Sunday, August 25, 2019

Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Capitvated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria

Here's a little Poulenc:  Trio for Oboe Bassoon and Piano, FP 43

My eyes have been aching lately, so I've been cutting down on my reading (a little) to give them a rest.  Instead I've been fooling around with painting.  Josh and I have a lot of acrylics, oils etc. that have never been opened.  We bought each other a bunch of art supplies one Christmas with visions of merrily spending our weekends creating together.

That was a couple of Christmases ago and so far it hasn't happened.  Until now. Well, not with Josh, but on my own I've been experimenting with color and shapes, which is about all I'm capable of.  After this post I plan on attempting a watercolor of Hercule.  We'll see if it looks like a bird, much less like a parrot, much, much less like Hercule.

Here are some samples of my work.  It's, uh, abstract.

I call this Yellow and Brown on Red and Pink.

Josh said this one looks like floating leaves.  Therefore I shall call it...Floating Leaves.

This one is titled, "Green and Blue".

And my piece de resistance:

I call this, "The Torment Between Existence vs. Non-Being."

Just joking. I call it "Oil on Acrylic on Plastic on Canvas" because I forgot to take the plastic wrap off the canvas before painting it.

But enough of these frivolities.  Here's my review for the week:

Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. LewisJoy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an insightful and informative biography of someone who seems to be controversial for a lot of C.S. Lewis fans. Or maybe just to the people who knew him best. Many of Lewis's friends did not like Joy Davidson. They found her coarse and abrasive. They were afraid that Lewis was once again setting himself up for another unhealthy co-dependent relationship. After 25 years waiting hand and foot on Mrs. Moore, they felt Lewis was happiest living out his remaining days as a comfortable bachelor.

And it seems that Lewis himself had envisioned such a life for himself.

And then Joy Davidson exploded on the scene. She did not hide her intentions and was quite aggressive about pursuing them. The result? Joy and Jack (as he was called by friends) got married, at least briefly. Soon into their relationship, Joy came down with cancer and most of their married life was riddled with sickness, stress and finally grief.

But also, inexpressible joy.

Readers wanting an in depth view of Joy and Jack's relationship will do better to look elsewhere, while Lewis does come into the picture it is only in the last quarter of the book.

This book is primarily about Joy and her life from baby hood, to brilliant academic (she entered high school at the age of nine), passionate communist,successful writer in her own right, then a detour down the road of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics and finally, Christianity.

Joy's parents were Jewish immigrants and while they came in dire poverty, they became educated and professional. No doubt, this drive for success, overcoming Antisemitism, and ultimately succeeding, caused her parents to expect no less from their children. In fact they expected more.

Joy's parents, especially her dad, was a hard man to get along with, both professionally and personally. His disciplinarian methods and rigid standards on Joy bordered on abuse. He was more concerned with her succeeding than developing social skills, something that affected Joy the rest of her life, and no doubt contributed to her abrasive personality.

Santamaria takes us through all of Joys journeys, finally culminating in her marriage to C.S. Lewis.

I'd say she was pretty even handed and her history of Joy's life agrees with other records, however, Santamaria had access to letters and first hand testimonies from family members that others, whose focus was on Lewis, did not have access to.

I should point out that no one has access to the letters between Lewis and Joy because they destroyed their personal correspondence. However, there was an abundant supply of records and such from other sources, which the author makes full use of.

This is not a sanitized version of Joy's life, if there ever was one, since she was so disliked by so many who have written about Joy, usually in the context of her relationship with C.S. Lewis. Joy could be extremely selfish, neglecting her sons for the sake of her writing career, and pursuit of Lewis. She was extravagant with her money and others' but stingy in sharing.

She left her husband Bill Gresham, with their sons for five months while she lived in England to get to know and hopefully engage in a romantic relationship with Lewis, but later demanded custody and full child support after she divorced Bill (something she fought for, although Bill had admitted to falling in love with her cousin), and then spent the money freely all the while writing insulting letters informing Bill of how horrible he was while demanding more money.

What I found strange was how she wrote Bill about her romance with Lewis and continued to write to him up to her death.

Frankly Joy can come off as a bit of a monster, and yet Lewis fell in love with her. Why?

Maybe because he saw something, or experienced something others failed to see or experience. Maybe love isn't always about taking, it's also about serving. Maybe Lewis understood that. Maybe he loved her unconditionally.

What we do see in the book that after Joy was struck down with cancer, is that she softened, in her character,and especially in her understanding of God's love. Even those who previously were against the marriage rallied around her in support to comfort her during her extreme physical suffering.

