Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Essay 4: Movie on Exodus

Jesse Broussard


Phil / RelS 303

Prompt #7:
If you were making a film based on the Exodus account in Exodus through Deuteronomy, what three key passages would you consider essential to include? Explain why you chose the three you chose. How do these passages capture important aspects of the Biblical Exodus account? If you refer to Tooze’s “Moses and the Reel Exodus,” be sure to cite it.

1). Were I to make a movie about the Exodus, it would be centered almost entirely on the life of Moses. His life simply dominates the story. As a result, the three scenes that I would find essential for a movie would be, first, from Pharaoh acquiescing to Moses and letting Israel go until the Crossing of the Red Sea; second, Israel at Mount Sinai sending Moses up the Mountain; and finally, Moses’ Song and Final Blessing as he prepares to die.

2). The first one is self-explanatory. The Exodus is a “going-out," so we have to have something for them to "go out" of, and tossing in the tyrannical Pharaoh simply sweetens the plot. He makes a magnificent villain, and is just as magnificently destroyed: unwilling to weaken his empire by losing all of his unpaid laborers, he ends up nearly destroying his empire by losing not only his unpaid laborers, but his army and his life. And the catalyst in all of this is Moses.

3). Moses seems to live his entire life as an intercessor: between Israelite and Egyptian (with fatal results), between Israelite and Israelite, between Israel and Pharaoh, and all of this is merely a prequel to his epic role as the intercessor between YHVH and Israel, which is established in the delivery of Israel from the land of Egypt through the Red Sea. His victory over Pharaoh within the land of Egypt sets him up as the leader of Israel, and the Red Sea solidifies his role in granite and steel, the "horse and rider thrown into the sea."

4). But the Red Sea "battle" demonstrates far more than this. Israel (and many Egyptians with them) is following Moses out of Egypt as if they were a conquering army. They are sent forth with the spoils of the Egyptians as all Egypt mourns behind them: the devastation of Passover is most destructive, most desolate when the Angel doesn't pass over. And this is but the climax of a long list, the tenth destruction wrought by God through His chosen intermediary, Moses. The Israelites have seen the might of Egypt buffeted by blow after blow until it's finally smashed, driven to its knees sheer by the miracles of God—“the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword"—and now, standing on the edge of an ocean with an already defeated army behind them, the instant response is one of abject terror; the instant reaction, to blame Moses. This attitude of rapid forgetfulness and seemingly nescient oblivion to all that has happened in the extremely recent past characterizes Israel throughout the Exodus wandering.

5). In spite of Israel's doubt and faithlessness, God saves them through Moses' upraised arms: a surer validation of Moses' role as YHVH's chosen vessel there can be none. Then the pursuing force is slaughtered at their very heels, again through Moses' operation. So this part of the narrative demonstrates Moses as YHVH's chosen representative without any room for doubt, and as such is an absolutely essential part of any story from this narrative. Omitting it would be akin to writing a history of Islam without mentioning Mohammed.

6). The second period that I'd choose to focus upon in a film would be when YHVH descends upon the mountain, and Israel decides to send Moses to speak for them. Not only would this be one of the most breathtaking and terrifying scenes imaginable—a mountaintop glowing as if the sun itself was settling upon it, the blinding light shrouded through billowing, blackening smoke thick as flesh that battles to mask the flames within, all while seven thunders round a throne shatter the deathly silence of the desert like a Seraph war: the great and terrible "qol" of YHVH described by Ezekiel when the Glory-Cloud descends to the earth and alights upon a mountaintop—not only all of this, but it is also where the stipulations of the covenant are established, the covenant that Israel proceeds to violate for the remainder of her history; the covenant that plagues her like a bastard child through the remainder of the Exodus narrative and every narrative from that day on.

7). In a very true way, this mountain is the foundation of the nation of Israel. This mountain is their identity: they are the chosen people of YHVH, and this is where His choice is revealed. This is His covenant with them, and every judgment they receive, every time they are occupied, conquered, or beset by disease, drought or any "act of God," it is all due to their violation of this covenant, and can only be repaired by repentance and a return to their God. For, if they are faithful and obey, He will be faithful and establish them in the land that He promised to them.

8). Very telling is the fact that Israel demands that Moses go between God and them: they fear that the Presence of God will destroy them (a fear that we see repeated almost every time the Angel of The Lord appears). No great surprise when we think of the sight that greeted them. But the requisite corollary is that they don't have this same fear of Moses. Indeed, as the mere mouthpiece of YHVH, they don't seem to fear him at all: is he not a man? Here is the saying proven true that a prophet is only without honor in his own country, for Moses is hailed as a savior of Israel in every age save his own. In his own he is opposed time and time again; attempts to replace him as a leader are endless, while on God's end, there are threats to replace Israel with some more prescient (or at least polite) followers. It is only Moses' intercession for those that seek to destroy him that preserves the line of Israel.

