Tag Archives: fairytales

Once Upon a River, Part II: Reading in the Dark Season

You will never read a book about perfect people in a perfect world. If you happen to stumble upon and launch into such a book, I predict you will put it down by chapter 2, if not before.

But why, exactly, is that? If we long for world peace, why don’t we enjoy reading about it?

A thorough investigation of that question could fill volumes and venture into the realms of psychology, philosophy, and myth, among others. But one accessible explanation is that we need characters we can relate to. And none of us is perfect.

Certain masterpieces shock us with unapologetic images of human nature at its worst. Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment , William Golding’s Pincher Martin, and the short stories of Flannery O’Connor come to mind. The latter wrote that to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”

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Fairy stories of George MacDonald

The intuitive outcome of my February 2020 reading was a resolution to make George MacDonald a literary staple of future winters. A logical accounting of what makes his fairy stories particularly suitable for the season, however, has proved more elusive.

MacDonald’s fairy tales are by no means escapist. Some, like “The Wise Woman,” are unscrupulously didactic. Nor does it do them justice merely to call them “hopeful,” in contrast to much contemporary literature I have run across of late. Continue reading

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