Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Study in Ink: "Jack" Lewis

Aparantly when Clive Staples Lewis was a boy he woke up one day and told his family to call him Jack. It stuck and after that anyone who knew him socially called him Jack. Names are odd like that. Oficially they can be one thing but you are really known by what you are called. I think I would prefer Jack too if my given name were Clive.

I'll begin our discussion of Lewis' work with the most well known and the first ones I read. The Chronocles. I like to call Narnia my first love in literature. It has that sort of sweet, outgrown, nostalgia for me. At the time they were perfect, full of adventure and magic, metaphysical truths and a certain brand of university humor that is in most of Lewis' books. The first concious observation I made on writing style was Lewis' tendancy to point out small details the reader is likely to have experienced like waking up on the hard ground, how thirsty eating toffee for dinner will make you or how much more frusterating it is to wait for something when you have no idea how long you will have to wait, in order to relate them to the story.

My second brush with Lewis was his space trylogy. I have very strong memories of reading Out of the Silent Planet during a tedius pep rally in high school and Perelandra while camping. I think more than anything else Perelandra whet my apitite for thought and discussions about life. I mean what better paradise can you imagine than a planet with land waves and perfect fruit to eat while sit around throwing ideas back and forth at each other?

The more I read of Lewis' works and his life the more I realize that he wrote mostly about himself. Professor Kirk was the name of one of his own proffesors and has a very similar personality as does Digory to Lewis as a boy. Pilgrim's Regress, even though he insisted he was seeking to generalize a logical series of beliefs, more or less chronicalizes his own intelectual/spiritual journey and even Ransom from the space trylogy is arguable a version of his friend Tolkien.

I have read Screwtape Letters three times I believe and written a research paper on it. It was, Lewis admitted, one of the easiest pieces for him to write because it was so easy for him to get into the head of the diabolical. Being nasty is never very difficult. It is interesting to be shown the life of a completely unremarkable man through the eyes of a creature who is contemptous of everything we tend to admire. Screwtape is witty and entertaining, and even makes some excelent points but Lewis always makes it clear when he is disagreeing with the demon. The quote that sticks with me the strongest is "Now is the closest time to eternity."

A Grief Observed is interesting because it was written after most of his books of philosophy (my favorite of which are The Abolition of Man and Discarded Images) and theology were already published and yet chronolizes all his carefully laid thoughts falling appart after the death of his wife. A testiment that a true thinker's thoughts are never done. Their conclusions are as fragile as anybody else's.

The C.S. Lewis book that surprised me the most was Till We Have Faces. It doesn't take place in an imagined land of metaphysical exploration like The Great Divorce, Pilgrim's Regress or Narnia or a university (the only profession he knew well enough to feel confident writing about) like Screwtape or his space trylogy. It is a retelling a myth narated by a woman set in ancient Greece and yet it is full of the same logic mixed with romantic longing that all of his books are held together with.

So what did Lewis teach me about writing? To long for the unknown. To think long and hard about what the little thing represent. To choose my details wisely. To not be afraid to write about the things closest to me. To read so that I am not alone. That now is the closest time to eternity.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Forgive Me While I Go Rogue Scholar For A Moment

My English 124 professor has an infatuation with the State, Explain, Examples, Illustrate format for critical thinking. What? A format for critical thinking? Isn't critical thinking the ability to think outside the box? Isn't format the epitome of a box? (unlike structure which can be tailored to fit the situation)

It's been awhile since I wrote much that wasn't purely creative or at least literary analysis. The last composition class I took was quite a few years ago and while it was when I developed my “Point of Inspiration” theory on forcing assignments I have no emotional connection with to . . . well develop an emotional connection of some kind I never really missed it.

It's not that I don't love writing essays. Or at least I love the things my mind does throughout the process of writing an essay. I'm not usually satisfied with the end result. There is just something frustrating about being asked to say something in a certain way without anyone actually caring what I say so long as it follows the format.

I'm also used to subjective critique. “I don't understand your character's motivation in this passage, do you think you could clarify without slowing down the pace?” or “This would be clearer if it were one sentence instead of two.” Instead of “Use an example here”. I like to be asked to rethink my work and what I'm trying to express with it not told what changes to make.

And for the final touch of irony the current piece I'm working on is arguing against complete relativism.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Study In Ink: An Invitation

When I when thirteen I wanted to be a dragon slayer and save the world from inevitable destruction but since Peter Pan only visited the Darings' window and the white rabbits I ever had the pleasure of seeing were locked in a cage with a conspicuose lack of wastecoat and watch I decided on the next best thing. I would write about dragon slayers.
If I couldn't be Sir George himself I would be his jongular and come along for the ride. Still something in the mind of a thirteen year old desires heroes they can emulate.
Enter the Inklings.
C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Lancelyn Green, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. They were the round table of fantasists. The inventors of the genre. I liked to imagine them sitting around the table in the back of The Eagle and The Child (or The Bird and The Baby as the locals called it) on Tuesday morning smoking their pipes, eating eggs and mushrooms and reading their work to each other. While most girls my age were obsessing over posters of N Sync and The Backstreet Boys I was hunting down as many books as I could find by these gifted authors, memorizing odd facts about their lives and --yes --learning elvish.
My Reasons for writing are different now, though perhaps not as different as I might imagine. Still, I feel a little flutter of hero worship when I hear the names of these, my first writing teachers. I would like to spend the next month or two discussing these authors, their works, and what they taught me. Please join me for this series of discussions entitled A Study In Ink.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Taliesin the zine

I finally printed the Summer 2010 Issue of my zine Taliesin. It is available for $2.00 or trade. Just send your mailing address to featherzines@yahoo.com.

I don't know how many of you are zinesters or ex-zinesters so I thought I should answer a few questions so you know what Taliesin is.

A zine is an independent self publication of absolutely anything. Poetry, stories, photos, journals. Kind of like a blog on paper. Most zines tend to deal with punk or other alternative cultures. There are also a lot of zine comics. Teens are big fans of zines because they are a nice outlet for angst or dealing with depression. They probably aren't something worth mentioning on a query but they are a fun way to share ideas and stories. There is also an intimacy in buying and trading zines that is lost in other forms of publication because, though there are some distos you can publish through, most zines are hand printed.

Taliesin is a fantasy literary zine I started two years ago. I originally started this blog to replace it because of the amount of time and money that went into it but, though blogging has introduced me to a whole new spectrum of sharing ideas and meeting new people, it doesn't have quite the same feeling of accomplishment that putting together a paper publication does. So far Taliesin contains mostly my own work but I'm looking to change that. If you have anything you would like to submit please send it to:


I say Taliesin is 'fantasy' themed but that really is too narrow a description. What it really is is 'bard' themed which is much more abstract. If you have something that is in any way connected to music, storytelling, history or the great mysteries of the universe chances are it will fit just fine in Taliesin. I will accept anything from poetry and flash fiction and short stories to book reviews, creative nonfiction pieces and factual articles so long as they fit in some way or another to the theme of that particular issue. If you are considering submitting for the upcoming winter issue (deadline December 30th) the theme is Masks and Hidden Magic. But if you send something else and I really like it I will likely (with your permission) save it for another issue or (with your permission) pass the submission on to my sister's zine Silenciues.

Let me know if you have any more questions and I hope to be able to publish a little piece of your work for you soon.

Friday, September 3, 2010


My much cluttered muse
Too often abandoned
Do not leave me yet

If I could pen words
For every mindspun thread
My fingers would break