Tag Archives: George MacDonald

George MacDonald, Endings

From the end of The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

“Then you’re leaving the story unfinished, Mr. Editor!”

“Not more unfinished than a story ought to be, I hope, If you ever knew a story finished, all I can say is, I never did. Somehow stories won’t finish. I think I know why, but I won’t say that either, now.”

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A George MacDonald Quote

“Contempt is murder committed by the intellect, as hatred is murder committed by the heart.”

David Elginbrod, by George MacDonald


Tagging Thyme Meme: 11 Random Questions

It seems that Raewyn Hewitt was tagged in a meme, but as she is sensitive to the fact that some folks don’t like being tagged (I don’t like being tagged for memes, for the record) she left it up to volunteers. The questions amuse me, and I have nothing else in line for this week, so here you have it! If you want to check out Raewyn’s answers, they are here.

1. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten in public?

Um… this is a harder question than one might think. I ate a penny, once, but that was an accident. If only things eaten intentionally count, it depends on what one considers strange. I’ll leave it up for a vote. The candidates are:

fried scorpion

jellyfish

air potatoes

Spicebush berries

Syrup made from hickory bark

2. If you had to go on an adventure, with elves, dwarves, or hobbits, who would you take and why?

Most of you might expect this to be a no-brainer for me. In truth, though, it’s not as easy as it might be.

Despite the fact that “Thyme” is in the title of this blog, elves (even my own elves) would be my last choice. Even in the best of circumstances, I would feel isolated.

Dwarves would be my second choice because, as much as I have in common with them, I am not a Dwarf, and they can be insular. I hope I would be able to break into their good-graces eventually, but that cannot compete with Hobbits.

Hobbits, though not usually adventurous, have a good track-record for not giving up and for rising to the occasion. I have not seen many reckless hobbits, and they share my love of sleep, food, and natural beauty. Also, on the whole, they are more personable and accepting than the other races.

Ideally, of course, it would be nice to have a mix of traveling companions. Can you get a nerdier answer than that?

3. You are at a rural retreat lodge somewhere deep in Wisconsin or Canada. You are approached by a taxidermist who hands you a stuffed badger and asks you to put it in your lap. What do you do next?

I think my first reaction would be to ask why…

4. If you were given biscotti, would you prefer it with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

It depends… is it a good biscotti or a cardboard-like one? If the former? Tea. If the latter, then coffee.

5. In your opinion, who is the funniest man or woman alive today (comedian)?

Tough one. I don’t watch a lot of comedians, but I really like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert.

6. If you were given thirty seconds on television to say something, what would it be?

I’d probably either ignore the camera or attack its operator…

7. What is your idea of the most romantic date setting ever?

Either the Walls of Jericho or Miller’s Cove on a spring night when the blue ghost fireflies come out beneath the hemlocks like will-o-the-wisps.

8. If you could go on one date with a movie or television star, who would it be and why?

I hate questions like this. The thought of going on a date with any film or television star on whom I actually have a crush is horrifying, so that’s out. Once my brain stopped reeling from that unpleasantness, the first thing that came to mind was Hugh Laurie because he seems to have a high regard for one of my favorite authors of all time (P. G. Wodehouse) which would give us something fun to talk about. Also, I grew up on his Bertie Wooster, and I’d like to thank him for that. Obviously, for multiple reasons, this would be a purely platonic date.

9. What is the worst song you have ever heard?

There are a lot of contenders, but my brain collapses in abject horror every time I encounter this one: Friday  .

10. If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

Three or four hours’ drive east of where I live now. If I ever find a place that sinks into my bones the way the Appalachian Mountains do, I will be very surprised. I’ve seen some lovely places across the world. Nothing has come close.

11. Who – in your opinion – was the greatest person to ever live?

Jesus, but he is a given, considering my faith. Other than him?  Hm… there are too many contenders. I would really love to meet George MacDonald, though. ;)

As Raewyn, before me, I am not going to tag folks, but if any of you want to join in, please do!


