January 27th, 2013
|06:16 pm - Reading|
What I'm reading now: Nothing. I just finished J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. I enjoyed it: a straightforward biography without literary criticism. I'd been curious about Tolkien and how he came to write his books, and it was a good answer.
What I'm going to read next: Not sure yet. I'd thought it would be C. S. Lewis: A Biography by A. N. Wilson, which I bought a while ago, but just now reading reviews, it seems to be universally panned. And, I'm not really that interested in Lewis. I also have Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis which looks more like the kind of lightweight biography I feel like reading now.
Or, I might read Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster by Harold Schechter, about Earle Leonard Nelson who began a killing spree in 1926 across the U.S. and Canada. He killed at least 22 women and then raped their dead bodies. That's the other book I put in my bag when I went to the sauna today. Escapist reading, you know.
If you do get around to them, I'd suggest the Gresham first and the Wilson afterwards. Gresham of course had the facts and the better perspective, and loved Lewis. Wilson had good literary points though flaky in the other respects.
|Date:||January 28th, 2013 09:58 am (UTC)|| |
A.N. Wilson's biography of C.S. Lewis is not so much universally panned as ragingly controversial. It's well written in terms of prose and construction, but Wilson starts from the premise that Lewis is some kind of put-on artist and general fraud (a case of projection from himself, possibly), and he's willing to employ shoddy and sloppy scholarship and an inherently twisted view of the facts to prove it. He makes some genuinely shrewd insights, which Lewis buffs are uncomfortable with admitting, but they're mixed with complete dross, and it's hard for the average reader to tell which is which. Don't start with this, though you might want to read it later.
If you're not already basically familiar with Lewis's life, I wouldn't go for Gresham's Lenten Lands either. It's not a biography of Lewis at all, but a memoir of the author's own youth before, during, and after his stint as Lewis's stepson. It's a touching book, but it assumes you already know a lot of background.
If you want a light, entertaining biography of Lewis that presents the facts easily, is well-written and full of insight, and isn't weighed down with analysis of his writings, go straight to The Narnian by Alan Jacobs. That is the perfect book for what you say you want. Backup choices would be Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer, or Douglas Gresham's other book, Jack's Life.
Ignore the new biography that's coming out next month, C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath. I've read it for review; it's turgid and overlong.
I think now that I'm not going to read either - my interest isn't so much real research into Lewis, but enjoyment of reading biographies and memoirs, generally, and looking for something entertaining to read next. Neither of the two books I have on hand (bought used because they looked interesting) appeal now. Thanks for the recommendations, though; I've added them to my wishlist.