I just finished reading The Dark Tower by C.S. Lewis. This was a tangent begun serendipitously whilst I was waiting to locate a copy of The Last Battle, to finish my recent trip through the Narnia books. I love his writing, he gives his words so much more meaning than most of us can.
The Dark Tower was gripping from the very first page, promising to be a philosophical story about time travel and souls of men, featuring Dr. Elwin Ransom from the space trilogy. The story centers around a "chronoscope" that reveals to a few professors a sinister semi-parallel Cambridge in some other time. In the end I was sad to find the manuscript come to an abrupt stopping point. Lewis just stopped writing it, apparently not liking it or not knowing how to finish it.
The story (what there was) was a pretty good read, but more along the lines of That Hideous Strength, somewhat disturbing, but with an underlying theme of redemption and clarity. Not as cheery as some of the Narnia books, but rather intriguing. Mostly I was delighted to have found another book with Ransom, it was much like the time I discovered The Club of Queer Trades, featuring another G.K. Chesterton detective that I hadn't known about.
The unfinished story is a perplexing animal of literature, and yet it stands to reason that every great author must leave a few. Some writing is immortalized by publication, but what of that writing that never fully happened? It wasn't really approved and sent out by the writer, does it even count? One could hardly hold the writer responsible if the book did not meet expectations. And yet it was written, and he did hang on to it, perhaps letting it inspire his later books, perhaps waiting to someday return to it. It reminded me of Michelangelo's David statue in Florence, surrounded by half a dozen other huge blocks of marble with partial figures trying to emerge.