Jack, how do you do that?

Jack Lewis, or “Clive Staples” if you want to be formal, has a habit of writing about ideas that I have turned over in my mind before. When he does this, he almost always presents me with a new slant to consider and sometimes even a completely new thought. I enjoy his nonfiction. I enjoy agreeing with him and arguing with him equally. 

Imagine my delight when the copy of Phantastes which I opened recently is introduced by Jack. I have read snippets of his thoughts on George MacDonald before, but this introduction was more comprehensive and more touching. It is uncommon outside academia (maybe it is uncommon within it as well) to have one of one’s favorite authors comment in any length on another of one’s favorite authors. And as usual, Jack’s words touched on my own thoughts regarding MacDonald, and expanded them.

I thought I would share.

“George MacDonald’s family (though hardly his father) were of course Calvinists. On the intellectual side his history is largely a history of escape from the theology in which he had been brought up. Stories of such emancipation are common in the Nineteenth Century; but George MacDonald’s story belongs to this familiar pattern only with a difference. In most such stories the emancipated person, not content with repudiating the doctrines, comes also to hate the persons of his forebears, and even the whole culture and  way of life with which they are associated. Thus books like The Way of All Flesh come to be written; and later generations, if they do not swallow the satire wholesale as history, at least excuse the author for a one-sidedness which a man in his circumstances could hardly have been expected to avoid.  Of such personal resentment I find no trace in MacDonald. It is not we who have to find extenuating circumstances for his point of view. On the contrary, it is he himself, in the very midst of his intellectual revolt, who forces us, whether we will or no, to see elements of real and perhaps irreplaceable worth in the thing from which he is revolting.
“All his life he continued to love the rock from which he had been hewn… His best characters are those which reveal how much real charity and spiritual wisdom can co-exist with the profession of a theology that seems to encourage neither. His own grandmother, a truly terrible old woman who had burnt his uncle’s fiddle as a Satanic snare, might have appeared to him as what is now (inaccurately) called ‘a mere sadist.’ Yet when something very like her is delineated in Robert Falconer and again in What’s Mine is Mine, we are compelled to look deeper – to see, inside the repellent crust something that we can whole-heartedly pity and even, with reservations, respect. In this way MacDonald illustrates, not the doubtful maxim that to know all is to forgive all, but the unshakeable truth that to forgive is to know. He who loves, sees.”

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“The image of a great house seen principally from the library and always through the eyes of a stranger or a dependent (even Mr. Vane in Lilith never seems at home in the library which is called his) haunts his books to the end.”

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“His lungs were diseased and his poverty was very great. Literal starvation was sometimes averted only by those last moment deliverances which agnostics attribute to chance and Christians to Providence. It is against this background of reiterated failure and incessant peril that some of his writing can be most profitably read. His resolute condemnations of anxiety come from one who has a right to speak; nor does their tone encourage the theory that they owe anything to the pathological wishful thinking – the spes phthisica – of the consumptive. None of the evidence suggests such a character. His peace of mind came not from building on the future, but resting in what he called ‘the holy Present.’ His resignation to poverty was at the opposite pole from that of the stoic. He appears to have been a sunny, playful man, deeply appreciative of all really beautiful and delicious things that money can buy, and no less deeply content to do without them. It is perhaps significant – it is certainly touching – that his chief recorded weakness was a Highland love of finery; and he was all his life hospitable as only the poor can be. “

