A few months ago I was at Books for America in DC (see post #152) and saw A Confederacy of Dunces on the shelf. I have passed this by at many used bookstores, but always interested. The winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize. I had never read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Lewis, through Screwtape, says "You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the 'best' people, the 'right' food, the 'important' books." Yet, I have been drawn to the book for some time, possibly a favorable word I read or heard somewhere along the way. I opened the cover and found a forward by Walker Percy and knew he would not lead me astray. I read his words and decided to make the purchase. I will not give a review but will point you to the New York Times review from 1980 and agree this is a laugh out loud story, a hint of sadness but extremely funny and worth the time.
What of C.S. Lewis to include my personal reading on this blog? First, the quote below to justify time spent reading such a comedic novel. Life is serious business for the Christian, is there really time to spend on such a book? Lewis covers this in his essay "Christianity and Literature" and within many other essays as well, Literature was his job, so he had personal interest in the subject.
Second, the main character, Ignatius Reilly, is a man standing against modernity, not unlike Lewis, a dinosaur. Whereas Lewis is a noble dinosaur, a specimen we look at when we visit the Smithsonian and gaze in awe and wonder, Ignatius Reilly is a dinosaur put together with the leftover pieces. Maybe this is what he would have looked like, thinks the museum curator, though everyone gawks and laughs, knowing this to be a mistaken, misshapen representation. And my reason for posting this, Ignatius Reilly sees himself as a Medieval Man. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius makes many appearances in the story, not only the ideas but Ignatius' loaned copy plays a role in his fate as well. And The Consolation of Philosophy is the link as Lewis listed it in his top ten list of books that shaped his philosophy of life when asked by a magazine.
When considering a Christmas gift for the reader in your life consider A Confederacy of Dunces.
"But the Christian knows from the outset that the salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world ... He has no objection to comedies that merely amuse and tales that merely refresh; for he thinks like Thomas Aquinas ipsa ratio hoc habet ut quandoque rationis usus intercipiatur. We can play, as we can eat, to the glory of God."
“… the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the
Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is
uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature, descended into His own
universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one
great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian
From "The Grand Miracle" as found in God in the Dock
"We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is 'good', because it is good, if 'bad' because it works in us patience, humility and contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country." From a letter to Don Giovanni Calabria from Lewis dated August 10, 1948 I have posted this quote on Thanksgiving before, but find it worth another showing, Happy Thanksgiving!
"I am sorry that I have not answered your letters sooner; but Jack Lewis's death on the 22nd has preoccupied me. It is also involving me in some correspondence, as many people still regard me as one of his intimates. Alas! that ceased to be so some ten years ago. We were separated first by the sudden apparition of Charles Williams, and then by his marriage. Of which he never even told me; I learned of it long after the event. But we owed each a great debt to the other, and that tie with the deep affection that it begot, remains. He was a great man of whom the cold-blooded official obituaries only scraped the surface, in place with injustice." Letter #252 from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien We often hear how Tolkien and Lewis's relationship grew cold towards the end of Lewis's life. It is good to read from a primary source concerning this. Interestingly, this is a draft of a letter to Tolkien's son Michael and the above words "We were separated ... long after the event" are struck out of the draft copy.
"So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age - like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots. Very sad that we should have been so separated in the last years; but our time of close communion endured in memory for both of us. I had a mass said this morning, and was there, and served ... The funeral at Holy Trinity, the Headington Quarry church, which Jack attended, was quiet and attended only by a few intimates ... There will be an official memorial service in Magdalen on Saturday at 2:15 p.m." From a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien to his daughter on November 26, 1963, the day of C.S. Lewis' funeral, 50 years ago today.
A young Lewis with a toy Father Christmas on a horse.
Our November meeting will take place tomorrow, Monday the 25th - 6:15pm in the Trust Conference Room at the C. Burr Artz Library. We will be discussing what C.S. Lewis thought about Christmas based on a selection of his writings.