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Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis [Paperback]

By George Sayer (Author) & Lyle W. Dorsett (Foreword by)
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Item description for Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis by George Sayer & Lyle W. Dorsett...

Written by a longtime friend and colleague of the man his friends called "Jack," this definitive biography of C. S. Lewis recounts the great scholar's relationships and experiences.

Publishers Description

As I walked away from New Buildings, I found the man that Lewis had called "Tollers" sitting on one of the stone steps in front of the arcade.

"How did you get on?" he asked.

"I think rather well. I think he will be a most interesting tutor to have."

"Interesting? Yes, he's certainly that," said the man, who I later learned was J. R. R. Tolkien. "You'll never get to the bottom of him."

Over the next twenty-nine years, author George Sayer's first impression about C. S. Lewis proved true. He was interesting; but he was more than just that. He was a devout Christian, gifted literary scholar, best-selling author, and brilliant apologist. Sayer draws from a variety of sources, including his close friendship with Lewis and the million-word diary of Lewis's brother, to paint a portrait of the man whose friends knew him as Jack.

Offering glimpses into Lewis's extraordinary relationships and experiences, Jack details the great scholar's life at the Kilns; days at Magdalen College; meetings with the Inklings; marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham; and the creative process that produced such world-famous works as the classic Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters.

This book is an intimate account of the man who helped-and through his works, continues to help-generations hear and understand the heart of Christianity.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Crossway Books
Pages   457
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.78" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.97"
Weight:   1.18 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 20, 2005
ISBN  1581347391  
ISBN13  9781581347395  

Availability  0 units.

More About George Sayer & Lyle W. Dorsett

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GEORGE SAYER (1914-2005) was head of the English department at Malvern College in Worcestershire until his retirement in 1974. While there, he and Lewis held long literary discussions on their frequent walks in the countryside. Sayer and Lewis maintained a long friendship.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis?

Pretty Good  Apr 5, 2008
Insightful. Not as flattering and complimentary as it could have been considering the relationship of the writer to the subject, which is good. Well written, a good read. well worth the money.
Excellent Biography  Jan 27, 2008
It has been said that a great biography requires that the biographer respect and love his subject. Sayer certainly meets that requirement. As a friend and former student of Lewis', he is able to offer unique anecdotes and a personal perspective to illuminate his subject. He is also a student of literature, so that he is able to comment on Lewis' work in a professional and sometimes incisive manner. I particularly enjoyed the fact that he includes an Afterword in which he answers the most common questions he has received as one of Lewis' principal biographers. He also includes information which does not always reflect favorably on Lewis. While he loves Lewis the book is not idolatrous. He sees him as a living, breathing, flawed, but wonderful human being. My only problem with the book lies in the fact that Sayer does not linger over dates. From time to time the reader has to reconstruct the narrative by repositioning the book's events within specific years and decades. This is not a major problem, but it is a problem. All in all, this is an engaging study of an engaging subject. Highly recommended.
The Tao of Lewis.  Aug 5, 2006
C. S. Lewis is one of the most well known Christians in modern history. I've read a couple of books about his relationship with Joy Davidman, so I figured it was time to check out a biography that spotlighted Mr. Lewis' entire life. "Jack" (Lewis' nickname) had the most accolades, so after warming up with the lighter fare of "Jack's Life" by his stepson, I dove into this book.

George Sayer is a former student of Mr. Lewis', and he delivers a fascinating portrait of his mentor from birth to death. He also provides context by detailing the national background, family life, and period of history that shaped Jack. In addition, Mr. Sayer discusses a number of Jack's books, the creative process he used, and how the public initially received them (including book reviewers). Despite his distinguished academic credentials, the author writes in a manner accessible to the layman reader. I never felt bogged down, or condescended to, by his writing style.

