Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fortnightly Book, November 10

It's a busy time of year, so I need a re-read, and the title of Charles Williams's Many Dimensions jumped out at me from the bookshelf.

Charles Williams was a proofreading assistant, then an editor, for Oxford University Press. He wrote a number of novels, which T. S. Eliot called "supernatural thrillers"; the best of these, I think, is The Place of the Lion, although Descent into Hell is usually given that position. He also wrote poetry; Taliessin Through Logres is quite good. He was a close friend of C. S. Lewis and a sort-of friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, who regarded him more cautiously than Lewis did; W. H. Auden and Dorothy Sayers were among his admirers, and T. S. Eliot can probably be counted, too, although he liked Williams's literary talents more than his ideas. Very famously, he met C. S. Lewis because, having read Lewis's recently published The Allegory of Love, he wrote him a letter, while Lewis, having read Williams's recently published The Place of the Lion, wrote Williams a letter, and the two letters crossed in the mail.

All of Williams's novels have some kind of key preternatural element breaking into ordinary life. War in Heaven has the Holy Grail; The Place of the Lion has the Platonic Forms; Shadows of Ecstasy has the means of immortality; The Greater Trumps has the Major Arcana; Descent into Hell has Hell as a state of complete self-absorption; All Hallows' Eve has necromancy. The preternatural element in Many Dimensions is the Stone of Solomon, which is the root of creation itself, because it is prime matter itself, given the appearance of a stone by the power of the Divine Name. It is extraordinarily powerful: some say it was in the crown of Iblis himself, Lucifer, before he fell; others that it belonged to Adam in the Garden of Eden, or that Nimrod used it in his attempt to build a tower to heaven in Babel; and Solomon with his wisdom rediscovered it and, wearing it in his crown, was able to do mighty things of wonder. For centuries it has been closely kept by a Muslim family; but now ruthless individuals through crookery and bribery have managed to get their hands on it....

1 comment:

  1. Simran Saha6:55 AM

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