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on 8 September 2006
It seems here like everybody absolutely loves this book. Whilte it does have some witty moments of insight, I found the book to be enormously overrated.

The allegorical form of writing, as letters from a demon to another demon, gets old pretty quickly and it gets extremely repetetive and frankly quite boring. Way too much time is spent on how to tempt humans away from Christianity, and to a non-Christian, those long portions of texts are completely uninteresting.

Lewis does make some good points about human behaviour in general that are both witty and insightful, but those are exceptions and for the most part "The Screwtape Letters" is quite boring. The novella would have been good if it was about one third as long and not be so centered on Christianity. Christians will probably enjoy it more than I did, though.
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on 30 December 2008
I am a fan of C.S.Lewis but this is by far one of his worst works. Don't get me wrong, it is a fantastic piece of fiction but this is the problem. When this book was written it also presented us with Lewis' superstitious thoughts of the world. Some will read this book and think "how fascinating" but some religious people will be thinking "how true".
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on 13 January 2013
I chose this rating because CS Lewis has a depth of understanding of the nature of temptation and the response of humanity to it. On reading this work again I still have difficulty with his one-sided views on socialism or else I would have given it 5 stars.
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on 17 November 2014
'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S Lewis

David Foster Wallace, a very fashionable US author who had stories printed in The New Yorker, Playboy and The Paris Review put 'The Screwtape Letters' number one on his list of top ten books.

I didn't know that when I read Screwtape. I got to Screwtape as the result of it being read out, edited, as a book of the week on BBC Radio Four. It was funny.

Straightaway when I read the first page I got a laugh from something not on the radio.

If I explain the book's logistics: Screwtape - a senior devil, is advising his nephew, Wormwood, an apprentice demon - on how to convert a human - to 'Our Father Below'. Screwtape tells Wormwood he should not suppose mere argument will work. *Uncle Screwtape* informs Wormwood of the target's feeble (what you could call post-modern) mind-set:

'He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical' 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument is your best ally in keeping him away from *charity*.

If that paragraph amuses you - and if you have read middle-brow arts criticism, I hope you at least recognise what it says, I advise you to make the small investment required, and read this book.

Because along with such sharp viewing of things modern, this book has shown me, better than any other thing I have encountered - how my own mind works. It has shown me to me, warts and all - my pendulum nature, my evasiveness. My self-examination - and to what silly extremes that can go.

But - I am aware - there is a hurdle that will prejudice many from this book. The book was written as a Christian document.

To an open mind (whatever that means), for instance, an agnostic like myself, that is okay. I admit spiritual thought, I shrug my shoulders at atheists, term-lovers, who will talk about other dimensions but dismiss the spiritual because it is old and mentions the 'G' word.

__Do three things to enjoy this book__
If the important, but tired, corporations of religion have put you off reading anything of a religious frame, there are three things you should do when reading this book.

One - substitute the word *Charity* whenever reference is made to 'Him' or, 'The Enemy' or the Church or Christianity.

Two - and I don't believe Mr Lewis would like this at all - I feel I have a Slubgob or Triptweeze (see book) on my shoulder making me write this: think of the book as a Pixar type thing. This should not be hard. The book is very entertaining. Uncle Screwtape is an articulate learned character. His wonderfully dry patronising of feeble humans and things modern, is funny.

Three - accept Chapter Two as hard (er) work. There is a narrative being established. The human target is a convert to Christianity. Screwtape talks about the vacillation in this faith. The reader can draw lessons regarding relationships with their own enthusiasms.

Another thought - you could think of Screwtape and Wormwood, as being the negativity, bad thoughts, that we all suffer, that we let in, so easily.

__The Contents __
Screwtape, the uncle is a senior devil. Wormwood is an apprentice *working* on a human. We read Screwtape's letters, his advice on what Wormwood should make the human think, in order to get him to 'Our Father Below'. Screwtape references Wormwood's letters. It is worth noting here the book was written in 1940 (Plus ca change)

'You say you are delirious with joy because the European humans have started another of their wars ... I must warn you not to hope too much from a war. Of course a war is entertaining ...

Via Wormwood's letters we follow Wormwood's patient as he makes new friends. They bring a different point-of-view to the patient. Screwtape is pleased. They are rich, smart, superficially intellectual - brightly sceptical about everything.