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought – almost unwillingly, for I had looked at the volume on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions –  the Everyman edition of Phantastes.  A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a frontier. I had already been waist deep in Romanticism; and likely enough, at any moment, to flounder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity. Now Phantastes was romantic enough in all conscience; but there was a difference.  Nothing was at that time further from my thoughts than Christianity and I therefore had no notion what its difference really was. I was only aware that if this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool, morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptize (that was where the Death came in) my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience. Their turn came far later and with the help of many other books and men. But when the process was complete – by which, of course, I mean ‘when it had really begun’ – I found that I was still with MacDonald and that he had accompanied me all the way and that I was now at last ready to hear from him much that he could not have told me at that first meeting. But in a sense, what he was now telling me was the very same that he had told me from the beginning. There was no question of getting through to the kernel and throwing away the shell: no question of a gilded pill. The pill was gold all through. The quality which had enchanted me in his imaginative works turned out to be the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live. I should have been shocked in my ‘teens if anyone had told me that what I learned to love in Phantastes was goodness. But now that I know, I see there was no deception. The deception is all the other way round – in that prosaic moralism which confines goodness to the region of Law and Duty, which never lets us feel in our face the sweet air blowing from ‘the land of righteousness,’ never reveals that elusive Form which if once seen must inevitably be desired with all but sensuous desire – the thing (in Sappho’s phrase) ‘more gold than gold.'”

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

There is much more to the essay as well. Lewis explores a theory of the nature and artistry of myth-making. It’s well-worth a read.


Packing lightly?

Book Meme 2012

Week 10: Books that I would bring if the world was going to be destroyed by aliens/cylons and we had to restart civilization as we know it. (ie: the basis of human knowledge and thought and civilization.)

Oh my.

The only way I can psych myself into answering this question is by assuming that everyone is going to bring books, and that what I am able to bring will only be the tip of the iceberg. Logically, I know that books are not a top priority for everyone packing for the apocalypse, but I this is speculative, so I can dream. Let us assume that everyone will bring the books they consider most fundamental to society. That takes a little pressure off. That said, I am still a librarian. This question is HARD!

I will categorize the books I take.  Some of these categories are dependent on the type of apocalypse we are facing. The cylon/alien world destruction assumes the loss of Earth (or the 12 colonies), but this is not the only way society might collapse. Thus my first category of books is dependent on their still being a world, but not a civilization.

.

Survival:

Obviously one cannot rebuild society if one is dead. Therefore my primary concern with these books is surviving. If we are all on a handful of jump-capable space ships I might still have a hard time leaving these behind, but they would not be necessary, to my mind, for the rebirth of civilization.

Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart
There is a reason that this book is still available and still read by campers 106 years after its original publication. If I had to survive in the wild and on the move, this would be my manual of choice.

The Forager’s Harvest: a Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer
This is the best guide to wild foods I have found, and I thank my mother for giving it to me one Christmas!

I would also include a medical manual of some kind, but looking in my collection, I have none, and I am going to limit myself to my own collection because A: it is simpler and B: if I am going to stuff books in a backpack I need to actually have the books.

.

General Knowledge:

Science Textbook:
I have to cheat a little for this one because my old textbooks, if we still have them, are in my parent’s attic. Also, they are quite heavy. I would have to look through them and decide which would be best, and I have not done so. But a science textbook would be high on my list of priorities. Even if I could just preserve the basic principles of scientific theory I would be glad. Observation, investigation and logical reasoning are, I believe, fundamental to the growth of society and I would not want to be without them.

.

Religion:

The Holy Bible:
As one might expect, the sacred text of my faith would be the first book packed. Which copy is difficult to choose. If size was not an issue, my first choice would be my 4-in-one comparative copy, but it is very large. My small New International Version is my favorite sword, lightweight and easy to handle, but then again my old, ragged study NIV has served me very well. For the sake of argument, I will go with the smallest.

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
I am, by nature, a skeptic. I prod things, test them, reason them through, and I am leery of trusting too much. From what I can tell, Lewis was much the same kind of person. If I am to help rebuild civilization, I must start from what I know, and this book tends to speak to people such as me.

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesteton
This is a relatively new discovery for me, but my copy is compact, and enlightening.  I think I would pack it. I have some issues with Chesterton, and with Lewis as well, but where Mere Christianity appeals to my logical mind, Orthodoxy appeals to my abstract mind. The two together cover a lot of thought-territory.

