Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | March 20, 2009

Notes on Re-Reading

Re-reading is to reading as editing is to writing…. in that it seems to be more purposeful, and less creative. But then it’s easy enough as well to slip back from re-reading into simply reading again. And this latter is much more fun. I’m finding that the two seem to work better with turned down page corners… though the truth is… I miss my underliner. And for the record… I’m a normal guy.. for me, and underliner is a pen… not the Titanic or something else.

So I’m currently re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia. This started with trips to Barnes & Noble as well as Borders to spend those left-over Christmas gift cards. Imagine my surprise on not finding any Orthodox books! Right. Next, I tried the Science Fiction… but that’s turned increasingly into Tolkein rip-offs… and as much as I liked Frodo…. well… the second time around it wasn’t as good as the first. Tolkein really did match the Medieval model of formulaic writing… a bit too noticeably once the novelty of the plot is… well, already known… so I kept going with almost as much verve as the would-be supra-Tolkeins who keep writing… “Some day, I’ll be the next…”. I’m finding I’m spending more time these days in the History and Great Book sections… but really…. wouldn’t it be nice if they could organize it simply “You’re gonna love this stuff….” and “I’m not so sure about this stuff”.

So to make a short story shorter, I wandered over to the kids books where the stash of books discounted for the post-gift-giving-holiday-that-cannot-be-named lay, and struggled with what looked like the mother lode of promising titles. I’d be there still if it were not for closing time pressing the ever trustworthy Chronicles where I noticed they’d upped the five books I’d remembered to seven. My wife mentioned they’d added a prequel and something else… so I thought, “Hmmm….. looks like they were all published in the 1950’s…. let’s give it another shot.”

Fact is, I am certain someone’s going to volunteer that, yep, these things always were that way… all seven of them. And yet in my foggy memory the old packages had only five books. Each of the five was bound in a different paper. Ah…. but my imagination is it’s own deal, so while I seriously don’t remember The Magician’s Nephew at all…. I’m sure this is nothing new to most… but for my bit and for those like me…. it fills out the fullness of Narnia…. but then, that’s an Orthodox pitch, huh?

I mean… I remember starting with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe about fifty times before I actually managed to get into the book far enough to like it. I mean… really… a little girl and a faun…. and he’s expecting guys to read this stuff? How about a couple of explosions at the lampost followed by a faun smoking a stoggie and driving a jacked, pimped-out Humvee blasting out ghetto tunes while chased by a chopper? That would have grabbed attention… but C.S…. what don’t he know ’bout marketing, huh? Art? Who’s that?

So they finally package the bit in a convenient single wrapper you can use as a cinder block, a doorstop, or a Rowland substitute. So what once was five books… now as fast as you can say Harry met Potter… it’s seven… and little dears that were once thought incapable of sitting still for 100 pages now routinely sit for 800.. find they’re no longer underestimated. And Lord have mercy on the poor parents wishing to share these with their less enamored offspring…. it’s gonna take a while.

But simply put… reading these again is better than the first time. No surprise there. And he’s far more subtle than I remembered or expected… but it is nevertheless a pleasure to have the background to notice both the fine writing AND the rather well crafted apologetics.

Let me share three clips.

The first is one of the classic God-proofs, and is of course from what I now know as the second book:

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

Susan looked at him very hard and was quite sure from the expression on his face that he was not making fun of them.

“But how could it be true, sir?” said Peter.

“Why do you say that?” asked the Professor.

“Well, for one thing,” said Peter, “if it was real why doesn’t everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn’t pretend there was.”

“What has that to do with it?” said the Professor.

“Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time.”

“Are they?” said the Professor; and Peter did not know quite what to say.”

“But there was not time,” said Susan. “Lucy had had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than a minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours.”

“That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,” said the Professor. “If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it) – if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don’t think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.”

