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The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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It is assumed that you have read the book before reading posts in this thread, as the discussion might give away crucial points, and the continuous use of spoiler tags might hinder fluent reading of posts.



 

 

The Screwtape Letter by C.S. Lewis

Synopsis

 

A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to 'Our Father Below'. At once wildly comic, deadly serious and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. Dedicated to Lewis's friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien, The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation -- and triumph over it -- ever written.

 

 

Basic Questions #1

nicked from Kell

 

1. Who was your favourite character and why?

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

5. Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

 

Basic Questions #2

nabbed from Classic Lit

 

6. What did you think the book was about?

8. Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

9. If one (or more) of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?

 

Basic Questions #3

borrowed from The Reading Club (UK)

 

10. Did the book affect you in a personal way, such as offending you or making you uncomfortable?

11. Did you reassess your views on / gain a better understanding or new awareness of certain topics because of the novel?

12. If the book was written some time in the past, do you feel that it was dated well? Have things changed drastically since then?

13. What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

14. If you were writing a sequel, what would you plan for the characters?

 

 

 

I'm currently rushing off to class so I will be back tonight with my answers, in the meantime - get stuck in :) I look forward to discussing our new book with you all!

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I wanted so badly to like this book, especially as it was my nomination, and the first time one of my nominated books has won. So I'm sorry to start with a negative review. :blush: Anyway, here goes...

 

1. Who was your favourite character and why?

I didn’t feel anything about Wormwood, since the letters were all one sided so I didn’t feel I got to know him at all, and I didn’t much care for Screwtape either.

 

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I didn’t enjoy any of it. :blush: See answer to Q5

 

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I have read all of the Narnia books several times. Obviously this book was very different from those - and it definitely hasn’t encouraged me to try any of his other non-Narnia ones.

 

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

See answer to Q5

 

5. Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

I didn’t really struggle with any part of the book, apart from the fact I found it interminably dull. I found my mind drifting off on numerous occasions, meaning I had to go back and re-read paragraphs, and even then I really didn’t take in what was going on unless I concentrated - it was a real chore to make myself read this, and had I not nominated it then I don’t think I’d have continued to the end.

 

6. What did you think the book was about?

In a nutshell - showing that Christianity is a ‘good’ thing, by looking at it from the opposite view-point.

 

8. Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

I think the author appeared in the book inasmuch as he wrote it after his return to Christianity after lapsing from the Church and it was therefore a subject that was very close to his heart.

 

13. What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

I don’t think it’s likely to ‘convert’ any non-believers. I think it will appeal to a lot of Christians, even though I hated it myself.

 

I will come back to Qs 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14 later as I'm off to my Book Club now.

 

I know this book is hugely popular - I really think I must have missed something here!

 

Good points about the book itself:

 

My copy, which is The Illustrated Screwtape Letters had an absolutely lovely feel about it. The pages are on gorgeous, thick, good-quality paper. The best thing about are the beautiful illustrations by 'Papas' - wonderful!

 

010-2011-Feb-21-TheIllustratedScrewtapeLettersLettersfromaSeniortoaJuniorDevil.jpg

 

screwtape4.jpg

 

Interestingly, C S Lewis' own drawing of Screwtape looks rather different!

 

screwtape3.jpg

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Disclaimer: I haven't slept since the last post, so it's totally still the same day :D!

 

Note: I listened to the audiobook version as read by John Cleese. I am pretty convinced I would have liked the book regardless (sorry Janet :blush:), but I'd be lying if I didn't allow for the fact that Cleese's excellent delivery worked perfectly with the text to bring out every subtlety of humour.

1. Who was your favourite character and why?

Screwtape, easily. His observations regarding the human race were darkly humourous and always made me snigger.

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I loved the idea of religious positivity being an offensive thing with punishability potential - it's the kind of ironic reversal that made the book all the more enjoyable for me.

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I only had the Narnia books read to me as a child, but this book has further inspired me to do what I've been meaning to do anyway, which is read Lewis's theological works (Mere Christianity etc.)

