliff. So in literature. We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust has been given its sop and laid asleep, are at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst, which merely wants cold wetness… It is better when you know it is coming: free from the shock of actual surprise you can attend better to the intrinsic surpisingness of the *peripeteia.

* Tristam Shandy (1759) humorous English nine volume novel written by Laurence Sterne
* peripeteia: a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in a literary work

6 thoughts on “Esteemed thinker: C.S. Lewis

  1. A wonderful post. He’s among my favorite irish writers – I’m re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia presently. Thanks and have a great day

  2. He is such a favorite of so many people! The idea that it’s more important to re-read than to “have read” is very thought-provoking.

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