May 31, 2016

Intimidating Reading... Till We Have Faces

A book that intimidates me.
Of all the categories on the MMD 2016 reading challenge, this is the one that puzzled me the most.

I actually looked it up the word "intimidates", and the first definition I got was to "frighten or overawe".

It made me wonder what really frightens me?
I enjoy some horror and even true crime but I don't think that's what this really means.
Then I wondered if it meant that I should pick a subject matter that I normally would avoid?  Should it involve me pushing myself to a place I don't want to go?  There are certain subjects that I don't care to be exposed to.
Then I wondered if maybe it just meant that I should pick a really long book as I do appreciate short and to the point.  But the thing is, I can usually get past a book being long if the story is good.  Longer books just mean they will take more time invested in getting through them.
So should I pick a book that I'd call boring?  Is that what is really intimidating to me?
I'm not sure that boring me to death is intimidating either.

All of these questions only left me asking more, and I still had no real answers.

"But I think what really kept him cheerful was his inquisitiveness.  I never knew such a man for questions.  He wanted to know everything about our country and language and ancestors and gods, and even our plants and flowers."

Then I thought of the one book I'd been shuffling around for the last few years, Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis.  I'd considered it for 'started but never finished' and also for 'published before you were born'.

Part of what made this book so intimidating is that so many good friends consider it their favorite, and it was recommended by someone I love and respect.  I didn't want to let them down by not understanding it or get what they did from it.

I guess what I find intimidating is feeling stupid.  I won't even pick up a "Dummies" book as I am afraid of that label.  This might be the real insecurity here.
I am a big believer in asking for help when you need it and always learning and growing, but it is scary when you really don't understand or things don't come easily to you.  It's work sometimes, and it is intimidating when you know it won't come to you easily.

"You don't think-not possibly-- not as a mere hundredth chance-- there might be things that are real though we can't see them?"
"Certainly I do. Such things as Justice, Equality, the Soul, or musical notes."

I find that the language of CS Lewis is simple yet beautiful and filled with complex thoughts.  He makes me think.  He makes me work to comprehend each word.  Each word carries its own meaning, and he requires me to do equal work in discovering what he is saying.
I am also somewhat shallow and I'm often afraid that his books will be boring or slow... that they won't keep my interest.

To prepare for successfully getting through this book, I purchased the Kindle version so that I can highlight and look up words easily, and I 'splurged' and added the Audible option as well (it was $2.99 extra) so that I wouldn't be bogged down by trying to figure out how to say some of the names and words.  Often it is this kind of thing that leaves me feeling clueless and doesn't allow me to get into the actual story.

I often feel the need check books off my reading list.  I realize that as I'm getting deeper into reading, how much I need to get over this.  I'm finding that though I do read quickly, there is a time and place to slow down and really savor the words.
I also wonder if sometimes I think that certain books have a deeper meaning, and I'm trying to figure out the 'mystery' of the allegory from page one.  I'm letting this go and just taking the story for what it is.

It turned out that I read this book more quickly than others I've been working on lately.  This was due to it being a wonderfully told tale of love, pride and how we look at life in our own small ways.  It is about how we give hurt and pain power over us to change who we are.

"I could have loved him if I had let myself.... but I would never give my heart again to any young creature."

This story is a re-telling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid from the point of view of a a sister, accused of jealousy, who blames and resents the gods.  She allows this to build until she is no longer the same person.  Transformation occurs and we realize that things are not all that they seem.

"The change which the writing wrought in me was only a beginning--only to prepare me for the gods' surgery.  They used my own pen to probe my wound."

This is one of those stories that will haunt me for the rest of my life.  I believe that there is much that I missed and I'm quite sure that time will add more perspective to this book as well.
I already have it on my list to reread again in the future, or maybe listen to it a bit more.

"I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?"

All quotations from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.


elle alice said...

I want to read Till We Have Faces sometime this year. I have loved all the other CS Lewis books I read (I went on a Lewis binge last year and read all of the Narnia books, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, and The Screwtape Letters). I was a bit nervous when I first started Mere Christianity because my then-boyfriend (now husband) read and loved that one in high school and I felt stupid for not understanding it at first. But, it helped to discuss it, read slowly, and search online (I found youtube videos that explained a few of the chapters and also a few videos of a guy drawing out one of the chapters, and since I am a visual learner, that really helped!

Ellen@Bookspired said...

I read Till We Have Faces when I was in high school, and I remember loving it. I went to Catholic school, and I think I picked it for a religion class assignment. I'd like to read it again, as I'm sure I missed a lot the first time around, and I wonder what I will think of it as an adult.