Screwtape tells Wormwood to encourage the relationship. He tells Wormwood that eventually the patient may realise his new friends are not so good for him but Screwtape gives Wormwood a tactic

'You can persuade him ...to continue the new acquaintance on the ground he is, in some unspecified way, doing these people 'good' by seeing them ...'
The relationship continues but Screwtape is not so pleased to hear that the new friends are great laughers.

'I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy'.

Screwtape doesn't trust Joy. During Joy humans do things Screwtape doesn't understand. He fears loss of control. Screwtape complains to Wormwood

'The facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter (at a time of Joy) show the witticism cannot be the real cause of the laughter ... (and) Fun is closely related to Joy - a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct'

Screwtape only really trusts Flippancy

'Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No-one
actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies
that they have already found a ridiculous side to it ... It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it'.

__ Fear Avarice Lust __
What I particularly enjoyed was the book's willingness to take on very basic things. We are told by twenty-first philosophers, as much as we are told by Zen masters, that the finite moment contains the infinite, we should live in the moment. But how should we do this?

Screwtape tells Wormwood living in the present is also what The Enemy wants. Screwtape warns Wormwood not to let the Target dwell on a particular method to achieve a mental in the present. Contrarily, Screwtape tells Wormwood they should try to make their patient live in the future.

'Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the future inflames hope and fear ... nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead'.

__ Humility and Pride and Self-Awareness ___
Screwtape becomes upset when the patient stops making large claims about himself.

Screwtape is concerned their target has discarded his conceits regarding the future and has only hope for the daily and hourly necessary strength to meet the day's rigours. Screwtape is concerned the patient has become humble.

'Have you drawn his attention to the fact? Almost certainly pride at his own humility will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud at his attempt - and so on through as many stages as you please. But don't try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion in which case he will merely laugh at his circular thought and go to bed'.

Screwtape talks more about humility.

'You must conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as
self-forgetfulness, but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, low) of his own character ... thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may in some cases be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed ... we have the chance of keeping their minds revolving on themselves'.

___'Know Thyself' said the ancient Greeks ___
'Be Yourself' you are implored by songs, well-wishers and the general culture. 'The Screwtape Letters' I believe, is a window to catch the ever-learning self.

Its writer C.S (Clive Staples) Lewis was awarded a medal for bravery in the first world war. He returned to studies after the war and became an Oxford academic who knew his intricate way around Sophistry and Rhetoric. He was a late convert to Christianity and you can bet he used every ounce, every twist, every nuance of the Sophistry and Rhetoric he knew, to challenge - in his own mind - his own conversion.

I believe Screwtape is a diary, of types. How Lewis found himself considering his mind as his belief fluctuated. How he worked it out - how he jousted pleasure, (try to make the target abandon what he really likes in favour of the 'best' people, the right food, the 'important' books) with the God he was tying his flag to.

Screwtape was popular from the beginning. Grudgingly he wrote a follow up. He said it was 'not fun' (Wikipedia) to write and that his Screwtape writing days were done.

__ Intellectual Fashion__
In the style of the paragraph I first quoted, where Screwtape advises Wormwood to concentrate on jargon not argument, 'The Screwtape Letters' would be dismissed - Xtian - no more.

Pity the loss to those who would be affected, interpret the comment as condemnation, and accept it.

Western culture has been around for a long time, an awful lot of its best thinkers, were religious believers. Just like the blues in music, they are often the source of ideas, that have been copied - but not bettered, just diluted and corrupted by insincere repetition.

David Foster Wallace, like other originals, did not achieve work with ideas he was happy with, by following the fashion mob. He looked for the source.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 September 2015
I love The Chronicles of Narnia. Seriously, in any form I’ve encountered them, I’ve fallen under the spell of them. But I’ve never moved on to any of C. S. Lewis’s other books until this month, when I listened to The Screwtape Letters. Naturally, I’d heard about this book for years, and I can certainly see why people talk about it so much.

The premise of the book is unique. It’s a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior devil, to his nephew Wormwood, who is on his first assignment as a tempter. We don’t get many details on the man Wormwood is trying to lead astray (he is always called the Patient), but as we go through the roughly 30 letters, a story begins to unfold. The Patient is a new Christian, and it is Wormwood’s job to keep that conversion from sticking. Screwtape offers advice on just about anything from his home life to his new love and even the growing European war. As he does so, we get insight into how even good things can be easily twisted for evil and how the enemy thinks.

