Small ‘Dream Angus’ casts a large magic shadow not soon forgotten
Terry Mathews | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Dec. 21, 2006 - Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams
By Alexander McCall Smith
173 pp. Canongate $18.00

Sometimes, if we’re very, very lucky, the universe presents us with gifts. The gifts can appear as great piece of art, a film that touches the soul or a haunting melody heard long after the turntable stops spinning.

For lucky readers, the universe's gift sometimes presents itself in the form of the written word. In this age of pulp fiction, it’s rare to find a book with magic and stardust on every page. “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, comes to mind. John Irving’s “The World According to Garp” belongs on the list. So does “The Milagro Beanfield War,” by John Nichols, and the little-known “Bridge of Birds,” by the reclusive Barry Hughart.

�Dream Angus,� by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, can take its place among these great works of otherworldly fiction.

�Dream Angus� is a slim, small, 173-page retelling of the life of the Angus, Celtic god of dreams. How Smith has woven ancient stories among modern plotlines is nothing short of stunning.

Angus is the love child of Dagda, an all-powerful god, and a beautiful water sprite named Boann. Taken from his mother at birth, Dagda banishes the boy to be raised by his older brother, Midir.

Angus is an enchanted child. Birds hover around his head. Wild hunting dogs turn into fawning pups in his presence. When he’s around, people have vivid dreams. “Water sprites are gentle; their sons are handsome and have a sense of fun; they sparkle and dart about, just like water,” Smith writes.

�In many ways, this was Dagda�s greatest achievement, that he gave us this fine boy, who brought dreams to people, and who was loved by birds and people equally and who still is. For Dream Angus comes at night and gives you dreams. You do not see him do this, but you may spot him skipping across the heather, his bag of dreams by his side, and the sight of him, just the sight of him, may be enough to make you fall in love.�

The kind, compassionate Midir cares for the boy as his own, but during his teen-age years, Angus learns the truth and the clever boy returns to Dagda's castle to claim his birthright. 

At first glance, this book seems deceptively simple. An Introduction and 10 short chapters make the reader think, “This will be quick and pleasant and I can get on about my business.”

It takes only four pages or so to realize this trip will not be simple and it will not be short. One needs several readings to peel back all the story’s layers and several weeks to completely appreciate the beauty of Smith’s prose.  

�Alexander McCall Smith has offered his readers a glimpse into a world of myths, magic and mystery. Let�s hope his gift is opened, read and treasured by a legion of readers for generations to come.�


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