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Customer Review

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine content but odd selection criteria, 7 Mar. 2000
This review is from: C. S. Lewis Essay Collection: and other short pieces (Hardcover)
This is a fine collection, which I recommend, but what were the criteria for selection?
Everything previously published (at least in the United Kingdom) in the religious collections of C.S. Lewis is reproduced here EXCEPT two pieces. One of these is the 'Reply to Professor Haldane' (originally in 'Of This and Other Worlds'). Admittedly, this is an incomplete piece, but then so is 'The Language of Religion' and that IS printed here. The other thing left out is 'Rejoinder to Dr Pittenger' (originally in 'Timeless at Heart'). This is a complete piece and an excellent example of Lewis defending his apologetic style. It beats many of the scrappy little bits which did find their way into this selection. And what makes its omission here all the more baffling is that this Collection actually includes a letter in which this 'Rejoinder' is referred to! Why include letters at all in an essay collection? (Especially, given the fact that a new letter collection edited by Walter Hooper is in the pipeline.) But if such a letter IS to be included, why omit the essay to which it refers?
The other question I have is about the inclusion of 'High and Low Brows'. This originally appeared in 'Selected Literary Essays'. If we are to be treated to just one of those literary essays, why this one? It would have been better to leave it out, or else to have included the whole of 'Selected Literary Essays'. Indeed, what would have been best would have been to include ALL Lewis's literary essays ever published, including the two from 'Rehabilitations' which never got into 'Selected Literary Essays', the ones which originally appeared in 'The Personal Heresy', and the ones which later appeared in 'Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature'. It would make this Collection a lot longer, I grant, but not that much longer than 'C.S. Lewis, A Companion and Guide', which this volume is designed to partner. If, from a commercial point of view, such a sizeable book were considered impossible, then why not bring out a separate volume dedicated to literary subjects, including the two sections in this volume designated as 'English and Literature' and 'The Art of Writing and the Gift of Writers'? We could then see some logic at work.
The editor, Lesley Walmsley, makes no attempt to explain her criteria of selection and I am unable to deduce any. She should not say, as she does in the introduction, that 'this present volume is the first time that they [Lewis's essays on faith and life] have all been brought together'. That is simply not true, and it is contradicted by the dust-jacket which describes the collection as a 'best of' selection.
In truth, this is neither a complete collection nor a best of selection, but rather a hastily cobbled-together jumble. It's definitely a jumble worth buying and reading. But it's a great pity that such a good idea on the part of HarperCollins should have been impaired by weak editorial work. Moreover, the book-buying public STILL cannot get a one-volume edition of Lewis's religious essays.
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Location: Cambridge

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