.

Mythology:

More than anything, human communities thrive on stories. Our myths help us to understand concepts that are otherwise difficult to express. They are, I believe, the nearest words can come to soul-to-soul communication. I cannot conceive the rebuilding of society without stories, and it would be best to carry some along to remind us how important they are. I will list the myths I would carry with me in order of importance. The most important are those supposedly designed for children because, in truth, they are the ones designed for everyone and often their essence is more fundamental than the complexities created for adults.

The Princess and the Goblin and the Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
Thankfully, I have a copy of this with the two books in one small paperback. These stories are true fairy-tales, filled with magic, danger, courage, friendship and beauty. Much of what I am I owe to these stories, and if I were to assist in reviving civilization, I would be reading them to children and adults alike.

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
These tales represent the heart of folklore in western civilization, both good and bad, and I would not be without them. I would have to take the stories one by one to talk about why, but the variety of stories contained herein offer a wealth of fodder for communication.

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
Anyone who knows me well could have predicted this choice. I consider this a powerful myth dealing with the nature and the state of humanity. It is not a children’s story, but adults need stories as well, and I could not bear to allow this one to pass away.

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Oh Tolkien… why oh why? This author might break my backpack. Of all mythologies I have encountered, his is the one I would most desire to take with me. The problem is that I want to take it all, and that may prove the end of my backpack. My three thick paperbacks might be the lightest way to carry this book, but even so it is probably pushing the limit, but I could not bear to be without it, at least until I collapse under the weight. The themes of this book are the reason it comes before its companions. The relationships and struggles contained therein speak to their own value and their rightful place in the mythologies of Earth.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
My second Tolkien is chosen for its accessibility and the joy contained in its pages. This is another book born for all ages, which makes it versatile.

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
And this is the hard mythology behind the mythology. Stories that are indicative of people’s struggles and the flow of the world can be found within this book for those who have the patience to read, and I assume that people struggling to remake themselves would find a need for and an interest in the tales of this kind. I know I would.

The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by Ruth S. Noel
This one is small for all that it adds to the reading of the above three.

The Classic 100, edited by William Harmon
I cannot forget poetry. By this time my backpack is bursting and there is no room for food, but to lose all of this art… I cannot leave it! I will wedge this one in an outside pocket, a remnant of an art that may yet be revived. For the rest, I must trust my memory, as best I can.

That is 16 books if I include LOTR as three volumes. Heaven knows how many pounds!

.

Books I would love to take, but can’t:

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages
This is a textbook on art history. I would love to drag it everywhere with me, but sadly it is also massive. I carried it for three semesters in college, and I can attest to its ability to slow a person down. Unless someone invents a Bag of Holding or an Undetectable Extension Charm, I am out of luck.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
I have this in a reasonably small form. I may get a lot of flack for not including it in my theoretical backpack, but this is why: while I have been fairly fluent in Shakespearean English from a young age, I know that the language is a barrier for many people. If I am intent on rebuilding civilization, I need that which is most accessible, else the chances are it will not survive past my life. Perhaps I am wrong, but would I risk it for valuable backpack slots? Alas, I would not.

There are hundreds of others. Such a wrench! May I never have to make this choice for real!

That… that is it! I did it! I made it all the way through a meme on time! …it will probably be a long time before I try this again, but I feel accomplished!

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Verbage

Book Meme 2012

Question 7: Favorite words and phrases, or lines and literary allusions that would win your heart.

What a broad topic! If I get onto “favorite words” in literature I will never have done, so scratch that. The same goes for favorite phrases. In fact, I am determined to warp this question beyond all reason.  What follows aren’t really lines or allusions, but some of my favorite clips of prose. For your sake, I will categorize them a little. I will begin with faith, move on to humor, continue to awesome, shamefully admit romantic sentiment,  and end with a passage that is utterly dear to me. I have restrained my impulse to flood this post with quotes. It has been painful to leave out so many, so dear, but I must resist! As it is, this post is atrociously long.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.'”

