Toad Pipe Screwtape Letters
Toad Pipe Screwtape Letters – ← Trees, Leaves, Vines, Circles: Reading and Writing The Layered Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fiction: A Note on “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” and “Leaf by Niggle”
L.M. Montgomery’s The Story Girl, “Things Dreams Are Made Of”: Chapter Reading, L.M. Montgomery Readathon, Montgomery Conference and other things I’m working on (FridayFeature) →
Toad Pipe Screwtape Letters
John Bunyan’s Apology for his book with a note by C.S. Lewis on writing as holistic discovery – and how Narnia achieved the greatness you see
Dominic Winter 21 June 2012 By Jamm Design Ltd
In my blog post last week, “Bunyan and Others and Me: A Vicarious Friendship with Bookshelves and a Theory of Reading in the Hands of Jazz,” I offered two “theories of reading” from my experience trying to find sympathy with John Bunyan
. I know, I know… I seem to be writing a lot about a book I don’t like. Before this piece on reading theory, I rewrote my older piece, “The Pilgrim’s Journey and the Kindergarten Bookshelf: The Journey of a Book”—and I really think this little allegory has a compelling pilgrimage as a book. And as I acknowledged in my thought piece, “The Sloo/Slow/Sluff of Despond,” there is a lot of psychological and spiritual truth in John Bunyan
Well, let me write another thought about something I like about this book that eludes my sympathy.
In those “Theories of Reading” posts, I teased the idea of how we become book friends with authors through other book friends. Many writers I love have appreciated
John Bunyan’s Apology For His Book With A Note From C.s. Lewis On Writing As Holistic Discovery–and How Narnia Achieved The Bigness You See
C.S. Lewis is one of those book friends. Indeed, as a seventeen-year-old describing his reading experience, he describes Bunyan’s story in precisely these terms of friendship:
I’m reading right now, what do you think? Our own friend ‘Pulgrim’s Progress’. It’s one of those books that is usually read too soon to be appreciated, and perhaps never returned to. However, I’m very glad I discovered it. The allegory is of course obvious and even childish, but as a romance it is unsurpassed, and also as an example of true English. Try a little of your Ruskin or Macaulay after that and see the difference between diamonds and tinsel (March 11, 1916 letter to his father).
. As with many other books he discovered in his critical period of loss of faith in 1915 and 1916, Lewis returns to Bunyan in this period of recovery in 1930-31. before writing his own allegory, The Pilgrimage, at Arthur’s home in 1932.
In the article “Vicarious Bookshelf Friendship and a Jazz Hands Theory of Reading” last week, I shared some of what Lewis does with Bunyan from his later perspective as a literary historian and critic. Intriguingly, Lewis as a teenage critic of Bunyan agrees very much with Lewis who wrote as a professional critic in the last months of his life.
Dominic Winter Auctioneers By Jamm Design Ltd
First, Lewis draws Bunyan into the center of what he considers quintessential Western literature, placing Bunyan alongside Dante, Milton, and others. While Dante, Spenser, Milton, and Bunyan compete for a place in understanding what Lewis was doing in his fiction and scholarship, Lewis connects much more personally with Bunyan, drawing Bunyan’s story into his own emotional life.
And, as we see in the short note above, from the age of seventeen Lewis could read
On a level deeper than religious allegory. In his 1962 essay, “The Vision of John Bunyan,” Lewis goes on to consider the allegorist Bunyan, a sectarian and chivalric fantasist, as an exemplary realist prose writer.
There is another aspect of Lewis’s writing about Bunyan that is worth noting, and that is his observation about how Bunyan found himself writing
Christian Life Archives
I believe that the question of how a great book was created is often in vain. But in this case Bunyan has told us the answer, as far as such things can be said. It comes in very short verses before the 1st part. He says that while he was working on a completely different book, he ‘Suddenly fell into allegory’. I assume he means a small allegory, an extended metaphor that would fill a paragraph. He wrote down ‘more than twenty things’. And, this done, “I still had twenty in my Crown”. ‘Things’ began to ‘multiply’ like sparks flying from a fire. They threatened him, he says, that they would “eat” the book he was working on. They insisted on breaking away from it and becoming a separate organism. He let go of their heads.