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

Not really, no.

5. Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

Very, I was both amused and thought-provoked throughout.

6. What did you think the book was about?

To me it was an embodiment (enbookment :cool:?) of the idea of "playing devil's advocate". I find the potentially bureaucratic nature of evil a concept as fascinating as it might at first appear silly - I've written a short story about it myself, even! - so it's a joy to see it realised so well here.

8. Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

As Janet remarked, Lewis is undoubtedly present as the whole thing concerns notions of good and evil that are key to the author's non-fiction. That said, because this presence constituted the very skeleton of the book, I don't think it could be construed to disrupt the narrative - if anything, it props up the narrative, because without Lewis's preoccupation with the problem of evil and so on, we would have no book.

 

9. If one (or more) of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?

The book's very particular in the sense that it is all about choices with moral implications, so it would be daft and herculean for me to try and answer the question literally. The book, I think, is designed to make one aware of the very concept of moral implications - it

could be said that the biggest moral imperative one can glean from the book is the internalisation of the fact that every action, no matter how apparently trivial, is like a huge bat of butterfly wings in moral terms.

10. Did the book affect you in a personal way, such as offending you or making you uncomfortable?

Nah. Though it deals with serious themes, it's written so tongue-in-cheek I think one would need to be trying really hard to be offended or upset by it.

11. Did you reassess your views on / gain a better understanding or new awareness of certain topics because of the novel?

I wouldn't talk about a better understanding or new awareness as such, as I hold all of half a degree in philosophy and am therefore used to thinking about these topics (and saying things like "moral imperative." Hello again, Immanuel Kant, where have you been the past three years?). I don't seem to have changed my views on things like human agency in the grand cosmic scheme of things, however I've given them a good reassessing and (as mentioned in question 9) I do think that was kind of the point of the exercise at hand.

12. If the book was written some time in the past, do you feel that it was dated well? Have things changed drastically since then?

My version even contained a preface in which Lewis explained, amongst other things, that he had not tried to situate the "correspondence" in human time, which proved my gut instinct I.e. that temporal location isn't really the book's point at all. Stylistically, I would say it hasn't aged at all, it reads very fresh and could to my mind easily have been written by a contemporary satirist.

 

13. What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

Apart from just about all my ex philosophy classmates (in particular the *groan* determinists), I would really say anyone with a supernatural interest and a zany sense of humour - which pretty much describes all of my friends, ever.

14. If you were writing a sequel, what would you plan for the characters?

Writer Giu needs more time to elaborate a proper answer to his one - you'll get that tomorrow!

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I just started this yesterday and so am just about 20% of the way through, but so far I'm loving it! My first read is going to be purely for enjoyment and therefore reasonably quick and not particularly in-depth, but I am sure that I will read it again in more depth and considering the philosophical points that are so cleverly and entertainingly made. I can imagine myself reading it one letter at a time, and really thinking about it. (Me? Think? Well, maybe that's going a bit far :lol:)

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23.39pm philosophising:

 

13) In my exploration around Screwtape, I have come across a sequel of sorts by Jim Peschke, titled The Michael Letters: Heaven's Answer to Screwtape. While I haven't read it, the book's very existence made me ponder a question. As a Christian trying to make a point, wouldn't it have been easier / have apparently made more sense to write this exploration of human morality and divine law from the perspective of the good guys? With this question at the back of your minds, what do you make of Lewis's decision to tell this parable from the devils' side instead?

 

Discuss.

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I think that if it had been written just from the perspective of the good guys, it would have much more limited appeal, and would perhaps mostly have been read by those who are Christians already. I'm not quite sure why Mr Pescke felt that Heaven should reply to Screwtape, unless he felt that Screwtape's letters were much too much like fun and needed to be dulled down with a good dollop of boring and worthy!

 

I'm a Christian myself, but C S Lewis' book is making me think about things from a different angle and much more deeply than most theological books; I think it was an inspired idea.

