“The Hobbit is merely the adaptation to children of part of a huge private mythology of a most serious kind: the whole cosmic struggle as he sees it but mediated through an imaginary world. The Hobbit’s successor [The Lord of the Rings], which will soon be finished, will reveal this more clearly. Private worlds have hitherto been mainly the work of decadents or, at least, mere aesthetes. This is the private world of a Christian. He is a very great man. His published works (both imaginative & scholarly) ought to fill a shelf by now: but he’s one of those people who is never satisfied with a [manuscript]. The mere suggestion of publication provokes the reply ‘Yes, I’ll just look through it and give it a few finishing touches’ – wh. means that he really begins the whole thing over again.”
C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Charles A. Brady, October 29 1944.
In a great little collection of Eudora Welty’s essays called On Writing, she says the following in a piece called “Must the Novelist Crusade?”
“Time, though it can make happenings and trappings out of date, cannot do much to change the realities apprehended by the imagination. History will change in Mississippi, and the hope is that it will change in a beneficial direction and with a merciful speed, and above all bring insight, understanding. But when William Faulkner’s novels come to be pictures of a society that is no more, they will still be good and still be authentic because of what went into them from the man himself. Mankind still tries the same things and suffers the same falls, climbs up to try again, and novels are as true at one time as at another.”
If you’re interested in the craft of writing at all, the following video is filled with some pretty great stuff. It’s Doug Wilson, Alan Jacobs, and N.D. Wilson (son of Doug), talking about all kinds of writing-related miscellany. Some of it is a little rough and extemporaneous in the back-and-forth, but taken on its own terms, makes for a fun time. Enjoy.
Writers Round Table: Alan Jacobs, ND Wilson, and Doug Wilson from Canon Wired on Vimeo.
Some really neat thoughts here about writing and storytelling.
“[M]y main spiritual sustenance comes by the Holy Spirit from reading. Therefore reading is more important to me than eating. If I went blind, I would pay to have someone read to me. I would try to learn Braille. I would buy books on tape. I would rather go without food than go without books. Therefore, writing feels very life-giving to me, since I get so much of my own life from reading.”
John Piper, from A Godward Life (My first Piper book – still very thankful to Kevin Hall for giving it to me)
Here’s an excerpt from the essay (actually the manuscript of a lecture) by C.S. Lewis, called “Christian Apologetics.” You can find it in the collection God In The Dock. Part of the reason I post it, is because it expands a little more on what I said in my last post about The Fiddler’s Gun, and how that book can’t really be labeled “Christian” fiction, though it IS written by a Christian. Fiddler’s Gun has more of Lewis’ concept of “latent” faith woven right into the world of the story, rather than preachy faith. Of course Lewis’ concepts here aren’t true for all books Christians will or should write. It probably needs to be balanced by saying we absolutely need more good books that specifically preach Christianity as well. But what he says is pretty profound as we consider how to engage our Modern, or Postmodern world, in the most effective way for the kingdom of Christ, using (and writing about) our areas of giftedness and expertise.
Sorry about the length, but it’s all just so good. Lewis says,
“I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is take for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the re-conversion of this country is a series produced by Christians, which can beat the Penguin and the Thinkers Library on their own ground. Its Christianity would have to be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. Science twisted in the interests of apologetics would be sin and folly.”
From T.S. Eliot’s introduction to Pascal’s Pensees.
“[I}t is a commonplace that some forms of illness are extremely favorable, not only to religious illumination, but to artistic and litarary composition. A piece of writing meditated, apparently without progress, for months or years, may suddenly take shape and word; and in this state long passages may be produced which require little or no retouch. I have no good word to say for the cultivation of automatic writing as the model of literary composition; I doubt whether these moments can be cultivated by the writer; but he to whom this happens assuredly has the sensation of being rather the vehicle.”