9). After the destruction of Pharaoh and the theophany of Mount Horeb, the Song of Moses seems a bit anti-climactic: no great storm, no ocean divided by wind, just a poem. But it is this poem that foreshadows the cyclical nature of judgment, repentance, restoration, fall and judgment that constitutes the remainder of Israel’s history. As the Jewish Publication Society’s commentary on Deuteronomy puts it:

In recent years, under the impact of studies of Near Eastern treaties and biblical covenants, scholars have proposed that the poem belongs to a genre that they call the "covenant lawsuit." This genre is supposedly based on the literary form that a suzerain would use in appealing to the gods to condemn a vassal for violating the terms of a treaty that they had witnessed; the suzerain would do so prior to declaring war on the vassal to punish that violation.1

10). The quotation goes on to assert that this interpretation seems to be too limited, though noted Old Testament scholar Meredith Kline, in his Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy spends a great deal of time defending it quite adequately. But whether or not the poem is a covenant lawsuit, the poem definitely affixes curses for obedience and blessings for obedience to the covenant, and it is these blessings and curses (further enumerated in Leviticus 26) that haunt Israel’s history at least until the end of old Jerusalem in AD 70.

11). The reason for these blessings and curses is put forward in the poem quite simply. As Israel is the chosen nation of YHVH, their obedience and disobedience reflect upon Him. They either honor Him or dishonor Him, but they cannot, as His people, fail to reflect back to Him. In the words of The Torah, a Modern Commentary:

In Moses' song, it is not compassion that motivates God; rather, it is the divine honor that must be protected. Israel is both endangered and saved because it is close to the Divine and is thereby involved in God's needs as well. God must be seen to be God, and if Israel endangers that majesty it must suffer the consequences. At the same time, it will be rescued from perdition because God cannot allow Israel to be destroyed. The fate of the covenant people is thus forever hammered out on the anvil of history, for the ambivalence of the divine Partner makes Israel the object both of love and of anger. The nations are the tools of divine action, but God's goal is to create an evermore loyal and observant Israel. Thus does the song explain the relationship, and in the mouth of Moses it becomes a statement of fundamental belief.2

12). The Song of Moses threatens Israel with the consequences of her status. She is an example to the nations; she is the child at the chalkboard: her failure to keep the covenant of YHVH will be punished with a terrible and public punishment, and her obedience will be blessed, to the wonder of the corners of the world. This is the legacy established by Moses, and this is a fitting end to the Exodus.

Endnotes: 1. Page 509, Tigay, Jeffrey H. The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy. Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1996. 2. Page 1403, Plaut, W. Gunther, and David E. S. Stein. Torah: A Modern Commentary. New York: Union for Reform Judaism, 2006.

• Three fundamental aspects of a film narrative include: Pharaoh acquiescing to Moses and letting Israel go to the Crossing of the Red Sea; Israel at Mount Sinai sending Moses up the Mountain; and Moses’ Song and Final Blessing are the three most essential aspects of the Exodus narrative for a film to include o Pharaoh’s decision through the Red Sea Crossing  Foundation of the entire Exodus narrative  Sets Moses up as the leader of Israel  Demonstrates YHVH’s faithfulness and Israel’s disbelief and forgetfulness • YHVH had already performed miraculous signs to affect the freedom of Israel o Israel at Mount Sinai sending Moses up the Mountain  Again, a veritable visual assault  Demonstrates the overall relationship between Israel, Moses and God • Israel’s fright and Moses’ intercession • The Fear of the Lord is only present when He Is Present • Moses as the intercessor receives the commands from YHVH and the blame from the people.  Further demonstrates Israel’s forgetfulness  Establishes the covenant of the law that Israel later continually violates o Moses’ Song and Final Blessing  A promise and a threat • Covenant lawsuit  Israel as a chosen nation • Her sins and her failures reflect on YHVH Works Cited:

Plaut, W. Gunther, and David E. S. Stein. Torah: A Modern Commentary. New York: Union for Reform Judaism, 2006.

Tigay, Jeffrey H. The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy. Philadelphia Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Evangellyfish, Doug Wilson

EvangellyfishEvangellyfish by Douglas Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As you wipe your feet before entering the house, here I shall open with a confession: when I was introduced to the writings of Douglas Wilson, I didn't like them. I have gone this far, allow me to go further: having all the literary discretion of a vacuum cleaner and taste located solely in my mouth, I owned, read, re-read and enjoyed books that shall not here be named, but were written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

Now that my ethos lies in a smouldering ruin, allow me to say that my appreciation for Wilson's writing has increased enormously over the years. But even with this confession, there is simply no denying that Evangellyfish is the high-water mark of his writing: from the dedication onward it is absolutely hilarious, fluctuating from wry cynicism to popping optimism, lightly flippant without sacrificing depth; all in all, wholly refreshing. It skips around from character to character with an obviously deep affection for all of them, and the entire story is heavily scented with grandpa's whiskey cavendish, deep belly-laughs, and a warm, easy humour. The shift from perspective to perspective is smooth as a jazz progression, and there's nary a two dimensional character to be found, from the twitterpated bellhop to the drily cynical priest that doesn't even appear in the story, every person has depth, warmth, and a certain level of sympathy. It is a sheer, racing delight to read, packed with Wodehouse and Chesterton, Lewis and Mencken, and--dare I say it?--deeply rooted in the blues.

