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Archive for May, 2011

I have been catching up on some reading lately ; and not before time, because it is impossible to know as much as is necessary by one’s own direct experience.  And, as one who formally renounced his addiction to gadgets some time ago, I am now obliged to acknowledge my debt to my new Kindle machine.  It’s an awkward thing to use ; clunky in the way computers are ; but useful enough for plain reading of plain material.  Making use of the copious supply of free books from Amazon, I calculate that I have nearly covered the cost of the devilish device itself – yes, I am into profit now.  And not only cash profit, but spiritual profit, too ; for I may now read books which I could/would never risk buying off a shelf or a catalogue.

I particularly enjoyed reading a story by George MacDonald, a Victorian writer whom some may remember as featuring in one or two books by C S Lewis and who inspired other writers such as JRR Tolkien and GK Chesterton.  He was a most imaginative writer of fiction and other types, for adults and for children ; and perhaps it is not surprising that he excelled when immersed in social commentary and metaphysical adventures.

The first of his books that I delved into is entitled At the back of the North Wind.  I chose to read MacDonald on the recommendation of Lewis, and I chose this particular book because I had, years ago, listened to the final episode of it in a radio adaptation – an episode that seemed to end in sadness.

The book itself is much better.  It tells the story of a young lad, born to poor but loving parents in Victorian London.  It follows his fortunes and, most importantly, it tells of his resistance to all attempts to ‘educate’ him out his innate understandings of the world and also his sense of loving wonder at the mystery of it.  A boy such as Diamond need not surprise us at his ability to strike friendships with good people, both adult and child ; his character unerringly guides him to them and, perhaps, draws them to him.  But he is drawn also to the bad types, almost all of whom acknowledge the improvements he makes in their otherwise miserable lives.

Of course, one so young cannot develop so well by his own unaided efforts ; nor even with the help of good parents ; and, in this respect, young Diamond is befriended and taught by a powerful ally – North Wind.  And it is she who, in the end, ensures the youngster’s just reward for all his kindnesses, labours and sufferings.

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