HogPro Interview with Professor David Downing, Author of Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel

David C. Downing is a Professor of English at Elizabethtown College and one of the handful of C. S. Lewis scholars whose books reward reading and re-reading. Downing’s  Planets in Peril is the accepted gold standard for understanding Lewis’ Space Trilogy, for example, and his guide to Narnia, Into the Wardrobe, though pre Planet Narnia, is the best of its generation.

Now Prof. Downing has taken up his pen, not to write about one Inkling or to analyze his work, but to write a story involving them all. His novel, Looking for the King (Ignatius, 2010), is subtitled An Inklings Novel and features extended cameo appearances by Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis. I read King in one sitting — it’s that good and, to an Inklings junkie at least, something like Turkish Delight — and wrote Prof. Downing some questions. It turned into an interview that he agreed to let me share with you, though it is more of a debate than the usual back and forth between author and reporter. His frankness, good humor, and insights, not to mention his willingness to punch back, made the experience a highlight of my writing for this weBlog.

After the jump, then, the publisher’s fly-leaf summary of the story and the HogPro interview with David C. Downing, author of Looking for the King:

[Read more…]

Chaos Walking #3: Todd Hewitt, ‘Hewn Heart’

Life is short, art is long; let’s get right to the alchemy, then, if you don’t mind.

As discussed previously, the books’ penchant for Christian and biblical names makes me think ‘Todd’ is meant to be understood as ‘Thaddeus,’ the Aramaic word for ‘Heart,’ the spiritual faculty of the human person, or “breast,’ as in ‘bosom buddy.’ The last name of our hero, ‘Hewitt,’ is a not especially opaque telling of “hew it,” which translates as “roughly shape or fell the hard object.” Together, I think the Dickensian cryptonym gives us “the stone or wooden heart’s felling” or, better, “the revelation of the heart out of stone.” His story is a postmodern Everyman tale of the spiritual journey to human perfection or apotheosis.

If you’re a newcomer here, that must seem a real stretch. Old hands, however, I’m sure, have already started asking themselves, “If Todd is the Stone/Heart being perfected, are the three books the three alchemical stages of the Philosopher’s Stone?” Indeed, they are. [Read more…]

Chaos Walking #2: The Noise and the Word

Except for the Noise, an “illness” that strikes male Settlers of New World whose chief symptom is the broadcast of every thought and image in one’s mind to the world around you, Chaos Walking, in the words of Elizabeth Baird Hardy is just “Huck Finn on ‘The Planet of the Apes’.” It’s safe to say that, whatever Patrick Ness’ message may be in his dystopian trilogy cum coming of age story, it is wrapped up in the meaning of the Noise.

Today, consequently, after looking yesterday at the curious surface macro-structures of these books, I want to begin discussion of the work with some conversation starters about the Noise. Here is a brief look with more questions than answers at the narrative, moral, allegorical, and anagogical levels for your reflection and comment:

[Read more…]

Chaos Walking #1: How the Story is Told

Welcome to the HogwartsProfessor Book Club’s first official post! After last month’s fun looking at Mockingjay when it first came out (links to those 30+ posts and threads are gathered here), my fellow Professors and Potter Pundits agreed we should try to do this every month. Our first choice has been the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, the last of which novels — Monsters of Men — was published in the US just last week. I wrote reading guides for the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and the second book, The Ask and the Answer, in recent weeks to encourage those of you for whom Chaos Walking was something totally different. I hope you’ve managed to find and read copies of all three Chaos Walking novels; everything from this point forward will assume you have read each book (file that under “Spoiler Warning”).

The purpose of these posts is “bringing up subjects for discussion” not “delivering definitive interpretations.” I’ve only read the books through once and quickly, but, as you know if you’ve read them, even that experience is sufficient for understanding that these are novels of significant, deceptive depth and artistry that merit re-reading both for pleasure and for that close attention on second and third readings which reveals the greater meaning only felt the first time. To encourage that second and third look, let’s start with some curiosities in the surface narrative after the jump.

[Read more…]

Chaos Walking: No ‘Monsters of Men’ Predictions

Well, here is a busted play.

I was all pumped for discussion and predictions of the first two books in the Chaos Walking trilogy before the finale is published tomorrow — but there was no hold on the release of the third book, Monsters of Men, and it has been thoroughly reviewed with most plot points that would have been subject to speculation now part of the public record. And why not? The book has been available in hardcover and paperback in the UK since 3 May of this year.

Which status quo calls for a HogwartsProfessor Book Club change of plans! Here are the changes: [Read more…]