Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lewis's Final Letter

All right, just one more thought on CSL… Interestingly, I’ve also discovered some elements about C.S. Lewis that can only come through letters—an art that’s now lost in a world of email. I’ve found a Lewis that was astoundingly literate and could quote by memory Latin poetry (to those for whom it meant something). I’ve found someone who always crafted sparkling prose even in incidental writing. He carried deeply about great literature, and (now I’m thinking of a recent post) someone who didn’t think of life as rational without remainder. He knew the power of story.

We desperately need that sensitivity to good literature, style, and narrative among Christian writers today. I lament what appears as good writing from Church! And that brings me back to a lament for Lewis: When I arrived at the letters that marked the final weeks of his life, I glimpsed the signs of the end—a failing heart and even, at times, a bit less clarity in that amazingly brilliant mind. And yet I never got the sense that he resisted death or that its foreboding presence embittered him. In fact, his last letter, written the day before he died, he responded to a young reader, Philip Thompson, about latter’s interest in The Magician’s Nephew. “May I congratulate you on writing such a remarkably good letter; I certainly could not have written it at your age.”

J.R.R. Tolkien once remarked that the only reason The Lord of the Rings got published was Lewis’s “sheer encouragement.” And if there’s a magic about Lewis, it was certainly his ability to encourage others in their writing even when his life was coming to a close. The voice still speaks to me.

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