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George MacDonald's best fiction and best non-fiction

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George MacDonald's best fiction and best non-fiction

Postby liriodendron » 01 Jul 2007, 04:00

I have been wanting to read some George MacDonald. Any recomendations? I generally prefer fiction because I can see how the author feels his philosophy applies in life. (I guess I have a learning style that understands principles better when I can see examples.)
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Re: His best fiction and best non-fiction

Postby moordarjeeling » 01 Jul 2007, 04:12

liriodendron wrote:I have been wanting to read some George MacDonald. Any recomendations? I generally prefer fiction because I can see how the author feels his philosophy applies in life. (I guess I have a learning style that understands principles better when I can see examples.)


Me too on the examples. :-)

As for MacDonald's philosophy applied in life ... unless you want his realistic novels (for most of us unreadable because of the heavy phonetic Scots dialect), I suppose a good start might be KING OF THE GOLDEN MOUNTAIN. It's fantasy, but has adults dealing with some practical and economic problems.
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Postby Tuke » 01 Jul 2007, 14:02

I think both CSL and JRRT would recommend "Phantastes" as one of MacDonald's best novels and "The Golden Key" as a good example of his short stories.
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Postby David Jack » 01 Jul 2007, 19:03

just a quick note on the realistic fiction. there are a few that don't have any scots in them, such as 'annals of a quiet neighbourhood' (an excellent novel which i'm currently reading) and 'seabord parish'.

moordarjeeling is right though: most of MacDonald's non-fantasy novels are set where he was brought up, in the north east of scotland, and therefore contain morayshire dialect (the particular brand od scots spoken here.) if you do decide you want to read any of these, there are alternative versions specifically edited for the american market (by a guy called michael phillips) but i should warn you that you'll miss out on much of the narrative too: it's not just a direct replacement of english dialogue for scots.

here is the link to michael phillips' website, from which you can order both the undedited originals and the ones he's tampered with :wink:

http://www.macdonaldphillips.com/index.html

i believe you can also order the fantasy works, such as phantastes and lilith, from this site.
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Postby Sarah N. » 01 Jul 2007, 20:03

David Jack wrote:if you do decide you want to read any of these, there are alternative versions specifically edited for the american market (by a guy called michael phillips) but i should warn you that you'll miss out on much of the narrative too: it's not just a direct replacement of english dialogue for scots.


Very true- I got one of these versions from the library (of Robert Falconer), but I noticed that much of the narration was messed around with (even though it was in perfectly readable English) and that he had even changed some of the events around, changing the stuff MacDonald had written. This bothered me a ton, and I like MacDonald's narration much better, so I decided to brave the Scots dialect and check out the full version. I is difficult to read, but I think it's worth it. (Then again, I haven't finished the book yet- it was very difficult to just pick up and read it, because I had to push myself into the mindset where the dialect made sense, which took time. So I would have had to devote larger sections of time to reading it than I had available. I intend to finished it when I can get it out from the library again, once I go back to school in the fall. If only I had access to my university's library during the summer, when I actually have time to read. Sigh.)
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Postby David Jack » 01 Jul 2007, 20:11

if anyone decides to emulate Sarah and 'brave' an original MacDonald novel :wink: , they can always come to me for translations. some of the scots words you could guess from the context, and some are close enough to english for their meaning to be appreciable. many of them, too, will be commonly used so once you've had them translated you'll understand them the next time. as sarah says, it really is worth the effort and apart from anything else the scots adds to the flavour and authenticity of the books! *looks very persuasive on this point*

oddly enough, the occasional scots word has the english next to it in brackets, but it's often one which i wouldn't expect 'foreigners' to struggle with any more than another, while they're left to figure out obscure words for themselves :smile:
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MacDonald recommendations

Postby Dr. U » 08 Jul 2007, 02:22

First in my heart of the books I've read by him, (and I have only read a sampling - he wrote quite a bit), is _Phantases_. It is somehow unlike anything I've read by anyone else, and I am a fan of sci fi and fantasy.

Like C.S. Lewis, I bought my copy when I was a teenager on a journey, and I, too, realized I had crossed a frontier into a really fresh perspective as I began reading the book. My journey was a hitch-hiking trip around the U.S. West for about a month while I was debating a number of choices as a young man. I found _Phantases_and_Lilith_ in a funky bookstore in Berkeley CA in 1973, where I was sleeping on someone's front porch while checking out the Bay Area. Every so many years when I re-read it, there are sort of two journeys I re-live, that of Anodos and that of myself, both on journeys trying to figure out who we are and where we're going! I read _Phantases_ in various places in California, and stuck in the desert in Nevada and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. So for me personally, it's forever linked to my trip that also took unexpected turns, just like Anodos'.