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I was looking at reviews for this yesterday and the word 'Christianity' kept jumping out at me over and over, which is a little offputting for me. Is it overly religious in tone? Am I likely to feel like I'm being preached to?

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I would be surprised if you found it preachy, Kylie, it is written with lots of humour and is all about an older devil teaching his nephew how to make sure humans stay off the straight and narrow, so if anything I find it the reverse of preachy! :)

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I think that if it had been written just from the perspective of the good guys, it would have much more limited appeal, and would perhaps mostly have been read by those who are Christians already. I'm not quite sure why Mr Pescke felt that Heaven should reply to Screwtape, unless he felt that Screwtape's letters were much too much like fun and needed to be dulled down with a good dollop of boring and worthy! I'm a Christian myself, but C S Lewis' book is making me think about things from a different angle and much more deeply than most theological books; I think it was an inspired idea.
I also think it was a good idea, because the lack lack of restraint implicit in the notion of evil tends to make for, quite simply, much more relatable and entertaining fiction.

 

While most people may want to live well, most readers don't seem to want to read about characters with spotless consciences, since spotless consciences are usually the hallmark very dull fiction. The Screwtape letters, I feel, appeals to readers because stories from the dark side always have, from Marlowe's Dr Faustus via Milton's Paradise Lost to Pratchett's and Gaiman's Good Omens. I'm not sure I would necessarily call the idea inspired as the concept is not particularly groundbreaking in and of itself; I would, on the other hand, call it exceptionally executed.

 

I do, however, think that it is a shame that the flipside never appears to come into its own in the fictional sense, and would love to read a book written from the side of the "goodies" which was also not dull as ditchwater.

 

I've finished this, will be back tomorrow to post my thoughts, once I've had a chance to think about the questions
Yay :) can't wait to hear your thoughts!

 

I was looking at reviews for this yesterday and the word 'Christianity' kept jumping out at me over and over, which is a little offputting for me. Is it overly religious in tone? Am I likely to feel like I'm being preached to?
I would be surprised if you found it preachy, Kylie, it is written with lots of humour and is all about an older devil teaching his nephew how to make sure humans stay off the straight and narrow, so if anything I find it the reverse of preachy!
Further to Ooshie's excellent point :) the framework is obviously a Christian one presupposing the existence of heaven, hell & the like because otherwise the concept would not function correctly. That said, I'm a reluctant agnostic interested in discussing questions of faith from all angles to see if I can regain some... the last book I would want to read at this point is one that would make me feel like I'm being spoken down to from way up on a soapbox. I think it's safe to say you're in no danger of feeling preached to - join us, you know you want to!

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Thanks Ooshie and Giulia. I must admit that it sounds quite interesting. I may not get it in time for the discussion, but I'll add it to my wishlist. :)

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I'll try and answer at least some of the questions.

 

Who was your favourite character and why?

There isn't a great deal of choice :D I can't say I liked Screwtape, but he made me laugh with his sarcasm.

 

Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I preferred the first and last third of the book, I felt it got a bit bogged down in the middle. I also enjoyed reading little snippets about the lowerarchy and would have liked him to expand on it (who would not want to hear more about Slumtrimpet and Triptweeze?) but clearly that wasn't the point of this book and it would have distracted from the point and the purpose.

 

Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

It's not my first C.S. Lewis or theology book but it's the first I've read written from this perspective. I'm not sure that I would want to read more ... probably not but I did think it was extremely clever and innovative.

Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

No, not really .. my brain crumbled slightly at times but no more than usual.

 

Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

I found it a little bit, not tedious, but slightly repetitive and I did drift occasionally. I loved it though whenever Screwtape gave full vent to his spleen and it was definitely a book to make you think.

 

What did you think the book was about?

It seemed to me to be a book illustrating how easy it is, even for committed Christians, to fall into the path of corruption/temptation and how the devils biggest weapon is subtlety.

 

Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

The author was always present .. it's obviously his views and opinions that we are reading. He found a novel way in which to give that opinion though and so his presence wasn't at all distracting.

