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Charles Williams' world
Tarot, Fool

 I'll wager most people reading this has never heard of Charles Williams. He was a member of the Inklings--the same group that included Tolkien & CS Lewis. I call him the Inkling that no one has ever heard of. I love CW's "supernatural thriller" novels, in which magical artifacts or concepts impinge on "the real world".
For example: War in Heaven (the grail or "Graal"); The Greater Trumps (the -original- tarot deck and a very special chess board); Many Dimensions (King Solomon's Stone).

A review of Williams' The Greater Trumps in TIME magazine (1950) begins,
"Poet T. S. Eliot once said that he could fearlessly spend a night in a haunted house if novelist Charles Williams were there to keep him company." Eliot's words hint at Williams' evident comfort with the supernatural, which is reflected in turn by the calm his characters possess when confronted with some very bewildering phenomena. 

CW's writing can be hard to understand at times--really hard to understand--as in you read a paragraph twice and still mumble, "Huh?"
That may be one of the reasons he has never become as popular as his fellow Inklings. 

Earlier tonight, I was reading random extracts from The Greater Trumps. Strike that! I was indulging myself with some of my favorite passages in prose from one of my favorite fantasy novels. Anyway, I began to wonder if CW's convoluted style was due to his efforts to be spiritually or metaphysically accurate. I think the limits of language made it difficult--impossible-- for him to convey the dazzling richness and interwoven complexity of what he envisioned was happening within his stories, and in reality. 

Every time Williams wrote a novel, or created a poem or play, he set out to describe supernatural events and divine relationships that philosophers and mystics have been attempting to describe for centuries. It's like the spiritual equivalent of accurately describing all the physical properties of our galaxy in one book. Not going to happen. Instead of making an easy compromise with language, I believe he worked to make each sentence as close to the reality he saw as he was able. I am so glad he persisted against all odds of success. Sometimes I admit I don't know what the heck he meant to convey in a sentence--but then there's that superb next passage!

I belong to a writers' group called Written Remains, which was formed long before I joined. A few months ago, I asked the leader, Joanne Reinbold, if the original members were largely mystery writers. (I had formed a theory that "remains" was part of an inside joke about gruesome clues in the authors' mystery novels.) 

Joanne said, no, that she named the group in an effort to describe the most difficult task that an author performs--to take the vision in her/his head and turn it into words on a page. She added that it was impossible to be entirely successful. In the end, all we could capture were the written remains of the greater thoughts.

Charles Williams had the most amazing "greater thoughts" I have ever encountered in fiction. To read his books is to enter a reality that is neither our mundane world nor fantasy as many of us have come to know it. He writes about something Other--nebulous, awesome, almost close enough to touch ... if we have the courage to try.

 Perhaps it's waiting for us on the next page...

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(Deleted comment)
Unfortunately, he is more often an unacquired taste. I suppose many people don't want to put in the necessary effort.

Thanks for commenting!

Under the Mercy,


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