On a side note, any of you who read the story when he began posting it chapter by chapter will be, as the KJV would say, astonied. Not only is everything better and lighter, the ending creates a new world. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Adam, Noah and the New World

2. Some argue that the flood story begins as an "uncreation" story and ends as a re-creation story. What elements of Genesis 1-3 and Genesis 6-9 support that interpretation? What would the effect be on the primeval history of Genesis 1-11, if this interpretation is followed?

1). My essay is taken from the second prompt, and my thesis is quite straightforward: the text, in similarity of speech, story, and in the numerological indication, necessitates a de-creation and re-creation interpretation. I'll begin by taking the textual indications--similarities of word choice, location, etcetera, and then will move on to overarching thematic elements that are similar or identical, and will conclude my argument with the numerological significance that the author gives us in the age of Noah. I will then move on to one possible interpretation of the Noah and Ham facet of the narrative in light of this reading.

2). Before noting similarities in the text, we need to understand that the deluge was leveled primarily against dry land (which had been cursed in Genesis 3), man (taken from the cursed earth), birds, and land animals (which at the least, live on the cursed earth). Sea creatures would have had a grand time, taking field trips to the Carpathian peaks; light and dark, sun, moon and stars would have been unaffected, while the land would have been covered and man and land animals would have been annihilated. Therefore, if this is a de-creation, any de-creational language would mirror the creational language of dry land, man, birds and the animals, and that is how we find it. This language is infrequent, but impossible to misconstrue: Genesis 7:21, 24 give us almost a verbatim destruction of the Genesis 1 creation. "Cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth... everything that creeps upon the earth..." in Genesis 1, compared to "cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth..." in Genesis 7. This, combined with the otherwise rare phrase "in whose nostrils was the breath of life" that in Genesis 7 is a persistent refrain, force us back to the 1st chapter's account of creation.

3). Also important to note is the flood narrative's consistent reference to the earth: twenty one "earth's" (a combination of two numbers that are already significant to the Hebrew mind: three sets of seven) as well as three "face of the ground" references. There is an obvious preoccupation with the earth being cursed, and we as readers are not allowed to forget it. Creation was defaced and is being washed.

4). Perhaps less striking than the verbatim textual similarities but no less apparent is the order in which events happen: in Genesis 1, water above from water below, and water below from the dry land. In Genesis 7, the water below undoes the creation of the land, and the water above undoes the separation of the two firmaments. Creation literally is working backwards. Then we are given the primordial picture once again: the earth is formless and void, and the ark, not the Spirit of God, is "moving" upon the surface of the waters. But soon, the darkness and light are separated as the clouds break, the intermingling waters are separated (the rain stops), then the water and dry land begin to separate, Noah opens the window and there are sun, moon and stars; he sends out a raven and a dove and the birds and fish are restored, and finally, beasts and man descend from the ark: the new creation.

5). The final part of the narrative mirroring is when the ark comes to rest upon a mountain (Genesis 8:4). Looking closely at the text we can see that the Garden of Eden was also on a mountain (the rivers proceeded from it, and we're presuming that water has always flowed downhill). So, we have men, on a mountaintop, surrounded by animals and descending water. God gives them a promise, a command, and attendant blessings and curses, much of which is a strict repetition--often a verbatim repetition--of His earlier dealings with Adam. But here, for the first time, capital punishment is instituted, eating animals is allowed and eating blood is forbidden: man is given yet greater responsibility and freedom, while this time, all the surrounding animals, instead of plants, are for their use. Now all of this so far has been fairly clear and self-explanatory, the kind of thing any serious student would notice on a first reading of the text. But this next part is slightly more abstruse; it kind of goes out onto the skinny branches of exegesis, though it fits, as Dunnett would say, like an old man cutting cloth in an attic.

6). Numbers have a huge role in the Hebrew mindset. The Bible is full to the brim of genealogies, lists of tribal populations, and strict (though not chronological) accountings of the timing of events. In Genesis we're given genealogies that in some cases have an obvious significance: Enoch lives a perfect "year" of years, 365, and disappears; his son dies in the year of the flood, just failing to reach a trinity of tens (ten x ten x ten). The two "sevenths" from Adam are starkly contrasted: Lamech, the murderous poet, and Enoch, the disappearing prophet, and this is just the surface of this one genealogy. Now in this particular narrative, we're given Noah's age again and again and again, and always in the set of three: in this year, and this month, and this day of the month. But the most notable of these is the last of these sets of three, in verse thirteen of chapter eight: "And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first (month), the first (day) of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry."

