Book Meme Day 13: My Favorite Writer(s)

J.C.R.S.R. Tolewkienis.

Ahem.

WELL? Does anyone seriously have an objection?

Ah well, perhaps I should spend a few words explaining the obvious. These writers have defined my imaginative life from my youth. They are my teachers, my mentors, my guides, and the poets for the songs of my soul. So often it seems that they can express my thoughts better than I, and for that I am ashamed, because they would admonish me if they knew and would count me a weak-minded wordsmith. But I treasure every book of theirs, and every piece of advice they give, for more than any other writers they share my values. They wrote to serve God, out of duty and love, and because he gifted them the skill of words upon their creation. When they wrote, they could feel His pleasure. As I read them, I feel their pleasure and His. To have been born at a time when I could grow up with their books as my canon is an honor and a blessing.

In Tolkien’s worlds I have all the grave, high-minded fantasy I shall ever truly need. In his personal letters is gentle, grandfatherly Christian wisdom that shall help me to the end of my days.

The words of Lewis, whether fiction or not, awaken my mind and invigorate it. How can one not weep at The Great Divorce? How can one not be roused to righteous anger at The Abolition of Man, or terrified into self-examination while reading The Screwtape Letters? Has anyone been untouched by Till We Have Faces, or been left un-awed by Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength? I would not be surprised one bit if I heard that a dedicated misanthropist had emerged from The Four Loves eager to love and be loved by someone.

These men are my fathers in writing, and my brothers in Christ. I do not seek to copy them, but to learn from them.

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Author: David

I’m a young Christian American reader writer dreamer wanderer walker flier listener talker scholar adventurer musician word-magician romantic critic religious idealist optipessimist man.

13 thoughts on “Book Meme Day 13: My Favorite Writer(s)”

  1. I won’t object! I know exactly what you mean when you say they express your thoughts better than you can yourself. I’ve only read a portion of Lewis’s works, but I’ve begun reading more just recently, and I keep finding that Lewis talks about things I’ve felt and thought myself, but just haven’t articulated as completely or well. I look forward to encountering more of his writings. I was reading Planet Narnia the other week and had to exert a strong amount of willpower to keep from getting up from the sofa and jumping up and down excitedly because Lewis’s ideas were so good and so spot on to things I’ve come to understand lately. I want to go to graduate school, and the authors I’m most interested in are indeed Lewis and Tolkien. I’m not sure exactly which direction I’d want to take my studies in, but they’re kind of my signposts.

    Also, have you read Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism? I read it a few years ago for a class and loved it because it identified so many of the things I adore about books.

    And I don’t think either of these authors would fault you for not being able to express your inklings (pun intended!) as well as they. We’re all given different things to say, and we get in trouble when we compare ourselves to others and wonder why we can’t do everything just like they do. I know, because I do it all the time and cause myself a good deal of misery. Remember, Lewis said, “Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality . . . In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.” So it’s good and right that we all see (and write) different things. We’re meant to.

    1. There are still many of Lewis’ writings that I haven’t read, An Experiment in Criticism included. I know what you mean about grad school — it’s still my plan as well, but I’m still a little stuck on the direction. The Anglo-Saxon language fascinates me, as does some of the literature, but I don’t want to neglect the later Arthurian tales, or mythology in general. I still haven’t gotten my hands on Lewis’ own medieval articles and books.

      Thanks for that pun, I appreciate it. +) And the quote plus encouragement. Still, I read past writers, like our two friends, and Chesterton, and Dorothy Sayers, and others, and they all seemed able to express their ideas in a way unique to them, without copying each other or resorting to simplistic, boring verbiage. I don’t want purple prose, but I do want to develop a writing style better suited to expressing my ideas the way I see them in my mind’s eye. Eloquence, really. *dramatically* How can I shuffle off the blunt literary shackles of modernity, so strengthened as they are by short attention spans and the grammar of television shows and online snarkers? O where art thou, Holy Muse?

    2. Of course now that I’ve posted that reply, I’ve just come across this quote from Lewis’ God in the Dock.

      “The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that. The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him. I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the readers will most certainly go into it.”

      1. That’s good advice. Lewis says very insightful things about the craft of writing, doesn’t he?

        I know what you mean about trying to develop your own personal writing style. Of course, it always pays to look closely at how your favorite authors write, and imitate them as appropriate, but I think Lewis is pretty dead on when he says you should be most concerned with saying what you mean. If one could really do that, I think the style would sort itself out on its own. Mostly. But I understand the frustration when you have this unexpressed idea that feels beautiful and eloquent and you just can’t find the words to do it justice. I feel that a lot when I see beautiful images in nature and I try to capture them in words in my head, but usually just end up feeling bumbling and clumsy.

        Okay, that quote is from An Experiment in Criticism. I highly recommend the book. It’s a meditation on how “literary” people read and experience books, as opposed to casual readers. It’s great, because it touches on so many of the reasons I love books. Also, Lewis proposes that the criteria for whether a book is good or not is whether it can be read and reread in the right sort of way. If the book can hold up to multiple readings, that proves there is some good content in it that the reader has found.

        1. Sounds great. And yes, he does rather. +) That advice about knowing what you want to say and making sure that you’ve said it, combined with the learning about grammar and writing clarity I received from one of my college professors in particular, has formed my recent approach to writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Clarity comes first, but it’s nice when you can say something in a manner that’s really sends the thought home.

          I just reread A Wrinkle in Time for the first time since fifth grade, and paid some attention to L’Engle’s descriptive style. She writes very well to her young adult/grade school audience, only describing relevant details (but being bold and clear about them) while leaving the rest to her readers’ imaginations. It works.

    1. Spring of 2008 — I used an essay for a classics course as an excuse to compare it to the original Cupid and Psyche myth. But I really need to reread it to be able to speak more intelligently about it. One of my friends at The Egotist’s Club blog wrote a very in-depth discussion of Orual.

      P.S. I think I got a “B” on the paper. My analysis was kind of shallow.

  2. Alas for a B!
    I need to read many of Lewis’s books, but that one… that one I have read several times, first for my mother in Brit Lit. I remember the discussions my class had for it were astounding. Your friend’s post hits on much of the power of the book. I think that Orual is the most Human character I have ever read. I must hold off on stating my opinion for certain until I have read at least most of his works, but I suspect that she is Lewis’s fictional masterpiece.

    1. Quite possible; I think Till We Have Faces and the Space Trilogy, of all Lewis’ works, will benefit the most from rereads. So deep, so complex, and so utterly different! The former lays bare the human soul with all its follies, passions, and pride, while the latter musters the intellect of man in an attempt to comprehend the awful, wonderful mystery of our redemption by God from death in sin. They both cause me to ask, again…why isn’t all of Lewis’ fiction studied more fully in our schools, along with the other greats of English literature? His legacy is one of the most important of the 20th century!

  3. That’s a can of many wriggly worms, but parents and mentors and friends can all encourage the reading of his works. After all, that’s one of the things friends are for, aye?

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