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C. S. Lewis: A Complete Guide To His Life And Works

by Walter Hooper
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Product Details

  • Publisher: HarperOne
  • Publishing date: 01/07/1998
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780060638801
  • ISBN: 006063880X

Synopsis

Winner: The 1997 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion

The Life & Works of the Most Beloved Christian Thinker & Storyteller of the Twentieth Century--An Indispensable Resource

In this masterful and authoritative compendium, one of Lewis's keenest interpreters offers an illuminating and utterly entertaining look at his works--from The Chronicles of Narnia to his many essays on Christianity--and the life of the extraordinary man who created them.

Hooper traces Lewis's life from childhood in Belfast and war experience in France to his brilliant academic career at Oxford and Cambridge, his religious conversion, the publication of his books, and his late marriage and widowhood. The author explores the key ideas behind Lewis's thoughts on everything from enchantment, reason, imagination, and joy to democratic education, myth, and the masculine and feminine. A concise "What's What" guide explains the significance of places and things, from Kiln's, Lewis's home in Oxford to his many references to The Book of Common Prayer. In addition, a definitive "Who's Who" listing includes Lewis's many teachers, mentors, and friends, including Dorothy L. Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien.


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  • Helpful Hooper
    From Amazon

    Debates persist between laypeople and scholars regarding who has the best claim to Mr. Lewis. Some say the "true Lewis," whatever that means, is the sole provenance of his self-proclaimed experts, while others insist that he belongs to his readers. Lewis actually had a say on the matter. He got incensed over the idea that anyone could know a person based on his books, as many have attempted to claim. Thankfully, we have kind Uncle Wally's Companion and Guide to the man and his works, and he does an admirable job of bringing both to life. Mr. Hooper has never felt the pressure of bowing to the guild--nor did Lewis--and as a result his writing is, for lack of a better term, down-to-earth. Having said that, it's hard to say how well someone who only knew Lewis for a few months before his death can know the man himself, but let's admit it: he is one of the few people who actually ever lived with Lewis, and Lewis was particularly forthcoming in sharing his life with Hooper, to the point of giving him access to all of his papers. If that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is. He trusted Mr. Hooper's instincts, and, as a result, so do I. You want to get a deeper insight into Jack and his works? Read this book.

  • Absolutely Indispensable
    From Amazon

    It is absolutely indispensable for lovers of Lewis. This book leads you into his head and his heart, and there is perhaps none so close to the personality of this British genius than Mr. Hooper himself. It is the only guide I have come across truly deserving the title of "guide." Buy this book: it is the door to Lewis' universe.

  • "A Guiding Thread" To Lewis
    From Amazon

    Veal's excellent organizational overview of the work is spot on, and thus not to be duplicated. What this review will attempt to supplement that excellent review is Hooper's intent of providing this companion/guide: to unite the poet, critic and Christian into one. This was one of the major themes Lewis had expressed to Hooper, to find that there is a guiding thread uniting all of his life's writings. Reading and rereading Lewis is a pleasant and wonderful task, seeking and finding new emphases and insights. Hooper's reflections on the same are thus a friendly aid to this, if one chooses. I find his insights sometimes illuminate, sometimes expose my overlooks, and sometimes stamp what I've already found. Thus, for Lewis devotee, this is excellent resource. Omitted here is Lewis' work on education, which is so filled in a scholarly fashion by a new work by Joel Heck.

  • Indispensible reference for teachers or serious students of Lewis
    From Amazon

    Companion and Guide is the sort of reference book that almost always answers the specific question you came in search of and yet whets your appetite for the original texts. I suspect that it would have this effect even on someone who had not yet read the originals. Immensely helpful for teachers even if they know Lewis very well. For example, Peter Kreeft's excellent talk on "Til We Have Faces" (available on his website) seems to have been built around Hooper's entry in this book. It was a great help to me in teaching the Ransom trilogy. Warning: if you are prone -- as I am-- to the vice of curiosity, this book is not always a time-saver. You will find yourself browsing when you meant to be only verifying a fact or running down a citation. Because of the excellent little book that she wrote on Narnia, I would hesitate to speak ill of Kathryn Lindskoog even if she were still alive and had not died what I consider to be a heroic Christian death. That said, it would be foolhardy in the extreme to let her later attacks on Hooper (some perhaps just, some quite bizarre, personal, and unsubstantiated) so poison your judgment about him that you miss out on this monumental acheivement.