 

Did the book affect you in a personal way, such as offending you or making you uncomfortable?

No, and I didn't feel it was preachy but I could see what he was aiming at and fell into the habit of analysing what was said by Screwtape and pulling it apart to see what was really meant (which I guess was Lewis's intention.)

I suppose too that it depends on your religious viewpoint. I don't think a Christian would be at all offended by it but I can see that they might feel a bit daunted.

 

What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

Anyone that likes satirical writing obviously but I guess the people it's most suited to are those Lewis wrote it for, those interested in following the Christian faith. I'm not sure that it would encourage them though, although I'm sure it was written for that purpose. Even though the patient avoids the pitfalls and goes to his spiritual reward it seemed a pretty tall task to me and all the more so because the demons were not a bit interested in tempting the patient into serious evil, but concentrated on the very many petty and trivial ways into which a soul can be diverted from the spiritual straight and narrow. Of course he does often press home the point that the enemy (God) will be there also encouraging and reassuring but I found myself wondering if any Christian could ever pass such a test ... or would you always be in a Catch 22 situation ... feeling that you'd succeeded .. but in truth failing through sin of pride or vanity ... but that's probably just me over-analysing and being cynical .. my head hurts now.. I'm going to lay down in a darkened room. I knew where I was with Aslan :D .. but there again he threw Susan over for being too interested in make-up and boys.

 

I came away thinking that I might possibly be Wormwood's easiest patient ever ....'look over there at that nice shiny new book in the window of Waterstones ... your husband won't mind if you buy it .... even though he said you mustn't buy any more this month .. go on ... you don't need to tell him .. he'll never know'

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1. Who was your favourite character and why?

I would have to say Screwtape, but only because of lack of other characters.

 

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I liked the part where Screwtape was turned into a different creature, where his secretary has to do the writing.

 

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

This is the first CS Lewis book that I have read, but I am familar with the Narnia series. I would like to read more.

 

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

I found it easy to read, and the ideas were quite easy to understand too.

 

5. Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

Yes, I enjoyed the book.

 

6. What did you think the book was about?

I thought the book was about a senior devil trying to force his beliefs onto a much junior one.

 

8. Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

I didnt think the author appeared in the book directly, however maybe his ideas were present.

 

14. If you were writing a sequel, what would you plan for the characters?

I would like to have heard a sequal from the point of view of Wormwood.

 

 

I've answered half the questions and will be back to answer some more later :D

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I'm so glad everyone has enjoyed this (so far), apart from me! I was really worried, having nominated it, that nobody would like it.

 

I wish I'd listened to the John Cleese narrated audio-book as I can really hear him doing Screwtape and Wormwood's voices! I might even have enjoyed it then!

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1. Who was your favourite character and why?

 

Hmmm, the carniverous Screwtape or the bumbling Wormwood? Either one.

 

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

 

I enjoyed the last chapter when Screwtape gets hungry. There was no part that I particularly disliked.

 

 

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

No, I have read Mere Christianity by the same author. I found his theological ideas quite novel even though I was reading them decades later.

 

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

No not at all. In fact I identified very strongly with large parts of the text as things I am tempted by or do.

 

5. Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

 

Absolutely. I would like to take more time over it in future and reread chapters to think on them more deeply.

 

6. What did you think the book was about?

 

I think this book is an instruction manual for christians. Instead of just writing a book such as "Pitfalls for Christians" CS Lewis has created an entertaining, humorous and non threatening way of conveying his very serious message.

8. Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

 

I think the book can be interpreted two ways - as a fictional story about 2 devils in which the author does not appear at all; or with the background knowledge that this is a message from an author with some very strong ideas about Christian morals and how to avoid moral traps. In which case the authors voice is pervasive.

 

 

9. If one (or more) of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?

 

I would like to think I would make the same choice as the young man being tempted.

 

10. Did the book affect you in a personal way, such as offending you or making you uncomfortable?

 

Yes, in that it made me evaluate my own behaviour however I do think I read it too quickly to really take in all the contents.

