Thursday, July 29, 2010

Screwtape-like Books--A Short List

As Mary Eberstadt said in this interview, C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters has inspired countless people, and quite a few authors, with its great humor in apologetics.  I've said before that I think Lewis founded a mini-genre in writing of this--what shall we call it? epistolary apologetics?  I'm not sure.

I wanted to share a mini-reviews of a few of these books here.

First, the original Screwtape Letters is really unparalleled.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the book's preface:  "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them."

Screwtape does exactly that--not dwell on the diabolical, but as a means to understand the spiritual life.

The Snakebite Letters: Devilishly Devious Secrets for Subverting Society As Taught in Tempter's Training School is by prolific author Peter Kreeft. I've had this book on my shelf for quite a few years, and enjoyed reading it. The Snakebite Letters updates the Screwtape letters to recent times, touching on more current issues.   Kreeft is very easy to read and that makes this book fun and a quick read.

Even better is The Wormwood File: E-mail From Hell by Orthodox writer Jim Forest.  Forest imagines that Wormwood, Screwtape's nephew in the original and the recipient of the letters, has been promoted to a senior demon, and now even demons use e-mail, so the advice is in e-mails.  There is a bit more of a story line than in Kreeft's book, the subjects of the tempting being a young married man and his wife.

Perhaps someone now should consider writing the Facebook or Twitter version of The Screwtape Letters?  Maybe there is already something out there.

I've come across several references to The Gargoyle Code by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, but haven't read it. Has anyone read it or have a review?  It looks interesting.


  1. I have read "Screwtape Letters", have a copy of "Snakebite Letters", but have never heard of "The Wormwood File". As a young-married man--with, obviously, a wife--that last offering sounds particularly interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    I've recently read "The Gargoyle Code", and thought it every bit as witty as the original Screwtape tales. Like Kreeft and Forest, Fr. Longenecker modernizes the temptations, and also depicts distinctly Catholic subjects and temptations.

    You can read my review of the book here:

  2. Thanks for linking your excellent review! It looks a lot different than what I was expecting. I especially like how there is a chapter for each day of Lent; I didn't realize it was set up that way.

    Your review and the focus on the spiritual significance of small acts reminds me of another one of these kinds of books (though not epistolary, but revealing angels & demons)--This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. He's evangelical, not Catholic, and I haven't read it since the 1980s, but it might be worth a re-read in this context.