-Isaiah 9:1-2 N.I.V.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one of those that look as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter.
The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass;
A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”

Guards! Guards! byTerry Pratchett

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did, but maybe you’ll say it’s my duty to tell the town all about it and not hush it up. Know what’d happen? All the ladies in Maycomb includin’ my wife’d be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight- to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch.”

Mr. Tate was trying to dig a hole in the floor with the toe of his boot. He pulled his nose, then massaged his left arm. “I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”

Persuasion by Jane Austen

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“The Mountain

Curdie was the son of Peter the miner. He lived with his father and mother in a cottage built on a mountain, and he worked with his father inside the mountain.

A mountain is a strange and awful thing. In old times, without knowing so much of their strangeness and awfulness as we do, people were yet more afraid of mountains. But then somehow they had not come to see how beautiful they are as well as awful, and they hated them — and what people hate, they must fear. Now that we have learned to look at them with admiration, perhaps we do not feel quite awe enough of them. To me, they are beautiful terrors.

I will try to tell you what they are. They are portions of the heart of the earth that have escaped from the dungeon down below, and rushed up and out. For the heart of the earth is a great wallowing mass, not of blood, as in the hearts of men and animals, but of glowing hot, melted metals and stones. And as our hearts keep us alive, so that great lump of heat keeps the earth alive: it is a huge power of buried sunlight–that is what it is.

Now think: out of that cauldron, where all the bubbles would be as big as the Alps if it could get room for its boiling, certain bubbles have bubbled out and escaped–up and away, and there they stand in the cool, cold sky–mountains. Think of the change, and you will no more wonder that there should be something awful about the very look of a mountain: from the darkness–for where the light has nothing to shine upon, much the same as darkness–from the heat, from the endless tumult of boiling unrest–up, with a sudden heavenward shoot, into the wind, and the cold, and the starshine, and a cloak of snow that lies like ermine above the blue-green mail of the glaciers; and the great sun, their grandfather, up there in the sky; and their little old cold aunt, the moon, that comes wandering about the house at night; and everlasting stillness, except for the wind that turns the rocks and caverns into a roaring organ for the young archangels that are studying how to let out the pent-up praises of their hearts, and the molten music of the streams, rushing ever from the bosoms of the glaciers fresh born.

Think, too, of the change in their own substance–no longer molten and soft, heaving and glowing, but hard and shining and cold. Think of the creatures scampering over and burrowing in it, and the birds building their nests upon it, and the trees growing out of its sides, like hair to clothe it, and the lovely grass in the valleys, and the gracious flowers even at the very edge of its armour of ice, like the rich embroidery of the garment below, and the rivers galloping down the valleys in a tumult of white and green! And along with all these, think of the terrible precipices down which the traveler may fall and be lost, and the frightful gulfs of blue air cracked in the glaciers, and the dark profound lakes, covered like little arctic oceans with floating lumps of ice.

All this outside the mountain! But the inside, who shall tell what lies there? Caverns of awfullest solitude, their walls miles thick, sparkling with ores of gold or silver, copper or iron, tin or mercury, studded perhaps with precious stones–perhaps a brook, with eyeless fish in it, running, running ceaselessly, cold and babbling, through banks crusted with carbuncles and golden topazes, or over a gravel of which some of the stones are rubies and emeralds, perhaps diamonds and sapphires–who can tell?–and whoever can’t tell is free to think–all waiting to flash, waiting for millions of ages–ever since the earth flew off from the sun, a great blot of fire, and began to cool.

