Friday, December 21, 2007

Learning to write by reading a writer writing to readers

I recently checked this book out from a library. Yes, I confess that I skipped the first two volumes, as this third tome is a compilation of letters written by Clive Staples Lewis in the years of his prominence as a writer (namely, from 1950-1963).

It has an amazingly thorough index, which allows the purveyor to consider particular themes, books, concepts, people, or almost anything that you can imagine, as written about by Lewis to a variety of different people including children, literary peers, friends, and other luminaries of his day.

Several things strike me about Lewis' writing, in its most personal form of expression.

One is that his letters, even when brief, are written with care. How idly do my fingers type on an IM or e-mail, or yes, even a blog. This must change, and change it must.

Second, his love of reading permeates his writing. So many letters are full of spontaneous quotes of Shakespeare, Greek and Latin writers, and even when writing to Tolkien, he uses a quote from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Third, he has the view of the world that I am hoping to consistently apply to my life. From writing about morality in general to the particulars of a decision on divorce made by Anglican bishops to writing a letter completely in Latin to a Roman Catholic Dom, Lewis sought communication with all of God's people. Which makes me wonder, what would he have thought about the latest doings in Canterbury and the rest of the world? But I suppose that is a subject more fittingly addressed on Contrarian Presbyterian.

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