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George MacDonald's best fiction and best non-fiction

Plato to MacDonald to Chesterton, Tolkien and the Boys in the Pub.

Postby Larry W. » 14 Aug 2007, 17:23

Thanks for the offer, but I wouldn't want to obligate you in any way. I've have too many other books to read now. I read The Musician's Quest many years ago and enjoyed it but I don't remember much of it now. I appreciate your interest.

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MacDonald's Fiction

Postby Narniabound 1966 » 10 Sep 2007, 01:21

It's obviously been a while since this topic has received much attention. I'm new here and really enjoying the site. Quick response to the topic: Is there no one who enjoyed "The Light Princess"? I loved the double layering and the almost parody-like treatment of the fairy tale. It's the one I most enjoyed reading to my children.[/i]
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The Light Princess is a profound de-light

Postby Dr. U » 10 Sep 2007, 01:54

Couldn't resist the pun - sorry.

I agree, it's one of MacDonald's best children's stories. Simultaneously, he succeeds in being very funny in a sort of "Fractured Fairytale" style that all kids (and fans of Monty Python) enjoy, while carrying a storyline with serious underlying themes: selfishness and immaturity in children or adults; a spiritual war between good and evil that is partly hidden much of the time; curses and evil spells; curses and evil spells being broken by a sacrificial love.

For those who have never read _The Light Princess_, I will give no spoilers, but will mention that, at a crucial point, an ancient plaque is found that describes how a nation will be saved from its impending destruction. It will require someone to willingly give up their life. The last line in the plaque said something like "If a single hero cannot be found, it is time for the nation to perish". That stuck with me a long time - in fact, obviously, it's still stuck with me. What a profound truth, for all nations, and in more than one way, within a funny fairy tale.
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Re: The Light Princess is a profound de-light

Postby rusmeister » 10 Sep 2007, 18:42

Dr. U wrote:Couldn't resist the pun - sorry.

I agree, it's one of MacDonald's best children's stories. Simultaneously, he succeeds in being very funny in a sort of "Fractured Fairytale" style that all kids (and fans of Monty Python) enjoy, while carrying a storyline with serious underlying themes: selfishness and immaturity in children or adults; a spiritual war between good and evil that is partly hidden much of the time; curses and evil spells; curses and evil spells being broken by a sacrificial love.

For those who have never read _The Light Princess_, I will give no spoilers, but will mention that, at a crucial point, an ancient plaque is found that describes how a nation will be saved from its impending destruction. It will require someone to willingly give up their life. The last line in the plaque said something like "If a single hero cannot be found, it is time for the nation to perish". That stuck with me a long time - in fact, obviously, it's still stuck with me. What a profound truth, for all nations, and in more than one way, within a funny fairy tale.


Solzhenitsyn expresses a similar idea in his story, 'Matryonin Dvor*' ("Matryona's Home"), about a saintly woman who takes in the hero (who basically IS Solzhenitsyn - his stuff is largely autobiographical) after his release from the GULAG, who is eventually killed in the performance of her selfless tasks for the others in her village.

*a 'dvor' is actually a court, or courtyard. But it carries the idea of 'on her home turf'.
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Publishers of original MacDonald

Postby Ben2747 » 17 Sep 2007, 20:02

Sounds like some people are struggling to find sources for MacDonald (especially in their original, unbutchered form). I have NO COMMERCIAL OR PRIVATE INTEREST IN THIS BUSINESS, but I would strongly recommend Johannesen Printing & Publishing. They publish the original and complete works of GMcD in 44 hard-bound, cloth cover and cotton thread sewn volumes, on acid-free paper. It's about $26 per volume (which you can purchase separately), or $820 for the entire set. Their web site also has information about ordering in the UK. I bought the set for my wife one Christmas, and we've been really happy with the quality of the books.

http://www.johannesen.com/

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Postby David Jack » 25 Sep 2007, 14:06

Thanks for the link Ben. I had heard of the Johansson publishers but didn't know much about them before. In any case it looks like their site and that of michael phillips are the best places to go for original, unedited macdonald works (although the phillips site has the option of ordering abridged versions if you like that kind of thing :wink:)
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Postby David Jack » 05 Nov 2007, 05:33

just a random point here, as much to bump this thread back up as anything else :wink: i'm still reading 'annals of a quiet neighbourhood' and i realised somewhere in the middle that macdonald's taste in music is similar to mine. the two parts of handel's 'messiah' he singles out for mention are 'i know that my redeemer liveth' and 'comfort ye my peole'.

on the non-fiction, i borrowed a copy of 'unspoken sermons volume II' from the library and have read all of them bar three, i think. i haven't been reading it in order but i think the only one's i've still to read are 'the voice of job' 'the fear of god' and 'self-denial'. the ones i've read have been superb, especially 'abba father!'
"This is and has been the Father’s work from the beginning-to bring us into the home of His heart.” George MacDonald.
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Postby rusmeister » 05 Nov 2007, 08:05

Here are a couple of translations from the last line of "Matronya's Home" to illustrate that point of the righteous person:

“We had all lived side by side with her and had never understood that she was the righteous one without whom, as the proverb says, no village can stand. / Nor any city. / Nor our whole land” .