 

11. Did you reassess your views on / gain a better understanding or new awareness of certain topics because of the novel?

 

Same as above

12. If the book was written some time in the past, do you feel that it was dated well? Have things changed drastically since then?

 

I think the book has kept it's relevance incredibly well. A few things I thought were a little dated such as some stated differences between men and women's attitudes.

 

13. What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

 

Other Christians. I do find it interesting that people who are not christian enjoyed the book. I am pleased about that as it is an interesting read regardless of your beliefs.

14. If you were writing a sequel, what would you plan for the characters?

 

I would love to hear what happens to Wormwood. Does Screwtape eat him? Is he re-deployed?

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I hope I haven't put anyone off with my overly Christian view of the Screwtape letters - sorry, it's difficutl to disengage my relgion from this book.

 

I do have a question to pose to everyone which I nicked off a website.

 

What do you think of the way Lewis portrays Christians and non Christians? For instance, Wormwood's patient intially meets a group of skeptics early in the book which Wormwood is delighted about however later he meets a Christian circle of friends through his new girlfriend.

I thought Lewis had good and bad things to say about both groups but will save my opinions for later. Just wondered what you guys thought?

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I hope I haven't put anyone off with my overly Christian view of the Screwtape letters - sorry, it's difficutl to disengage my relgion from this book.

No no no, don't worry, no putting off involved - if I was that easy to scare I wouldn't have proposed a religious topic in the first place :) I'm just a bad circle leader *slaps wrist* on the dash now as usual but I will be back later tonight to un-pause this marvellous discussion, even if I have to do it at 3 in the morning, by golly! And very good question you pose, I'll be back with a witty & insightful answer for you amongst other things...!

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I think this book is an instruction manual for christians. Instead of just writing a book such as "Pitfalls for Christians" CS Lewis has created an entertaining, humorous and non threatening way of conveying his very serious message.
I don't think a Christian would be at all offended by it but I can see that they might feel a bit daunted... I guess the people it's most suited to are those Lewis wrote it for, those interested in following the Christian faith. I'm not sure that it would encourage them though, although I'm sure it was written for that purpose. Even though the patient avoids the pitfalls and goes to his spiritual reward it seemed a pretty tall task to me...
I think the book can be interpreted... with the background knowledge that this is a message from an author with some very strong ideas about Christian morals and how to avoid moral traps. In which case the authors voice is pervasive. [i would recommend the book to o]ther Christians. I do find it interesting that people who are not christian enjoyed the book. I am pleased about that as it is an interesting read regardless of your beliefs.
I find it really interesting that all three of you fairly surely identified Screwtape as a manual / guide / rulebook / pathway / whatchamacallit for (aspiring?) Christians. This may very well be my agnosticicsm projecting onto the text, in which case you may very kindly tell me to shush and stop talking nonsense, but I would have thought that this kind of book - I.e. one where pretty central tenets of Faith are scrutinized for satirical purposes - would not be viewed kindly by the religious majority, the author's own Christianity nonwithstanding.

 

Having met those who shot down Paradise Lost in flames (poetically appropriate, one might argue) as pretty much heresy, I had thought this would be widely considered the black sheep to the flock of Lewis's more conventional theological works such as Mere Christianity. I am immensely relieved to find that this is not the case, naturally, but I suppose also a little surprised that it's not more controversial than it is. I guess I was expecting that, precisely like Milton's masterpiece, this would be a book written by such a left-field Christian perspective as to be appropiated by successive generations as an atheist manifesto, yet no such hijacking seems to have taken place here, which intrigues me.

 

Thoughts? Have I actually lost it, or am I actually making sense?

 

I'm so glad everyone has enjoyed this (so far), apart from me! I was really worried, having nominated it, that nobody would like it. I wish I'd listened to the John Cleese narrated audio-book as I can really hear him doing Screwtape and Wormwood's voices! I might even have enjoyed it then!
It really didn't get better for you, did it Janet? I'm so sorry to hear that :( can you pinpoint what Lewis might have done differently to secure your appreciation, or is it just such a dreary mess in your view as to be essentially unsalvageable?

