Thursday, December 18, 2008

Disappointing Book & Solution

One son picked a book about CS Lewis from my wish list to receive as a stocking present. He found this annoying, that I would ask him would pick from my list. The alternatives are worse, of course. For a main present we of course check his list, but for stocking presents he would be entirely dependent on "what Pops thinks he will like," or worse, "what Pops thinks he should have." He cut his losses and chose.

The purpose, of course, is that I can read the book before I give it to him. My brother and I have for years regarded this as a perk of giving books to each other, and I just transferred it over to my sons.

This particular book is disappointing, however, which adds to the difficulty. It is Peter Schackel's Is Your Lord Large Enough? It's accurate enough and in no way objectionable. Schackel does indeed capture some main points of Lewis's thought and set out the questions. He chooses his quotes well, which gives a good exposure to a variety of works by Lewis. It is the quotes from Lewis, Chesterton, and MacDonald, however, which highlight the flatness of his own writing. Worse, it has discussion questions at the end of each chapter (shudder). For the first forty pages I mentally composed a short note I would include with the book to render it more readable. At the top of the list was a directive to ignore the discussion questions or at most, read only the first one each chapter.

They were good enough questions in their own way. They were exactly the sorts of life-changing thought questions that all of us would profit from. They reflected exactly what one should ponder from Lewis. There just didn't seem to be any need to answer them. Or to do more than skim the Schakel writing between the Lewis quotes. It all seemed a lot of effort for a small return.

If the point is to read Lewis quotes, why not get something actually written by Lewis? So I did, and one that I think fits Ben particularly well. Lewis can raise large issues quite on his own without any help from modern commenters. That's where I should have started to begin with. He'll get two books, and may even get more juice out of the first one than I did, now that he knows its pitfalls.

Primary sources. How could I forget such a basic rule?


Donna B. said...

Primary sources, often overlooked in exchange for easily digested ideas.

Mere Christianity (I'm too dumb to do tags) is one of the books most influential on my life, though I'm not "quite" a believer.

GraniteDad said...

I just sent you a list of books for me.

Ben Wyman said...

I feel a better solution for next year would be to have me list a lot of books that I would like that you might also be interested in, and then YOU choose from that list the one that you'd like to read first. That way, I'm still surprised and you still get to make the decision. For example, any of the Malcolm Gladwell's would've been a good pick this year.

Also, I'm thrilled to learn that my present this year will be disappointing, though it's nice that I'm getting an extra book.

GraniteDad said...

I agree with Ben. I'd rather give a list and have YOU choose. Plus, it might broaden your horizons.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You mean like the list you gave me two days ago this year?

Ben's idea is great. A long list of books is what it is.