Sunday, January 05, 2014

Thoughts to Ponder: Writers for Life

One of the habits I’ve cultivated over the years is collecting quotes. I used to jot them 
down in my journal, and while I still do that sometimes, these days I am more likely to past them (or type them, depending on where I find them) into a document on my computer. I add scripture verses, snippets of poetry, prayers, and inspiring quotes from all sorts of sources, and the ultimate collection can get pretty long (last year’s ran 13 pages). So each year I start a fresh document, labeled with the new year, and begin again.

I thought that from time to time, I’d post one of my daybook quotes here. I kicked off 2014 with these words I so resonated with from C.S. Lewis scholar Don W. King:

“Each of us should find a writer
we can read for the rest of our lives.”
Lewis may be the writer that is truest of for me. But also L’Engle, Tolkien, Austen. Sayers is moving toward that list as well. And Eugene Peterson. I go through seasons where I read them more or less, but I go back to all of these particular writers a lot, never feeling like I’ve exhausted what they have to say. They are also writers I love to read about – biography, literary analysis, appreciation.

With Lewis, I always feel especially glad that I have so much more of his work to read…I don’t think I could ever exhaust it. Even if I eventually read it all, it always bears repeat readings. That’s also true of Tolkien.

I’ve probably come closest to reading everything of L’Engle’s. In my late teens and early-mid twenties, I went out of my way to collect as much of her work as I could, even the harder to find things (and for at least a handful of Christmases, my family did an amazing job of giving me hard-to-find L’Engle books). She was hugely formative in my developing spiritual life, and while there are a few books of hers that I feel I’ve somewhat outgrown (not, by the way, her children’s books) many of them I still revisit often, and a few of them have deep places of honor in my mind and heart.

I’ve purposely not ever read all of Austen’s letters, her juvenalia, or her incomplete novel, mostly because I don’t want to say I’ve read everything she’s written! I’ve read most if not all of Sayers’ novels, and also Mind of the Maker, but only some of her drama and essays, and not many of her letters. Peterson is so prolific that I don’t think I could possibly exhaust all of his work, but I like knowing so much of it is there, and that I can always drink deep when I turn to him.

One reason why Lewis has moved to the top of my list over the years, besides the obvious richness to be found in his work, is that he is the kind of writer one really can visit in different seasons and moods. Narnia was my foray into Lewis’ world, and I entered it around the age of ten. But I still revisit Narnia, and I still find more there to learn and ponder and enjoy and love thirty-five years after I first read the books. They are perhaps richer for my having visited them so often, and richer still because I’ve now read so many others books by (and about) Lewis, including books it took me a while to be ready for. Essentially, he is not a writer I ever outgrow – he’s always somewhere I feel I need and want to be, saying something I need and want to hear, challenging me, delighting me, at different seasons and times in my life.

Is there a writer, or writers, that you feel you could read for the rest of your life?


Edna said...

Happy Late New Year to you.

I never thought about this. . . I have read a lot of L'Engle, but not a lot of the "adult" books, and not for a long time. I was just thinking I would like to read them again. And more of C.S. Lewis.

I am going to think about this now!

Thanks for your posts :-).

Beth said...

Edna, happy New Year to you too! I like thinking about this really does seem as though there are certain writers I go back to and back to. Delightful to think we can spend a whole lifetime in conversation with certain writers!