Or maybe not. The thing to remember while reading the book is that this is all one man’s conjecture on how things are in the spiritual realm. As I was listening, I kept having to remind myself that this is not necessarily the way things are. Having said that, what is here is actually quite logical and makes a lot of sense with what I’ve seen in my own life. There is much to think about and chew on, and the book is well worth reading for that reason alone. Just keep in mind that it is fiction as you think about it.

What I think struck me the most is how easily good things can be twisted around to make them sinful. That is hit upon several times over the course of the book, and I could certainly see the point Lewis was making. For example, pride can easily crop up in a group that is right on an issue. It’s not anything I didn’t already know before, but seeing it laid out from the other side made hit me in a different way.

The book was originally published in 1941, meaning that World War II plays a huge part in the events unfolding. That may date a few of the references, but none of the real issues brought up are at all dated.

In fact, as Screwtape was expounding on the way the demons are trying to influence the population at large, I recognized much in our world today. The book may be almost 75 years old, but the vision that Lewis had of our culture and how it would unfold in the future is downright scary at times. The book concludes with “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” a speech Lewis wrote in the early 60’s reviving the Screwtape character. Again, his observations are spot on even all these years later.

Which is why I feel I am sorry to have to point out a theological flaw to the book. It is obvious as you read that Screwtape thinks a person can lose their salvation. That’s dangerous theology, and not the way I read the Bible. I certainly think that Christians can still be lead into sin, however, but the idea that the demons can claim a Christian’s soul goes against what I think the Bible teaches.

The audio version I listened to was from Blackstone Audio and narrated by Ralph Cosham. He did a great job keeping my interest, which considering the lack of dialogue and other normal fiction trappings was quite a feat. In a lot of ways, this is non-fiction disguised as fiction, and the mix is just right to keep it interesting and make you think.

So be sure to read The Screwtape Letters with discernment, but by all means read it and think about what is presented in this short novel. There is a reason that it has been read and talked about for all these years.
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I have read this book a few times over the years and every time I re-read it I find it more humorous. This kindle edition has the letters and then as a bonus the later piece by CS Lewis, Screwtape Proposes A Toast.

An epistolary novel you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy this, which I think has caused some misunderstanding and led to people not reading this in the past. What we have are a series of letters from Screwtape, a demon, to his demonic nephew Wormwood, who is tasked with bringing an average Englishman into the Satanic fold.

Why this works so well is that it is deeply funny and quite cynical. Although we don’t see letters from Wormwood we can guess that his ideas are along the lines of outright and extravagant sinning, whereas Screwtape proposes something a lot subtler. Thus, whilst for instance Wormwood is gloating over the Second World War Screwtape is rightfully worried, as if for instance someone dies in the fighting before being fully brought over to his side, then they have lost a person, and have lost that soul.

We thus end up with religious thought here and demons trying to work out not only the behaviour of God, but of humanity, making for some very good insights into the way we behave and what we think.

Screwtape Proposes A Toast is the demon giving a speech, and this looks at changes in educational procedure and other items that were relevant at the time and that Lewis wanted to address. In all then we have here a very thoughtful as well as a funny book, that should give anyone reading it pause for thought. Whatever religious persuasion you are, or an atheist this still makes for a wonderful read, and shows the author on top form.
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on 2 December 2012
Throughout the years, I have written a number of reviews that have never been published online on Amazon. These writings comprise two types of reviews: unfinished reviews, abandoned during various stages of composition, and completed reviews that for life reasons were never posted. Of the later type, back in September 2001 I wrote a cache of work, a full sixteen reviews of several different C. S. Lewis books which have never been released. I am publishing these reviews now for the first time, over a decade after they were initially written. Mike London 10-3-2012]

One of Lewis's most famous books, "The Screwtape Letters", written in late 1940 to early 1941, are letters "From One Devil to Another" (the original title o fthe work). The book is a fictional account of an older devil named Screwtape, giving a younger devil, Wormwood, advice on how to lead Wormwood's first "patient" astray. Both profound and psychologically astute, Lewis displays a mental virtuosity in these letters that has garnered him such acclaim. Most editions also include a second piece, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", written in the early 1960s just before Lewis died, years after initial composition.

