Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis had many interests but none of those interests had anything to do with temporal financial dealings, and one of many financially foolish things Lewis did in his lifetime was to leave the management of his literary estate to two friends who had neither the experience nor the time to manage it. After Lewis died, these two friends disburdened themselves of this obligation at the very first opportunity, and that opportunity came along very quickly, in the form of an American student named Walter Hooper, who had occasionally visited Lewis in the last summer of Lewis’s life.
If Lindskoog is right–and she makes a very strong case–then this Hooper fellow was, at best, an unscrupulous stalker of Lewis, who managed to infiltrate the world of the object of his obsession, taking advantage of the confusion of the time right after C.S. Lewis’s sudden death, and who has subsequently managed to re-write certain histories about himself and about Lewis, as well as smearing the reputation of Lewis’s beloved brother along with way.
Also, though Lindskoog nowhere wonders about this, it is this reader’s opinion that the possibility that Hooper was working as a spy for a certain “religious” order needs to be considered.
Pick up any C.S. Lewis book nowadays and there will without fail be in it an introduction written by this Walter Hooper fellow. And in it Hooper will never fail to aggrandize himself and lionize his relationship to Lewis. But if you look at the letters of Lewis’s brother in the days right after C.S. Lewis’s death, as Lindskoog shows, then you see that Lewis’s brother was in fact deeply alarmed by the sudden intrusion into, and the co-opting of, the Lewis estate by this young, barely recognizable American student, and Warren Lewis, in no small measure due to his own alcoholism, was frustrated by his inability to stop it from happening.
Hooper has profited immensely ever since then from his apparent usurpation in the 1960s of the C.S. Lewis estate, and he continues to wield all power over which academics get permission to quote Lewis and have access to Lewis’s archives–this despite the fact that it is now known that Hooper flat out lied about his relationship to Lewis, greatly embellishing it, fabricating events that never occured.
Lindskoog exposes all this in a very detective-like prose which makes for a very stimulating read. If there is any fault with this work it is that Lindskoog poses many more questions than she can factually answer.
However, there are occasions in this book when her constant question-raising is more than justified: Like when she asks whether or not the novel The Dark Tower was in fact written by C.S. Lewis. The Dark Tower was supposedly Lewis’s last and posthumous novel, which only Hooper was able to produce for the world. However, as Lewis afficiados already know, The Dark Tower is a very suspicious book because it contains doctrines which conflict with the belief system Lewis espoused in all his other works. The Dark Tower is also widely regarded as being of an inferior literary quality. So, Lindskoog adds a huge amount of justification to the suspicions of many that this Hooper fellow simply produced a counterfeit when he foisted this book on the world and called it Lewis’s. Disturbingly, this wasn’t the only time that Hooper “discovered” forgotten “Lewis writings” or “revisions.”
This is a real conundrum this book presents as it seems there is nothing that can be done about any of this now, even if Lindskoog is correct. But if that’s the case then Lindskoog has performed a great service by alerting Lewis fans of this Hooper fellow and what he seems to have pulled off. Let God deal with him. Ouch.
Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