Jerry Root and Mark Neal use their own imaginations creatively in their fine study of the multiple meanings of imagination found in C. S. Lewis. The authors make excellent use of Lewis’ literary criticism of other authors to show how Lewis, himself an author, employed different varieties of imagination in his own works. The result is a good book about Lewis, and an even better one on the capacity of imagination to enrich each of our lives every day.
While many useful books about C. S. Lewis have appeared since his death in 1963, countless others register as mere trifles that redundantly offer us what we already know. Truly fresh, rhetorically astute works about Jack are rare, but this provocative new volume by Jerry Root and Mark Neal emerges at just the right time to reinvigorate Lewis scholarship beyond the clichés we continue to repeat to each other. The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis delivers just that salvo, an ingenious, empathetic, lavishly informed elucidation of Lewis’s understanding of the life of the imagination. To every reader who has hoped against hope for an electric volume that would lift us up, far above our moribund status quo in Lewis scholarship, I say, “Look no further, and rejoice: here it is.”
Jerry Root and Mark Neal look far and hard into the Lewisian cosmos and then, organically and persuasively, connect their points of light. The result is foundational. They so refresh a touchstone of Lewis’s thought and work that the entire Lewisian landscape is brought into sharp relief, and (by way of Lewis’s own brilliant and abiding emphasis and the authors’ contextual authority) also manage to re-constitute our insight into a dispositive human faculty. Just so does this original book matter, and matter (as Lewis knew) well beyond the arts, including the master’s own.
It is surprising that it took so long for us to have this excellent, systematic guide to Lewis’s imaginative gifts.
For nearly four decades I have been reading books and articles in the field of Lewis studies. This volume is one of the most original and fascinating books on Lewis to appear in a long time. I am confident that students of Lewis’s writing will be talking about The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis for a long time. Furthermore, I think Professor Lewis would be delighted with this refreshing look at his work.
Our grasp of the word “imagination” is such a pale and paltry thing; Neal and Root offer a much-needed corrective by illustrating Lewis’s robust use of the word. The happy result is a more accurate and nuanced reading of Lewis. But there is more: through their careful work, we are graced with a rich new vocabulary to discern and describe the many uses of creative imagination all around us. It is a very great gift.
Recent studies have noted that one of the enduring contributions of C. S. Lewis was his reintegration of theology and the imagination. Jerry Root and Mark Neal have been able to particularize this observation to great benefit. Using a matrix of a dozen distinct descriptions for the imagination used by Lewis, they illuminate works both familiar and obscure with fresh clarity. Their introduction surprises and delights as well as informs. Whether you are an experienced reader of C. S. Lewis, or just starting out, their efforts will add depth to your reception, contemplation, and enjoyment of the Lewis corpus.
Jerry Root has read absolutely everything C.S. Lewis wrote several times. He has also made it his goal to read everything C.S. Lewis himself read. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to contribute to this in-depth study of the many varieties of imagination that Lewis identified and employed in his writings. Resources on the imagination in Christian thought are all too scarce, so this valuable contribution from Root and Neal on the different types of imagination as exemplified in Lewis’s work is welcome indeed. Lewis argued that reason is the natural organ of truth but imagination is the organ of meaning. We don’t understand the meaning of anything without an imaginative picture, story or metaphor to make it clear! Understanding the place of imagination can increase your ability to communicate, to write or enhance your view of the world.
This fabulous book on Lewis’s imagination will delight readers new to Lewis and those who, like the authors, have been reading him for decades. It shimmers with the joy of exploration and discovery. The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis is a reliable and inspiring guide not only to Lewis, but to a treasure trove of imaginative books that fired Lewis’s own imagination. In Robert Frost’s delightful phrase, this book is the occasion for a “fresh think.”
Readers of C. S. Lewis’s works cannot but stand in awe of his far-reaching and capacious imagination. Root and Neal’s insightful work makes an indispensable contribution to our appreciation of the writings of perhaps the 20th Century’s leading Christian apologist.
At long last, Jerry Root and Mark Neal’s The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis offers a clear and thorough guide to both explore and apply the wide variety of Lewis’s thoughts about imagination, which he called “the organ of meaning.” This careful, powerful book focuses helpfully on twelve of Lewis’s most important ideas about imagination and ties them to his most famous works, while also citing twenty-two more ways Lewis approached the difficult idea. In doing so, Root and Neal have meticulously crafted a rich and thoughtful roadmap that illuminates the largely undiscovered country of all Lewis thought about the imagination. Although (as J. R. R. Tolkien proclaimed) one may “never get to the bottom” of C. S. Lewis, this invaluable book takes us very far indeed, and offers deeply effective aid toward understanding one of the most imaginative thinkers of our time. The Surprising Imagination masterfully meets a need we hardly knew we had, and shines a very, very bright light.