Sunday, November 27, 2005

Narnia in The New Yorker


About a week ago, kidlit blogs were buzzing about The Prisoner of Narnia by Adam Gopnik in the Nov. 21 issue of The New Yorker. "Buzzing" is defined here as "announcing that an article about C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was in the Nov. 21 issue of The New Yorker." Original Content will give you more. Though not much.

As it turns out, I actually have that issue of The New Yorker because I subscribed to the magazine early this year. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I really don't care for it very much. I'm two, maybe three, issues behind in reading the things. But I made a point of keeping the Nov. 21 issue out of the heap of periodicals and catalogs in my living room and actually read the article in question.

Prisoner of Narnia includes a lot of information about Lewis's religious attitudes and how he came by them. Don't panic! This is a kidlit blog so I'm not going to go on and on about that. What really interested me about the article appeared on the very first page, anyway, though I did read the whole thing. Honest.

Gopnik starts his article by talking about how Lewis is viewed differently in America and Britain. Then he says "None of this would matter much if it weren't for Narnia. The seven tales of the English children who cross over, through a wardrobe, into a land where animals speak and lions rule, which Lewis began in the late nineteen-forties, are classics in the only sense that matters--books that are read a full generation after their author is gone."

Point One: Lewis, an academic man who wrote a number of books, is known for his children's books. His children's books have kept his name in front of readers. I am moved.

Point Two: Ever wondered what a "classic" book is? "...books that are read a full generation after their author is gone." Whether they're good, whether they're bad, people want to read them. There's a democratic, power-to-the-people aspect to that definition that I love.

Makes me wish I'd liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe a whole lot more than I did.

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