The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 17

March 7, 2021

Previous post: The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 16.

Let’s close this whole review situation out, folks.

“The Sentence” by Wu Ch’eng En

This is a short excerpt from Journey to the West about an advisor to the Emperor who kills a dragon in a dream, which then causes a real-life severed dragon’s head to fall from the sky. So a story about the blurring of dreams and reality. As we have seen, this is a very common theme throughout the stories in The Book of Fantasy. Which is fine and all, although to an extent I kinda feel like we’re all just ripping off Zhuangzi.[1] But alas, that’s the way it goes with writing and thinking and living, there’s nothing new under the sun, etc. etc. etc.

“The Sorcerers” by William Butler Yeats

In this piece Yeats describes attending an occult summoning held in an undisclosed location in Ireland. The first sentence is interesting:

In Ireland we hear but little of the darker powers, and come across any who have seen them even more rarely, for the imagination of the people dwells rather upon the fantastic and capricious, and fantasy and caprice would lose the freedom which is their breath of life, were they to unite them either with evil or with good.

Yeats describes being nearly possessed by some kind of spirit during the ritual, and successfully resisting it. Which is kinda like, OK, cool story bro, you’re super great at not getting possessed … but also I didn’t ask?

I mean, the story’s like a page and a half long, so I’m not particularly annoyed.

“Fragment” by José Zorrilla

This is from Zorrilla’s play Don Juan Tenorio, which according to Wikipedia is the longest-running play in Spain:

it has become a tradition of both Spanish and Mexican theater to perform el Tenorio on All Saints Day or its Mexican equivalent the Day of the Dead, so the play has been performed at least once every year for over a century. It is also one of the most lucrative plays in Spanish history. Unfortunately, the author did not benefit from his play’s success: not long after he finished writing it, Zorrilla sold the rights to the play, since he did not expect it to be much more successful than any of his other works. Aside from the price paid for the rights, Zorrilla never made any money from any of the productions. Later, he wrote biting criticisms of the work in an apparent attempt to get it discontinued long enough for him to revise it and market the second version himself. However, the ploy never succeeded.

None of that excerpt has a citation to go with it, so it might all be total baloney. Hooray for Wikipedia! Hooray for the Internet!

Since it’s an a itty-bitty-teeny-weeny fragment, I’ll provide the entire text for you here:

D. JUAN: Tolling for me … ?

STATUE: For you.

D. JUAN: And these funereal dirges that I hear?

STATUE: The penitential psalms they chant for you. (At the back, left, between the tombs, lighted candles are seen passing, and the sounds of the service for the dead.)

D. JUAN: But how for me? They bear a wreathed hearse.

STATUE: Your hearse, that bears your body.

D. JUAN: I, dead … ?

STATUE: The captain killed you at your door.


[1] Cf. “The Dream of the Butterfly”, discussed at length in part 4 of this review series.

The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 17 - March 7, 2021 - Greg Poulos