Every once in a while, while reading a fiction book (usually a fantasy book), I come across a place where I realize the author is not making stuff up. There is a rich trove of fantasy tropes to include from previous works, and normal creativity and imagination can provide for some nice pyrotechnics. But every once in a while something works its way into a work that shows that the author really, truly, had a direct experience of something, rather than thinking it would be a nice thing to entertain his readers with. This is what I thought of, for example, when I read about the pendulum and the Hour Lillies in Michael Ende's Momo.

C.S Lewis has a mixed reputation amongst geeks. On one hand, we all grew up reading Narnia, and they provide a cornerstone for fantasy authors and readers. On the other hand, his books were Christian allegories that many find pedantic to the point of propaganda. As for his imagery, most of it seems to be lifted from other sources and presented for narrative effect. His cosmology seems to be cribbed from The Bible and Neo-Platonism.

Which is why the Wood Between the Worlds, the dreamy, never-ending forest featured in the series sixth book (by external chronology, the first by internal chronology) jumps out at me. All the other cosmological locations in the book, such as Aslan's Country, seem to have been constructed as allegories first, and then worked out narratively second. The Wood Between the Worlds strikes me as something that was actually experienced---I wouldn't claim as an actual full on hallucination, but was seen as a creative vision, as an actual way the universe(s) might work, and included in the work because it seems real. Of course, I don't have any proof of this, other than the fact that the idea of floating far above the world, where not just this universe but all universes tend to blur together far below, is one I have heard before in people's visions, especially those inspired by truly bizarre substances. The other reason it comes across as real is just how well described the setting and character's reactions to it are. It seems that Lewis was actually enjoying writing this scene in a way that he wasn't with other scenes in the books.

Of course, none of this is proof, and it might just reflect my own memories and interpretations of the book. The lassitude and dreaminess of the Wood reminds me of endless afternoons in my father's garret, reading fantasy books and sketching on scrap paper. Even those who don't believe that the Wood was a rare intrustion of mysticism into Lewis' Cambridge rationalism will probably agree that the scene and setting does stand out.