Thursday, September 8, 2016

Images of CS Lewis' World

CS Lewis: Images of his World
© 1973  Douglas R Gilbert, Clyde S Kilby
144 pages

Last year I was tasked with the lamentable duty of weeding our history, literature, and science sections, and so in consequence spent several weeks methodically going through the stacks, book by book, making several discoveries. One,  in regards to literature, evidently my city became CouchPotato-ville in the 1970s. I found book after book which had enjoyed steady attention from the 1930s to the  1960s, but once the 1970s hit -- nothing. A precipitous drop off. I suppose everyone started watching Family Feud.  I also encountered a great many books I'd never seen before, like CS Lewis: Images of his World. As the title suggests, it is a photographic treatment of Lewis' life, illustrating the towns, universities, and pubs wherein he lived, along with some biographical exposition as  extended captions.

Personalities central to Lewis' life appear here, like his wife Joy, his stepsons, and of course his numerous colleague and fellow writers, namely Tolkien. There are also unexpected supporting characters like his long-term gardener. The latter inspired a character in The Silver Chair, and the book smartly combines letters or biographical narration about Lewis' life with photographs. A photograph of several young Cambridge students cycling down High Street is the backdrop for a letter in which Lewis details an early social outing, getting together for 'brekker' before pedaling off through town. Similarly, his recollection of the many ferry trips from Ireland to boarding schools in England is accompanied by a large photograph of two boys crossing the same ferry, looking at the approaching coast in anticipation.  These shots of others, while illustrating Lewis' life, don't appear staged;  there's at least one fellow on a bicycle who didn't look pleased at all to find a camera aiming in his general direction, though the intended subject was the street.  There are also photographs of Lewis' earliest creativity, of his schoolboy notebooks filled with the history of "Animal-Land", accompanied by little drawings. I've been meaning to enjoy this book in full for a few months now, as  I often glance inside it while shelving just to savor the photographs of Cambridge, Oxford, and the Irish countryside. Many of the photographs are only greyscale, but even so they're delightful. As someone who has read and enjoyed thoroughly his autobiography, I am grateful to have discovered this piece.

Images of America (Selma, Montevallo) series


  1. Wow. I now want this book. I just finished reading a book by Dorothy Sayers that takes place in Oxford. I would love to live in a University town. I think the atmosphere would be exhilerating.

    Sounds like you are fortunate in your job. Maybe I should get work at a library.

  2. Are you living in Montevallo Alabama? I've been there. That's a beautiful small college town. A friend of mine attended there back in the fifties.

  3. Alas, no, but I visit it every month or so. The university there is my alma mater, and I'm still allowed to check out books from the uni library. :D It is a exquisite little college town, very intimate. My advisor was one of the authors of the Images of America book. :)

    Did your friend attend when it was still Alabama College? They changed its name when the school went coed in 1956, if I recall.

    I hope you are able to find a used copy of the book someplace! I read from the large horizontal one. I don't know if the later edition includes more photos.

    1. My friend went there when it was a woman's college. She had interesting stories about how strict and formal it was.

      Curfews without mercy if you were late and men had to ask for you at the front desk etc.

      Years ago when I was attending the University of South Alabama our state solo piano competitions would sometimes be held there.

    2. One of the campus ghost stories features one of the old dorm wardens (an adult woman who lived with and supervised the resident girls) still keeping watch over her wards! Of course, there are stories from both Montevallo and Selma about airmen from Craig Field (Selma) making a habit of running up to Montevallo to look for dates. The girls seem to have looked forward to it!

      Montevallo seems to be best known for its music and theater programs these days!

    3. As a matter of fact, my friend married an officer from New Orleans. She is in her eighties now but they had a long, happy marriage until he died a few years ago.

      She got a music education degree at Montevallo.

    4. That's interesting about the ghost. Ha!

    5. In October there's a "Haunted Bricks" tour through the campus, I think. Personally, I roamed the campus many a night and never saw the first phantom light. :p (I would have loved to sneak into the girls' dormitory to eye the door with a girl's face supposedly burned into it, though.)

      Here's some info on more Montevallo 'hauntings' if you are curious:


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