30 December 2008

The Magician's Book; Laura Miller

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ms. Miller's response to Narnia is, on the one hand, a great re-experiencing of the Chronicles and the world that Jack built. On the other, it's an attempt to deflate the Christian aspects of this "supposal" of Lewis.

Much of the book I agreed with and enjoyed, particularly when she introduced other readers' comments and reactions to the Chronicles. The deft interweaving of Jack's biography, the times in which he wrote, the Inklings and the what and who of the books is impressive. I also very much liked how she handled the nature of the relationships between Lewis and Tolkien and Lewis and Mrs. Moore.

And yet...

Relying on A.N. Wilson's biography while leaving other, better versions out is problematic. Why? Granted, almost all biographers have an ax to grind, but in this case a balance could have been struck between Wilson and, for example, George Sayer. Obviously, the biographer's views on his relationship with Joy Gresham, Mrs. Moore and Christianity will ultimately color what's written, so (I think) relying only on one version sends signals about what you believe.

The Susan Question was dealt with, but not totally satisfactorily. My reading has always been that for now, Susan won't be joining the rest in the Narnia-further-up-and-farther-inside-Narnia. But there is a promise of her getting there, if she chooses. I don't see Lewis' attitude towards Susan as misogynistic, I see it as him saying "pay attention to all this nonsense, trivial stuff and you miss the really important things."

But where this book falls down for me is her treatment of Puddleglum. His expression of faith is, I thought, mocked and, well, that just won't do.

One amusing bit: there's an assumption that older (adult) readers will get the symbolism and the dragon-sneaking because they're older and more aware and exposed, etc. Not so true: my father read them in the 70s and was shocked (shocked!) when I picked up on "something extra" (he was in his mid-30s, I was about 10).

View all my reviews.

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