Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Shedding Light on The Dark Tower -- Christianity Today

Shedding Light on The Dark Tower -- Christianity Today:
"Alastair Fowler, Regius Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, may have inadvertently settled the biggest Christian literary scandal of the last 50 years.

In 1988, Kathryn Lindskoog accused Walter Hooper, who was briefly C. S. Lewis's secretary and later a trustee of his literary estate, of forging a number of manuscripts that he attributed to Lewis, in particular The Dark Tower, an unfinished science-fiction novel.

"If Lindskoog is wrong," said Don King, author of C. S. Lewis, Poet, "[then] Lewis wrote some pieces that were stillborn at best or just plain bad at worst. If she is right, then someone is a forger." Indeed, Lindskoog's allegations raised doubts about anything ascribed to Lewis but not published in his lifetime. ..."

Those who have read The Dark Tower have, no doubt, been as perplexed as I was (and perhaps a little frustrated at the abrupt ending of the text). It struck me as just plain weird, but I really wanted to know where it was headed and how it would end.

Harry Lee Poe, the author of the article quoted above, summarizes the controversy that involved questionable statistical analysis, bitter acrimony between two of the people concerned, and finally a resolution to the controversy. It turns out that a living former student of Lewis remembers conversations with his mentor in which Lewis discussed The Dark Tower and the reasons why it was shelved in favor of other writing.

It's a pity that so much vitriol has been expended in Christian and academic circles -- and over things that were only speculation. As Poe points out:
"...Perhaps we too easily idolize an important thinker like Lewis, thinking he never had a bad day, never struggled to write, and never committed a flawed plotline to paper. Fowler's revelation of Lewis's struggles to write and his shifting priorities should help us be more realistic in our appreciation of this modern saint."
Lewis' reputation certainly hasn't been damaged by the 1977 publication of The Dark Tower, and now we, perhaps, can gain some more insight as to how this fragmentary work fit into his science fiction writing.

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