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Present Concerns Paperback – 10 Jul 1986

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The word chivalry has meant at different times a good many different things - from heavy cavalry to giving a woman a seat in a train. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Marginal Works 4 Sept. 2001
By Rachel Simmons - Published on
Format: Paperback
Lewis's shorter works were generally originally composed as speeches or as articles for periodicals. Various sets of them were collected and published in book form both during his life and after his death. Trying to determine what works are in what collections is difficult - most works appear in more than one collection, some works appear under more than one title, and some collections appear under more than one title.
To aid readers, in this review I've listed the works in this collection, with notes indicating other collections they have appeared in. Where a work has appeared under more than one title, I give both titles separated by a slash.
Table of Contents:
"The Necessity of Chivalry" / "The Importance of an Ideal" (1)
"Equality" (1), (2)
"Three Kinds of Men" (1), (2)
"My First School" (1)
"Is English Doomed?" (1), (2)
"Democratic Education" (1), (2)
"A Dream" (1), (2)
"Blimpophobia" (1)
"Private Bates" (1)
"Hedonics" (1), (2)
"After Priggery - What?" (1)
"Modern Man and His Categories of Thought" (1)
"Talking About Bicycles" (1)
"On Living in the Atomic Age" (1), (2)
"The Empty Universe" (1)
"Prudery and Philology" (1), (2)
"Interim Report" (1)
"Is History Bunk" (1), (2)
"Sex in Literature" (1)
(1) also published in "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces"
(2) also published in "Compelling Reason"
The current collection is an odd one - generally, Lewis's shorter writings can be classed by subject as either Christian or Literary, but this collection is of Lewis's topical writings, which do not fall easily into either category. Given that their topicality has now aged about half a century, this is hardly the most valuable set of writings Lewis has left us. Most readers of Lewis can safely pass.
For those Lewis readers who can't get enough, this collection does have merit, but I would suggest that such folk instead get "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces", which, as of the time of this writing, is available from Amazon UK but not Amazon US. That collection consists of about 130 short works by Lewis. It includes everything in this collection as well as almost all of his Christian writings (Lewis's Literary writings are, however, sadly under-represented in that collection).
If you love Lewis but your budget does not run to "Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces", then you can go ahead and get this collection. Its only other overlap is with "Compelling Reason", a collection that nobody should get.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
"B-Side" Lewis 3 May 2004
By Kendal B. Hunter - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a slice of Lewis' mind. As a compilation of essays between 1940-1945, you would think that it would be dated. Yet, Lewis characteristically merges the timely with the timeless, which makes this tome a book for all seasons.
Each chapter is an isolated essay, but all revolve around the themes established in "Abolition of Man." These include the elimination of absolute values, the effects of literature on character education, and so forth.
Intermixed with these heavy and pressing topics, however, are two essays, "Hedonics" and "Talking About Bicycles." There are about mere pleasures and the simple delights of existence. You can taste and feel his sense of life and his sense of delightful please in common day things. Lewis is no curmudgeon, but something else-a mixture of rugged Elijah and tender Elisha.
Lewis, as a literati, amateur historian, and an ex-pagan, has a good eye for decadence. Indeed, his was a warning voice that SHOULD have been headed. We are so far downstream that it would take several C. S. Lewises to effect a turnabout. This may be impossible, but at least we can start with ourselves.
This is not the best book for Lewis neophytes. Start with the anthology "A Mind Awake," and stick with the "Five Classics," and "Abolition of Man." Then work your way through "Weight Of Glory" and "God In The Dock."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Mostly for those who want to "fill in the corners" of Lewis. 20 Oct. 2002
By Ken Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is certainly not one of Lewis' more important books (it was published only some 20 years after his death), but unlike some of the other posthumous essay collections, most of what it does contain is not to be found elsewhere (at least in the easily obtained collections). Lewis rarely attempted to take a position on contemporary political topics, which makes some of the essays more interesting than they would be otherwise. At the very least, they show that Lewis was more interested in politics than his careful attempts to avoid political questions in his other books would indicate. From his autobiography, one would get the impression that he never read the newspaper; while "After Priggery -- What?" doesn't dull his criticism of newspapers in the slightest, it does make clear that he read them from time to time.

The best essays in the book -- "On Living in an Atomic Age", "Democratic Education", and "Equality" -- do touch on themes which he has addressed elsewhere (Miracles, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, and The Four Loves respectively) -- but they also introduce new material and develop these themes in different directions. I'd never heard "inequality" in education (one could also use the word "standards") praised specifically for the effect that it has on the uninterested student: but Lewis does so, and does so quite well in my opinion.

Other essays seem to cover material I have not elsewhere encountered in Lewis. He takes a surprising but quite reasonable stand on Britain's censorship laws in "Sex and Literature" and on "Prudery and Philology". And some of his philosophy of education is expressed in "Is English Doomed?" and "Democratic Education". Other essays, like "Blimpophobia" and "A Dream" are more clearly targeted to the England of WWII.

In all, it's an interesting work, but the die-hard Lewis fan will find more value in it than someone looking for a good introduction to his thought.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Short essays about a variety of topics 27 Mar. 1998
By David Graham - Published on
Format: Paperback
This collection of writings about a variety of topics (published for the first time in book form) was a pleasure to read. Walter Hooper has done his usual fine job of editing these essays, which partially answer the question, "Well what other sorts of things was Lewis interested in besides literature and theology?" As the title suggests, the things that caught Lewis's attention continue to be present concerns for our world today.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Through the Past Darkly 27 Mar. 2006
By Gord Wilson - Published on
Format: Paperback
With the recent Narnia movie, cranking out Lewisiana has almost become a cottage industry. With the plethora of titles, one is hard pressed to know where to begin. Some reviewers consider this book a bit of flack shoved off on the gullible public hungry to read more. I take the opposite tack.

While most of the recent Lewis- related titles take his work out of its historic context, attempting to relaunch it as relevant in our own, this book goes the other way. It's firmly anchored in the era of WW II when Lewis wrote, and entirely concerned with the state and future of Britain. Thus these essays are for modern readers not "present concerns" but rather windows into the past.

Each of these nineteen essays appeared in British newspapers, and most of them still hit hot buttons today. It's arguable whether Lewis wrote "down" to news readers, but he had an uncanny knack of connecting with readers even when he couldn't socialize with them. For instance, he remarked that he didn't care for the society of children, by which he meant he was uncomfortable in their social circle. But that didn't stop him writing seven of the most beloved kids' books of all time, nor of keeping up lively correspondence with them.

Lewis' views on the censorship of books (he was against it) become particularly notable in context. He wrote at the time that D.H. Lawrence's novel, Lady Chatterly's Lover was the subject of obscenity trials, and expressed his opinion forcefully in the essay included in this collection (He alludes briefly to this view in his excellent book about reading, An Experiment in Criticism). Like that book, this is not one of Lewis' best sellers, but readers may be surprised to find how much in our day these topics are still present concerns.
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