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February 13, 1967 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-02-13
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The World, the Flesh and the Devil


- With the Emphasis on the Latter

Letters of C. S. Lewis, edited, with

a Memoir, by W. H.
court, Brace & World.

Lewis. Har-

It has been said that there are
two sorts of people who admire the
work of C. S. Lewis: those who have
read The Screwtape Letters and
those who have read The Screwtape
Letters and something else. Al-
though Lewis has published credita-
ble works in many genres, including
an excellent piece of literary criti-
cism. several good novels and some
mediocre poetry, only Screwtape
has enjoyed any wide and lasting
Lewis's philosophy and his meth-
od of rationalization are well-suited
to the epistolary form. In Screwtape
he was able to criticize many cur-
rent ideas of morality and fashion
without being faced with the embar-
rassing necessity of having to justi-
fy his views. By creating a fictional
demon, he could cast aspersion on
The staff artists are Belita
Lewis and Bob Griess. Both are
students in the college of The
University of Chicago, and are
interested in selling their work.
They can be reached for this
purpose through o"+r editorial
offices - telephone MI 3-0800,Y
extension 3265.
whatever he chose by having his de-
mon praise it. Logical bases and
justifications were not important;
insight was.
All of Lewis's philosophy carries
a hollow ring of common sense with
it. But whenever he opens himself
up to close scrunity, as he does in
some of his theological works, much
of ,the sense becomes inaudible
above the din of pedantry. His most
successful books (with the exception
of The Allegory of Love) have been
his most direct. His style is scholar-
ly at its best, sterile and pedantic at
its worst.
This is hardly surprising when
viewed in the context of Lewis's life
as portrayed in this volume of his
letters.rSequestered in childhood,
he turned to writing at an early age
as an outlet for his moderately fer-,
tile imagination. Even before the
age of literacy, as his brother re-
counts in the introductory memoir,
Lewis gave vent to his imagination
by renaming himself. He wisely de-
cided that Clive was not a suitable

name for a young man and, putting
a finger to his chest, announced
"He is Jacksie." He also displayed
some of his future logic by refusing,
from then on, to answer to any oth-
er name.
Lewis attended several stifling
English public schools and, by his
own account, found them distaste-
ful. He then discovered what was to
be his home for the major portion
of his life: Oxford. His letters from
Oxford take on a new tone of excite-
ment. Always an avid reader and
amateur critic, he found the literary
climate of Oxford in 1916 ideal for
his purposes and soon decided that
he wanted to spend his life there as
a don. He wrote his father that
"this place has surpassed my wild-
est dreams; I never saw anything
so beautiful, especially on these
frosty nights." He added, however,
that "it is fearfully cold at about
four o'clock on these afternoons.
We have most of us tried, with va-
rying success, to write in our
An anti-pacifist, Lewis entered
the infantry in 1917 as an officer.
Although his views on pacifism re-
mained the same, he quickly discov-
ered that the army was not for him.
When wounded in the back by mis-
p 1 a c e d British artillery, Lewis
wrote to his father asking if a dis-
charge could be arranged. Although
the discharge was not forthcoming,
the war ended soon, and Lewis re-
turned to Oxford and his studies.
He graduated with distinction and
subsequently found his own niche
in the faculty, a niche that was to
hold him until 1954, when he final-
ly moved to Cambridge.
Lewis has won fame not as an ex-
cellent literary critic, which he was,
nor as a good writer, which he was,
but as a theologian, which he was
not. Raised as a Christian, he be-,
came an atheist in his youth, and
then returned to Christianity at
Oxford. Although this is not by any
means a unique experience, Lewis
discovered, somewhat to his sur-
prise, that he was able to write
quite sensibly about Christianity.
In doctrine, he favored the funda-
mentalist stand over the modern-
ist, but only slightly. He tried, as
much as possible, to remove him-
self from controversy in his popu-
larizations of Christian philosophy.
Sometimes he did not succeed.
He met with some resistance from
theologians when he introduced a

carnate devil into his works. Antici-
pating this response, he prefaced
the introduction in this way: "I
know someone will ask me, 'Do you
really mean, at this time of day, to
re-introduce our old friend the dev-
il-hoofs and horns and all?' Well,
what the time of day has to do with
it I don't know. And I'm not par-
ticular about the hoofs and horns.
But in other respects my answer is,
'Yes, I do.' " He also took issue with
a certain popular notion of "heaven
with a little bit of hell in it." Al-
though he spent much of his time
grappling with the problem of the

Lewis's letters reveal a side of the
man not often seen in his publishe
work. He stands revealed as mee'
and scholarly, a man with a lively
wit, a vast fund of knowledge and
a joyous enthusiasm for literature.
The volume is sprinkled with notes
on everything from his distaste for
The Canterbury Tales to his affec-
tion for Tolkien to his disregard of
Kierkegaard. Whenever he casts off
the scholarly cloak and speaks of
his personal preferences to his clos-
est friends, his faults melt away,
leaving his charm, wit and good

M ~ ,
- ~ f N.

