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30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-Eight

Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession

The Chronicles of Narnia. They were the first books I ever bought with my own money; I saved for weeks to get the full set from the local bookstore, and when they didn’t have every one on hand, I had them order the missing volume and waited until I could get them all at once. (I have no idea how old I was…eight?) I still have that set, too, nine ratty old paperbacks falling apart at the seams, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the worst shape of them all (I loved Reepicheep).

I don’t think I realized until much, much later that they were Christian allegory. Fortunately, during the part of my life where I would have been most annoyed to find out that fantasy books I loved were Christian allegory, I didn’t reread them at all. Then I discovered Tolkien, and then I discovered that Tolkien and Lewis were friends, and I read them again and still loved them. I adored the old BBC adaptations of the first four books (although I rewatched them in college and am a little mortified by my childhood crush on Sam West’s Caspian), and I’m even relatively fond of the new movies, although I haven’t seen Dawn Treader yet. I’m afraid they’ll butcher my favorite book. The current practice of numbering the books in chronological order instead of publication order is clearly blasphemy.

I can’t reread them unconditionally any more; The Horse and His Boy makes my skin crawl, as does the theology in The Last Battle. And I’m highly sympathetic toward Neil Gaiman’s “The Problem of Susan.” But a few months ago I bought a wardrobe. And yes, I do check the back of it every once in a while. Just, y’know, in case.

30 Days of Books: Day Eleven

(This post-every-other-day thing is working for me so much better than the post-every-day thing. Live and learn, I suppose.)

Day 11 – A book that disappointed you

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis. I read this in a SF book club at our public library in high school, and I really did want to like it. I loved Narnia, I loved science fiction, surely science fiction by C. S. Lewis would be wonderful! Not so much. I can’t actually remember anything about the book at this point, except that it was boring.

I read That Hideous Strength later, in a college literature class about modern mythologies. I still didn’t like it, but at least this time I remember why: there’s just too much allegory. The character who stands in for the combination of Jesus and King Arthur is flat-out annoying, and there’s so much Meaning packed into it at times that it’s hard to get at the story. I should have enjoyed the embodiments of the planets, who basically functioned in the story as minor deities, but with all the explicitly Christian allegory that annoyed me too.

Alas, not all books are for everyone. If anyone can present me with a compelling reason to go back and read the whole trilogy, I might give it a try, but it would never be high on my priority list.

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