02 October 2013

A Shocking Novel: The Place of the Lion

As I said in the re-introduction to this blog, the Inklings -- C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams -- have been very influential in forming my views of reason, imagination, and literary fantasy. Williams wrote seven wild, crazy, bizarre “spiritual thrillers.” The Place of the Lion is my favorite.

A series has just ended over on my other blog, The Oddest Inkling, in which several readers wrote their responses to The Place of the Lion. Most of these readers were shocked by this book. It's extremely startling! I won't spoil or even summarize it here; please go and read the posts.

But here I just want to talk about how this book is an “island of joy,” how it trumpets the heraldry of heaven. It does so (for me, anyway) in several ways.

First, the book is visually gorgeous. There are descriptions of an enormous golden lion, a humongous multi-colored butterfly, a fire that burns in the shape of a phoenix and does not consume, a visionary mystic soaring in his mind's eye like a eagle.

Second, the events of the book are shocking; when I first read it, Williams kept smacking me upside the head with philosophical surprises. I know I'm wired differently than the average Jane (I guess): I get my kicks from the appearance of Platonic forms. (OK, I also get kicks from the appearance of, say, Benedict Cumberbatch—but that's a different post!). When a gigantic lion appeared in the sunset and turned out to be the Platonic form of strength, a shiver of heaven ran through me, lifting me into realms of glory.

Third, the spiritual lesson was hard and painful, but (perhaps therefore) also glorious. Every time I reread it, I am convicted. One of the main characters is a woman trying to be a scholar, and she has turned her studies into a kind of dry idolatry. I do that. So Williams terrifies me.

Finally, the ending soars up into heights of sweet desire. But I won't spoil it. Read it!

1 comment:

Dominic Christison said...

Wow, appreciate your honesty in the comment about a character turning her studies into a kind of dry idolatry, and linking that to yourself. We all struggle with different idols - I do for sure! - even if most of us hide it in our public, capable selves. It's a fine line between getting pleasure in something you were obviously gifted to do and called to do, and going over the line into worship!