Digging Out by Anne Richardson.
McGraw-Hill Book C o m p a n y.
Black comic books can be fun
when the jig of human inanity (not
insanity) described therein is origi-
nal, fanciful and creative. When the
black comic ballet is reduced to a
shuffle of the mediocre or a proces-
sion of the self-made miserable,
black comedy is a drag.
Anne Richardson's Digging Out is
such a drag. Its inadequacies are
^(omrounded by the anemic dramat-
"read within the comedy. It may
be of value as readings in
bla'k comedy for junior high
schoolers who have not sharpened
to the pure bitter-lemon taste of the
It is a Marjory Morningstar gone
wron , without maudlin romance
but with an imminent and long-
awaited death in what is overtly ex-
plained to be a very uninspired
Mother awaits death in a cancer-
ous metastasis. "'Candy, candy, can-
dy,' she said . . . 'Mallowmars, Her-
shey bars, M & M's, Barton's best.'
Typical that she remembers so
many names of products on the
Father spends his free moments
in the bathroom, often with The
New York Times. And daughter,
the narrator, witnesses the drama
with revulsion, no sense of absurdi-
ty and only some of the now-
tritened rebelliousness of her gen-
The essentials of the book, how-
ever, are in the aunts and uncles
and cousins. People who sold the se-
cret hiding place of their Pale vil-
lage to the Cossacks fora ticket-to
They are a painted and impotent
gang, often bamboozled by their de-
ficient sense of elegance, inspecting
the linen, often attempting to avoid
probate. Several were raised by the
same German maid, a woman (typi-
cally) with old-country problems of
her own.
They are Jews: being Jewish is a
near requisite for being a current
black-comic type. But their Jewish-
ness is an oppressively dull thing. It
does not contribute to the black
comic attempt. "Somewhere I must
find a place to bear my American
children, whom I will mother, and
who in turn will leave me to find
their own Americas," the narrator
says in her last dramatic mumbling.
"Sweet Jesus, has anyone the
strength for such exploring?"
But perhaps it is not the cultural
hangup or the weak slalom to dra-
ma which hurts the book most. Dig-

ging Out is static; and good, funny
black comedy is dynamic. It is
Bruce Jay Friedman's. Stern being
dragged home each night by several
massive evil hounds. It is John
Barth's Goat Boy being bounced
through WESCAC's (West Campus
Computer's) Belly and coming out
unEATen. Black comedy, to a great
extent, means the motion of Hook
evading the crocodile, although per-
haps more restrained, as directed
by the cultural setting.
If the anecdotes were funnier or
if there were dialogue, Digging Out
might not need motion. But as it
turns out, it does need some action,
something more brazen than the
wag of a powderpuff on a cancerous
face in a deathbed. The drama of a
young woman planning her escape
and ruminating her revulsion is not
worth laboring.-
It is this basic lack of action that
hinders Digging Out. The book goes
Neil Bruss
Mr. Rruss is a third-year student major-
ing in philosophy at the University of

Balloons are

Available, by Jordan
Atheneum. $4.50.

Jordan Crittenden was born in
1937 in Wichita, Kansas, and as he
approached the age of thirty he de-
cided to write a novel. He men-
tioned this to the man at the
c h e c k -o u t counter of Horders,
where he was paying for two reams
of good bond paper.
"If I hadn't spent my formative
years in an unenriched environ-
ment I would have been an author
myself," the man said.
"You make excuses for yourself;
I've published already in The New
Yorker, Punch, and Harper's Ba-
zaar, to name but three of what we
call the quality slicks. Howhmuch
will that be?"
"Look," the clerk said, coming
around the counter and grasping
Jordan's arm, "I'd like you to meet
my wife. She's taking a creative lit
course at the Famous Writers
School by correspondence, and I'm

