Sometimes–well, really, a lot of times–I find myself saying, “I am not a better person for having read this book or seen this movie.” It gets tiresome after a while: two or three of those in a row is hard to take.
But here’s a book that I think I really am a better person for having read: Dorothy and Jack, by Gina Dalfonzo (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI: 2020), the story of the friendship between C.S. Lewis (he liked to be called Jack) and Dorothy L. Sayers. The one discovered Narnia. The other gave the world Lord Peter Whimsy. And both did even more important work than that, although Narnia and Whimsy are what they’re best known for.
They addressed each other as fellow dinosaurs. They read, critiqued, and encouraged each other’s work. Each acquired a profound understanding of the other: their friendship never stopped deepening. And both were one of a kind–true originals, if not eccentrics.
Both loved God with all their hearts and put their trust in Jesus Christ. Both were attacked for doing so. You and I, Sayers once said, in a letter to Lewis, “have committed the two unforgivable sins: you believe in God, and your books sell” (pg. 136). Even back in the late 1940s and early 50s, the academic world was hostile to Christians. Oxford University repeatedly denied Lewis promotions that he richly deserved. For a man who loved Oxford as passionately as C.S. Lewis did, it was a hard trial to bear.
How I would have loved to know these two! Dorothy and Jack spend a weekend at the shore with Patty and Lee–what talks we’d have!
Both knew how to stand against the tide. Both knew how to endure tribulation, of which there was plenty in their lives.
I can’t help wondering whether they would’ve liked my books. What I’ve read here suggests that yes, they would.
Alas for our culture and tradition, letter-writing is practically a lost art. Both Lewis and Sayers were assiduous, prolific letter writers: it’s from their collected letters that Ms. Dalfonzo gets much of her information. C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers, both master writers in their own respective fields, were also masters of the art of letter-writing. Future scholars who want to write about the 21st century–presuming that there are any–will be denied this resource. Unless they settle for Collected Text Messages of Cher.
These two stood up against all the baloney that this fallen world could throw at them: stood up for themselves, for each other, for art, for scholarship–and for Jesus. First of all, Jesus.
Can I stand up and cheer for a book?