Then there are caverns full of water, numbingly cold, fiercely hot–hotter than any boiling water. From some of these the water cannot get out, and from others it runs in channels as the blood in the body: little veins bring it down from the ice above into the great caverns of the mountain’s heart, whence the arteries let it out again, gushing in pipes and clefts and ducts of all shapes and kinds, through and through its bulk, until it springs newborn to the light, and rushes down the Mountainside in torrents, and down the valleys in rivers–down, down, rejoicing, to the mighty lungs of the world, that is the sea, where it is tossed in storms and cyclones, heaved up in billows, twisted in waterspouts, dashed to mist upon rocks, beaten by millions of tails, and breathed by millions of gills, whence at last, melted into vapour by the sun, it is lifted up pure into the air, and borne by the servant winds back to the mountaintops and the snow, the solid ice, and the molten stream.

Well, when the heart of the earth has thus come rushing up among her children, bringing with it gifts of all that she possesses, then straightway into it rush her children to see what they can find there. With pickaxe and spade and crowbar, with boring chisel and blasting powder, they force their way back: is it to search for what toys they may have left in their long-forgotten nurseries? Hence the mountains that lift their heads into the clear air, and are dotted over with the dwellings of men, are tunneled and bored in the darkness of their bosoms by the dwellers in the houses which they hold up to the sun and air.

Curdie and his father were of these: their business was to bring to light hidden things; they sought silver in the rock and found it, and carried it out. Of the many other precious things in their mountain they knew little or nothing. Silver ore was what they were sent to find, and in darkness and danger they found it. But oh, how sweet was the air on the mountain face when they came out at sunset to go home to wife and mother! They did breathe deep then!”

The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald

On a personal note, the above chunk of MacDonald’s wandering is an example of what is often, if not always removed from his work when abridged. To many readers it might seem extraneous exposition, but to me this is the soul of MacDonald’s work. I am convinced that this is what a man writes when his heart is singing, and it echoes the songs in my heart.

I must quit now, while I am ahead. It is agony to leave so many quotes un-quoted! I may have to do a follow-up, or ten.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Chridonalchett

 

Book Meme 2012

Week 6: The author by whom you own the most books

I may shock you all by NOT cheating in this blog-post. In my defense, there is not really a way to cheat here other than lying, and what is the point of a dishonest meme?

Though I have not cheated, I am still faced with a peculiar circumstance. Behold the three-way tie.

I own ten books by Agatha Christie, ten by Terry Pratchett, and ten by George MacDonald. Tolkien is the runner up with 9, but I won’t expound on him today.

One result of the literary exploration of my shelves is that I am ashamed not to own more P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve read many of his books, but I own few. This must be remedied. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, the delightful Pratchettean book store down the road from me has a lovely collection, but I digress. It is time, I suppose, to put in a word as to why I own ten books apiece from the above three authors.

Agatha Christie:

This author is my standby when I am in need of entertainment. I am fond of the mystery genre, especially when the author incorporates humor and gravity effectively, as Christie does. I enjoy attempting to unravel the puzzles she lays out, and I like watching her colorful characters waltz across the pages.

It may not be the first that I read, but And Then There Were None was the first work of Christie’s to make a deep impression on me. That book is an example of her skill, and while few of her books are up to that standard, the mind capable of creating such an intricate mystery created many more to perplex and delight.  Christie is one of those authors that I feel is well balanced. There is nothing about her writing that amazes me. She is no word-smith, but she her style is capable, and develops over time. She handles her characters and plots with skill. On the whole, if I can be as competent in writing as she, I will be very pleased.

Terry Pratchett:

Ah, Pratchett. The first book I read of his, Guards! Guards!, came early in his career, and you can tell. I have seen worse written books, certainly, but it is not up to my usual standards for fiction. And yet I ate it up, dived headlong into its sequel, and kept going.

That sort of thing had never happened to me before. My path is strewn with books that I abandoned after reading poor prose in the first chapter. What can I say? I was trained into literary snobbery from an early age. So what is it about Pratchett that overcame my reaction to his clumsy writing? His humor appeals to me, being dry and witty, but more than that, I fell in love with his characters almost immediately. I had to know what happened to Sam Vimes, Carrot, Sergeant Colon and Cecil Wormsborough St. John Nobbs. Lady Sybil Ramkin was of interest too, by the end of the book. I am still trying to absorb the lessons inherent in my reaction to Guards! Guards!. That a shoddily written book should be among my favorites tells me that my literary snobbery ought not to be the only measure by which I judge a book.

