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C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1990)

by A. N. Wilson

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574931,423 (3.42)3
This acclaimed biography charts the progress of the brilliant, prolific writer, C. S. Lewis. C. S. Lewis was a deeply complex man, capable of inspiring both great devotion and great hostility. This acclaimed biography charts the progress of the clever child from the 'Little End Room' of his Ulster childhood and adult life, exploring Lewis's unwilling conversion to Christianity, the genesis of his writing, and the web of his relationships.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Nasty, Mean spirited biography. ( )
  Steve_Walker | Sep 13, 2020 |
Much better than I expected

Until recently, I had, like many other fans of C.S. Lewis, a very negative impression of Wilson's biography of him. That impression was based largely on discussions I had had with other Lewis fans on the Internet and on criticisms of Wilson coming from other Lewis biographers. I had heard that Wilson had lost his faith while writing Lewis's biography, and I thought that there was, therefore, not much chance of him presenting a sympathetic account of Lewis or of Christianity. A few months ago, I saw that this new printing of the book was to be released and was hopeful it would be a revised edition. When I discovered that it wasn't, I decided to buy and read it anyway and judge Wilson's work for myself.
As you can see by the rating I gave it, my verdict was quite positive. It is impossible to maintain, however, that the book is not seriously flawed. There are inaccuracies that have been catalogued by others. Wilson sometimes criticizes Lewis and his work in a way that strikes me as unfairly harsh. He also often seems inconsistent. As a small example, on p. 150 he characterizes the likening of Charles Williams' appearance to that of a monkey as "unkind", while on p. 170 Wilson is himself applying the word "simian" to Williams. There is occasionally a disjointedness to the text, as if Wilson sometimes forgot what he had written earlier in the book. Anecdotes or quotes are sometimes presented for the second time as if it were for the first.
Despite all that, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Perhaps Wilson doesn't write as well as Lewis, but he nevertheless writes very well. Wilson's alleged turn to agnosticism was, for me, not evident in his writing. (Whatever antireligious views he may have developed are certainly not as intrusive as, say, those of Richard Marius in his biographies of Sir Thomas More and Martin Luther.) The fact that Wilson is not as deferential to Lewis as are some of his other biographers brought, for me, a certain genuineness to those moments, not a few, when he expressed a high regard for Lewis and his writings. It is a pleasure to read someone with Wilson's eloquence write about some of my favorite books with sincere appreciation.
Wilson is often blunt and opinionated, and sometimes simply wrong. For me as a reader, that was a price worth paying. I come away from _C.S. Lewis: A Biography_ with a greater understanding and an even greater admiration for Lewis than I had before. ( )
2 vote cpg | Oct 14, 2017 |
There are two kinds of Lewis biographies: those that seek to depict the "real" person and hagiographies. Wilson falls into the former category. There is no question that Wilson admires Lewis and gives him due credit for his achievements. Lewis was also human -- like the rest of us -- and Wilson does not flinch to confront Lewis' faults. I was a little uncomfortable with the almost Freudian analysis of Lewis' emotional life, for it is difficult to know the inner life of another person. But he is careful, and since Lewis was a prolific correspondent, there is evidence that can be used. The description of the life of an Oxford (later, Cambridge) don was, to this academic, fascinating. I didn't know that Lewis participated in WWI trench warfare in France. That experience certainly had an impact on his thinking and writing.

Lewis was one of the last of the 19th century Romantics, which resonates with me. ( )
  KirkLowery | Apr 20, 2016 |
I first encountered C.S. Lewis as a literary critic, and only later as the Christian apologist and fantasy writer he is now cast as. I wanted to learn more about his scholarship and how his life developed from a more objective source than Lewis's autobiographical writing. Wilson's book fulfilled my expectations and goals in a flowing account of Lewis's life and work. ( )
  nmele | Sep 1, 2014 |
This book is like a good detective story: it builds to a great conclusion.

I can only base my understanding of C.S. Lewis upon this and other biographical details that I have read, but this reads as an intelligent attempt to get to the true character of the man. It makes some kind of sense of the many strange stories that surrounds the man and even covers the beatification which followed his death.
Lewis is perhaps best remembered for the Narnia stories and this time tells the fascinating tale as to how the Christian apollogist turned to writing children's stories. I will not spoil it by giving a brief presis, if you do not know, then it would be well worth reading the book just for that.

In addition to giving a view of Lewis' life, this work puts his religious and literary output into perspective too. A book well worth reading! ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Jan 15, 2014 |
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PREFACE
THE QUEST
FOR A WARDROBE
A child pushed open the door of the wardrobe so as to hide in it.
Clive Staples Lewis was born on 29 November 1898 in the city of Belfast.
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This acclaimed biography charts the progress of the brilliant, prolific writer, C. S. Lewis. C. S. Lewis was a deeply complex man, capable of inspiring both great devotion and great hostility. This acclaimed biography charts the progress of the clever child from the 'Little End Room' of his Ulster childhood and adult life, exploring Lewis's unwilling conversion to Christianity, the genesis of his writing, and the web of his relationships.

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