7). This is the big change: the ark has come to rest, the dove has not returned, the rain has long since stopped, and here, the ark is opened. Here, the world is again presented to man. This is when man again looks out over the creation. And when does it happen? The first day of the first month of the first year after Noah's six hundredth year. God created the world in six days, and on the seventh, He rested. Noah lived six hundred years, and now he is viewing the earth again. The work is done, the world has been de-created and re-created, and now the waters, the ark, and, in a sense, Noah, are all at rest. If this is not at the least a sideways nod to the six days of creation, our author is singularly dense, and, as we are given ample proof, dense is one thing that he is not.

8). But as I said before, this could be construed as reaching. So let us follow it out. If we are being referred to creation in verse thirteen of chapter eight, what ought to happen next? God ought to give man a mandate. He does so in verse sixteen. Man ought to express dominion over the animals, and verse twenty of chapter eight satisfies that requirement. We ought to find man in a garden, and in verse twenty of chapter nine, after the extended covenant, we find this as well. There ought to be a snake in that garden, and we are given Ham. The list goes on.

9). So there are simply too many similarities for this to be anything but a new creation, but how ought this to alter our reading of the text? This is my final point, and it is one that I shall have to buttress a great deal. I am seeking to posit that we are given a second "fall in the garden story," and that, loosely and typologically speaking, Noah ought to be read as an image of God, Ham as the snake, and Shem and Japheth as man. This may at first seem counterintuitive, as we have a drunk "god" and a view of dad naked in place of a fruit (not to mention the snake-man Ham), but upon closer inspection, it fits remarkably well, as I will demonstrate.

10). The first thing to note is that Noah has labored, and is now resting, as God had done with His garden in Eden. So far, the interpretation fits. But now we come to the issue of "drunk," and this is one of the chief objections to the interpretation that I'm supporting: how can Noah represent God if Noah is drunk? The Hebrew language is not perfect, but it is quite clear on this point: the word rendered "and became drunk" at the absolute least means that Noah drank like he'd just turned twenty-one. The word is never interpreted as anything less than a lot to drink, so any wiggling within various meanings of the words is out, but why is this a problem to reading Noah as an image of God? This is long before man is given any command to avoid drunkenness, so construing Noah's actions as inherently sinful is a long, long stretch, as there is nothing in the text that criticizes him. Also, he's in his tent, not dancing naked in the streets: the text is just as clear on that point. Ham has to enter his tent to see his father's nakedness, so his father is "covered" by the "garment" of the tent. And finally, even if Noah is acting like Attila with a harem like Suleiman's, the author is the one drawing the allusion, and he deliberately avoids making a judgment of any kind, so we ought to follow his example if we would see what he wants us to see.

11). So Noah is in his tent, in relaxed attire, and Ham saw the nakedness of his father. The text here does allow for Ham's sin to be anything from raping his father to simply walking in at an inopportune time, and the only thing that sheds any light on what he does is his brothers' response, designed to undo what Ham did. And what do they do? They cover their father with a garment, while keeping their heads turned so "the nakedness of their father they did not see." The text says that Ham uncovers and sees, while Shem and Japheth cover and do not see. Without any further elucidation by the author, the reading that does the least violence to the text is to assume that Noah was naked (or nearly) in his tent, and Ham invaded his father's privacy, then told his brothers.

12). The reaction of Shem and Japheth is very interesting, however. First off, they refuse to see their father (another allusion to God, who is always shrouded in smoke or behind a veil). But they do seem to feel that immediate action needs to be taken, so they (naturally) take a garment, place it over both of their shoulders, and walk it backwards into their father's tent (drawing, perhaps, an allusion to the veil in the tabernacle with the stitched cherubim facing outward [itself drawing an allusion to Eden]), where they drape the garment over their father. As opposed to, for example, telling Ham to knock it off. Why? Why is this elaborate act of clothing their father necessary?

13). The key to this whole story is the garment. In the Jewish mindset in particular, your garment, your cloak, was your sign of office. This is why David's conscience smote him for cutting Saul's robe while Saul was going to the bathroom (lifting his hand against the Lord's anointed), why Elisha got the cloak of Elijah, why tearing your robe was such a humbling thing, and why Joseph's brothers were so furious when their brother was given a cloak of many "breadths"--a cloak stretching to the palms of the hand and soles of the feet--which we (for some inexplicable reason) translate "colors."

14). So the action of draping a cloak over their father was, in a very symbolic way, not only Shem and Japheth's refusal to shame or mock their father, not only their way of honoring him, but also their way of submitting to him, their way of investing him with the authority that he was temporarily divested of. This explains why the curse upon Ham is in terms of submission to his brothers. It is also wholly possible that Ham took his father's cloak, and this is the garment that the brothers draped back over him (though the text is silent). So, the snake takes fruit from the tree--he takes the authority of God--and he offers it to mankind, who take it. Ham uncovers his father's nakedness--he tries to remove his father's authority--and "offers" it to his brothers, who refuse it.

