Thursday 26 April 2018

Further Up & Further In Understanding Narnia - Joseph Pearce

Further Up & Further In: Understanding Narnia
Joseph Pearce
TAN Books
ISBN 9781505108668

This is only the second book by Joseph Pierce that I have read but after reading it I have added almost a dozen of his book to my wish list. For many readers this book will be a journey back, many readers would have read the Narnia books as children, or even had the books read to them. Some would have read them again in classes in high school, college or university. And some would have reread them with their own children or grandchildren. When I was a book seller, the box sets of Narnia and the single volume edition were extremely popular, especially around Christmas and Easter.

But my experience of Narnia is very different. For I have a dual form of dyslexia and could not read until after grade 7. And by then I had no interest in Narnia. But when I was in university, a chaplain recommended both Narnia and some of the fiction of George MacDonald to me. Those recommendations took me to new worlds, and one with very different lessons than those from books I was reading by Piers Anthony, Harry Harrison, Edgar Rice Burroughs and more. And as such these books were ones that started a drift it what I read and how. That first summer I am pretty sure I read these books through twice. Once in the publication order, the used box set I picked up had them numbered that way. And then reread them in the chronological order. And I am now reading them through with my son. And interestingly enough Pearce addresses the order they should be read in his Prefatory Note in fact he states:

"This is the order in which the Chronicles are now listed in all new editions, essentially formalizing it as the "correct" way in which they should be read. Walter Hooper, editor of Lewis's letters and probably the premier Lewis scholar in the world, maintains that this is "the sequence in which Lewis meant for them to be read." 1 His justification for such a claim rests in what Lewis told him personally in the summer of 1963 and is buttressed by a letter that Lewis wrote in April 1956 in which he states explicitly that he preferred that the books be read in this order. 2 Although I am aware that many good and reputable scholars still argue for the books to be read in the order in which they were originally published, I have chosen to follow the sequence that Lewis evidently preferred, discussing them in the order of the chronology of the stories."
This book begins with two chapters in part to set up the purpose and methodology used in this book, and stress why adults should indeed read fairy stories. And then there is a chapter dedicated to each of the volumes in the series itself. Therefore, the chapters in the book are as follows:

Why Wardrobes Are for Grown-Ups Too
Learning to Read Like a Grown-Up
The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
Further Up and Further In

This book draws heavily upon the study of Chesterton, and Chesterton's influence on Lewis. And I must admit my experience with Chesterton is lacking greatly. (But this book has spurred me on to remedy that.) Pearce states:

"In other words, and to reiterate, fairy stories give us the moral framework necessary to see the world as it is, in all its glorious heights and goriest depths, from the perspective of the way it should be. We learn to value the underdog and spurn the tyrant; we learn that small things need to be defended from the power of the mighty, which is the principle of subsidiarity as enshrined in Catholic social teaching. We learn to love the poor and rejoice in the exaltation of the humble; we learn that the ugly, the disfigured, and the disabled should be loved and not rejected; we learn that even the power of death can be defeated. Such lessons are not merely valuable and desirable; they are priceless and necessary. We are more than merely impoverished if we don't receive such gifts; we are dehumanized. We become less than we should be, less than we are meant to be. We become dragons who devour the innocent and lay waste to the world around us."
And let us draw one sentence from that paragraph:

"Such lessons are not merely valuable and desirable; they are priceless and necessary."
This book is an incredible read. For even casual fans of the Narnia books it will renew interest and likely lead to a rereading. For Fans of Lewis and hard-core fans of Narnia it will draw you in and re-spark that wonder from when you first read the books. As soon as I finished reading this book I wanted to start reading again 'The Magician's Nephew' and reread this book as I read each of the seven books. But I have decided to wait and make that a project for over the summer.

I absolutely loved this book! I only wish it was longer. Or that maybe it will be a jumping off point and now Pearce will write a volume on each of the Narnian books. One can hope. But no matter who you are, if Narnia left a mark on your heart, no matter your age at the time of reading, this book will ignite that love and wonder again, a bigger way. For as Lewis stated in 'The Last Battle': "The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets." And this book will help you to see that magic with new eyes and a new heart!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Joseph Pearce:
Further Up & Further In: Understanding Narnia
Literary Giants, Literary Catholics
Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life
C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church
Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief
Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning in The Hobbit
Frodo's Journey: Discover the Hidden Meaning of The Lord of the Rings
Merrie England: A Journey Through the Shire
Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton
Poems Every Catholic Should Know
Heroes of the Catholic Reformation: Saints Who Renewed the Church
Small Is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered
Shakespeare on Love: Seeing the Catholic Presence in Romeo and Juliet

Contributed to:
Tolkien: A Celebration - Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy

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