Wednesday, February 13, 2008

For MacDonald Lovers...


Like most people, I started reading George MacDonald through C. S. Lewis. When I was a teen, I savored reading MacDonald's fantasies, Phantastes and Lilith. I read The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel, and his collected fairy tales. Then I went on to read some of his realistic romances, the ones edited and adapted to American tastes by evangelical writer Michael Philips for Bethany House. Taking the advice on the back of the book, I made a cup of tea and enjoyed The Fisherman's Lady and its sequel The Marquis' Secret (both books were an adaptation of MacDonald's novel Malcom. I loved that romance, but my favorite became the book retitled The Maiden's Bequest by Philps (it was originally Alec Forbes of Howglen).

Well, there is no substitute for reading MacDonald, but if you've already done that, you probably want to check out George MacDonald: Literary Heritage and Heirs, newly published by Zossima Press. These fourteen essays on his life and legacy range from his influences (including the melancholic William Blake), his interactions with other Victorian authors such as Lewis Carroll (who was a close friend), and whether or not he's been treated fairly by his more recent admirers, including Michael Phillips and C.S. Lewis himself. A provocative essay by John Pennington argues that despite his professed admiration for Phatastes, Lewis never really fully appreciated MacDonald's fictional talents. Pennington and others ask readers to re-examine MacDonald apart from Lewis's eclectic critique and see if they're pleasantly surprised.

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the essays in the book (although some of them were a bit too modern lit-crit for my taste) and it whetted my appetite for more MacDonald. So I did what any self-respecting booklover would do -- I went to the library and got a book of MacDonald's collected fairy stories so I could partake again. If you love the redoubtable Scottish writer, or if you've never read, this book is an excellent companion to his books. Enjoy!

2 comments:

Elenatintil said...

Ah yes...MacDonald! I have read almost none of his fantasy works- (I need to!) but I enjoyed "The Parish Papers" and have "The Highlander's Last Song" "The Landlady's Master" and "the Maiden's Bequest" on my shelf now. Parish Papers was my favorite, although I was a bit put off by the excessive "preachy-ness" of his writing. But perhaps I just need to pick them up again.

Delaney said...

Oh, I really like George MacDonald. If I read too much of him, though, I feel sort of like I'm floating in fantasyland and I need something solid to bring me down to earth.

I'm going to have to have to check this book out. Thanks for the review, Regina! :)