15). If this fails to convince that the author is drawing a parallel, it is all but proven by what follows: Adam sinned by taking to himself the office of God (judging good from evil), and his sin was followed by his son Cain's sin of building a city (God had commanded man to spread out and Cain responds by building a city). Ham attempts to rebel against the office of his father, and is thwarted, and his sin is followed by his grandson Nimrod's sin of building a city, which is also thwarted. So the story of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth is the story of a new mankind in a new garden, in which man is not rebellious and cursed, but submits, and is blessed; a new world in which man's sinfulness will be checked, and not overrun the world as it did before.

Abecedarium: Death and Beauty

A Beautiful Death

Aardvark is a Dutch word, descended from early Afrikaans, and it means "earth pig." In possession of a tongue whose glory may reach up to a cubit, this eighteen-toed hunchback is the Assyrian empire of the ant world. Consuming up to fifty-thousand lives in a single night, the three-foot long, magnificently snouted pig-like creature is a walking Holocaust, exuding extermination and trailing genocide like a garment.

Bull sharks infrequently attack humans, but it is not unknown. One boy, Jesse Arbogast, age eight, was swimming in shallow water off the coast of Langdon Beach, Florida, when he was bitten twice by a seven foot bull shark. The first bite severed his right arm between the elbow and the shoulder, the second tore off a large chunk of his upper thigh. His uncle entered the water and pulled the boy ashore, then turned and re-entered the water in pursuit of the shark. Having caught hold of it, he managed to wrestle it to shore where a park ranger shot it three times in the head. The ranger inserted his baton into the shark's mouth and a fireman managed to retrieve the arm from its gullet. The arm was wrapped in damp cloth, packed in ice, and sent off to join the eight year old boy where he was in the hospital in surgery. It was successfully reattached.
The 19 year-old boy now enjoys almost full use of his arm, a magnificent story of survival and the triumph of the human spirit and all that crap. Personally, heck with the kid, I'd like to meet the uncle.

"Caterpillar," I feel, is one of the more infrequently entered words under "cause of death." But one Canadian woman, at least, gave her all to rectify this grave injustice: she went barefoot in the Amazon, and stepped on a poisonous caterpillar. Upon feeling the pain, she assumed that she had sprained her toe, and as icing reduced the swelling, she returned home unconcerned, but felt more and more ill as the week wore on. Unfortunately for her, Amazonian caterpillars weren't exactly high on the Canadian doctor's list of possible causes for her condition, so it wasn't until ten days later that the autopsy discovered the sore between her big toe and the toe next to it.

Don't weep, don't cry, your salt-wet tears won't heal me.
I need to see your smile,
Light up my world with a laugh,
To know that you'll love me forever,
Long after my breath is gone.

A freckled little girl wrote these words to a loved one early one spring. The words were largely forgotten until the slideshow at her funeral that winter.

"Evocative" was her favorite word. Apparently poet types are allowed favorite words. I generally feel that words are like cells, and only when words form a body is there real loveliness, whether almost a surfeit of beauty, as in Victor Hugo, or Dickens, the almost tweakeresque garrulousness, paid by the word and often irrelevant to any point or story but still lovely, or, the minimalists, such as Christopher Wiman, the dying author of such lines as "antic, frantic, penny-ante Ahab stabs of madness," and "there are keener griefs than God, they come in clear daylight, leaving you with nothing and the means to feel it."
But I have since decided that my favorite word is "evanescent," both in meaning and in sound. The slow, fading, death.

"Fire On the Hills," by Robinson Jeffers.

The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front of the roaring wave of the brush-fire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the back slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders.
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.

God: what does this word conjure? What unspeakable, unavoidable Presence shall be unveiled when this nature, this anesthetic fog, fades away? Go not near the mountain, do not enter the tomb. Where is Moses? Who shall speak for us? Men shall seek for death but shall not find her, men shall woo death as a lover, but she shall flee from them. Men will cry to the mountains to fall on them, and hide them from His face, but at His face heaven and earth flee away, and we stand naked in the dark, broken parts, remnants of humanity, with nothing left, no illusion here to hide behind. The Truth shall set you free. So will a bullet.
Men say He is an Author. So what play? Sometimes it seems to be Hamlet. But, with Prufrock, I am not the Prince, nor was meant to be, and the other characters suck. And there is not a single daisy chain in Shakespeare while my nieces wear them like diamonds. Lilting laughter, light feet and tickle-able ribs, side-saddle shoulder rides and bedtime stories play too little a role for Shakespeare to be a realist.
So what play? I don't know. But I know stories, and I know characters: the narcissistic fool, the catty girl, the sadistic bastard, the noble hero, the lecherous frat guy, and so many more. I've played so many roles, and so few of them are characters that I like, that I could like, or that anyone could like. What play? Does it matter? Or ought the question be, regardless of the play, what character?
So if there is an Author, I thank Him for my role, full of raging death and quiet glory. If there is an Author, I am humbled to be a character. If there is an Author, I will play the small, faithful bit-part I am given, until my day to quietly slip offstage, and I'll play the kind of character that I would like to actually be. Who knows? I just may wake up and find that I am that character, the decent, quiet character: a faithful husband, loving father, a bit too obsessed with Chesterton and literature perhaps, some odd ideas about AIDS not being sexually transmitted and Edward de Vere writing the works of Shakespeare, but a wife that truly likes being barefoot, a library that smells of a grandfather's pipe tobacco, strong sons, lovely daughters, and the yard covered in flowers and grandchildren. The type of character about whom an author could sit back and say, "Well done. Go die now." For every book on this earth needs a final chapter.

