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    Of Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis

    February 14, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    Are we allowed to give books by C.S. Lewis less than five stars? I feel a little guilty saying that this one is worth three, maybe four, but to be honest I think most, if not all, of these were published posthumously, which means Lewis himself didn’t insist on their publication. Well, maybe it means that. Maybe he would agree with me!

    The book starts out strong, with a couple of his more famous essays on fiction and fantasy, On Stories and On Three Ways of Writing for Children. Most of the wonderful quotes I noted in this part are some of those famous Lewis quotes that make the rounds.

    The hardest part of the reading for me was near the end, where there are chapters from an unfinished book concerning the Trojan Horse, Helen of Troy, and all that. It was engaging and interesting…and very frustrating to me that there was no conclusion. The saving grace for that was Roger Lancelyn Green’s afterward in which he explains the possible directions Lewis might have gone, had not his ability to “see pictures” {which was how all his fiction was given birth, it seems} degenerated.

    What I loved most about this was getting a glimpse of what the writing process might have been like for Lewis, at least in regard to Story.

    I copied out some quotes from his unfinished essay {or letter to the editor, perhaps?} titled A Reply to Professor Haldane that I thought might be less well known:

    Detestation for any ethic which worships success is one of my chief reasons for disagreeing with most communists.

    Every tyrant must begin by claiming to have what his victims respect and to give what they want.

    {This next one is my favorite.}

    The worst of all public dangers is the committee of public safety.

    I must, of course, admit that the actual state of affairs may sometimes be so bad that a man is tempted to risk change even by revolutionary methods; to say that desperate diseases require desperate remedies and that necessity knows no law. But to yield to this temptation is, I think, fatal. It is under that pretext that every abomination enters. Hitler, the Machiavellian Prince, the Inquisition, the Witch Doctor, all claimed to be necessary. 

    Most of his best lines on writing stories, or on the value of fantasy, are already very well known, so I will not bother to type them out.

    So is this worth reading? Absolutely, especially if you are a Lewis fan {which I am}. Just don’t expect something written to perfection, because these are unfinished works, for the most part. In fact, in writing this review, I talked myself into giving it four stars and calling it “excellent” because…well, because despite my frustrations, Lewis almost always is excellent.

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    6 Comments

  • Reply Ordo-Amoris February 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I remember when I first read The Problem of Pain. I had no idea what Lewis was saying most of the time but I enjoyed his saying it anyway.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 20, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      He does have a beautiful way with words, doesn’t he? 🙂

      I haven’t read that one yet, Cindy. I recently got on a Lewis kick and started collecting his nonfiction. Before that I only had 2 nonfiction titles and then, of course, all the fiction.

  • Reply Mystie February 16, 2013 at 7:16 am

    (Just saw that the comment I left this morning didn’t clear the capcha; my fault)

    Lewis was an odd duck; you are more than allowed to give him less than 5 stars. Tolkien did. 🙂 Have you read Great Divorce? It’s good, but it’s bizarre and it goes much too close to the line of universalism for me.

    I think I have this book, so I’ll have to go look up that essay to the professor. You remember that The Committee of Public Safety was Robespierre’s committee that oversaw the Reign of Terror? So I’m curious if he was talking about them specifically or alluding that our current safety committees are similar. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks for the permission, Mystie. I feel much better now. 🙂

      The “Reply to Professor Haldane” is a response to a *bad* or *inaccurate* critique of the Space Trilogy, so I think he’s likely referring to NICE rather than the Reign of Terror, though that is FASCINATING to bring up, Mystie!

  • Reply walking February 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Wow! C.S. Lewis would be appalled at what is being done for the sake of safety today!

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