Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Truths Breathed Through Silver

My copy of Truths Breathed Through Silver: The Inklings’ Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy arrived yesterday from the U.K. It’s a small but well-made book, quite charming in its way. It’s also the first book in which I’ve been published to come with a dust-jacket, and only the second or third in hardcover.

It looks great, overall. The dust-jacket seems just a little overexposed and blurry. Jonathan Himes’s beautiful photo of Oxford wasn’t quite done the justice it deserved, and the ink on the spine and back seems a bit heavy, bleeding into the blue. But I have been known to be extremely picky about such things, so please don’t judge the book too harshly by its cover. The boards and spine (stamped in gold) are lovely. For a short book like this, it’s no surprise to see glued binding rather than sewn signatures. Nice paper and ink internally. Very nice layout, very comfortable in the hand and easy on the eyes. Overall, an excellent quality book. This is the first title from Cambridge Scholars that I’ve actually seen.

The back of the dust-jacket contains a couple of blurbs, and I hope CSP won’t mind my quoting one of them, from Diana Pavlac Glyer, author of The Company They Keep. Praise from the praiseworthy is the icing on the Great Cake of publishing. She writes:
These ten essays constitute a lively conversation at the intersection of faith, myth, and truth. Each voice is distinct, each topic particular, each approach thought-provoking on its own terms. But the cumulative effect is to remind us just how much mythopoeic writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, H. Rider Haggard, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and Charles Williams continue to say about things that concern us all.
The jacket also contains an endorsement by David Lyle Jeffrey, whose Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (and not his work on Tolkien), I cited in my essay. Mere coincidence, that; the specific entry I used was written by Dennis Danielson, not Jeffrey. The website has a further blurb by Charles Huttar (link above); however, this one isn’t on the dust-jacket.

As to the content, I’ve so far only read my own chapter — can you blame me? Hahae, but actually, I did so in quest of overlooked errata. Verdict? None that I saw! Huzzah! ;)

However, to the rest of the book, I actually heard six out of the ten (plus my own, so, seven) of these essays first-hand! I can, therefore, recommend them with no ulterior motives whatsoever. More than half were keynotes at their respective meetings of the C.S. Lewis and Inklings Society. It was also fun to see that I’m the sole contributor without a Ph.D. and unaffiliated with a school (or seminary). That either suggests my contribution might be the weakest of the collection (perish the thought!) — or else that I’ve risen to distinguish myself among many whom I admire. Let’s hope it’s the latter! Readers, you tell me! Wait, wait — let me don my armor. There, fire away!

I will also say this, just in fun. Seeing my name by itself on the first page of Chapter Six — no school, no seminary — made me feel like the academic equivalent of one of those one-name musicians — like Cher, Madonna, or Prince. Dare I say I’m the ‘Prince’ of Tolkien studies, partying like it’s 999?! Hahae, no, I dare not ... One more thing: other than myself, only Salwa Khoddam included an epigraph at the beginning of her essay (two, actually). I love epigraphs and will hardly ever write a paper without one! In my case, it was a dozen-odd lines of Milton. In Salwa’s, Dante and Solomon’s Song of Songs.

My original offer of a 30% discount off the list price still stands — just drop me a comment or an email. Amazon offers free shipping but no discount, and they’re currently out of stock in any event. was offering a sweet discount, but no longer. It’s back up to full price, seemingly. Let me know. And anyone who reads the book, I’d love to hear from you!


  1. I was wondering if I could ask you about the phrase "breathed through silver". I think I understand what it means, but I'm not a native speaker so there might be something to it that I can't grasp. Does it mean a) 'in an officious way', b) 'eloquently' or c) if it has to do with breathing through a silver tube? I hope I don't sound ridiculous :/

  2. No, it’s not a ridiculous question at all. I can see why it would be confusing, because it plays on — but reverses — a nonce metaphor coined by C.S. Lewis more than seventy-five years ago.

    Lewis, Tolkien, and Hugo Dyson had an important conversation one night in 1931, where they discussed Christianity and mythology. Lewis was, at the time, a professed atheist, and he called the myths — including the Christian tradition — “lies, even though lies breathed through silver.” You can read about this in Humphrey Carpenter’s two books, Tolkien: A Biography and The Inklings.

    What Lewis meant was that he felt myths were untrue, even if they were decorated in expensive or elaborate trappings (“breathed through silver”). In the event, Tolkien disagreed, and the conversation actually became a conversion. I’m simplifying the story a bit, but the upshot is that Lewis returned to his faith, rejoining the Anglican Church. That he was Anglican and not Catholic dismayed Tolkien, but the more important victory for Tolkien and Dyson was Lewis’s renewed belief in God. Without which, there would be no Narnia, I might add.

    So, my book’s title plays on this episode, but turns it around, making the Christian tradition “truths breathed through silver.” Does that make sense? It’s still, I must admit, a somewhat unwieldy title. But this is what the editors (or publishers) intended by it.

  3. Thank you very much for your elaborate answer.

    And congratulations on the book!

  4. Not too elaborate, was it? And thanks for the well-wishes! :)