I enjoy C.S. Lewis, but have read only about 40% of the stuff he’s written. I do remember him and others like him emphasizing the importance of reading and the imagination in the Christian life. Actually, I either read somewhere or heard someone say that all preachers should either read the Narnia series or the Lord of the Rings as a way to hone preaching skills. I agree, and would add that the hearers of sermons can benefit from these books as well to hone the art of listening! This post is about such a book: one that will massage your right brain by way of imagery, allegory, and word-picture.
The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux (Waterford: Capstone Fiction, 2008) by Cliff Leigh is a dance through a new world where things first don’t make sense, then they finally start making sense by words and pictures. The book is about a young boy (around 10-13 years old give or take) who gets stuck in the “kingdom of his own happiness:” his desires trap him in a downward spiral of folly (p. 3). Leigh gives us a great window into the mind of this boy (Corian Griffin). For example, when Corian would steal to fill his desires, “a faint tingling…began to grow just beneath the surface” of his clothing. He “shifted his body and flexed his muscles to alleviate the sensation but to no avail” (p. 28). Basically, this is his conscience bothering him; though he wouldn’t call it that, he would call it a terribly uncomfortable sensation.
I don’t want to ruin the story, but Corian travels through a world where he meets all kinds of fascinating characters: army guys, other children with fascinating personalities, adults with odd traits, a life-or-death type of children’s game, a journey, and all sorts of other things which teach Corian about himself and about reality. Here’s a little “sample.” After a battle-that-wasn’t-really-a-battle in this new world, “the cheering of the silver city thundered like the ocean, harmonized by the gasp and epithets of the city of copper at the sight of their fallen hero. The vast sea of humanity rolled and splashed with excitement and misery. And now, as in the story of the boy who slew the giant, I expected the silver city to attack the coppers, but instead, the strangest thing occurred next (p. 52).” You’ll have to read it to see what strange thing did happen.
To conclude, the book is a sort of allegory that highlights the main themes of Scripture. Some allegories sort of jam the Bible into the reader, but this one is not that way. The biblical references, for the most part, are neither forced nor brought to the front to make the story “cheesy” (for lack of better terms). In the end, it does come together pretty clearly and an average reader won’t miss the biblical allusions. (Side note: for you apologists out there in the presuppositionalist camp – you’ll especially enjoy the last part of the story).
There are a few illustrations throughout; they are spectacular. It is clear that Leigh is an artist through and through. The few illustrations in the book make the reader wish for a whole lot more. I was longing for pictures of some things that Leigh took great pains to write about, though perhaps that would have taken away from the great word-pictures. Either way, the illustrations are great and you’ll really want to see more. One more thing: the book isn’t really for younger kids. The content is kid friendly for the most part, but the writing style is at the level of high school and above. This is not a critique, but an observation (in case you were wondering).
Anyway, long story short: if you like Lewis and Tolkien, you’ll enjoy this.