Before I continue, be aware of newer editions of Lewis's works in regards to textual accuracy. In Letter 22, the sentence read "A more modern writer - someone with a name like Pshaw", was changed to Lewis's name himself. If you read any copy that Screwtape refers to the works of C. S. Lewis, know you are dealing with a tampered, adulterated text. Why the estate would allow such hackeyed editing to take place is beyond me.

[Of interest is Lewis's decidication.] Lewis dedicated the book to J. R. R. Tolkien. Written in a draft letter to his son Michael Tolkien after Lewis's death (Letter 252 in "Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien)), Tolkien discussed his relationship with Jack, and how by various events (first, the appearance of Charles Williams, who died in 1945, and secondly his marriage), they drifted apart, although they remained friends with deep affection and love for one another, though not as imitate as once they were. To quote Tolkien "I was wrly amused to be told (D. Telegraph) that `Lewis was never very fond of `The Screwtape Letters' - his best seller (250,000). He dedicated it t me. I wondered why. Now I know - says they." Lewis also dedicated "The Problem of Pain" to the Inklings (the same group the initial first editon of "The Lord of the Rings" was dedicated too). Tolkien and Humphrey Carpenter made numerous suggestions that Lewis incorporated in "The Problem of Pain".

Although the book has long proven to be one of his most popular, Lewis did not like the actual writing process. He found it quite easy to get into a "devilish" point of view, but did not think it good for his character to write for extended periods of time in this type of work. He also felt the work was out of balance - there should be a companion piece, a book of angelic wisdom. However, such a book's prose should have the very air of heaven itself, and Lewis felt quite unequaled to write such a text.

After writing the letters Lewis published them in a now defunct periodical called "The Guardian", an Church of England publication. Although he did not want to harm any publication that issued his work, Lewis was found fond of telling the story that he was directly responsible for losing "The Guardian" at least one reader, due to the "diabolical device advice" present in the letters. For whatever readership these letters lost "The Guardian" were more than made up, as these letters brought in many new readers to the periodical.

The manuscript of "The Screwtape Letters" actually survives, which is unusual for several Lewis books, due to his habit of destroying them after publication as he had no place to store them. After completing the letters, he sent them to Sister Penelope as he was afraid they could be destroyed in a bombing raid by Germany before the book publication appeared, and he felt it may be difficult to reassemble the text from the various issues of "The Guardian".

The first two letters especially are very relevant to today's society. Lewis brings out the fact that, indeed, devils cannot produce any type of virtues, and vices are only perversions of what God has ordained as good. The only thing demons can do is take the pleasure that God has created and encourage us to use it the wrong way. In letter two, he speaks of the mental habits of thinking people are better than what they really are. One thing that especially rings true is that it is very easy for new-born Christians to think that those around them, who they know and that these people's lives are not in proper order, for, after all, they are human beings, cannot be the Christian Church because of little things.

In the subsequent letters Lewis deals with a wide variety of practical, everyday matters. Letter Four deals with prayer (far more concisely and succinctly than Lewis' own "Letters to Malcolm") and has more truth about that subject than many full length books. Letter deight deals with free will. Letter Twelve shows us Lewis's thoughts on pleasure, and how one of Satan's chief tactics is to set up false pleasures and false good activities. Time is so valuable, and Lewis demonstrates that so often when people arrive in hell they find that they have neither spent their time worthilily nor did they do what they truly enjoyed doing. Letter Fourteen distinguishes true humility and false humility, and how false humility becomes a very mockery of what it claims to be. False humiility leads to pride, and gives one a falsely low view of both yourself and God's other creations. Also, denying your identity in God is not true humility - we were made wonderfully.

There are several letters on vice, including those small ones that may not seem like vice at all. Lewis writes about love, marriage, and lust as well. Letter sixteen [deals] demonstrate the vigilance God must develop within you regarding preachers - so often people wander from church to church, looking either for watered down faith or controversy. One must seek the heart of God - not "party churches" that seem more about pomp and circumstances than about getting to the heart of the Father.

There are ways to mythologize the church into this grand and wonderful place that leaves out all the real elements in life and what it means to be a Christian. Letter twenty nine tells us how cowardice will never be approved of, and if you make a human a coward there is the very real danger that his other faults will be evident when he goes on a real soul searching on why he ran.

Lewis's wit is rampant throughout the book, and especially with Screwtape's treatment of Wormwood. They both wish to consume one another, and when Wormwood begs for mercy it is considered heresy because that is not how demons behave.