However, I've recommended it to friends who have enjoyed it just as much without leaving home without a travel itinerary! It's the kind of story that I think Lewis had in mind when he had Lucy read the wonderful story in the invisible magician's house on the Island of the Dufflepuds, refreshing and full of insights, and you feel - I don't know, rested? - at the end. There's a strong theme of a serious battle between good and evil going on. Lewis said somewhere, perhaps in _Surprised by Joy_, that MacDonald "baptized his imagination" in _Phantases_, teaching him in a story about holiness and The Good that he was not open to learning in an abstract way.


_Lilith_ is also very good, although not quite as good IMO. Somewhere Lewis wrote about MacDonald, that he had an unusual gift of the mythopoeic in spite of sometimes being a B-grade author. There are unforgettable images in Lilith, and some great spiritual insights, but the writing is a little creaky in places. I'm not sure I agree with all of MacDonald's theology in _Lilith_ either, but it's thought-provoking.


I haven't gotten into his non-fantastic novels so I can't review any. I did read a number of his "children's" books - as an adult! - and found most of them both clever and wise. In fact, I read his kids' books while in graduate school in genetics: a really, really good mental break. Like all the great writers in this genre - maybe even like the people doing parodies such as 'Shrek' - MacDonald was good at telling a story that both small children and adults enjoy. (Like hearing Winnie the Pooh read to you as a child, and then reading it to children yourself, and realizing how really funny it is, but there's no way to explain how so to a small child.) He also had a witty way for taking classic fairy tale openings and suddenly going places with them that you didn't expect.


Eerdmans in the US put out a two volume set perhaps 20 years ago - _The Gifts of the Child Christ_ - ISBN 0-8028-1518-9 - which collected his best-regarded short stories in a fantasy vein, including the classic, mystical, 'Golden Key', which was mentioned in this post above. If you can find that, if it's in print or out-of-print, that's a great collection to have, you may find yourself re-reading the stories many times, as well as reading them to children. But start with _Phantases_ and see if you like his style. Not everyone likes "mythopoeic fantasy"!

Hope that helps, and hope you enjoy his books. I'll be interested in what people have to say about his non-fantastical novels and his non-fiction.
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Re: MacDonald recommendations

Postby A#minor » 08 Jul 2007, 20:57

Dr. U wrote: (Like hearing Winnie the Pooh read to you as a child, and then reading it to children yourself, and realizing how really funny it is, but there's no way to explain how so to a small child.)

Oh, I know exactly what you mean!
I also read a lot of children's books in college as a mental break; something that's easy to read, easy to put down, that doesn't tax the intellect but is refreshing. That's how I got to reading E. Nesbit so much.
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Postby nomad » 10 Jul 2007, 19:14

In his short stories, I really liked Photogen and Nicteris (sp?), The Grey Wolf, and The Cruel Painter. Oh, and The Shadows. And one about a Giant's heart that I can't recall the name of.
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Re: MacDonald recommendations

Postby Stanley Anderson » 10 Jul 2007, 19:32

Dr. U wrote:I found _Phantases_and_Lilith_ in a funky bookstore in Berkeley CA in 1973, where I was sleeping on someone's front porch while checking out the Bay Area.


It wasn't Moe's Books on Telegraph Ave as seen in the movie The Graduate by chance? -- I was at Berkeley from 74-77 to get a BA in Mathematics. Sounds like we may have just missed each other:-)

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Funky Books

Postby Dr. U » 11 Jul 2007, 03:37

Sorry, I honestly don't remember the name. I was traveling by myself on a slim budget, and liked to read then as much as now, so I poked around several bookstores, usually whenever I'd see one that didn't look like a commercial chain and "authentically" revolutionary enough for me. (This was 1973, kids.) I rode the BART all the way to several of the endpoints for my tour of the Bay Area, and got out at a couple places that looked interesting, too, but I wouldn't remember where today. I was sleeping on the front porch of a Christian World Liberation Front house in Berkeley, though, if you ever knew any of the folks there. Very creative Christian group, definitely took away some good lessons from them.
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Postby Larry W. » 12 Jul 2007, 10:45

At the Back of the North Wind was always my favorite. What an incredible adventure for Diamond to have known the lady who was the North Wind. The book could be described as a spiritual fantasy.

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Postby moordarjeeling » 15 Jul 2007, 01:36

James Barrie wrote two novels that give some practice in Scots dialect (tho the content isn't very edifying). TOMMY & GRIZEL is the second and 'darker'.
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Postby nomad » 18 Jul 2007, 17:13

Larry W. wrote:At the Back of the North Wind was always my favorite. What an incredible adventure for Diamond to have known the lady who was the North Wind. The book could be described as a spiritual fantasy.

Larry W.


I haven't read that one yet... so North Wind and Lilith are on my list.
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Postby Larry W. » 19 Jul 2007, 03:44

I like North Wind even better than Phantastes. It is simpler and more comprehensible, and I could relate to Diamond better than the heavy complexities of Phantastes. But some people think Phatastes is his best book. C. S. Lewis said he crossed new frontier after reading it. North Wind was more like Nainia to me-- readable uncomplicated fantasy. But I admit they're both incredible books.

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