Friday, May 22, 2020

Phantastes by George MacDonald (novel #149)

I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, that to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. ~ Anodos

The title and subtitle A Faerie Romance is the synopsis: it is an adult fantasy, fairytale, romance. I’ve wanted to read MacDonald, since learning how he influenced two of my favorite authors: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Lewis called MacDonald his master. There is a very good documentary on the three of them called: The Fantasy Makers. I highly recommend it.

This short novel seemed more of a children’s fairytale than one for adults. Admittedly, the distinction is imprecise. Phantastes holds many marvelous, magical scenes, beneficent beauties, and malevolent monsters – all of which would capture the wonder and imagination of a child. But for me, it lacked a coherent theme. There is a theme I think, selfless love of ideal beauty. The hero, Anodos is pulled into the magical faerie realm where he discovers and pursues his ideal woman; but in totality the story lacked cohesion. It seemed to be a series of fantastic events, with little interdependence, concluding with the transformation of the hero.
Thus I, who set out to find my ideal, came back rejoicing that I had lost my Shadow. ~ Anados

There is no explanation of the term Phantastes. 

MacDonald is considered the father of the adult fantasy genre, and Phantastes is considered the first adult fantasy novel, and for that I give him credit. Overall, I was disappointed. Perhaps he does better with subsequent works.

My rating: 2 1/2 of 5 stars

This novel satisfies square G-1, Classic Sci-Fi or fantasy in the 2020 Classic Bingo Challenge, and A Genre Classic: Fantasy in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020.


They who believe in the influences of the stars over the fates of men, are, in feeling at least, nearer the truth than they who regard the heavenly bodies as related to them merely by a common obedience to an external law.

…there is plenty of room for meeting in the universe.

Cosmo himself could not have described what he felt. His emotions were of a kind that destroyed consciousness, and could never be clearly recalled.

Silence rolled like a spiritual thunder through the grand space.

I walked listlessly along. What distressed me most – more even than my own folly – was the perplexing question, How can beauty and ugliness dwell so near?


Saturday, May 2, 2020

Triple Crown Showdown | NOVA This Week

Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

I know I won’t get a ton of sympathy from the bookish community, but I miss organized sports. It’s OK, I’m not looking for sympathy; it’s something to write about. We should have had March Madness, and crowned NBA and NHL champions by now. The Boys of Summer should be doing their thing, and TODAY…should be…the most exciting two minutes in sport, the Kentucky Derby.

I wouldn’t say I’m starved for sport, there’s always something to read, and classic movies to watch. My wife and I are getting by quite comfortably, and I am thankful to be steadily employed and teleworking – the commute and dress code are fantastic. 

But, there are many who are indeed starving for sport, evidenced by the programming on the main U.S. sport channel today. They are rebroadcasting the 2006 World Hamburger Eating Championship…not this year’s championship mind you, but the 2006 contest, which was apparently epic. Other things on today’s line up: National Stone Skipping Competition (may be fun, but I’m gonna wait for the World vs just National competition); 46thAnnual Cherry Pit Spitting Championship, Putt-Putt Golf, Stupid Robot Fighting; Lawn Mower racing, and more (yes, all real things on the lineup today).

Maybe it’s just me, but that lineup leaves me missing normal sports even more. There are two events today that will get my attention. The Arkansas Derby, one of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby. Charlatan will be the heavy favorite, and I hate picking the favorite, so I'm betting he proves a charlatan, and I'll go with long shot My Friend’s Beer. 

My other item of interest today: The Triple Crown Showdown - Churchill Downs, Home of the Kentucky Derby, is holding a simulated contest between the 13 Triple Crown winners: Sir Barton in 1919, Gallant Fox 1930, Omaha 1935, War Admiral 1937, Whirlaway 1941, Count Fleet 1943, Assault 1946, Citation 1948, Secretariat 1973, Seattle Slew 1977, Affirmed 1978, American Pharoah 2015, and Justify 2018. I don’t really know HOW they are going to simulate this race. I assume a computer will account for thousands of variables, and historic stats to come up with the simulation and the winner.

I am very nostalgic about horse racing, so this seems like great fun to me. I'm certain it seems as silly as cherry pit spitting others, but it's for a good cause. There is a contest to pick the winner with proceeds going to COVID-19 relief, so I'm in. 

First, let me be clear – my loyalty belongs to Secretariat: the greatest thoroughbred of All-Time. He has my heart and my head as the one that would win this competition if it were real. But for simulation, that I don’t know HOW they are determining the winner, I think he’s too obvious. I wanted to go Affirmed, but I don’t like his #1 post position, so I am picking Seattle Slew. 

Wash your hands, and stop touching your face.