Patches of Purple

Shreds of Mot

The Ravishing of Lol Stein, by Mar-
guerite Duras; translated by Rich-
ard Seaver. Grove Press. $3.95.
The next best thing to starting
with the end is ending with the be-
ginning. So Duras tries both. It all
begins with the cataclysm: the de-
ception, the lost love. At a ball, Mi-
chael (twenty-five), leaves Lol (sev-
enteen), for Anne-Marie, (age: un-
specified). This is all trite of course,
so Duras must do something more
to interest us in the forlorn Lol. But
given a banal trauma, -a superfluous
setting and minimally outlined -sup-
porting characters, Lol has prob-
lems being an engaging protagonist.
Well, if all else fails, you can al-
ways try saying nothing: so Lol taci-
turnly modulates from boredom to
disappointment. And it works. She
walks, she marries, she watches
-she even transcends. Having
recognized, at the ball, the im-
p o s s i b i 1 i t y of discovering "the
word" (truth? logos?) that would
justify her desire to desire, she be-
comes a remote kind of anti-God,
busy "reconstructing the end of the
world"-specifically, "time in all its
purity, bone-white time." So far,
there is promise of poetry: with
good style and an idea to go with it,
Duras is equipped to write litera-
ture. But she is afraid to trust tal-
ent alone. She wants to be theatri-
Clearly, Lol is meant to fascinate;
but the story isn't quite so simple.
Deceived once and forever, ray-
ished by her best friend's lover, Lol
is doomed to love vicariously. She is
to be all woman. The locus of her
erotic identity is not herself but an-
other woman,any other, such as her
best friend Tatiana. If only Lol.
didn't take things so literally! The
scenes of her diligently gazing at

lovers through hotel windows are so
embarrasingly heavy-handed that
one wonders why the author didn't
r But Duras is, again, too worried
about being spectacular. She re-
veals, about halfway through the
story, the identity of the mysterious
narrator (after the suspense has, no
doubt, become unbearable): he is
Lol's lover! (Coup de theatre). At
the end of the novel, Lol visits the
ball-room where her tragedy took
place. (Dramatic.) Sex scenes. (Ah!)
Is this technique? Certainly it's not
consummate art.
Could it be that the next best
thing to a trite story is no story at
all? Precisely. Duras is at her best
when her plot is least discernible,
"drama" forgotten. At times like
this, the narrative, camera-simple,
intrigues us. The alternation of long
lyrical paragraphs with much short-
er concise ones is well timed: the
phrase progression is rhythmic.
Sometimes, too, the prose has a
kind of eerie, thinly abstracted
quality: partly because the narra-
tor, describing the gestures of his
girl, often only imagines, tenta-
tively interprets and occasionally
misunderstands her; partly because
Lol is a half-dead girl who can't
even remember how to forget.
Yes, Duras is a writer. But in-
stead of relying on the effectiveness
of her style, she adulterates it with
stage effects. The result is lyricism
without poetry.
Juliana Geran
Miss Geran is a second-year student
majoring in philosophy at The Univer-
sity of Chicago.

sure it wol
When th
drove Jor
drive-in ane
burger skir
window. "(
she said.
onizing day
Jordan Cril
" 'Wait," s
two dozen
Jordan wha
"Well," h
low named
faced by a
Auden, thai
the book 0
effect thai
many mode
able, all se
tion will sc
much bette]
ene sack of
"This not
resque, red(
I say gray) l
a sense of tl
ny, too, in a
As I see H
liard ball b
billiard ba
things whic
Like the t
Thomas Py
minus any :
mystery, p
Freud com
Howard is
about 500 r
read Malcol
dumbly ove
ventures t
own, being i
sive, and th
see at all th
society. Hov
er than Mal
meets some
aim to writ
Leonard i
ranged him
the horn in 1
Loretta g
dan's eyes t
car window~
are small, a
ting into th
filling when
Mr. Lavine i
student in the
at The Univer

Christian Hell, he concluded that it
exists, is the polar opposite of Heav-
en and is the final ruin of those
consigned to it. "If a game is
played, it must be possible to lose
it." He remained troubled, however,
by the figure of a God who "seems
unwilling, or even unable, to arrest
the ruin by an act of power."
Lewis carried a drastic 'either-or'
rationality with him throughout his
life. He felt each man had a number
of clear-cut choices in life. The
choices lay between Christ as "a lu-
natic or an imposter," "marriage
. . or else total abstinence," Chris-
tianity or paganism.

When reading Lewis's letters,
one thinks of his comment on Cow-
per's correspondence: "He had
nothing-literally nothing-to tell
anyone. about; private life in a
sleepy country town where Evan-
gelical distrust of 'the world' de-
nied him even such miserable so-
ciety as the place would have af-
forded. And yet one reads a whole
volume of his letters with unfail-
ing interest." Almost, but not quite.
John Gray
M. Gray is a second-gear student ma-
joring in bio-chemistry at the Univer-
sity of Michigan.


February, ,,1967 Ml D W E S- T L 'I T E R A R,

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