The Corner

Gopnik, Lewis, Miller

I must protest J.J.’s calling Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker piece an

“attack” on C.S. Lewis. While Gopnik does indeed remark on the oddity

of Lewis’s religious convictions, and the way Lewis arrived at them, and

note–what is perfectly true–that Lewis has, in US evangelical circles,

become “hostage to a cult,” he does not doubt Lewis’s sincerity, does

not accuse him of any failing graver than mild silliness, and just

possibly self-deception, and he is generous with praise of Lewis’s

books.

“Praise a good writer too single-mindedly for too obviously ideological

reasons for too long, and pretty soon you have him all to yourself…

The seven tales of [Narnia] are classics in the only sense that

matters–books that are read a full generation after their author is

gone… [Lewis]’s literary judgments are full of discovery; his

allegiance to a dry, historical approach in the university didn’t keep

him from having bracingly clear critical opinions about modern books,

all of them independent and most of them right… If believing shut

Lewis off from writing well about belief, it did get him to write

inspired scholarship, and then inspired fairy tales… He never tries

to engineer an entertainment for kids. He writes, instead, as real

writers must, a real book for a circle of readers large and small …

Had he tried for less, the books would not have lasted so long…

When Joy died… he was abject with sadness, and it produced “A Grief

Portrayed,” one of the finest books written about mourning…”

[Derb again] I, or, J.J., or any other writer, should only dream of

being so “attacked.” I thought Gopnik’s piece very fine, and full of

insight. My email bag, after I myself passed comment on Gopnik’s piece

a few days ago, reminded me that to cultists, nothing but unqualified

reverence will do. Good literary critics, however, do not trade in

unqualified reverence.

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