Finding the Landlord

Lindskoog, Kathryn. Finding the Landlord: A Guidebook to C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress. Chicago: Cornerstone Press, 1995. isbn 0940895358. $9.95 (trade paperback).

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(This review originally appeared in Mythprint 34:8 (#185) in August 1997.)

Reviewed by Mary V. Borhek

Recently it became necessary for me to replace Worpie, my venerable eight-year-old computer. The moment I had greatly feared had arrived: I had to decide what I needed to move me out of computer Jurassic Park. Fortunately I had helpful guides, but the final decision was mine. When I saw the catalog of a nationally known and well-recommended company, I knew that I wanted that company’s computer. Talk about a user-friendly catalog!

Kathryn Lindskoog’s book Finding the Landlord resembles the catalog of my user-friendly computer company. First of all, Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress is an allegory, a literary type that can be off-putting. In addition, when Lewis wrote Regress he did not set out to make it particularly easy reading. In fact, his friend Arthur Greeves gave Lewis three admirable suggestions — omit the Latin and Greek quotations, use a different style of writing, and make the book simpler, with less complicated meanings. Some years later Lewis might have followed Greeves’s suggestions, but at the time, in 1932, he rejected them.

It is possible, of course, to read The Pilgrim’s Regress simply as it is presented in whatever edition you may have. A preface added in 1943 gives a few clues to what some of the names of people and places represent. But there is a wealth of classical and literary references in the text that many — perhaps most — readers may miss. It is a verbal picture not unlike those pictorial puzzles for children: find ten animals, or 15 children, or whatever, in this picture.

T.S. Eliot, writing The Wasteland, took pity on his readers and provided some notes to help them make the connections he intended. Up until now, one could have wished Lewis had done the same. With the publication of Kathryn Lindskoog’s book, it is no longer necessary to wish. Those who may have found Regress hard going and those who may have ignored the book altogether have been given a wonderful gift: 130 pages of explanation of the complicated symbolism and the plethora of literary references Lewis used in his book, plus a substantial introduction, a 25-page bibliography (not a mere listing but informative descriptions of books included), and an excellent index.

If you have read and enjoyed The Pilgrim’s Regress, reread it with a copy of Finding the Landlord in the other hand. It will double your pleasure. If Regress seemed like a good book to avoid, echoing as it does Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (not exactly light reading), avoid it no longer. Get Landlord and start reading, and you will shortly be hunting down a copy of Regress.

Finding the Landlord is a substantive look into Lewis’s literarily well-stocked mind, as well as a fascinating symbolic map of Lewis’s religious and philosophical journey up to that point in his life. From the standpoint of mechanics and esthetics, Landlord is an appealing book. The cover is lively — colorful, with clever artwork. There are also a number of attractive black and white illustrations by Pat Peterson. Every page of the book visually says “read me,” with excellent use of white space and type that is friendly to the eyes.

In his introduction to The Pilgrim’s Regress Lewis wrote: “For when allegory is at its best, it approaches myth, which must be grasped with the imagination, not with the intellect. If, as I still sometimes hope, my North and South and my Mr. Sensible have some touch of mythical life, then no amount of ‘explanation’ will quite catch up with their meaning.” Some readers may find a touch, or more than a touch, of mythical life in Regress. They may be helped to a considerable degree by Finding the Landlord. And if any touch of mythical life eludes them, they will still close Landlord and Regress with the satisfied feeling of having feasted on a lavish literary and spiritual banquet.

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