Says Simpleton: A Literary Confession . . .

I have never read The Chronicles of Narnia.

This is not something I'm proud of, one of those things you've never done or experienced that you wear as a smug badge of supercilious pseudo-honor for all to see (e.g., You'll never find me twittering my life away on Facebook . . . mwah, ha, hah).

I've just never done it.

Sometimes a friend or acquaintance who knows I majored in English in college will find out that I've never read the series and I become acutely aware of my literary transgression: "Gasp, glare, guwaf . . . I thought you were an English major."

This response seems to rest on a common (you wouldn't believe) yet ironic assumption that if you were an english major in college, then you're supposed to have read any anecdote or author that anyone ever mentions in any conversation you might ever happen to be in. Period.

I say ironic because one of the realities that smacks you straight in the face in a good literature program is the impossibility of mastering the field, any field. One of the lessons you learn in a study of literature of any stripe is the lay of the land. But, knowing where the promised land is located is different than walking through it.

You might be able to master the literary map, but you won't be able in one lifetime to trek across every pathway; to visit every landmark; to hike through every forrest; to explore the depths of every mystical wardrobe.

I have read many of Lewis' popular level books and some of his literary criticism ("The Weight of Glory," Mere Christianity, etc), but never his fiction. What's more, I've watched more Narnia movies than I have read Narnia books. Though, I did read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in two sittings the night before I saw the movie, and I have heard Andy Samberg rap about the Chronicles, so I'm not a "complete" Narnia dullard.

So, in order to rectify this inexplicable lacuna in my literary heritage, I've decided to read through all seven volumes of the Chronicles, starting with The Magician's Nephew. This starting point is already to jump into a dicey debate among Narnia fanboys (and fangirls). My plan is to think through the order of presentation as I read through them, using the internal chronology of the stories as my chosen sequence (e.g.).

Reading the Chronicles "canonically," if you will.

And I will.
C. S. Lewis
July 22, 2010


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