maura @ 8:58 pm
I just finished reading The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Guide to Narnia, by Salon.com’s Laura Miller. Yeah, I know, late to the party again — the book’s been out (and on my list) for a couple of years now. But Jonathan read it earlier this year and raved about it so much that we decided it passed the library test, and I put it on my list for my birthday last month.
The book is sort of a mashup of literary criticism of the Chronicles of Narnia and a biographical exploration of C.S. Lewis’s life and influences, with a hefty dose of Miller’s own history as a fan of the books, from her love of them as a child through her teenage disillusionment when she realizes that the books are full of Christian themes and on to adulthood. The whole book is a great read, but if you’re at all a Friend of Narnia it’s especially wonderful for her discussions of her own (and others’) childhood fascination with the books. In many ways the books are much more complex than they seem, and Miller is adept at exploring what makes them so compelling to so many children that those children continue to love Narnia as grown-ups. Our girl name was Lucy and our runner-up boy name was Eamonn (which is Irish for Edmund), so as you can imagine both Jonathan and I fit into that category.
It was also really interesting to read about her disillusionment with the books when she discovered their pervasive Christianity, which she realized after reading a piece of criticism of the Chronicles. In many ways Miller and I have similar backgrounds: I was also raised Catholic (though we weren’t the most devout by any means), went through all of the sacraments, and as an adult I am not Catholic. As far as I know there wasn’t a specific incident that drove me away from the church — I think that as a kid I just found Mass to be dull (though I did like the singing) and then as a teen I decided that all religions were hypocritical (as teens are wont to do). But as an adult I’m most comfortable as an agnostic, so that’s where I am now.
Unlike Miller, I don’t remember feeling betrayed when I reread the Chronicles as a teen. I think I was a bit older — late high school? — by which time it was readily apparent that Christianity ran through the whole series. But I don’t think the knowledge made me think negatively of the books.
It’s curious to think of it now. I’ve read them so often that I can’t actually remember when I read them for the first time, maybe age 10 or 11? A little late, if then. It’s been a while since I’ve read them as an adult, and reading this book makes me think it’s high time I started them again. We’ve tried to get Gus to read them but sometimes he’s really resistant to our book suggestions. Perhaps the best strategy is for me to read them to him?