Maybe God used Joy to show His own unconditional love to the rest of us who are also wretched in sin and selfishness.

However your feelings are on the subject, this is a fascinating book to read. I think I would enjoy a film about the real Joy. The one impossible to get along with, yet loved by the greatest apologist of the 20th century.

View all my reviews


Brian Joseph said...

I like your paintings. My favorite is Oil on Acrylic on Plastic on Canvas. Sometimes small mistakes lead to good results.

This biography sounds interesting. With that I am always a bit torn. Though not a biography of C.S. Lewis himself. I think that it fits into the category of books about writers. I tend to agonize between spending time reading these types books verses original works.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Thanks, Brian. I suppose if I'm desperate for a canvas I can always remove the plastic. :)

Joy was a writer, although not of the caliber of Lewis, although she apparently did help him write "Till We Have Faces", which is definitely a darker more serious timbre than any of Lewis' other fiction. In fact, it hardly feels like it was written by him.

I think the people interested in this book are die hard Lewis fans who want to know everything they can about him. (Like me.)

R.T. said...

Odd couples are more common than perfectly matched couples … you've whetted my appetite to read more about Lewis and Davidson … thanks!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hope you read the book and enjoy it, R.T.

mudpuddle said...

i've got my own personal copy!! (green and Blue)... tx!interesting what you chose to do with paint... Mrs. M paints, but she just does non-abstract subjects; birds, trees... i read the sci fi trilogy L wrote and liked it a lot... it was a surprise to me some years later when i found out it had a religious component... what can i say, i bit lacking upstairs maybe... anyway, this sounds like an interesting study. if i see it i'll read it... tx...

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Mudpuddle! Just got back from New Orleans, but I'll write about that in a future post. I was just pleased as punch to get a postcard from you and the college student who stays with us loves puns, so he enjoyed it as well.

Another funny thing. As you know I belong to a postcard club. They have numbers to register the card on their website. I spent a minute looking for a number on your card before I realized who sent it. Ha, ha.

mudpuddle said...

my pleasure... i like pc's and look for them: they're in touristy places, mostly...

Sharon Wilfong said...

I'm trying to paint birds with watercolors, but I'm better with form and color. Painting real subjects is hard.

mudpuddle said...

haha... that's what mrs. m thinks too...

Sharon Wilfong said...

I bet she's good, though.

mudpuddle said...

discretion is the better part of valor...

Sharon Wilfong said...

It's the better part of a lot of things. I wish I could persuade my mouth that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon,
I hope you'll recall who I am? I'm the former 'Anchors To Windward' (ATW) as you used to refer to me. Sorry I disappeared, but I got sick of the blogosphere. In short, I just needed a break, it felt like a second career and I didn't want that. Anyway, I thought I'd give it another shot on Blogger. I actually really liked this book. I also really like your paintings. I prefer acrylics when I paint. I paint fast and am impatient. I hate to wait on things to dry, so acrylics are my 'go to' when I paint, although I'd prefer to draw. As usual, you link the loveliest of songs for me to listen to. I shall add you to my blogroll. It's good to read your words again.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Well, hello! Nice to hear from you again. Shall I now refer to you as "Frequently Overbooked"? That's kind of how I feel. I try hard not to buy more books, but I fail miserably.

I just visited your new blog. I hope you're going to give us more information about Wuthering Heights and your comparison to Heathcliff.

I'm glad you like my paintings. This is a new endeavor and I'm finding it is a new ministry to some girls at my church. One is physically disabled, but bright. The other is mentally challenged, but both are good artists.

I have converted their work into bookmarks with our church info on them. They are delighted to have their own ministry.

And I like acrylics because I mess up so much, I can change mistakes because it dries so quickly.

Sarah @ All The Book Blog Names Are Taken said...

Whew! What a crazy few weeks it has been at school!

I love this painting adventure you have embarked on! And I must admit that your oil on acrylic on plastic on canvas is quite eye-catching, as is the title and I chuckled out loud. I have no artists talent in that vein. I wish I did, but it is not my thing. Eleanor loves to paint, and likes acrylic and canvas too.

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Sarah. Yes, I remember those days. I actually liked the first couple of months, because the kids were still figuring things out and were a little better behaved. The school year would fly by, but it was so exhausting.

My son Derek is very creative and when he was Eleanor's age, I would buy all sorts of art supplies from Zany Brainy (I don't know if that store exists anymore) and just let him go to town. I miss those days.