Laura Miller‘s The Magician’s Book is a lit-crit-cum-memoir of loving, losing, and making peace with the Chronicles of Narnia. (I have made my way through this book only one third at a time, with one third yet to be read on the next go-round from the library. The second third was quite difficult for me.) Miller read the Narnia books passionately, with utter absorption, between about ages 9 and 14, until she was clued in to the books’ Christian symbolism (generally regarded as fairly obvious). At that age, Miller was even more passionately disillusioned with the Catholic Church: she felt the need to reject Narnia, feeling betrayed. The rest of The Magician’s Book comprises the musings of Miller, with input from many other Narnia-experiencers, on why she loved the works, what there is not to love about them, and how she, well into adulthood and her own career as a literary critic, came to terms again with what ‘in one sense will always be the best book I’ve ever read’ (Lion, Witch &c.). Philip Pullman‘s thinking and writing makes a more than cursory appearance, as is to be expected; Miller has previously written about Pullman specifically in connection with Lewis.
Some of Miller’s material was garnered from a Salon.com set of conversations with readers; though I’m having trouble finding links to those pages, there’s also a recent conversation with Miller posted on Salon regarding The Magician’s Book.
Early in Miller’s work I discovered C.S. Lewis‘s An Experiment in Criticism, a delightful little volume the central suggestion of which is that the value of a book lies perhaps less in how it is written and more in how it is read. I’ll be obtaining that from the library again momentarily, and will no doubt share more.