Some have accused the author of sugarcoating C. S. Lewis' life. Yes, Mr. Sayer wrote as a friend, and therefore wasn't out to write a sordid expose. But neither does he claim that Jack peed rosewater. For example, I had no idea that Mr. Lewis struggled with sadomasochistic fantasies and masturbation as a young man. He also smoked and drank quite heavily, habits that many churches don't hold in high esteem. In addition, the author doesn't shy away from discussing some of the charges against Mr. Lewis' character, such as the possibility of a homosexual relationship with his lifelong friend Arthur, and whether or not he and Mrs. Moore were lovers. I'm not sure what kind of dirt would erase the charge of whitewashing, but I felt that Mr. Sayer made Jack appear pretty down-to-earth. That is, except for Jack's statement that sexual fantasy can be "fairly easily overcome with prayer and fasting (p. 415)." The "fairly easily" part is a bit much for me to swallow (or perhaps a bit too convicting for comfort).

Along those lines, I was intrigued, and a bit confused, by one aspect of Mr. Lewis' character: his distain for introspection and fantasizing. Jack considered heroic and romantic fantasy to be counterproductive, because in his eyes their self-centered focus prevented one from obtaining renown and love in real life. He even wrote a poem, "Dymer," that illustrated the dangers of forsaking reality for a dream world. As for introspection, he felt it was a danger to one's mental health. However, many of his works prompt readers toward both pitfalls. I couldn't help being somewhat introspective after reading "The Great Divorce" and "The Screwtape Letters." And who hasn't fantasized about charging into battle at Aslan's side while immersed in the Chronicles of Narnia? Of all Lewis' views, this is the one I'd like to investigate further because of my own disposition towards navel-gazing and daydreaming. Jack's views on the consequences of these actions are especially relevant in an age where pornography is a mouse click away, and one can live life vicariously through reality shows and online computer games.

An unexpected result of reading this book was that I gained a greater interest in the life of Jack's older brother Warren. Both "Jack's Life" and "Jack" paint Warren as a tragic figure who did not live up to his potential. Yes, he was a raging alcoholic whose ambition did not equal Jack's. But considering that Warren served as an army officer in both World Wars, had a number of books published, and helped organize his brother's chaotic schedule, I can't help feeling that both authors were a bit hard on him. Perhaps he could've done better, but he also might've turned out a lot worse. I've always had a soft spot for the underdog.

At any rate, I came away from "Jack" with more respect for C. S. Lewis as a person and a Christian. He's more accessible to me now, and I have a better appreciation for his ideas. And the insights into his character have challenged me to examine and evaluate my own shortcomings. I recommend that you read this book in conjunction with "C.S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time," by Scott R. Burson and Jerry L. Walls. It provides a portrait of Lewis' doctrinal positions that might surprise you (as it did me).
His Legacy For Children Everywhere.  Oct 3, 2005
This is a fitting tribute to the life, works and last days of an author who changed many lives through his writings. His MERE CHRISTIANITY reached out to non-Christians and showed them the way to a better life. But, I think he will best be remembered for the magical world of Narnia he created for children. He'd been born Clive Staples Lewis on November 29, 1898. In 1998, a series of special commemorative stamps was issued, "Magical World," featuring THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. In about two and a half months, the eagerly awaited movie, 'Narnia,' will be in the Regal theaters nationwide and will gather more fans for Jack (C.S.) Lewis.

A musical portrait of his life toured Britain during 1998. Even Hamley's. England's toy shop, hosted a special one-hundredth birthday party in honor of this prodigious writer. It is sad that only fifty people attended his funeral toward the end of November, 1963. On his tombstone is engraved "Men ust endure their going hence" which had been on the Shakespeare Calendar the day his mother died. At a little past 5:30 p.m. on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Jack gave up the ghost after two or three years of terrible pain from prostate cancer. So, in the passing of C. S. Lewis, all the world's eyes were on their television sets watching the events in Dallas, Texas, play out as Oswald purportedly killed the United States president.

