C.S. Lewis’ Birthday

I almost allowed the day to escape without commenting on the birthday of one of my favorite authors. Actually, to be honest, I’ll admit that I didn’t know it was C.S. Lewis’ birthday today until about 15 minutes ago.

Lewis’ writings have influenced me profoundly.

Sometimes, when I hear other people say “Oh, I love C.S. Lewis!” I get kind of snooty. I think to myself (and sometimes, regrettably, say), “Well, I took a class on Lewis in college. And I’ve read the Space Trilogy, which only true Lewis devotees appreciate.”

It’s horrible, I admit it. Somehow I think I have the corner on appreciating the writings of C.S. Lewis.

But I realize now that my Lewis jealousy is revelatory of the genius of the man. He is for the masses; he brings brilliance, depth, truth, and God to everyone. And he does it, somehow, without “dumbing it down,” for the lowest common intellectual denominator.

This was, and is, the genius of Lewis. The most un-academic person can read him, and the person in their philosophical ivory tower can read him, and both can be profoundly moved and clearly instructed. And my realization is that this… this universal love for Lewis is one of the only widespread trends I know of that is actually good.

So happy birthday Mr. Lewis.

In honor of his birthday, I’d like to post an excerpt of a letter he wrote to an American girl who was a fan of his and had written to him. In this portion, he gives five tips for writers, which have gone down in infamy. Here they are.

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

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