I learned about Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading in the blogosphere, where some homeschoolers have used it to great benefit as a springboard for literary study. It offers the detective as a metaphor for the attentive reader. In the same way detectives strive to solve mysteries, students of literature investigate books. Instead of focusing on suspects and a crime scene, readers piece together the basic clues of a book: protagonists and antagonists, setting and plot. After figuring out the basic structure…Continue Reading “Deconstructing Penguins”

I’ve had a great experience reading this little book by John Eldredge aloud to my two daughters. Epic: The Story God is Telling and the Role that is Yours to Play takes up the question of why the most popular books and movies move us so deeply. Its answer? They follow the same pattern as the creation/redemption story which, Christians believe, defines the terms for understanding human experience. We recognize its themes and movements instinctively because we are born into this story, and it creates…Continue Reading “Epic”

What then, were the Inklings? Was John Wain right to call them (as we reported on the first page of this study) ‘a circle of instigators, almost of incendiaries, meeting to urge one another on in the task of redirecting the whole current of contemporary art and life’? Were they, rather, just a circle of friends, sharing talk, drink, jokes, and writings? Something in between or something other? The question vexed the Inklings themselves, their supporters, and their detractors during the group’s existence and after…Continue Reading “The Fellowship”

For those interested in a thought-provoking journey into a writer’s mind, this collection of C.S. Lewis’s literary essays contains some gems. Aside from the title essay, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, it contains Lewis’s insights into the process by which some of his stories came to be, critical perspectives on some of his contemporaries (Tolkien, Sayers, Williams, Orwell…), and forays into literary questions such as what it takes to write for children, fairy tales, science fiction, and standards for good literary criticism….Continue Reading “On Stories and Other Essays on Literature”

I’ve been thinking about the title essay of this collection. In it, C.S. Lewis ponders what we’re really after in our reading, and takes issue with the notion that there is a certain class of literature that we read purely for the excitement and suspense. He contends that the thrills of high-action, suspenseful stories can be a distraction from what we really love about them: their ability to convey us to other worlds. The best stories, for Lewis, are not merely plot-driven, but lay out…Continue Reading “On Stories — C.S. Lewis”

Plan once appealed to me, but I have grown to be a natural worshiper of Serendipity and Whim; I can try to serve other gods, but my heart is never in it. I truly think I would rather read an indifferent book on a lark than a fine one according to schedule and plan. And why not? After all, once upon a time we chose none of our reading: it all came to us unbidden, unanticipated, unknown, and from the hand of someone who loved…Continue Reading “The Pleasures of Reading”

It’s hard to know where to begin writing about the experience of reading The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. It isn’t a book about evolution, which the author accepts as a true account of human origins. It’s a book about the Bible, one that challenges us to think about how our view of Adam needs to evolve in the face of the archaeological and scientific discoveries since the 19th century. I found it to be a fascinating,…Continue Reading “The Evolution of Adam”

Have you ever wanted to escape your time? Most of us read at least partly to do just that. But our efforts are limited by something we can’t easily escape: our own minds, so steeped in the spirit of the age, so conditioned by present day knowledge and perspective. We may venture into works from the distant past, but we bring our modern perspective with us. It shapes our understanding of what we read. But suppose we encounter a true expert — someone deeply and…Continue Reading “The Discarded Image”

A Room of One’s Own is around 100 pages long. It’s Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness essay (originally a speech to an all-women’s college in 1929) on the subject of women in fiction. At least, that’s what she sets out to address; she ends up delving into the ways women have been so oppressed throughout history that they have never (as of the time of this essay) developed their own distinctive literary style. Is it true that, as Woolf contends, “a woman must have money and a…Continue Reading “A Room of One’s Own”

I picked up┬áThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie at a publisher’s book sale that comes to our area once a year. It has one of the most attractive covers ever, in my opinion, and as someone who has read and reread the Little House books, I dropped it into my book bag without having to think about it. Reading it was a different story. I actually considered throwing it away after the first fifty pages or…Continue Reading “The Wilder Life”