Sunday, June 21, 2015

Remembering with advantages …

… The American Scholar: The High Road to Narnia - George Watson. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Like Pound and Eliot before them, Tolkien and Lewis had something worth saying. Modern fiction, they believed, had lost the plot. Pound and Eliot, who led the Parisian riffraff, did not tell stories, and Joyce and Virginia Woolf seemed to think it the least interesting thing a novelist ever did. Nobody retold ancient and traditional tales. But art is tradition. The Greeks called Memory the mother of the Muses, and Lewis, whose training was classical, believed the Ancients had got it right. Originality is the most overrated of the virtues, and in The Discarded Image(1964), which appeared months after his death, Lewis imagined someone challenging Chaucer and Shakespeare to explain why they so seldom invented stories, and their reply: “Are we reduced to that?” No wonder he was amused in his last years by the complaint that the Narnia stories were unoriginal. They were meant to be.

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