C.S. Lewis dies on Nov. 22, 1963, more than half a century ago. His death was obscured by the assassination of John F. Kennedy the same day, but the time since his death has demonstrated that the Christian apologist, novelist, historian, lecturer, teacher, broadcaster, science fiction writer, and more has continued to grow in stature and recognition. Lewis wasn’t simply a man for his time, but a man for our time as well.
Biographies and literary studies of the man and his works abound, and you might be forgiven for thinking that the world has more than enough books about Lewis. And yet, along comes C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press, and you realize there’s always something new to learn. OUP has been publishing a host of “very short introductions,” numbering now in the hundreds, covering authors, movements, science, technology, history, and other subjects. One of C.S. Lewis was due.
This very short introduction, coming in at 133 pages including references, further reading, and an index, is written by James Como, regarded as one of the leading scholars of C.S. Lewis in the world. He’s published Remembering C.S. Lewis: Recollections of Those Who Knew Him, Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences, and several other works on Lewis. A founding member of the New York C.S. Lewis Society, he is professor emeritus of Rhetoric and Public Communication at York College (CUNY).
Como takes us on a concise yet comprehensive journey of Lewis’s life and works. It’s primarily a literary study, from his writings as a young teen through his final works. Given Lewis’s prolific output, it’s amazing to see how Como packs the discussion of so much into so little space, without the reader feeling like he’s looking at nothing more than a suitcase full of facts. Como tells an engaging story, and he does an excellent job of it. The book is, as advertised, a very short introduction, and it leaves the reader wanting to know more.
And while I know I must have read this before, Como explains how Lewis came to be known as “Jack” by family and friends. He nicknamed himself, taking on the dame of a beloved pet killed accidentally.
C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction is ideal for those not familiar with the writer and apologist and also for those of us who are.