Friday, October 1, 2010

The Magician's Book by Laura Miller

Laura Miller is a cofounder of and writes frequently in The New York Times Book Review.  She is also the editor of The Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors.   In The Magician's Book, she takes readers back to her discovery of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles Of Narnia, and how they changed her life as a child.

Miller was entranced by the books as soon as she read them.  This absorption lasted for many years, but then was marred when she read some criticism and realised what had been obvious to most adult readers; that the Chronicles were an allegory that replayed the Christian tenets of a savior who self-sacrifices to save the world.  She felt manipulated and used, and it took many years before she could come back and enjoy the series again as an adult.

The book gives the reader background about Lewis' life, his friends and his influences.  He was a great friend of Tolkien, who was writing his epic Lord Of The Rings series.  But while Tolkien was very serious, creating an entire universe and worried about its consistency, Lewis saw his series as fairy tales and borrowed bits and pieces that didn't make logical sense but somehow combined into a magical world.

There is also much discussion of how language is used; how older, oral literature is mirrored in more modern works, and how authors construct their works.  This is a fascinating look behind the scenes that only someone as connected to this world as Miller can give the average reader.  She also brings in several other modern authors like Neil Gaiman and Susannah Clark for their childhood and adult reactions to the Chronicles.

This book is recommended for those readers who enjoyed the Chronicles as a child and who are interested to see how they were constructed and the meanings behind various scenes.  I've been listening to the books this past year with my daughter and so found this book fascinating. 

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