 

... off to think about ladymacbeth's extremely pertinent question, & hatch furher ones!

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Interesting BookJumper as I would have identified The Screwtape letters as being bang-on with conventional Christian theology but Mere Christianity being quite left-field.

 

But maybe I just never identified this book as being satire.

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1. Who was your favourite character and why?

 

My favourite character was Screwtape himself, probably because he was the one I felt we got to know the most throughout the book.

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

 

No, I loved the whole book from beginning to end.

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

The only other books I had previously read by C S Lewis were the Narnia books. I own three of his non-fiction books (The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and The Four Loves), and it has definitely moved them well up my to-read list.

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

I can't say I struggled with any parts or ideas, but I will definitely be reading the book again and giving more thought to the ideas within, as I just read it through quickly this time for enjoyment and didn't think about it in great depth.

5. Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

 

Very. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

6. What did you think the book was about?

 

I thought it was an interesting and different way to make people think about human nature and temptations.

8. Did the author seem to appear in the book? How? Why? Was the presence of the author disruptive? Or did it seem appropriate/fitting?

 

As others have said, the book is obviously very much centred on the author's belief system, but as Screwtape was presenting these ideas in a reverse fashion, I didn't feel the presence of the author himself.

9. If one (or more) of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?

 

I shouldn't have left it so long between finishing the book and posting, as I can't now remember the specific choices/implications!.

10. Did the book affect you in a personal way, such as offending you or making you uncomfortable?

 

No, it didn't make me feel uncomfortable at all. Quite the reverse, I felt uplifted - maybe the effect of having my brain woken up slightly!

11. Did you reassess your views on / gain a better understanding or new awareness of certain topics because of the novel?

 

I will be reading the book again to give more thought to the points raised, and am sure that it will give me a better understanding and awareness.

12. If the book was written some time in the past, do you feel that it was dated well? Have things changed drastically since then?

 

I feel that the book has aged very well, despite its being written/set in the past.

13. What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

 

People who enjoy satire and/or people who are interested in learning more about Christianity.

14. If you were writing a sequel, what would you plan for the characters?

 

I wouldn't plan a sequel at all, I really feel it was complete.

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I find it really interesting that all three of you fairly surely identified Screwtape as a manual / guide / rulebook / pathway / whatchamacallit for (aspiring?) Christians. This may very well be my agnosticicsm projecting onto the text, in which case you may very kindly tell me to shush and stop talking nonsense, but I would have thought that this kind of book - I.e. one where pretty central tenets of Faith are scrutinized for satirical purposes - would not be viewed kindly by the religious majority, the author's own Christianity nonwithstanding.

 

Having met those who shot down Paradise Lost in flames (poetically appropriate, one might argue) as pretty much heresy, I had thought this would be widely considered the black sheep to the flock of Lewis's more conventional theological works such as Mere Christianity. I am immensely relieved to find that this is not the case, naturally, but I suppose also a little surprised that it's not more controversial than it is. I guess I was expecting that, precisely like Milton's masterpiece, this would be a book written by such a left-field Christian perspective as to be appropiated by successive generations as an atheist manifesto, yet no such hijacking seems to have taken place here, which intrigues me.

 

Thoughts? Have I actually lost it, or am I actually making sense?

 

ah you always make sense Giulia .. don't worry about that :) I've always found that, like Lewis, Christians don't mind a bit of fun poking, as long as the message is loud and clear and I think it is with Screwtape. I didn't find it too left-field .. I found it a bit unachievable but that's probably because I'm too much of a sinner, probably committed Christians wouldn't and it wouldn't be telling them anything they hadn't already heard (it would just be telling them it in a slightly skewed way.) Ultimately the joke is on Wormwood and the demons, God wins out and a soul is saved .. cue angels singing.

Obviously it's different if Christian (or any) Faith is satirised for the purpose of showing that it's all humbug .. plenty of stand up comedians do that .. but clearly that's not the case here.

