On C. S. Lewis: Hooper vindicated?

The serious cold has returned to God’s Country. The high today was a notch over 10°F. I’ve seen worse cold. Far worse. But this is definitely, inarguably frigid.

On Saturday it’ll be even colder. And the Viking Age Society is scheduled to help with a city cross-country skiing event that day, manning bonfires and passing out (warm) refreshments.

I’m trying to figure out a way to weasel out of it.

There’s news on the C. S. Lewis front.
I wrote, over on the old blog site, about the late Lewis scholar Kathryn Lindskoog’s accusations, repeated and embellished through several books, that Lewis’ secretary and literary executor, Walter Hooper, had forged documents, notably the unfinished novel The Dark Tower, and fraudulently published them as Lewis’ work.

I never put much stock in those charges, and it appears my instincts were right. The current issue of Christianity Today features an article called “Shedding Light On the Dark Tower” (not online, but here’s a discussion thread from the Into the Wardrobe site); by Harry Lee Poe. Poe describes a 2003 article in the Yale Review by scholar Alastair Fowler, a student of Lewis’. Fowler clearly recalls Lewis showing him some of his unfinished work, and he says he particularly remembers seeing The Dark Tower, with its disturbing scene about the man with the “stinger” in his head.

It would appear that Lindskoog was motivated to make her charges, in part, by the fact that the Dark Tower fragment just isn’t very good. She couldn’t accept that her hero might have produced something so inferior.

If that’s so, it’s evidence that she didn’t understand the creative process very well. Rare is the fiction writer who can produce saleable material on the first draft, and most who can aren’t the best in their genres. I often tell people, “The first thing is just to get your story down on paper. Don’t worry about the fact that it’s dreck. It’s supposed to be dreck. That’s what first drafts are for. Once the dreck is down in black and white, you can put your artistic mind to work, cutting, shaping, polishing and rearranging stuff.”

You can argue that a poor first draft by Lewis should never have been published at all (good luck with that!). But to complain that an early draft is substandard compared with his published work—that’s just starry-eyed.

7 thoughts on “On C. S. Lewis: Hooper vindicated?”

  1. WHOA Lewis wrote The Dork Tower? Man, that was bad.

    ok that was a joke. About Lewis’ writing, I was under the impression that he wrote some of the Narnia Chronicles in a blaze of inspiration. _The Silver Chair_ particularly seems rough in spots. Is some of what’s in Narnia first/second draft material?

  2. I was at a convention with the guy who draws “Dork Tower,” years back, when I was still doing that sort of thing. Didn’t actually meet him though.

    And I have no idea what you mean by “rough in spots.” All the Narnia books are perfect in every way, dictated directly from Heaven. 🙂

  3. You’re both heretics.

    There are many letters in Volume III referencing Science Fiction. In one of them, Lewis says he is writing a story for a volume – the footnote, by Hooper of course, says that this story was what became The Dark Tower.

  4. Lars, we could win readers, friends, and tons of respect by blogging a few essays on Lewis’ literary failures. I could quote and analize the rough parts in The Silver Chair. You could expose the ugliness in Dark Tower. It will be great.

  5. Phil: sounds like a plan-go for it!

    Personally, I like what there is of the Dark Tower (it’s a good nightmare with some glimmerings of hope) but I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a narrative dead end. Someone pointed out to me that the romantic leads seem to be prequel versions of the same impossibly handsome, charming, and love-dovey couple from That Hideous Strength, who know Mark Studdock already and befriend Jane in the course of the story.

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