The Mostest Authors: Lewis and McKillip

As you can see, we’re deep into exam week and I’m abusing the English language left and right out of sheer malice exhaustion.  Anyway, I shall be limiting myself to the books on my shelf here at school.  Were I at home, I’d get somewhat different results (which numbers, if we were going to stick to the physical volumes on the shelves, would be heavily skewed by the fact that I own 27 of the 28 volumes of CLAMP’s Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle manga).  But here on my lovely handmade bookshelf of golden wood, within an arm’s reach of my desk, the maximum count is 12 volumes by Oxford don C.S. Lewis.  However, because these almost all happen to be nonfiction (with the exception of a poetry volume, a novella, and a few short stories), I also shall include the top fiction count, in order to give a slightly more accurate representation of the kinds of stories that win my heart.  Thus, I also include (surprise) Patricia A. McKillip, for 7 volumes.  Though technically if we want to count individual works contained in omnibus editions, that’s 10 books.  Err, though I own duplicate volumes of 2 of them.  But that’s further proof of my love, right?

 C.S. Lewis

 While Lewis’s fiction is delightful and instructive (Philip Sidney would be proud!), I think I particularly love him for his non-fiction.  He has such a clear, conversational prose style that takes almost no effort to read.  And he has a wonderful way of taking ideas that I’ve had myself and articulating them much more clearly than I can, such that the experience of reading him is almost a discovery of my own thoughts.  My two favorites of his nonfiction works are The Four Loves and An Experiment in Criticism.  I enjoy them because they are meditations on two things that I value greatly as both a Christian and a storyteller: love and literature.  I particularly recommend the latter to all fellow bibliophiles: it describes beautifully many of the things that we find so appealing, no–enchanting about the activity of reading (and of course, rereading!).  I offer you two quotes, one from either book.

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).  The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What?  You too?  I thought I was the only one.”

The Four Loves

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

An Experiment in Criticism

Patricia A. McKillip

I already touched on some of the things I love about her stories in my meme post a few weeks ago, but I’ll see if I can expand that a bit.  Well, for one thing, most of her stories (with the exception of an early trilogy and a few duologies) are stand alone stories that feel cozy in their self-contained worlds.  And speaking of worlds, while deeply intricate worldbuilding can be magical (see Lord of the Rings or Dune), sometimes too much worldbuilding can be almost overwhelming and burdensome to the reader.  McKillip’s worlds are always well-realized, but the details create the background, against which her delightful, sympathetic, and interestingly-named characters can shine.  And so many of her characters are ones that readers will like, because they share our own loves for mystery, music, history, and stories.  I also love that McKillip uses a wide cast of interesting characters from all social stations and occupations, rather than focussing on a single “chosen one,” as a certain branch of fantasy novels tend to do.  And her language!  Her prose is beautiful, sensuous and evocative and perfectly pitched to create the atmosphere of her chosen setting, whether it be a cozy harbor town, a wild sea-swept island, or the music-filled halls of a royal conservatory.

My first McKillip

I recently discovered the existence of her very second published work, the Throme of the Erril of Sherill, and was blessed to find a beautiful ex-library copy for my very own.  I shall leave you with the lyrical, enchanting opening lines.

The Erril of Sherill wrote a Throme.  It was a deep Throme, and a dark, haunting, lovely Throme, a wild, special, sweet Throme made of the treasure of words in his deep heart.  He wrote it long ago, in another world, a vaguely singing, boundariless land that did not exist within the kingdom of Magus Thrall, King of Everywhere.

8 thoughts on “The Mostest Authors: Lewis and McKillip

  1. The treasure of words in his deep heart!

    How lovely. Sometimes I just like to examine the treasure of my word-hoard without actually writing anything with it, like a miser…perhaps I should write a throme, even though I’m not sure what it is.

  2. p.s. I left my manga out of the equation when I wrote my post, both because they easily outstrip any other form of book, and because they don’t represent my literary loves as well. Manga, to me, is more like tv, somehow. I love it, but for different reasons than I love literature. I guess that has to do with the visual nature of the medium.

    • Which manga do you read? I own a number of series, but my favorite is Tsubasa, followed by Fruits Basket. I’ve also been thinking I’d like to do a feature post on my top 5 anime series sometime soonish.

      • I usually like the first few volumes of any series by Rumiko Takahashi, before she drags a story on to death. Therefore I have a bit of InuYasha. I also have Fruits Basket. I’ve read various things, but that’s what I own.
        What anime do you like?

      • Sci-fi series are probably my favorites, but I like some romantic comedies or goofy stuff sometimes. I just bought Toward the Terra, a sci-fi show, and I’ve been watching that recently. But my Top 5 of All Time are (in no particular order): A Vision of Escaflowne, Last Exile, Darker Than Black, Rah Xephon, and Pretear. Those are all sci-fi but the last, which is a really cute shoujo series that blends the fairy tales of Snow White and Cinderella.

  3. I’m only familiar with the first of those. My anime-watching buddy has been in Japan for the last five years, so most of what I know and like is fairly old.
    Instead of cluttering up your comments with bunny-trails, I shall e-mail you.

  4. Part of me wishes Lewis had written more fiction, as the Space Trilogy and Till We Have Faces in particular hint at other classics he may have created, but I wouldn’t give up one word of his nonficton.

    The Bell at Sealey Head was a great introduction to McKillip’s more polished work, and I look forward to starting The Bards of Bone Plain.

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