Thankfully, Pratchett’s style and skill have improved and he has been, for some time, a skillful writer. I do not agree with his worldview, but his insight into human nature is layered and often profound. I enjoy the human elements of his stories and the complex questions he raises. He makes me think and he makes me smile, sometimes simultaneously. Most of all, though, I am in love with his humor, and his characters.

Remember, “Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.” -Terry Pratchett from Guards! Guards!

George MacDonald:

MacDonald’s flaws as an author are quite obvious. He wanders off in strange and obscure bunny-trails, he hits his reader with great blocks of thick, purple prose, and the paths of his stories are often as winding and bewildering as the roads of Faerie. I am not surprised that he is not widely read. The irony is that even his failings delight me. I cannot think of a single author who captivates me as MacDonald does. The landscapes of his mind, heart and soul seem released on page, and they are simultaneously strange and familiar.

His tales for children are as whimsical and imaginative as those of Lewis Carrol without the aura of nightmare beneath the dream. By this I do not mean that MacDonald glosses over the dark aspects of existence. Rather he acknowledges the darkness and is unafraid, and this gives his reader courage. What is more, he reveals beauty in the most unlikely places. He teaches his reader to look and think rather than to assume.

His fiction for adults is more difficult to read, but I find it rewarding too. The darkness lies deeper and I can tell that the author has been troubled and afraid. But, as an author, he follows his characters through mundane and fey worlds undaunted and, again, I follow. I will quote a passage from Lilith in the hope that MacDonald will speak for himself better than I can.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

The moon at length approached the forest, and came slowly into it: with her first gleam the noises increased to a deafening uproar, and I began to see dim shapes about me. As she ascended and grew brighter, the noises became yet louder, and the shapes clearer. A furious battle was raging around me. Wild cries and roars of rage, shock of onset, struggle prolonged, all mingled with words articulate, surged in my ears. Curses and credos, snarls and sneers, laughter and mockery, sacred names and howls of hate, came huddling in chaotic interpenetration. Skeletons and phantoms fought in maddest confusion. Swords swept through the phantoms: they only shivered. Maces crashed on the skeletons, shattering them hideously: not one fell or ceased to fight, so long as a single joint held two bones together. Bones of men and horses lay scattered and heaped; grinding and crunching them under foot fought the skeletons. Everywhere charged the bone-gaunt white steeds; everywhere on foot or on wind-blown misty battle-horses, raged and ravened and raved the indestructible spectres; weapons and hoofs clashed and crushed; while skeleton jaws and phantom-throats swelled the deafening tumult with the war-cry of every opinion, bad or good, that had bred strife, injustice, cruelty in any world. The holiest words went with the most hating blow. Lie-distorted truths flew hurtling in the wind of javelins and bones. Every moment some one would turn against his comrades, and fight more wildly than before, THE TRUTH! THE TRUTH! still his cry. One I noted who wheeled ever in a circle, and smote on all sides. Wearied out, a pair would sit for a minute side by side, then rise and renew the fierce combat. None stooped to comfort the fallen, or stepped wide to spare him.

The moon shone till the sun rose, and all the night long I had glimpses of a woman moving at her will above the strife-tormented multitude, now on this front now on that, one outstretched arm urging the fight, the other pressed against her side. “Ye are men: slay one another!” she shouted. I saw her dead eyes and her dark spot, and recalled what I had seen the night before.

Such was the battle of the dead, which I saw and heard as I lay under the tree.

Just before sunrise, a breeze went through the forest, and a voice cried, “Let the dead bury their dead!” At the word the contending thousands dropped noiseless, and when the sun looked in, he saw never a bone, but here and there a withered branch.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


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