Autumn had always been Jack's favorite season so it is fitting that he ends his life in happiness. October's bright blue sky, even in England of 1960, was lovely as were the beeches which were in their "full glory of gold, russet, and amber." Keats called autumn "the close-bosomed friend of the maturing sun." That year, the hawthorne bushes were full of crimson haws, and the wild roses were loaded with hips. He came to Cambridge in 1962 to lecture and to finish his last book THE DISCARDED IMAGE. He was in the autmn of his life but he was enjoying an Indian Summer. He'd just finished SURPRISED BY JOY and his book A GRIEF OBSERVED after she died. Yes, he loved the American woman who entered his life so unexpectedly. He also wrote letters of encouragement for some time to an other American woman.

His enduring legacy is the gift his readers receive, that 'sliver of wonder,' which enables them to see beyond the imaginary world to the living God. The lion in the 'Narnia' books was made to appear as Christ-like as he could manage. April is probably the best loved month in Western Europe, as it is here in Knoxville, Tennessee, our beautiful "Dogwood" celebration. Shakespear wrote of "proud-pied April, dressed in all its trim." In April, there is a revitalization of the earth as the birds sing their joyous songs for all to hear. The forget-me-nots are in bloom, and spring green covers the fields. My favorite time of year is the Spring with all of the pastel colors and the feel of life returning after a long winter's sleep.

He was the precursor to all of the inspiration and self-help books which now abound. He had divine inspiration at times, but he was also human. A man with feelings and empathy toward others.
Wonderfully Written  Aug 2, 2005
I have often expressed my love of biographies. I consider them to be among the most helpful of resources in helping equip Christians in their lifelong quest for Christ-likeness. We can learn much from the examples of those who have run the race before us. We can learn from what God taught them, learn from their triumphs and learn from the times they were defeated. I have a passion for biographies. I also have a passion for the English language. I love to see how we can use the language to craft works of art. I cannot express myself in the fine arts - music and art are both disciplines that escape me. But I consider myself a wordsmith-in-training. These two loves come together in Jack, a biography of C.S. Lewis written by a veritable master of the English language.

George Sayer had what was probably a unique privilege - he met C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien at the same time. He studied English under the tutelage of both of these men while at Oxford University. He became friends with Lewis, growing closer as they grew older. As a friend he provides a unique perspective on what is surely a unique individual.

I have never had the interest in and respect for C.S. Lewis that so many Christians afford him. Perhaps it is that I tend to see in black and white. Lewis exemplified some of the best and yet some of the worst in his understanding of Christianity. It seems that for every major doctrine he so brilliantly defended, there was another that he denied. For every brilliant insight there is a terrible oversight.

Jack provides a glimpse into Lewis' life. This, combined with penetrating analysis from one who knew him well, makes this biography not only fascinating, but very credible. Sayer covers all of the foundational parts of Lewis' life - the death of his mother, his education, his infatuation with Mrs. Moore and his conversion to Christianity. The author looks also at most of Lewis' major writings. Having spent so much time with his subject, Sayer is even able to describe an average day in the life of C.S. Lewis - just the type of detail that is interesting, but is absent from most biographies.

The detail, while interesting and often even necessary, is sometimes almost uncomfortable. Sayers goes so far as to detail Lewis' personal struggles with masturbation and fantasy as a youth, and his later fascination with his wife's body. Yet he does this not merely for the sake of being explicit, but always to help us better understand Lewis. He seeks to help the reader understand Lewis not just as an author, but as a person. He wants to show Lewis in the good times as well as the bad. He seeks to show Lewis as he really was.

Thoroughly-researched and exquisitely-written, this is a brilliant biography of a figure whose importance to Christianity seems to be growing, even forty years after his death. With a major movie series coming to theatres beginning this year, we will surely hear a lot more about Lewis than ever before. While many biographies have been written about him, I would have trouble believing any could be better than this. No matter your opinion of the man himself, Jack, as a book, is a gem; a jewel; an absolute triumph.

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