I’m fully-engrossed in a re-reading of C.S. Lewis’ brilliant “Space Trilogy” (“Out of the Silent Planet,” “Perelandra,” and “That Hideous Strength”). I say “re-reading” because I “read” them the first time in high school (or at least, I read the first two and a chapter or two of the third one).
What I’ve discovered, however, is that I only had the vaguest memory of these books. I honestly could not have recalled any detail but for a skeletal summary of the plot/conflict in the second book, “Perelandra.”
This time through, I’m blown away by the depth of Lewis’ writing. I mean, I grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia (though reading through that series again in my mid-twenties was a totally new experience). I knew Lewis was good. But I didn’t realize when I encountered the Space Trilogy in my teens just how perceptive, how rich, how hilariously subtle Lewis’ narrative style could be.
I’ve always been what you’d call an “advanced” reader. Taught myself to read when I was four through a sheer force of will. Skipped kindergarten and was reading ahead of grade level throughout my entire preteen and teenage years.
But I’m seeing now that when I read the Space Trilogy as a sophomore in high school, the whole thing pretty much flew over my head–and understandably so, in some cases. In “That Hideous Strength,” I would have had no context for understanding the bureaucratic wranglings and backroom backstabbing of academia or business. The intervening years have afforded me a few glimpses of both. And when Lewis describes the complex dynamic of individuality within marriage, it would have been far over my head. (To be fair, it would be another 7 years after the publication of THS that Lewis, a confirmed bachelor, would even meet his future wife, Joy Davidman. It’s a testament to his powers of observation and imagination that he has any idea about the matter.)
It feels a little like driving by your childhood home, which seemed so big and comfortable and warm when you padded around on bare feet within its walls, and now appears to grown-up eyes to be tiny, dreary, and run-down. Or maybe it’s like the reverse of that. What before was small and easy to grasp seems now larger and more intricate and exciting.
Maybe I’m the only one who’s experienced this. But I don’t think so.
Your Turn: Have you ever re-read a book that you read in your younger days and realized that you missed something the first time through? Or, if not, which book from your past would you be curious about revisiting?
[And let’s rule out the Bible as a possible answer, since (in my experience) the Bible is the one book in which a Christian will always find new facets and intricacies, if they have eyes to see.]