It is already an organic process of writing: a small picture that becomes many pictures, sparks leaping gracefully and dangerously from the fire, a horse ready to gallop and a steady rider giving him head. But Lewis narrows it down to a modest discovery that speaks to writing outside of Bunyan the poet or his chosen genre. Lewis writes:
Then come the words that describe, better than any others I know, the golden moments of smooth composition: “Because now I have my method all the way; As I jerked, it came.” Is coming. I doubt we will ever know more about the process called ‘inspiration’ than those two monosyllabic terms tell us.
“It came”, which are “golden moments of unhindered composing”. Wow, yes. For most readers, I assume that Bunyan describes in two words, and Lewis in a reflection paragraph, what I was still only grasping in my 1,500-word essay, “Time Thieves and Waking Wonder: Writing as Discovery and Stone – Carver’s Art.”
November 23, 2012 By The Phoenix
Lewis’s entire essay, “The Vision of John Bunyan,” is well worth reading. This thinking originated as a BBC lecture before it was first published in the
And then in Selected Literary Essays (1969). Unlike most of Lewis’s BBC work, a recording of this piece is available in the archive (with actors reading Bunyan’s quotes). Lewis’s voice has a buoyant tone as he reads his work; “wink” is never far from the surface of the text.
Lewis’ work, written and recorded at his home in Kiln’s about a year before he died, is an essay in the older sense: an attempt, a playing out of the implications of an idea. And, if we go back to the root of the Latin, it’s an idea set in motion, on a journey – a thought experiment set on a pilgrimage, if you will. In this essay, Lewis tests the argument for Bunyan as a realist writer rather than a particularly religious writer, and is therefore worth reading in its entirety.
So while you need the whole article to get a full sense of Lewis’s interest in the book, I thought it would be useful to give a little more of Lewis’ thoughts on
Have A Point: Steve Martin And John Candy Help Us See Ourselves
After that, I include Bunyan’s “Apology for His Book,” which makes up in literary self-reflection what it lacks in poetic art. That became my favorite part of the book (which I keep saying, perhaps unconvincingly so far, that I don’t like).
In these selections we see not only what Lewis observed—the lofty description of “came” to describe an artistic discovery—but also one of the (perhaps unrecognized?) aspects of what Lewis admires in literary art. Without exception that I can think of, Lewis likes integrative poetry and fiction. Discussing Bunyan, Lewis here describes him as a “whole man”, a fusion of “poet” as maker and creator of art, with “person” as moral agent, who wants to do something in the world. This, for Lewis, is the transcendental combination of the “beautiful” with the “good” that makes the text “true.”
And … can you see it? What Lewis was attempting in Narnia was not an allegorical or didactic story. Instead, what he allowed to happen in his own artistic discovery was the integration of creative writer and Christian neighbor. Lewis’s fables and his specific stories aim not only to inspire religious or philosophical or moral or creative ideas, but also to put the story in a new light. In Narnia, that means images and stories that aren’t filtered through stained glass.
So there is an amazing connection between Lewis’s comments on Bunyan and his own reflections on the writing of Narnia in works such as “It All Began with a Picture” and “Sometimes Fairy Tales Can Tell the Best Things That Can Be Said”—works in which he describes finding himself falling in the fairy tale, where it “happened”, the story appeared, and the moral person took the work of the creative poet and made something whole out of it. Or, in Bunyan’s words, “the greatness you see”:
East Side Monthly October 2015 By Providence Media
For, having now my method to the end, Even as I drew, it came; and so I wrote It down: till at last it came, Across and across, the greatness you see.
Perhaps we could hazard a guess as to why it happened at that very moment. My own conjecture is that the scheme of adventure travel suddenly reunited two things in Bunyan’s mind which had hitherto lain far apart. One was his gift