So, I’ve read this…

Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated CS Lewis by Abigail Santamaria.

My thoughts in brief:

  • I didn’t like Joy. At first, there were things to like. Oddly, when she became a Christian, she seemed to lose almost all likable qualities. She seemed to have more ‘goodness’ before her conversion. Reams could be written about that dynamic. I just ended up with a distaste for the poor woman.
  • CS Lewis didn’t seem to care much about the character of the person he chose as a partner. One would think that for just about anyone, especially respected and ethical people, character would be significant. But, CS Lewis seems to have seen something that was, to him, bright and shiny and exciting, and character didn’t have much to do with anything. Interesting. So, he could be shallow, too… Well, he was human and with faults like anyone else, but THAT kind of fault? It’s kind of a combination between disheartening and disturbing. He really didn’t seem to care that she treated people rudely, shorted them financially, quite possibly (from his understandably limited perspective) tore her kids away from a family life in order to pursue him, lied about her husband. Again, this could probably provide for reams of discussion on morality, forgiveness, judgment, etc.
  • Santamaria is very good about showing the complexity of any human. Not all good, not all bad. And, frankly, that is not something that is shown all the time, perhaps not even much of the time. Was she perhaps too successful in showing Davidman’s faults? I kind of have a (re)new(ed_ appreciation for the blindness to complexity that other biographers offer…. Who knew there was so much comfort in thinking less, understanding less?
  • There is a severe discomfort that comes from comparing oneself with Davidman, and also with reassessing CS Lewis and his ideas in light of his relationship with her. Reams, reams, reams…

Culled from the internet, here are some people’s reviews of Santamaria’s biography of Davidman:

Mark Oppenheimer’s review from the Sunday Book Review

Katrine Vigilius on The Gospel Coalition (Good one.)

Storybook of my childhood, I finally found you! (Again.)

book cover

As always happens, I was looking for one long-lost item when I ended up finding another, instead. I dearly loved this book when I was a child. I’ve been so wanting to see it again, and had no idea where it was. Turns out it was in a cabinet of books that I assembled not too long ago. As I didn’t recall doing that, and instead kept talking about the wonderful book I loved as a child and where in the world could it be, I am reminded of how stark are the impressions made in youth as opposed to those made, oh, yesterday. I could remember the pictures in the book but not the fact that I’d found and seen the book within the last few years. The memory is so strange.

But, when it comes down to it, I value the memory of those childhood reading moments more than I regret a duller memory about where I’ve put a book or some keys or whatever. The pictures in this book are so robustly colored, so vivid in an almost technicolor way. They are wonderfully and impossibly idyllic and show a world that never existed but that I grew up seeing so much of in the 1970s with all its (then relatively recent) 1950s pop-cultural hand me downs. I was a sucker for that front pages

Know what I mean? Remember all the retro cartoons on UHF channels in the afternoons back then? (Those were often from even earlier eras.) And, you could sometimes back then, when poking around a corner of your house, still run across a stray magazine with advertisements for a Thunderbird, or a Chevrolet and a family of toothy grinning perfect people on their way to see the USA? It was a sort of happy yesterday that burned itself into your little kid brain like fairy tales or mythology.

So, this book was one of those dreamy childhood memory-makers that sticks with you forever. One of. I’m still looking for more…

book first day

Look at the toys on the shelf and the picture perfect sunny scene for Peter’s first day. Mum is all aproned and well-coiffed. I ate it up, but who could blame me?

For your enjoyment (and, let’s face it, mine), here are some photos of my old, dear copy of Peter Goes to School. 



book jitters

Really, he looks scared. Even more so when you look at it as a 5 year old.

book party

I totally wanted to go to a kindergarten like that! Actually, I was fortunate to go to a kind of warm, old-schoolish place….

Gender in books and book marketing… Concerned?

The thing is a lot of little girls DO actually like the pink and the frou-frou, and I’ve certainly seen little boys who love machinery and other stereotypical ‘boy stuff.’ Is it wrong to highlight the pink as pink? And the blue as blue? Would girls really stay away from things for boys just because they are labeled as such? I would be concerned about boys who don’t feel comfortable reaching for the ‘girlish’ things. They should be encouraged to do what is natural for them, whatever it is. But the ‘girlish’ will still be the ‘girlish.’ And if that is what a boy or girl wants, why change it? Why not, instead, just embrace it all? The strictly pink or blue, the purple, the neutral yellow, etc… And encourage children to be whoever they are.

But, what do you think?? I’d love to hear thoughts from readers, parents, ex-children… I’m only two out of three. ;-)

The new little princess has a very pretty but quite annoying name.

