5 stars A marvelous and delightful book. Dahl's recollections of his childhood in this autobiography take the reader (or listener in my case) to another time. This reading was narrated by Andrew Sachs who enhances Dahl's reflections as he brings to life the colorful characters of Dahl's life and lifts them off the page and into the imagination. The book follows Dahl's lifespan from birth until about 20 years old. He writes with great wit and detail and my boys and I found ourselves laughing out loud many times as we entered into the adventures of his boyhood in the early decades of the 20th century.
"We all agree that the story of Balder is a great myth, a thing of inexhaustible value. But whose version - whose words - are we thinking when we say this? For my own part, the answer is that I am not thinking of anyone's words. No poet, as far as I know or can remember, has told this story supremely well. I am not thinking of any particular version of it. If the story is anywhere embodied in words, that is almost an accident. What really delights and nourishes me is a particular pattern of events, which would equally delight and nourish if it had reached me by some medium which involved no words at all - say by a mime, or a film. And I find this to be true of all such stories."
in the preface of George MacDonald: An Anthology, 365 Readings, xxix
[Weston speaking on the nature of the 'spirit' within] "Call it a Force. A great, inscrutable Force, pouring up into us from the dark bases of being. A Force that can choose its instruments. It is only lately, Ransom, that I've learned from actual experience something which you have believed all your life as part of your religion." Here he suddenly subsided again into a whisper - a croaking whisper unlike his usual voice. "Guided," he said. "Chosen. Guided. I've become conscious that I'm a man set apart. Why did I do physics? Why did I discover the Weston rays? Why did I go to Malacandra? It - the Force - has pushed me on all this time. I'm being guided. I know now that I am the greatest scientist the world has yet produced. I've been made so for a purpose. It is through me that Spirit itself is at this moment pushing on to its goal."
"Look here," said Ransom, "one wants to be careful about this sort of thing. There are spirits and spirits you know."
"Eh?" said Weston. "What are you talking about?"
"I mean a thing might be a spirit and not good for you."
"But I thought you agreed that Spirit was the good - the end of the whole process? I thought you religious people were all out for spirituality? What is the point of asceticism - fasts and celibacy and all that? Didn't we agree that God is a spirit? Don't you worship Him because He is pure spirit?"
"Good heavens, no! We worship Him because He is wise and good. There's nothing specially fine about something simply being a spirit. The Devil is a spirit."
3.5 stars A quick read - I read this one to my kids in under an hour (107 pages with good illustrations throughout). This was a good story and worth the time but is not amazing literature. If you are looking for a dragon story that can be read in one sitting it is worth picking up. The realities of life and death come through in the tale and there are some good lessons that help form the moral imagination. A great book for an elementary student to pick up and read on a rainy Saturday.
"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."
It was nineteen years ago today that my mother died - "36 years young" as my father wrote it in the obituary. It was Easter Sunday that year and the years since have proven that life goes on and it is grand.
"If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."
5 stars This story was first published in 1872 and is well worth the read over a hundred years later. (This book also has a sequel: The Princess and Curdie) MacDonald has woven together a brilliant fairy tale. I read the book to my children, but like any good fairy tale found myself enjoying it more than them at points. Complete with dreams and visions, goblins and escapes, love and heroism; it is a book filled with truth. If you are looking for a delightful and fun read that draws attention to what is good - pick up this story.
As W.H. Auden wrote, "To me, George MacDonald's most extraordinary, and precious, gift is his ability, in all his stories, to create an atmosphere of goodness about which there is nothing phony or moralistic. Nothing is rarer in literature."
MacDonald was also one who had a huge influence on C.S. Lewis as seen in these quotes:
"I know nothing that gives me such a feeling of spiritual healing, of being washed, as to read G. MacDonald." from The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves
"I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him." from the preface of George MacDonald: An Anthology by Lewis
For those of you who know Lewis' writings you may recall it is MacDonald who Lewis interacts with in The Great Divorce. Also, in a later introduction that Lewis wrote for MacDonald's Phantastes he states: "What it [Phantastes] actually did to me was convert, even to baptise my imagination."