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Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Novels (62)
Long before there was a Harry Potter, there were the works of JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis. And while the sensation they created may not have been nearly so frantic nor universal in those blessed premedia days, the fanaticism that they engendered was no less powerful. Our neighbor Mark Farris used to just start one series and read it, then start the other and read it and then start all over again. I wasn't quite that bad, but I do recall that one of the proudest accomplishments of my young life was actually completing both series, a feat that involved reading several thousand pages.
Now, I'm certain that most of the metaphorical and allegorical nuances of these books completely escaped most of us at these early readings. But these books, along with comic books and pulp novels like Doc Savage and The Avenger, served one vital function, they demonstrated with incontrovertible certitude that there were such things as good and evil and that it was better to be good. Such books are often termed escapist fantasy and, for me at least, that was precisely their attraction; the opportunity that they offered, to escape from the disturbing moral relativism of the 60's and 70's, and enter worlds where the truths, that I sensed to be eternal and absolute, actually obtained. As much as parents or religion, it was books like these that formed the template from which our inchoate sense of morality was forged.
It must be true for most children that the arts and literature to which they are exposed when young, will have a decisive impact on their moral development. That is why the culture of video games, Goosebump books, politically correct twaddle like Billy has Two Mommies and the vast wasteland of Television are so pernicious and why the emergence of Harry Potter is such a hopeful sign. First for the bad, take as an example the first-person-shooter games like Doom. What precisely do such games teach children? There is no narrative line to these games. They are not pretending to be heroes; the only goal is to kill others and to survive yourself. For all you know, you may be the bad guy. Is it any surprise that a generation that is being raised on these games produces children with no sense of right and wrong, children capable of blowing away classmates as if they were extensions of the game?
Harry Potter, on the other hand, offers a glimmer of hope. The astronomical sales and popularity of the series must surely be an indicator that kids still long to escape into a world where right and wrong and good and evil are clearly defined and easily comprehensible. Hopefully parents are exploiting this phenomena and turning their kids on to books in general and specifically this genre. This is a golden moment we've been handed, a once in a generation chance to pry kids out from in front of the TV and the PC and get them reading. Let's hope it's not wasted.
Kids who like Harry Potter would certainly like the Chronicles of Narnia. But the secret charm of the Narnia books is that when you return to them as an older reader you begin to perceive a whole new layer of meaning in the texts. For Lewis, one of the great Christian apologists of the Century, essentially rendered Christian myth in the guise of children's fantasy. With a more mature eye, we realize what it means that the children enter a world where it is "always Winter, but Christmas never comes", that the great lion Aslan is Christ, the White Witch is Satan, her defeat of Aslan is a reenactment of the Crucifixion and, of course, when Aslan rises again to lead the humans and defeat the Witch, it symbolizes the risen Christ leading us in battle against evil. If not exactly subtle, these lessons are at least not heavy handed and should not deter anyone from reading the books.
If you've got a kid who is devouring the Harry Potter books, don't let them stop there. Turn them towards this classic series and then to Tolkein. With any luck they'll discover the same sense of wonder and enjoyment that preceding generations have found and maybe even shut off the TV in order to read once in a while.
See also:C.S. Lewis (5 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Novels
Library Journal: Top 150 of the Century
New York Public Library's Books of the Century
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2185/2_13/83520009/print.jhtml>-ESSAY: C. S. Lewis vs. Sigmund Freud on good and evil (Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., March 2002, American Enterprise)
-ESSAY: A Mind That Grasped Both Heaven and Hell (JOSEPH LOCONTE, 11/23/03, NY Times)
-ESSAY: Why There Are Seven Chronicles of Narnia: A British scholar discovers the hidden design of C.S. Lewis' perennially popular series. (John Wilson, Christianity Today)
-ESSAY: To See Truly Through a Glass Darkly: C. S. Lewis, George Orwell, and the Corruption of Language (David Mills, July/August 1998, Touchstone)
Book-related and General Links:
-ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: " c. s. lewis"
-C.S. Lewis Foundation
-C. S. Lewis Classics (Harper Collins)
-Narnia.com (Harper Collins)
-C.S. Lewis & Public Life
-Into the Wardrobe: The C.S. Lewis website
-C. S. Lewis Mega-Links Page
-C. S. Lewis: His Enduring Legacy (Todd Kappelman)
-15 Best Devotional Books of All Time (Christian Reader)
-Literary Research Guide: C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963 )
-Mere Christianity Study Guide
-Restoration of Man: Lecture for Fiftieth Anniversary of The Abolition of Man (J. R. LUCAS)
-The Title and Epigraphs of Surprised by Joy (John Bremer)
-ESSAY : Marketing 'Narnia' Without a Christian Lion (DOREEN CARVAJAL, June 3, 2001 , NY Times)
-ESSAY : Oz vs. Narnia : L. Frank Baum's sanitized, all-too-American world is infinitely less compelling than C.S. Lewis' dangerous imaginings (Laura Miller, Salon)
-ESSAY : King, Don W.: "Narnia and the Seven Deadly Sins," (Mythlore, Vol. 10, Spring 1984)
-ESSAY: C. S. Lewis in the Public Square (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)
-ESSAY: C.S. Lewis on Mere Science (M. D. Aeschliman, First Things)
-ESSAY: The Everyday C.S. Lewis (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)
-ESSAY : When Worldviews Collide : C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on life, pain and death (Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)
-Personal Best: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (LAURA MILLER, Salon)
-REVIEW: C. S. Lewis: A Biography By A. N. Wilson Passions for the Ordinary In an Extraordinary Life ( CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
-REVIEW: C. S. LEWIS A Biography. By A. N. Wilson THE MAN FROM NARNIA (PENELOPE FITZGERALD, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of C.S. Lewis: A Biography by A.N. Wilson (J.M. Cameron, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS A Dramatic Life. By William Griffin YES, I ADMIT, GOD IS GOD (ROGER LEWIS, NY Times Book Review)
-Lewis Remembered: C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections. By John Lawlor (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)
-REVIEW: of Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century by Norman F. Cantor (Robert Bartlett, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children's Literature by Humphrey Carpenter (Janet Adam Smith, NY review of Books)
-BOOK LIST : BOOKS OF THE CENTURY: Leaders and thinkers weigh in on classics that have shaped contemporary religious thought (ChristianityToday.com, April 24, 2000)
God! can't you update this freakin site?! I can't find ANYTHING!!! UGH! Just please update it! this IS the 21st century!
- Oct-03-2006, 21:05