You'll always get people who don't enjoy anything that they hold sacred being satirised but certainly I've never found that to be the case amongst my Christian friends (but then they love stuff like Father Ted) .. especially not as it's Lewis and they know that he's singing from the same hymn sheet.

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I've always found that, like Lewis, Christians don't mind a bit of fun poking, as long as the message is loud and clear and I think it is with Screwtape.

 

Good answer poppyshake and I thoroughly agree. CS Lewis actually has the best humour because it is so close to the truth. eg when Screwtape comments on the people in church being laughable at times. I often look at other christians who are perhaps appearing a bit dimwitted and wonder what God was thinking. But then my religion tells me it's all part of his plan.

 

A wonderful columnist Tapu Misa, from the New Zealand Herald newspaper recently wrote "I knew I'd struggle with the injunction to love my enemies when I first became a Christian. I just didn't expect so many of them would turn out to be other Christians." She gives the example of the misguided people behind godhatesfags.com.

 

Have gone off topic sorry but I'm glad non Christians can read CS Lewis and maybe realise what a balanced Christian viewpoint looks like rather than a fundamentalist one.

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23.39pm philosophising:

 

13) In my exploration around Screwtape, I have come across a sequel of sorts by Jim Peschke, titled The Michael Letters: Heaven's Answer to Screwtape. While I haven't read it, the book's very existence made me ponder a question. As a Christian trying to make a point, wouldn't it have been easier / have apparently made more sense to write this exploration of human morality and divine law from the perspective of the good guys? With this question at the back of your minds, what do you make of Lewis's decision to tell this parable from the devils' side instead?

 

Discuss.

 

My husband is the author of the book you mentioned, The Michael Letters Heaven's answer to Screwtape. The reason he wrote the book was because Lewis himself mentioned it in the preface of one of his versions of Screwtape Letters. Below you will see the quote from Lewis and the preface from my husband's book as to why he took up the challenge. Both atheists and agnostics reviewed the book and did not find the book preachy but rather enjoyed the book and found themselves reflecting on their own lives. Cathy, the author's wife.

 

"Ideally, Screwtape's advice to Wormwood should have been balanced by archangelical advice to the patient's guardian angel. Without this the picture of human life is lopsided."

C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters

Preface to the paperback edition

PREFACE

 

Among the words in my parents' copy of The Screwtape Letters, these sentences had the most profound effect on this 10 year-old son. Coming to know C.S. Lewis for the first time, I became fascinated with the theme of spiritual struggle expressed through correspondence.

 

Thirty-three years and countless faith shifts later, the time had come. The Michael Letters feels almost blasphemous coming from a novice writer in the aftermath of Lewis' magnificent literary achievement. Although I have no illusions about matching Lewis' satirical wit, I still hope to do the original work justice.

 

The objectives, methods, and values of archangels could not be more different from those of Screwtape and Wormwood. For this reason, Screwtape's writing style provided little guidance. I could not attain the standard of "every sentence would have to smell of Heaven", nevertheless I sought to capture the distinction of angelic divinity in Michael's writing.

 

Raised under Roman Catholicism, I've always felt uncomfortable with Lewis' use of the term "devils" to describe the fallen angels. To me, "devil" means only one spirit, namely Satan or Lucifer. In my upbringing, the fallen angels were known as "demons".

 

The Michael Letters required its own unique vocabulary. Naming choices for evil spirits proved controversial among Christians. Some felt that calling demons "our fallen brothers" was inappropriately affectionate; others appreciated that same affection. The use of "Lucifer", the Devil's pre-banishment title (lit. "Light Bringer"), raised similar objections. These titles seem to best embrace the Christian virtues of forgiveness and of loving one's enemies. They most appropriately "smell of Heaven"; I make no apologies for these choices.

 

The toughest decision was whether to write about the specific "patient" in Screwtape from the other side, or to detail another. The choice became apparent when trying to cover new ground. Michael's understudy Jacob works in present day (c 2010) America.

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