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Old 13th Jun 2006, 11:11   #21
Colyngbourne
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

Here's a good St. Anthony bit from near the end of Lilith:

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Without light enough in the sky or the air to reveal anything, every heather-bush, every small shrub, every blade of grass was perfectly visible—either by light that went out from it, as fire from the bush Moses saw in the desert, or by light that went out of our eyes. Nothing cast a shadow; all things interchanged a little light. Every growing thing showed me, by its shape and colour, its indwelling idea—the informing thought, that is, which was its being, and sent it out. My bare feet seemed to love every plant they trod upon. The world and my being, its life and mine, were one. The microcosm and macrocosm were at length atoned, at length in harmony! I lived in everything; everything entered and lived in me.
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Old 13th Jun 2006, 11:59   #22
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

Are non-bookclub members allowed to comment here? Forgive me if not, but I'll risk Palimpsestual excommunication and take the plunge, anyway, because .... well, because I feel quite strongly about what I've read so far - if that's a good enough excuse.

Hats off to you, Col, for a wonderfully heartfelt review, and it's clear this book spoke volumes to you. But I now know this is one I shall definitely not bother with. That last quote you give is precisely the sort of woolly, intangible style of cluttered prose that makes me want to throttle an author. And looking at those other brief extractions you've kindly given us, I can't help but feel this is a man who is really very poor at the written word. Where is succinct? Where is concise? Where is clear articulation? To me, this is a man grappling with ideas and emotions and losing himself in a mire of nebulous mush. There is a wonderful little revelation in Roth's American Pastoral, a scene where the protagonist is forced to view an acquaintance's artwork but unable to find any pleasure or discernible skill in it, stays schtum, thinking it must be his own shortcomings that blinds him to the man's work. And Roth says:

Quote:
"Two decades after the Greenwich Village year, Orcutt's ambition remains lofty: to create," the flier concluded, "a personal expression of universal themes that include the enduring moral dilemmas which define the human condition."

It never occurred to the Swede, reading the flier, that enough could not be claimed for the paintings just because they were so hollow, that you had to say they were picture of everything because they were picture of nothing.
Well, that nonsense about the 'enduring moral dilemmas...' etc would seem to suit MacDonald's waffle wonderfully. If one has no faith in
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The Big Heart
(pass the sickbag, somebody) - then it's still possible to enjoy the skill an author shows in expressing his ideas, however much you may disagree with him, but the tasters given above, show so little skill, there's little reward I think for delving further. Now I'll do the decent thing, and put up and shut up. Sorry
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Old 13th Jun 2006, 12:43   #23
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

I think MacDonald puts into words very well some of the truths of Christian belief - truths which cannot be put down in succinct, concise ways: the example of the quote describing prayer is a good way of explaining one aspect of prayer; it is a non-literal explanation but one which encapsulates some of the truth of what prayer might be said to be. He is a master at this and at capturing some of the paradoxes of Christianity, even though some of his language use is occasionally twee.

Similarly the quote I included about light and its reflections: I have seen similar expressions of this idea (God as the light, and his image in us as reflections) given by many preachers, theologians and other writers of both fiction and non-fiction.

Perhaps it's that I enjoy getting meaning out of what can appear to be 'mush' but is perhaps a wordy but intricate exploration of humanity and redemption.
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Old 14th Jun 2006, 13:14   #24
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

It's hard, the first time you read Lilith, especially if you read it quite quickly, not to feel a little preached at - and for some time after the first reading I resented that; but in subsequent readings I've grown to really rather enjoy the one quality that stands out for me, and which we seem to be glossing over in search of the Symbolic, and that's the 'other-ness' of it all.

Col - although I suspect I'm slightly misinterpreting it - uses the word transfiguration to describe Vane's constant state, and that's perfect. It's a dreamy, unsettling and slightly anxious sensation, and the fact that GM keeps that going throughout is frankly admirable. We start off with the classic cadences of a ghost story (man sent to mysterious location to do a mundane job), take in fantasy (as he steps through the mirror), a hearty dollop of Quest and then begin to drift sideways into the allegorical stuff. Hats off to MacDonald, say I. That's a lot to take on and I remain impressed with it, three or four reads later.
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Old 14th Jun 2006, 19:36   #25
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

Hoorah! What has stayed with me (two days later) is the fantasy element (whilst recalling there's meat on them there fantasy-bones) - I want to re-read the fighting skeletons and the dancing skeletons scenes, and the scenes inside Lilith's mind-chamber.
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Old 15th Jun 2006, 14:46   #26
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

Where's that MacDonald-aficionado Jerkass fellow?
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Old 4th Jul 2006, 21:19   #27
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

I think I may read Lilith again in the future, and certainly I’m going to read Phantastes. I really quite liked Lilith, even though I agree with some of the criticism posted by HP and gil. There were many things that drew me to this book – a kind of old fashioned charm, I enjoyed the cosiness of the first chapters – like in this fragment here:

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The sun was very bright, but I doubted if the day would long be fine, and looked into the milky sapphire I wore, to see if the star in it was clear. It was even less defined than I had expected. I rose from the breakfast-table, and went to the window to glance at the stone again. There had been heavy rain in the night, and on the lawn was a thrush breaking his way into the shell of the snail.
You know, I’m quite aware there is nothing really special in this fragment – but somehow reading it I felt instant pleasure, and I thought I’d find some pretext to include it in my post. Was it because of the “milky sapphire” or “heavy rain in the night”? I don’t know, but I was captivated. I didn’t mind the slow tempo or long paragraphs where the meaning seemed to hang between the lines rather than in the text itself. The fact that I was reading Lilith only a few pages at a time, and usually just before I got to sleep, fit to certain dreaminess of the book. I loved the images and the atmosphere, moonlight and skeletons, house of sleeping people, cat women... But the atmosphere wouldn’t be enough to hold my attention for long, as I learned with a couple books I tried to read recently and really liked – but just wasn’t able to finish*. There are lines of tension in Lilith though, that hold this book together...

The character of Lilith was fascinating, I liked Mara and Adam and Eve, but didn’t care much for Lona and the Little Ones.

Like Col, I noticed a lot of influences of Macdonald on C.S. Lewis. It’s not only Narnia, but Perelandra too, and especially The Great Divorce.



* Manuscript Found in Saragossa, Virtual Light, Plum Bloom in the Golden Vase were of similar kind to me – atmosphere, nice details and descriptions – but you think as you read, it doesn’t progress but just cumulates and you feel quite satisfied without reaching the end.
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Old 16th Jul 2006, 21:44   #28
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Default Re: Book 25: LILITH by George MacDonald

I think it is interesting to see how non-Christians view Lilith, as it has a very clear basis in Christianity, although MacDonald was not regarded by his fellow denominatoiopnalists as very orthodox. Although I do not buy into the mythology of ‘Adam & Eve’ (nor therefore the Jewish-Muslim parallel traditions of Lilith) as part of my belief, I find the stories very compelling. MacDonald’s treatment of Lilith’s clenched hand, for example, when she asks Adam to cut her off from it is a very interesting concept, both linguistically and theologically (if not as a literary turn of phrase, too). The idea of sleeping-death being necessary to awaken into the new (reisen) life is treated in a fascinating way, I find. The landscape is like that of Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus, although much bleaker and empty, because of course it is Limbo.

Phantastes also makes use of this landscape as a means of discovery and danger.
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