Phantastes- Redux

I think I was possibly a little harsh on George MacDonald’s ‘Phantastes’ when I reviewed it earlier. It was quite fascinating, and I shouldn’t let my own hate of unresolved things to cloud my judgement. There was a part that I found particularly intriguing. The hero ends up in a library, one I could only imagine as the Doctor’s library on board the TARDIS (yes, my nerd is showing). He described it as beautiful and comfortable and simply inviting. I highlighted a specific paragraph about this library (kindle edition, no physical highlighting was actually done) that I would love to share.

“One peculiarity of these books, or at least most of those I looked into, I must make a somewhat vain attempt to describe. If, for instance, it was a book of metaphysics I opened, I had scarcely read two pages before I seemed to myself to be pondering over discovered truth, and constructing the intellectual machine whereby to communicate the discovery to my fellow men. With some books, however, of this nature, it seemed rather as if the process was removed yet a great way further back; and I was trying to find the root of a manifestation, the spiritual truth whence a material vision sprang; or to combine two propositions, both apparently true, either at once or in different remembered moods, and to find the point in which their invisibly converging lines would unite in one, revealing a truth higher than either and differing from both; though so far from being opposed to either that it was that whence each derived its life and power. Or if the book was one of travels, I found myself the traveller. New lands, fresh experiences, novel customs, rose around me. I walked, I discovered, I fought, I suffered, I rejoiced in my success. Was it a history? I was the chief actor therein. I suffered my own blame; I was glad in my own praise. With a fiction it was the same. Mine was the whole story. For I took the place of the character who was most like myself, and his story was mine; until, grown weary with the life of years condensed in an hour, or arrived at my deathbed, or the end of the volume, I would awake, with a sudden bewilderment, to the consciousness of my present life, recognising the walls and roof around me, and finding I joyed or sorrowed only in a book. If the book was a poem, the words disappeared or took the subordinate position of an accompaniment to the succession of forms and images that rose and vanished with a soundless rhythm, and a hidden rime.”

If that was difficult to understand without context, I am truly sorry. However, it was one of my favorite parts in the story. He describes exactly how I feel when I read books, and how I hope to impart it in my children as well. The stories come alive to him, he is the hero, the villain, the philosopher. Books can open your mind to a world of possibilities, but only if you let them.

Well, that is all I have to say without reiterating what he has already said. Thanks for listening!


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