C.S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections By: John Lawlor
(Spencer Publishing Company, 1998, 132 pages)
For fans of C. S. Lewis, the author’s attraction lies not only in his writings but in the man himself. Over fifty years after his death, Lewis remains a personality who many look to as an almost saintly figure, even as some critics dismiss him as a curmudgeon and a chauvinist. This kind of disparity in evaluation of Lewis’ legacy is what makes a book like Lawlor’s C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections so valuable. Lawlor was first a pupil of Lewis’ and then a colleague. This means that in addition to having spent many hours in conversation with Lewis over a span of many years, he also understands thoroughly the Oxbridge context that Lewis operated within. The portrait he paints is a complex and interesting one.
In the first chapter, Lawlor describes the pupil/tutor relationship that he had with Lewis as an undergraduate. He describes Lewis as a fiercely logical thinker with high expectations for his pupils. He notes how he gradually gained Lewis’ respect despite their ideological differences. Lewis is depicted as an industrious figure with little capacity for small talk or anything else he dubbed a waste of time. However, the intellectual friendships he formed were immense importance to him, and Lawlor’s became one of those friendships.
Lawlor spends the next chapter discussing the general atmosphere of Oxford in the years that Lewis was there. From there, the better part of the book deals with individual works by Lewis. In addition to offering his own take on these books, Lawlor runs down any number of rabbit trails to discuss various literary topics. Though clearly an admirer of Lewis, Lawlor is often critical in his assessments of Lewis’ books. These discussions may not be of interest to casual fans of Lewis’ work, but for those interested in a full biographical picture of the author, Lawlor’s account is indispensable.