TMI – Too Much Information?

In addition to observing this 23rd day of National Poetry Month 2024, I’d also like to recognize the day as the 68th anniversary of the civil wedding ceremony for C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham. Two writers, now both deceased, entered into a marriage of convenience on this day in 1956.

Readers of wiseblooding are probably aware of my admiration for C. S. Lewis. I’ve posted about him numerous times. As a literary scholar, a teacher and a writer, Lewis built a reputation and following which continues to grow long after his death.

This is my first post to mention Joy. For her poetry in Letter to a Comrade, Davidman won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. She was considered a good poet by some, but her subsequent writings mostly failed to find an audience. She continued to write and married a fellow-writer, William Gresham. They had two sons and a chaotic marriage.

Following her conversion to Christianity (rejecting the Communist ideology she’d shared with her husband), Davidman (whose given name was Helen) initiated a regular correspondence with Lewis. In 1952, she journeyed to the UK leaving her husband and children in the States. At the time, she was working on a book about the Ten Commandments, and during this trip, Lewis and his brother Warnie hosted her at The Kilns. These are the general facts.

Most of this information is presented in the dramatized film, Shadowlands. Readers may be familiar with this movie which received generally positive reviews. I enjoyed the movie as a fictional retelling, in part (I suppose) because the script depicted conversations as opposed to intimate thoughts.

More recently (2018), an historical novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, was released. The premise (while intriguing from my writer’s point of view) is a story told from Joy Davidman Gresham’s first-person point of view. Beginning with the Prologue and continuing through the novel’s 400+ pages, the author spins an in-depth but jarring (to me) tale of Davidman’s personal musings. Since it was first released, I have resisted reading the book. When Kindle set it on the unlimited virtual shelf (freebie), I relented. Who can resist a bargain?!

Callahan is an excellent writer, but it was difficult for me to overcome the sense I was eavesdropping throughout the story! While I’m confident the author did massive research to present a reliable narrative, there were numerous points in the presentation which were (had to be) conjecture, details I didn’t need to know or imagine. TMI!! Too much information! Yes, it’s fiction, but far too often fiction ends up becoming more potent than reality (in my humble opinion).

I wrote the sonnet below after reading the book. From my perspective, Joy is not a likable character and I’m afraid my sonnet reflects my lack of good will. I don’t blame Callahan for her creative portrayal of Joy. I’m not even sure the novel directly tainted my judgment.

Joy D., a sonnet

Recognizing Lewis loved Joy deeply and was devastated by her death in 1960, I humbly acknowledge how imperfectly our lives reflect the exceptional greatness of our God. I give Him grateful praise!

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