  • A Lifetime of Lewis
    From Amazon

    C. S. Lewis would doubtless have scoffed at the idea of a reference book about himself, just as he disapproved of university courses devoted to modern authors on the sensible ground that "helps" to reading them are not needed and come between the writer and his audience.

    Nonetheless, students and "fans" of the great Christian apologist and literary scholar now are offered two thick compendia on his life and work. Each has its virtues and faults, and both are worthwhile investments - though not a substitute for the straight, unfiltered Lewis.

    The "Companion and Guide", reviewed here, is the production of one man, who has devoted almost his entire adult lifetime to editing and writing about Lewis. The rival "C. S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia" is a composite work whose contributors range from giants in the field to eager amateurs.

    When he first met C. S. Lewis in June 1963, Walter Hooper was an American schoolteacher who had dropped out of studying for the Episcopal priesthood and never gotten started as a graduate student in literature. Instantly star-struck, he volunteered to help with secretarial chores. Within a few months Lewis was dead of a heart attack, and this 32-year-old foreigner, whose academic credentials consisted of a master's degree in education and who had never published a word on any Lewisan topic, improbably became the great man's de facto literary executor. Within a year he had edited the first collected edition of Lewis' poems, and he has worked at the same stand ever since. The double meaning of the present volume's title is no accident. The book is a companion and guide to readers of Lewis' work, but Lewis has also been, metaphorically, a lifetime companion and guide to Walter Hooper.

    "Companion and Guide" weighs in at almost a thousand pages (twice the length of the "Readers' Encyclopedia"). It leads off with a hundred page biography that may well be the best life of Lewis yet written (not that the competition is very formidable). The next and longest section discusses each of CSL's books, with the inexplicable omission of "The Allegory of Love", his seminal tome on courtly love and medieval poetry. Of greatest interest are the accounts of how the works came to be written, which draw on Lewis' vast, incompletely published correspondence and on conversations with his large circle of friends. Also provided are epitomes, which are useful for reference but sometimes flabby, and haphazard excerpts from book reviews. The last feature calls attention to one of the Companion's defects: Hooper is too much a Lewis partisan to pay much attention to detractors. The uniform, almost gushing, praise of the quotations is not representative of contemporary reaction to Lewis. It would be very surprising if smashing modern idols had made him popular among the high priests of idolatry.

    Closely related to the discussions of the works are short essays on "Key Ideas". Relatively long pieces summarize Lewis' positions on such topics as "Imagination", "Natural Law" and "Reason". Shorter ones range from "Bulverism" to "Monarchy" to "Quiddity". These rapid presentations of Lewis' point of view, quoting liberally from his own words, are excellent as far as they go, but have little critical depth.

    Next come a "Who's Who" of people who were important to Lewis, a miscellaneous "What's What" of places, organizations, concepts, terms and facts ("The Kilns", "Oxford University Socratic Club", "Anthroposophy", "Don(s)", "Stage Plays of the Chronicles of Narnia") that relate to Lewis in some fashion, and an 84 page bibliography of everything by Lewis that had appeared in print through about 1996.

    The strength of the Companion is the immense fund of information that it provides. Its weaknesses are the author's uncritical devotion to his subject and the lacunae in those areas that don't interest him. The academic side of Lewis' career, in particular, is underdeveloped. One finds little about the controversy over the Oxford English curriculum, in which Lewis played a prominent role. As already noted, "The Allegory of Love", which made CSL's reputation as a scholar, gets scant notice. Important essays like "What Chaucer Really Did to Il Filostrato", "Donne and Seventeenth Century Love Poetry" and "The Fifteenth-Century Heroic Line" receive none at all.

    The readers who will find the Companion most useful (and will prefer it to the Readers' Encyclopedia) are those who are interested in CSL primarily as a Christian thinker and novelist and who are more concerned with gaining a fuller appreciation of his writings than in examining what others have written about him.

    Since another reviewer has raised it, one must address the question of Mr. Hooper's reliability. When he first came to Lewis studies, a callow outsider abruptly elevated beyond his expectations or deserts, he sought to enhance his statute by falsely claiming a long and intimate association with Lewis. That was a foolish course of action and gained enemies who have hounded him for decades with increasingly sensational accusations. I have no way to judge whether any or all of the charges are well-founded, but they are mostly of interest to biographers of Hooper, not to students of Lewis. Save in marginal areas and subject to normal human frailty, there is no valid reason to impugn the Companion's accuracy. One may leave the last word on this topic to the Readers' Encyclopedia, which, in the course of a far from flattering article about Mr. Hooper, calls the Companion a "landmark volume". Its author may, for all I know, be a bad man, but he is a good encyclopedist.

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