Holly. My brother Dave had spent a summer in love with her while her best friend was in love with him. Holly spent the summer alternating between bemused exasperation and resignation. Dave told me I'd love her, but it turned out I already knew her: she was easily the cutest 16oz soy chai that I'd ever seen. What with her coy grin, tomboy clothes, flaming hair and dusted freckles, I'd always stared like a fool. My eyes were gluttons, and she the feast. Soon I found out that her eyes, the color of clear water over mossy rocks, were always laughing. She had two older sisters and two older brothers, her mom's kidney in her stomach, and the scars on her beautiful, tiny hands were from the cats that found her wherever she went, whether feral, starved, poisoned and smaller than a dying man's hope for a house loan, or well-fed strays with their lazy, boneless yawns, it didn't matter, they all loved her and she loved them.
But then it was ever so: those that loved her always drew blood.

Ichneumon: in medieval literature, this creature was mortal enemy to crocodiles, snakes and in particular dragons. It was famed for its habit of covering itself in mud, letting the mud dry, and repeating until it had four or five coats of mud as a form of armor. Indeed, cats were the only animal that were rumored to be able to kill it. Due to the symbolic nature of its enemies (especially snakes and dragons), the Ichneumon became a symbolic hero to the medieval church.

Jannisaries were the elite corps of the Muslim army. White Europeans kidnapped in their youth, they were raised with but one wish: to kill and die for Allah. When the Crusaders in Jerusalem looked out on those robes, flowing like blood down an altar and white as a martyr's bones; when the ululated "Allahu-akbar" turned the world silver with scimitars and the earth rolled toward them, undulating as the sea, I wonder if any would recognize a single face among the horde as his long-lost son, returned with his sins to slay him.

Knights of St. John of Malta were formerly the Knights Hospitalers of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. One of four militant orders in Jerusalem, they were sworn to poverty, chastity and obedience, and were known to be vehement enemies of Islam. They were also known to fire live enemies out of their cannons. When they were driven out of Jerusalem the Knights were given Malta under the condition that they protect it. The Maltese, who, as the great medievalist Dorothy Dunnet phrases it, possessed nothing but a rock and the language Christ spoke, were not happy to see them, recalling that before the Knights arrived, they hadn't needed protection.
They needed it now. The year was 1565, and the seventy year-old Suleiman raised a nearly fifty-thousand man army and around two hundred warships to reduce the anathematized Knights and the barren Malta with them. The five-hundred Knights sent out for aid, and managed to scrape a force of 5,600 others when they included their galley slaves and servants. They then determined that if Suleiman wanted their death--which he most definitely did--they would extract in blood, drop by intractable, excruciating drop, the steepest price possible.
The Knights, in three-hundred pounds of plate armor, rolled over the landing parties like an avalanche before retiring behind their dual-walled cities. During the four month siege, when the outer walls of St. Elmo were reduced to inclines of rubble and the Janissaries were pouring in and dying like a shallow stream into hell itself, the Knights that were too badly wounded to stand had benches put in the breaches of the walls, and sat there sheathed in steel, a gun in the left hand and a sword in the right, killing as many as they could before they were themselves killed. The famous corsair and heir to Barbarossa, Dragut Rais (also known as Turgut Reis), now eighty and gentle as a wrought iron wrecking ball, was killed here during the siege of the first fort. The besieged at one point told their Grand Master that the citadel could not hold another day. The next reinforcements were all volunteers who had fought for the honor of dying with the fort. It held on--despite the fact that it was more rubble than wall--for another three weeks. There were 9 survivors who were too wounded to manage to get killed.
When, two months later, a mine destroyed a chunk of wall in the capital city of Mdina and the Turks swept the defense back and began pouring into the city, the seventy year old Grand Master cursed his men for cowards and led a charge to the breach, his sword shattering skull after skull, galvanizing the remnant of his men into action, turning back the Sword of Allah once more.
Suleiman never took Malta. He ordered his army to retreat on September 11th (a date Muslims later had even more reason to remember when the Ottomans were turned back from Vienna on September 11, 1683). Suleiman lost around 30,000 men on Malta, including over half of his Janissaries, and his empire never recovered.

