Dean Hardy: Maturing into Phantastes

I must admit, I once was a music snob. I’d call it hipster, but that wasn’t invented yet, and there were no fashion statements involved. At one time I was introduced to the band “American Football” by multiple people. I popped in a CD and listened for a bit, but then, for some reason, I chose not to continue. Fast forward fifteen years. A friend’s status came up on my newsfeed “listening to American Football” and I couldn’t remember the band’s sound. I flipped over to itunes and began to listen. I couldn’t figure out what I didn’t like about this band. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t ready for them yet. I simply needed to mature into their sound.

I think the same can be said about our reading tastes. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I began to love reading, and at that point, I was devouring everything that I could get my hands on. My journey started with Chesterton’s Everlasting Man, then C.S. Lewis’ works- especially fascinating was his space trilogy. Then I read somewhere that what started Lewis on this grand adventure was George MacDonald’s Phantastes. What a weird name for a book. When I finally did find a copy of this book years later, I dove right in, just to find that the pool’s water was cold and shallow. This was the first MacDonald book I’d ever read, and my expectations were very high. Yet, I simply couldn’t get into the book. I know we’ve all had that experience where we’ve read a few chapters in a book, but then it just sat for weeks, months, dare I say a year? There sat Phantastes until I put it back on my bookshelf, unread.

It wasn’t until four or five years ago, that after reading much more of MacDonald’s work (especially his highly accessible Princess books), I tried reading Phantastes again. I now list it (along with Lillith) as one of the deepest and most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.

All this to say, if you’ve changed and matured, it’s possible that you have a book to add to your favorites list- and it could be sitting right there on your bookshelf- waiting to be dusted off and consumed.