After completing the work, Lewis took too regular confessions with a priest, as he felt that the habit allowed him to better understand his own temptations and how to work through them and defeat them. Just like Lewis, reading this book will sharpen your senses of right and wrong from a Biblical perspective, and give you new understanding for your Christian walk.

Strangely enough there is both a stage production and a possible movie in the works. I have not seen the stage production, but as the book is primarily concerned with spiritual matters written in a largely non-fictional manner, I found it hard to understand how they could make an actual movie out of this book. While there is a definie narrative, "The Screwtape Letters" is much more about understanding the Enemy and is more akin to his apologetic works than his novels.

The idea of devils writing letters to one another would prove to be an influential device in Christian publications, as various other writers have also played with the concept. I have even written such a letter years ago for a class assignment

This is an essential text for both C. S. Lewis fans and Christians in general.

(These reviews covered all seven books of "The Chronicles of Narnia", the three novels of "The Space Trilogy", "The Abolition of Man", "The Four Loves", "A Preface to Paradise Lost", a revised version of my 2000 review of "Till We Have Faces", "Surprised By Joy", and "The Screwtape Letters".)
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on 27 July 2013
This is a wonderfully irreverent look at religion from someone who was not only very well versed in the subject but also had the ability to make it accessible to those who weren't.

Although the references are dated, (it was I believe, conceived during WW2), it still packs a powerful punch. Some of the references therefore date it and the descriptions of people or types of people are no longer so clearly identifiable. It may also be a little difficult to identify some of the types if you are not English as he is describing a particular class and type which I believe in this form only existed in England and at that time. However, a little imagination can be used to create your own versions of such types which are always present in Society, wherever you are and at whatever time you live.

Of particular enjoyment is 'Screwtape's Toast'. An extra added on at the end of the book. It is a wonderful pastiche of the sort of pompous reply one might expect to be given at such an earthly event but with a hugely entertaining edge.

The real sting in the tale is his excoriating and prescient view of British educational practice and direction. He clearly demonstrates a knowledge of the trajectory and outcome of proposed change in this writing, which is at mid/end of the 1950s, and we are now in the second decade of the 21st Century reaping the harvest almost exactly as he foretold. This is both a testament of his intellectual acuity and profoundly shaming at the same time.

Great book, though it takes time to read. (i.e. to think through and appreciate what he is telling you, rather than there being a lots of words!) and you will have to 'update' some of the descriptors he applies to specific types of people and their attitudes, who were plentiful at the time of his writing.

But, overwhelmingly worth the effort.
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on 16 January 2012
This book was recommended to me as both amusing and thought provoking, and also as a brilliant piece of writing. It does indeed tick all of those boxes.

In quite the reverse of what we expect from CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters is written from the point of view of evil. In this refreshing discussion of ethics and human nature, the demon Screwtape provides instruction to his nephew Wormwood, a young and inexperienced temptor.

Screwtape essentially sums up the temptations and pitfalls of mortal life which are used by, and wherever possible instigated by, the demons to damn souls to Hell. Virtues are illustrated as the things Wormwood must prevent from developing in his `patient' and vices to be promoted.

There are many ironic laughs in this book. We are chastised by means of reverse psychology in recognising traits we have, or that society as a whole has, within the ideals that Screwtape upholds.

Some of the passages in this book are quite prophetic in many ways, although they refer to human nature as it has always been. Chapter/Letter XXV in particular hit home to me as being highly relevant to 21st Century society and the almost hedonistic consumerism that so dominates our lives. Screwtape himself would now be an advertising executive, I imagine, bombarding us with ever bigger, flashier ways to part with our cash and place greater and greater importance on the ownership of non-essential `things'.

The Screwtape Letters really did make me think, and even putting aside the Christian doctrine, there is still a great deal said about basic morality and decency that applies to all humans, regardless of belief. If you are human, because I appreciate you might not be and I have no problem with that, The Screwtape Letters is worth reading.
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on 15 July 2000
C S Lewis has always been a favourite author of mine, but I have a shyed away from THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS because of an idea of a childish book.
How wrong could I be! The book is a biography of my life written by Lewis. Don't under-estimate the power this book will have on your life, it will make you realise things that you are thinking and/or doing which are the works of you-know-who.
Read the book, and change your life forever!
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