Lemmings, I am sorry to report, do not actually lemming. I know. Gary Larsen's "Lemming with a water-tube" is wholly fictional. Lemmings do mass migrate, and if they have water to cross, some often drown.

Melanoma, n. A malignant tumor of melanocytes. The most deadly type of skin cancer.
Stage 0: 99.9% survival rate.
Stage I / II: 85-99% survival rate.
Stage II: 40-85% survival rate.
Stage III: 25-60% survival rate.
Stage IV: 9-15% survival rate.

Numinibus vota exaudita malignis: the latter part of "enormous prayers, which heaven in vengeance grants." --Juvenal, translated by Johnson. This quote, rather ironically, was used much later to refer to Tithonus. Eternal life was asked for and granted; eternal youth was never mentioned. Over thousands of years, Tithonus lived and aged, and when revisited and asked if he desired anything else, he uttered one nihilistic prayer: "To die."

Overdose: When I was an ambulance driver, I picked up the same woman twice in a night for an overdose. I finished restocking the ambulance after the second time, and heard the other crew get paged out to an overdose. Third time was the charm: she died en route.

Plath: “God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of "parties" with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”

Quem di diligunt adulescens moritur: "those whom the gods love die young."

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Seductive wisps of lethal fog, reach out, caress with lies:
the heavy white belies the night, veils dying Siren sighs

and songs to the Sirens, sung by the damned, who, hopeless, still would hope
for death as sweet as mortals meet: with sleepless dreams, elope.

Now languid eternities, elaborate symphonies, a moaning, delirious moon
chaunting over, beneath our winter, of falling, fall, and swoon.

Some primal termite knocked on wood, and tasted it, and found it good.
And that is why your sweet aunt May fell through the parlor floor today.
--Ogden Nash

Underworld, in Greek and Roman mythology, was ruled by Hades and his kidnapped bride Persephone. Hades had become enamored with Persephone and stole her. Zeus brokered the deal that half of each year she would spend with his brother in the underworld, and half on earth. Hence, we have the seasons: every time Persephone goes to the underworld, the overworld dies.

Veronica Mars, the critically acclaimed TV series created by Rob Thomas, premiered on September 22, 2004. It starred Kristin Bell as Veronica Mars, a high-school girl plagued by questions regarding the death of her best friend. The mystery is resolved, however, when it turns out that not only was the best friend's boyfriend recording their sexual escapades, but the best friend was also sleeping with her boyfriend's father, who killed her to protect his reputation.

Weight: not more than 60lbs. Probably not even that. Height: 5' 1 3/4". Age: 22. December 5, 2006, the flaming redhead Holly Beth Broussard, who loved poetry, photography, historical fiction, cats and chai, died of stage IV malignant melanoma. She was survived by two sisters, two brothers, her parents, two nieces, five nephews, and her husband. She had fought off the beast for over two and a half years with next to no immune system, defying the odds again and again and again, and she finally decided to go home: an island in the mouth of the Eel River, Humboldt County, California. Her house was the only house there.
She was born on her mother's bed, married on that lawn, and she died on the couch, her family there each time. I carried her stiff corpse to the sink and held her head while her mother washed her hair. I carried her back to her mother's bed, and picked the clothes that her sisters dressed her in. I lay on the bed next to her and wondered when the merciful shock would submit to the ragged edge of reality. I still wonder. Two days after I put her on her mother's bed, I put her in a coffin, her hair still damp, her skin still marbled white, her hands still scarred. I shut the lid, and my life ended. O mother, hath one grave room for two?
The next thing I remember is an Applebee's. I was alone with thirteen pens, a mechanical pencil and a pitcher of Blue Moon, and it was the end of February. I pondered how God could forgive God. But of course, if I'm right, He didn't. If I'm right, He crucified Him. So I wondered how I could forgive God: bless you, you were blameless; I the net. For you and God forgive and I forget.
Then I stopped wondering about God, and began writing. "I know not why, why lovers, lovers die: the priests and gods, with downcast eye, fail simpler men, who, shattered, lie; while heretics? They curse, we curse the sky." "And since she truly meant so much to me, truly life, earth, sky and sea, and from whose end to mine I'd flee, then what, and who, and why must I now be?" "For your eyes shall not open, my dear, O my Luv, as you wait, entombed in the hill. And what of the eyes I beheld with my own, the hour your flesh betrayed your will? Winter has come, O Despoina, my Luv, for you are gone, Persephone. Hades has come, taken all the dancers under hill, the houses all under the sea."
Her play has been done for nearly six years; she who sweetly smiled while ragged on the rack. For she played her part well: she was the girl that was always in the corner with a book, a cat and a cup of tea, sitting with one leg curled up under her. She was the wife that hid notes for her husband to find, the wife that planned picnics on roofs, fields and a canoe, the one that seemed to have a green thumb unless you knew how many things she actually planted--maybe one in twenty survived. Swimming with dolphins (with a collapsed lung), planning her garden, deciding what to do with my hair, trying on clothes and setting records on rides at the fair, making pies and cookies with her nieces, going swimming at our river, getting our horses half-stuck in quicksand: she was the one that never noticed death's approach because she was too busy with life, with love and with laughter. A full life.

