"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Shoddy Lands

The Shoddy Lands seem almost uncharitable until the final sentence asks: "and how if, some other time, I were not the explorer but the explored?" The Shoddy Lands, I should say, is a dream-story C.S.Lewis wrote in The Dark Tower and Other Stories. In it an old pupil and his fiancee drop by the author's rooms (we can only hope the whole episode is fictional). During the boring conversation that follows, Lewis slips into a sort of vision of a drab world with indistinct shapes and colors. At first he wonders if he has died and this is hell, but then he stumbles upon a town; here he sees concrete and clear merchandise for sale in shops. The only things he sees offered though are jewelry, clothing, and other trinkets.

After passing through this town he arrives at a beach and sees the fiancee sunbathing. She is the only person who is not a shadowy blob. As he watches, he hears two voices coming "from somewhere beyond that low, gray covering which served the Shoddy Lands instead of a sky." One is Lewis's former student calling to the girl to let him in. the other "a voice at whose sound my bones turned to water: 'child, child, child, let me in before the darkness comes.'"

When he wakes out of his trance he interprets his own dream. He was permitted to see "the world as it existed for her. At the center of that world is a swollen image of herself.... Round this are grouped clear and distinct images of the things she really cares about. Beyond that, the whole earth and sky are a vague blur."

Do we all live in Shoddy Lands? The title may be plural to included every one's world and not just the poor self-centered girl's that Lewis glimpsed. But above the clouds and shadows a voice still pleads: "child, let me in before the night comes."

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