"We had all lived cheek by jowl with Matryona and not understood that she was that upright person without whom, according to the proverb, no village can endure. Nor any city. Nor our whole land."
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Postby David Jack » 28 Nov 2007, 15:37

i've finished my 'complete fairy tales' volume, the last one of the lot being 'the history of photogen and nycteris' which was as good as all the rest, and given an extra 'edge' by the fact that i read it on a car trip to sheffield during one of our short winter days: the first half was read during daylight hours, the next bit in semi darkness!
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Postby Tuke » 02 Dec 2007, 03:58

David Jack wrote:I've finished my 'complete fairy tales' ....
Would it be sacrilegious to say I preferred them to Phantastes?
Last edited by Tuke on 02 Dec 2007, 04:34, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby David Jack » 02 Dec 2007, 04:29

not sacreligious, because they're still part of the sacred writings. just slightly unconventional perhaps :smile:

i loved each and every one of the 'complete fairy tales' and am sure i'll be revisiting them time and time again. they are all delightful and probably have more depth to them than anything else i've read in the same genre.

but while the fairy tales are charming, phantastes is life changing. it's so emotionally charged, so disturbing and comforting by turns, and has such memorable scenes (the episode with the beech tree, the story of cosmo, the time of recuperation in the old woman's cottage...)

but then of course, phantastes isn't something you could read as often as the fairy tales, precisely because of the heavier tone. i could read the shorter fairy tales (and indeed the princess and the goblin, and at the back of the north wind) any time, whereas i would have to allow much more time to elapse between each reading of phantastes.
"This is and has been the Father’s work from the beginning-to bring us into the home of His heart.” George MacDonald.
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Postby Larry W. » 02 Dec 2007, 13:22

Many readers find MacDonald's fairy tales easier to understand than Phantastes. I enjoyed McDonald's books, but his children's stories are more direct and you can relate more easily to the characters than his other fiction. It may have something to do with our twenty first century preference for having stories clear, short, and simple.

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Postby David Jack » 29 Dec 2007, 02:59

apropos of the discussion about johansson/michael phillips editions of macdonald's works, i got to see a fair selection of both after christmas when i made a pilgrimage to mecca (or huntly as it's more commonly known) on my way back to aberdeen.

the library didn't have a full complement of macdonald books (no sermons, for example) but most of them were there. the johansson and michael phillips editions are actually both of the highest quality: hardback, and with beautiful front cover designs (the johanssons are replicas of the originals so that is quite appealing but the phillips ones-called 'sunrise editions'-are just as classy) my only slight reservation about the johanssons is that in one of the books-it might have been 'rampoli', i'm not sure'-the print was a fair bit smaller and this would annoy me if i had ordered it and hadn't known (i find small print very hard to concentrate on.)

there was also a sculpture as you enter the front door of the library which is based on a scene from 'lilith'. it's quite a simple one of a tree with a pool at the foot (represented by a miror) and a raven.

according to a leaflet i picked up inside (inside the library that is, not the sculpture) the town hall has several pubs, buildings etc. which feature in the scottish novels:either as they are, or with altered names. 'the huntly arms', i think it was, appears in 'robert falconer'. oh, and the leaflet, which was free, contained a map of the town with all the imporatant macdonald sites earmarked.

i really need to devote more time to these macdonald pilgrimages (even though i already live where he took his degree:)) he also lived in london, manchester, i believe, and-this one definitely has to go on the list-bordighera in italy. i'm hoping for some of the writing ability and spiritual wisdom to rub off :smile:
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Postby David Jack » 03 Jun 2008, 16:02

Well I finished David Elginbrod, which is now the second 'Scottish novel' I've read of MacDonald's and the third of the 'realistic fictional novels' (Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood being the other in this category, which is of course entirely set in England.)

David Elginbrod was just as spellbinding as Robert Falconer, and like the latter it has that 'fantastic' quaility about it despite being set in the real world. DE does of course have specific allusions to the supernatural in it (other than its christian element) with the introduction of spirituialism and the alleged presence of ghosts, but that is not principally what i'm talking about. rather, you have the sense that the real life goings on are lifted out of the mundane, and that the events are in some sense as marvellous as those of 'phantastes' or 'the princess and the goblin'. Chesterton says something along the lines that the staircase in Robert Falconer was no less magical than that follwed by Princess Irene in TPATG (i think because of the experiences it leads him to) and likewise in DE, one feels the magic in the fir-wood where Hugh first meets Margaret, or in the house where David welcomes and befriends the tutor--a magic which is more palpable and more potent than the paltry spiritualism practiced by Von Funkelstein at Arnstead.

I think the next Scottish novel I'll read will be 'The Marquis of Lossie', even though it's a sequel (to Malcolm.)

I borrowed a bit more macdonald from the library yesterday: 'Scotch songs and Ballads' (the complete collection of G Mac's poems in Scots) and 'Steven Archer and other stories' These shouldn't interrupt my general reading because they're poems and short stories which can easily be dipped in and out of.
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Postby David Jack » 06 Jun 2008, 09:31

have now read the first two in the Macdonald short story collection-Steven Archer and The Gifts of the Child Christ. Both beautiful tales, made no less so by having more prosaic settings than any of his others I've read to date.
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