From Prince Caspian, comes another clip that seems to foreshadow his work in The Abolition of Man:

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day, in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”

Of course, I’m still reflecting on a discussion with Fr. Gregory on Eden and Evolution, and specifically on Christian Evolution as precisely the obverse of this – where the New Adam is fully realized… only we cannot tell the new from the old as the new remains hidden out of charity, and in all humility. The notion extends in a sort of transmission through the Eucharist… and more… but I’ll save that… and even the notion of the exclusive apostolic fullness of Orthodoxy as the DNA… for another time… when I’ve thought about it a bit more. But Darwin’s own physiological evolution seems derivative to me… and even unthinkable as a model without Christian acculturation.  So I continue to marvel at those troubled by his hypothesis… but then again, as the Loving Spoonful once sang, our worries are always our children’s cartoons.

The lastly, since I’d hate for anyone to go back to work without a smile, I’ve a clip that attests to the English ability to turn a phrase that reminds you that there really are at least two English languages! I mean I don’t know about you… but I get very funny pictures in my head… and etymology becomes a wonder on just reading this… almost as surely as what ol’ Jack thinks these kids might otherwise have looked like in a few months. I mean, really, what’s he trying to tell us?

“Of course, if the children had attempted a journey like this a few days ago in England, they would have been knocked up. I think I have explained before how Narnia was altering them. Even Lucy was by now, so to speak…”

Whoah! Jack… in a kids book? Can we talk here? I mean… you said something about the air, and how everybody was “looking older”, but I’m not sure where you’re goin’ with this…. I’m thinkin’ we… I mean you… “Hey, kids… there goes the ice cream truck!.Woncha take this five spot and buy your old man a napkin…?”


  1. What?! You didn’t buy Abolition of Man?? Tisk, tisk. It was on our reading list Weds. night.

    I’ve been thinking of reading The Last Battle – it’s been such a long time.

    That last quote was hilarious!

  2. […] E. Peretti , 2003. The original Christian modern day supernatural thriller.  This one will keep Notes on Re-Reading – 03/20/2009 March 20, 2009 in Reading Matter Re-reading is to reading as […]

  3. Re-reading…what an idea….but there’s so many UN-read books on my shelf. I think the only book I’ve ever re-read is Catch-22.

  4. Thanks for stopping by.

    Sometimes when I hit the wall…. I need a break… and while I rarely re-read, Narnia sure seems to wear well.

    Been hitting the wall a lot lately… quite a number of books “in-process” where a breather seemed in order. And something a little light.

    Catch-22 was one of my very favorite books… but I’ve not re-read it. Was it Yosarinan(sp?) who had the nuts in his mouth? That work was a tremendous piece of fabric.

    Been digging through the OLIC archives and listening to the Abbott Jonah Chronicles. I think the line I liked best was yours: “I came to the Church… not because of the theology, the dogma, or the worship, but through the sayings of the Fathers.” I think there’s a lot packed in that. It helps that the rest is all there… some of it we seek, some we at first are leery of, and some we need though we don’t even know it. It all helps. But the spirituality embodied in the pithiness of the Fathers… gets right to the heart of the matter and embodies the Christian spirit without impediment… in a way that just seems unavailable elsewhere. And so you stick.

    Thank you for all that you do for the rest of us waaaaay back the curve.

  5. Thanks James. Yeah, I’ve got a half dozen half read books laying around. I was talking to Patrick Barnes (of Orthodoxinfo) who attends our Mission quite a bit now and we were comparing notes on what we were reading and we danced around a bit and it turns out both of us are kind of like, “I’m tired of reading about “theology”, I’m kind of more interested in being a Christian for a change.” Its funny, sometimes I have to listen to bits of old OLIC programs to answer questions and its like “Gee… did I say that?” I need to go back and listen to myself and catch up to myself I think.

  6. Amazingly… your quote was just about dead-on for part of my last confession… not THE last (yet) though it will probably lie there, too…but there all the same. This of course means I’m not far along in peeling the onion… and hiding more than I know.

    I think the greater insights we find are those offered almost inadvertantly by some of our greater lights… “the greater miracle is…..”. Have to make a list of these sometime.

  7. Reading order preferred by CSL after writing all:

    Magician’s Nephew
    Lion Witch Wardrobe
    Horse & boy
    Prince Caspian
    Voyage …
    Silver Chair
    Last Battle


    order of writing:

    LWW – PC – Voyage – SC – H&B (which must be the five books you had in your package) and only second last MN juste before writing LB

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