Summer has come and now almost gone and taken with it almost all motivation and discipline I may have possessed to keep up with my reading. But now that I find myself near the end of summer and the business of summer youth events, it’s time to get back to it. I managed to finish 2 books in the past couple months. First was the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and the second was C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath. While I might refer to some crossover between these two works, know that I did not and do not intend to make any kind of pointed commentary on the life of C.S. Lewis by reviewing these books together. That being said, let’s get into it!
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
First, let’s talk about Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I have always enjoyed this story since I was a young boy. I remember reading a Great Illustrated Classics version of this tale of duality and enjoyed different Hollywood iterations. I recall watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and thinking (wrongly) that Jekyll and Hyde were a type of superhero team; the brains and the brawn something in the vein of The Incredible Hulk. I learned later in life that The Incredible Hulk was indeed inspired by this story and in the comic book’s earlier beginnings, there were more similarities between the two. For instance, Bruce Banner used to seemingly turn into the Hulk at night and not necessarily when he was angry.
Both The Incredible Hulk and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde hit on themes of duality and primal releases of repressed aggression that seem to resonate with me. I don’t consider myself an angry person in the least but the Hulk has always been one of my favorite superheroes. However, I do find I love the idea of the repressed, or rather, the disciplined and reigned in savage nature that resides in someone that could suddenly be released if they are pushed too far. The idea of an inner strength that is held back due to its lack of civility and the very real strength required to keep that uncivilized strength at bay really strikes a chord with me. Most forms of stoicism do I suppose. The quiet strength.
I enjoyed getting to take in this familiar story in its original form and rediscovering the themes within that are more human than superhero.
C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet
I’ve only read a handful of C.S. Lewis’ works. I’ve read Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Problem of Pain. I’ve taught from The Four Loves and I’ve had The Chronicle of Narnia books read to me since I was a child. I always liked The Lord of the Rings series better but I might have been guilty of holding that position because I liked the LOTR movies better. In any case, I certainly have a deep respect for C.S. Lewis and I look forward to delving deeper into his other celebrated works I have yet to enjoy such as Surprised By Joy, The Great Divorce, and Till We Have Faces.
I had been pretty ignorant as to who C.S. Lewis was and mostly knew him from reputation and his more popular works. Alister McGrath does a great job of laying out a thorough chronological account of Lewis’ life. McGrath unapologetically points out the things that we can’t know for certain about Lewis but does a fine job of laying out the narrative of Lewis’ life from what we do know from his writings, letters, journal entries, and other written accounts.
McGrath’s account helped me appreciate the humanness of Lewis or “Jack” as was his nickname. He made mistakes, even questionable decisions. Despite these, it can’t be denied the literary genius that he was. It was impressive to read how he’d have students test his memory in a game where they’d take books at random from his library, recite a random passage and Lewis would then identify the book and often finish the passage from memory. Learning about his father and brother and his relationship with both was very revealing as was his childhood in Ireland. You can almost imagine Lewis stepping through the magical wardrobe of his childhood memories and returning to the green Irish landscapes in his descriptions of Narnia. And his strong emphasis on the importance of the imagination was striking, though I’d wager I’ll see more of that in his works I have yet to read.
Though a longer book for this amateur reader, I enjoyed getting to know Lewis better through McGrath’s work.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll be reviewing next time but whatever it is it will be shorter. 🙂