Author Lev Grossman says C.S. Lewis taught him that in fiction, stepping into magical realms means encountering earthly concerns in transfigured form.
"I’m fairly certain that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book that I ever was transported by. I think it’s the book that taught me what novels are supposed to do. It’s the book that taught me how books work, and what—if they’re good—they do for you. It was the template for all the great reading experiences I had ahead.”
“He’s making magic, but he’s making magic out of very ordinary physical impressions. It’s very powerful, and it’s very new. I don’t think anybody wrote this way before he did. He came up with a new way to describe magic that made it feel realer than it ever had.
It works because he’s writing fantasy—but he’s working with the tools of realism. Even though he had this wonderful romantic yearning nostalgia, he writes like a modernist. He writes like Hemingway, like the Joyce of Dubliners. Though he was writing shortly after the time of the modernists, he observes reality in the meticulous, almost disenchanted way they did—but he puts those tools in the service of a totally different effect.
As far as the modern fantasy novels goes, this is ground zero. You’re seeing the atom being split for the first time. So much of what’s written afterwards comes out of that simple moment, just emerges from Lucy going through the wardrobe.”
“In this way, the portal in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe becomes a magnificent metaphor for reading itself. When she opens the doors to the wardrobe, it’s like Lucy’s opening the covers of a book and passing through it to somewhere else—which is just the same experience you’re having at the moment you’re reading the passage. You’re watching Lucy do the same thing you are, just in a way that’s dramatized and transfigured.
I think the standard psychoanalytic reading of the wardrobe has to do with a return to the womb—you know, passing through these furry coats back into a safe place. But that idea, while perhaps supportable on the grounds of textual evidence, never really seemed paramount to me. For me, the wardrobe’s doors open like a book, ushering Lucy—and the reader—into a new imaginative realm of imagination. That’s the kind of writer I aspire to be: one that helps the reader make that seamless passage, from the real world to the land of fantasy, from real life to the realm of reading.”