The Narnian by Alan Jacobs is, in Jacobs's own words, "almost a biography in the usual sense of the word." The 'almost' is important because the book isn't filled to the brim with dates and events, nor is it completely chronological. Rather, The Narnian details "the life of a mind, the story of an imagination." That story is one of the most fascinating things I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Jacobs is, like myself, an admitted Lewis fan, but it does not come through in his writing as one might think it would. He does not portray Lewis as some sort of super-Christian, nor does he shy away from the unpleasant and undesirable details of Lewis's life. The picture Jacobs paints seems to be a well-rounded and balanced one (I use the phrase 'seems to be' because The Narnian is the only Lewis biography I have read).
I struggled with how to present the contents of the book in a way that did justice to all of Lewis's life and, in the end, decided it was impossible. How could I sum up a man's life in a few words? The task took Jacobs 314 pages, and he left out a great deal of information. Therefore, instead of trying to summarize the book, I am going to offer up a couple of its more interesting and thought provoking passages.
When asked to provide Macmillan with a biographical sketch of himself in 1944, Lewis wrote the following:
I was a younger son, and we lost my mother when I was a child. That meant very long days alone when my father was at work and my brother at boarding school. Alone in a big house full of books. I suppose that fixed my literary bent. I drew a lot, but soon began to write more. . . . I wrote the books I should have liked to read if only I could have got them. That's always been my reason for writing. People don't write the books I want, so I have to do it for myself. . . I loathed school. . . . I gave up Christianity at about fourteen. Came back to it when getting on for thirty. An almost purely philosophical conversion. I didn't want to. I'm not the religious type. I want to be left alone, to feel I'm my own master: but since the facts seemed to be the opposite I had to give in. My happiest hours are spent with three or four old friends in old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs---or else sitting up till the small hours in someone's college rooms talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer, tea, and pipes. There's no sound I like more than adult male laughter. (p. xviii-xix)
And, in concluding a talk on apologetics, Lewis said:
I have found nothing is more dangerous to one's own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of the faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments . . . into the Reality---from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. [emphasis added] (p. 229)
Like I said earlier, the book was a fascinating read. I would recommend The Narnian to anyone interested in learning more about C. S. Lewis.