The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller
THE MAGICIAN'S BOOKis the story of one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. As a child, Laura Miller read and re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and its sequels countless times, and wanted nothing more that to find her own way to Narnia. In her skeptical teens, a casual reference to the Chronicles's Christian themes left her feeling betrayed and alienated from the stories she had come to know and trust. Years later, convinced that "the first book we fall in love with shapes us every bit as much as the first person we fall in love with," Miller returns to Lewis's classic fantasies to see what mysteries Narnia still holds for adult eyes--and is captured in an entirely new way.
In her search to uncover the source of these small books' mysterious power, Miller looks to their creator, Clive Staples Lewis. What she discovers is not the familiar, idealized image of the author, but a man who stands in stark contrast to his whimsical creation-scarred by a tragic and troubled childhood, Oxford educated, a staunch Christian, and a social conservative, armed with deep prejudices.
THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is an intellectual adventure story, in which Miller travels to Lewis's childhood home in Ireland, the possible inspiration for Narnia's landscape; unfolds his intense friendship with J.R.R.Tolkien, a bond that led the two of them to create the greatest myth-worlds of modern times; and explores Lewis's influence on writers like Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Franzen, and Philip Pullman. Finally reclaiming Narnia "for the rest of us," Miller casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination. Erudite, wide-ranging, and playful, THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is for all who live in thrall to the magic of books.
Laura Miller is a co-founder of Salon.com, where she is currently a staff writer, and a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine and other publications. She is the editor of The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors (Penguin, 2000). She lives in New York.
Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia 4.8 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Laura Miller's account of her childhood love, later teen angst and even later adult acceptance of and renewed pleasure in C.S. Lewis's Chronicle of Narnia series is like having a conversation with a smart, interesting, thoughtful friend who makes you feel smart, interesting and thoughtful as well.
Miller's establishes herself by listing some of her favorite childhood books (Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Edward Eager's Half Magic series) and describing her reactions to them - all favorable but none as complex as her reactions to the Chronicles. She plumbs into her reasons for the variations in her reactions and supports her emotional reactions with some good research - Lewis's autobiography, some children's lit. theory, and comes up with clear and engaging musings on her reactions.
But, the best part is the way that she does some excellent close readings of Lewis's own work and demonstrates the ways that his Christianity is a complex and flexible ideology, one closer to nature and celebratory joy in the material world than one would initially assume (especially after seeing "Shadowlands" with Anthony Hopkins admirably playing a staid and restrained Lewis).
Miller weaves together memoir, biography, theory, and a deft writing style that makes you feel like you just had the most interesting conversation in your life without feeling stuffy or pretentious, just plain smart.
More than 1 year ago
The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventure in Narnia, by Laura Miller
Despite the subtitle, this book is not just for readers of C.S. Lewis. It’s a smart, analytical, broadly focused examination of the intellectual and psychological value, especially for children, of reading fantasy literature. Lewis’s work is the primary focus of this examination, but Miller also discusses works of children’s fantasy by Andersen through Yeats and all the alphabet in between. (The only “Z” I could think of—Zheng Yuanjie, prolific writer of Chinese fairy tales— didn’t make the cut.) This inclusive approach renders Miller’s analysis important to far more readers than only those adults who were childhood fans of The Chronicles of Narnia. But those who were—among them Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Franzen, and Philip Pullman—will find themselves thoroughly vindicated for whatever amount of time they whiled away in Narnia.
There apparently exists a fairly common perception that the Christian subtext of Lewis’s work means that the work is somehow “owned” by Christian readers. My only complaint about The Magician’s Book is that Miller expends far too much print politely disagreeing with this notion instead of simply dismissing it as balderdash. The English language and its literature evolved primarily within a Christian cultural context. The understanding of literary allusions, symbols, and motifs that derive from Christian culture (such as Aslan’s sacrifice and resurrection recalling Christ’s) is available to any discerning reader of English regardless of personal religious convictions (if any). One does not have to subscribe to an ideology in order to understand it. My child does not have to be a Hindu in order to enjoy Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Emily Haynes and Sanjay Patel, and she does not have to be a Christian in order to enjoy Lewis’s The Silver Chair or The Last Battle. Plenty of excellent literary critics understand John Milton’s über-Christian Paradise Lost despite being Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, or atheist. Miller’s patience with such parochial tribalism far exceeds mine.
That one tetchy caveat aside, The Magician’s Book is the best book on reading I’ve seen in years. Miller beautifully articulates the inestimable value of children’s fantasy in cultivating intelligent, sympathetic, and creative minds. Commenting on “the intense bond between parent and child or between a god and his worshipper,” she observes that such a bond, based in a “desire to be carried away by something greater than oneself,” can also exist between book and reader. As Meryl Koh points out in her Huffington Post blog examining the value of fantasy in children’s literature, "a work of fantasy compels a reader into a metaphorical state of mind, allowing more room for imagination and by association, more insights and perspectives.” Since most of what drives the human intellect is not data but abstraction—truth, justice, education, liberty, selflessness, and so on—a child who has traversed Narnia, Hogwarts, Middle-earth, Neverland, Oz, Lilliput, or Whoville perhaps stands a better chance of developing into a more curious, tolerant, and fearless adult than one whose reading world has been limited to Sunnybrook Farm.
More than 1 year ago
I now love the land of Narnia well i have my reasons and you have yours now i will not tell myn but what i will tell is NARNIA ROCKS