At least, that is how I feel about it. And, despite all the loads of gushing on Facebook about how touching the name choices are, I am sure that I’m not the only one a bit put off by this choice.

All the names are wonderfully logical in the way they honor and make reference to recent family forebears. But, the first honors the grandfather who cheated from day one on his young wife, the grandmother. The second name honors the great grandmother who has so often seemed cold and unsupportive of anything Diana-related. Only in last place does Diana’s name come, a position that seems more of an afterthought (well, we have to get the name in there) than an honor. This is less touching than irritating.

This is, at least, how it struck me to first hear the name. My feelings may change. Maybe I underestimate the family. Perhaps the idea was to leave the best impression as the last impression. Maybe they are leaving the name Diana for Harry to use when he has children. Maybe, I’ve just become old and curmudgeonly and cynical in regard to the Windsors.

While I do love the communal celebration and opportunity to share happy new-baby circle-of-life feelings that a royal birth allows strangers to enjoy together, and I do really like this newest Middleton-Windsor branch of the royal family tree, this name choice thing rubs the wrong way. It seems too reminiscent of the old, just a subtle manifestation of the same-old at a time when fresh and new would have been SO appropriate and welcome.

Remembering Others’ Pasts

If there were dreams to sell,
Merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rang the bell,
What would you buy?

– T.L. Beddoes from Dream Pedlary

I’m not a big fan of novels written in diary form. I do, however, enjoy reading the real thing. I usually have to read a published work if I want to read someone’s account of their daily lives, since diaries are traditionally not a widely shared thing. (Blogs are another matter.)

So, the other night I had a lovely midnight reading fest. I say fest because I feasted on a story written 84 years ago when writing for oneself seems to have been more a genuine effort at pleasurable and reflective engagement with one’s own life than it does now. Today, with all our “reality shows” and YouTube confessionals, personal blogs and ego-based attempts at snatching fame for fame’s sake, it seems as if a lot of published material is conscious of itself – the writer thinking as much about audience as his own experience.

I’m guilty, too, I acknowledge. But, I can appreciate purity of intent immensely. This reading felt pure.

What was lovely in the story that I enjoyed in the peace and solitude of a still house at midnight was the genuineness and simplicity of the account of a man, a retired Captain H.T. Lewis, who was traveling transatlantically with his wife, Madge, onboard the the S.S. Cameronia in 1930. First of all, the captain could actually write. I mean lovely punctuation and everything; he was able to tell a story. I just wished he’d told more of it. (Captain Lewis was always referring his ‘reader’ to Madge’s copious diaries. It took me a bit of time and an obituary to find out Madge was his wife. I’d love to read her diaries.)

Here’s the Captain writing about the experience of the ship bound for Glasgow setting sail from New York:

“With little or no fuss or ceremony we were soon on board, bag and baggage; and then to the rail to see the others, especially those we left on the docks. A bag-pipe band came aboard with some man going back home – they gave him a good send off. The good old Scotch and Irish faces looked up from the dock – smiles, tears: waving, as the ship whistled goodby (three times) and moved out ever so quietly from the pier. Some hearts were just breaking on the dock, though they tried hard to smile through pent-up tears: perhaps leaving for Ireland and Scotland brought up folks back home, and, too, many were probably on board, going back, whom they would never see again.” [Captain’s underlines.]

Sometimes, after a day of fatigue and headaches, one goes to sleep and wakes in the middle of the night rested and peaceful. That’s the way it was when I had the pleasure of reading Captain Lewis’s observations and memories. In my clear frame of mind in a head no longer aching, I was receptive to his words. He brought me back in time. He wrote about the state of England after the war (showing strain and poverty) and of Germany (peace, friendliness, health). It was so interesting to get this man-on-the-street account 84 years after the fact, so different (in the account of Germany) from the bit that I remembered from school. He also took me on board the ship, which sounds like it was a big, warm, snug boat, not of the cookie-cutter variety which he sailed on back home. I remember him spending a day on that second ship and dedicating it, quietly with his wife, to diary-writing.

It’s nice to go back in time, sometimes, especially from the safe warmth of one’s comforter and pillows.

And, it seems a shame to keep the Captain’s ‘log’ all to myself. His voice should be heard, shouldn’t it? Though I was the lucky one to ‘purchase’ this diary, it shouldn’t be – and, really, it isn’t – only mine. So, at some point, when I can scan with care, I would like to put up the used sections of the diary, the part with writing and annotations and pastings of newspaper clips and typed itineraries. I don’t know if anyone will read, but it will be there, free and liberated from the closed covers of this lovely leather book.

Meanwhile, I have a few scans to illustrate…

Copy of diary1