Xenophobia, oddly enough, played no part in the Rwanda genocide, in which the preferred weapon of the massacre was the machete. Initially the Tutsi were defined by anyone owning more than ten cows, and the Hutu anyone not owning more than ten cows. The distinction was socio-economic.

"Youth of the Nation," a song by the Christian rock band POD, was inspired by the school shooting at Santana High School, an imitation of the infamous Columbine massacre.

Ziggurat: A temple of Sumerian origin, built in the form of a pyramidal tower. The Aztecs claim to have sacrificed 84,400 victims in four days upon one ziggurat; historians disagree. But the Aztecs were there.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Jesse Broussard
English 344, SAS 1.

Broad, Robert L. "Giving Blood to the Scraps: Haints, History, and Hosea in Beloved" African American Review, Vol. 28, no. 2 (Summer of 1994), pp. 189-196.

Robert L. Broad's insightful and well-crafted essay entitled Giving Blood to the Scraps (a quote he attributes to Morrison) was a delightfully intriguing foray into the question: "Who the hell is Beloved?" (as Broad refreshingly phrases it). He bases his heterodox answer primarily upon the internal monologue we find on page 248 (the memory of being on board a slave ship), as well as other, scattered excerpts from Beloved. But despite this rather select arrangement of sources (or should I say source?), he manages to erect what was to me a wholly novel interpretation of the extremely bizarre and often entirely indecipherable character of Beloved.
He argues that Beloved is not simply, if I can so apply such an adverb, the daughter that Sethe murdered. No, she is the collective consciousness of the oppressed African-American race, including Beloved. As he puts it, she is the "puzzled and puzzling, poly-generational, mnemonically tortured" incarnation of the "sixty million or more" to whom Morrison dedicated the novel: the sixty million or more African Americans that were killed in their capture in Africa or subsequent transportation to America.
To this reading he adds several qualifications. First, he explains how the character of Beloved is both Sethe's murdered daughter and the myriad forgotten dead:

Where Beloved comes from, we will find no individual spirits. There, identity and time are conflated. Denver and Sethe conjure a particular spirit and expect it to play by their rules-- rules like maintaining a single, unified identity and consciousness. As it turns out, however, in the spirit world our boundaries do not apply.

For defense, he appeals to Beloved's own enigmatic "All of it is now, it is always now" (248). So, by his argument, the body is most definitely that of the murdered (now adult) Beloved, but the "person" within the body is not limited to Beloved, but includes all of the oppressed African Americans. Beloved's body is inhabited by a collective spirit consciousness, if you will, that she has become a part of: the "sixty million or more."
He then goes on to address Morrison's epigraph, a quotation from Paul, found in the book of Romans:

I will call them my people
Which were not my people
And her beloved
Which was not beloved.

He uses the switch from plural (them, people) to singular (her, beloved) to argue further for the individual equating to the collective, and claims that any restoration of the individual is impossible without accepting the collective community as a whole. As he says "looking for their 'beloved,' Sethe and Denver get their people too. All sixty million of them." For a further example of what Rene Girard would call "this interdividuality," Broad cites Paul D's escape via chain: "For one lost, all lost. The chain that held them would save all or none."
Then Broad shifts his focus and proposes a secondary thesis. From looking back and offering a different reading of the novel, he asserts a final claim that is both brilliant and daring. To understand it, some degree of Biblical literacy is required, but I'll summarize as briefly as I can.
Morrison's epigraph is a quotation from Paul, but Paul is himself quoting the prophet Hosea. The quoted prophecy is about the restoration of Israel (presumably after their Babylonian exile): a promise that God will be faithful and restore them. But then comes Paul. He applies this passage to the Christians at Rome, who were most definitely not Jews. Worse, Paul maintains in the same letter that to follow God, one did not have to become a Jew. Then worse still, if worse were possible, he asserts that the Jewish people were no longer the people of God: God had sent His Son, His Messiah, and the Jews had crucified Him, unwittingly taking their birthright and handing it over to the Gentile world. So according to Paul, God says to the Gentiles (who had not been His people) "My people;" to those whom He had hated, He now says "My beloved," and, literally, to hell with any unrepentant Jews, to whom this prophecy had originally been written. This application of Hosea's prophecy obviously turns the context on its head.
Broad assumes that Morrison is well aware of this, which is why she quotes the passage from Paul instead of from Hosea. Broad believes that she is referring to the historical revisionism of Paul as a warning to the American "chosen people of God" who Morrison sees as imitating this type of historical reinterpretation. According to Broad, Morrison sees America as a new Paul in the worst possible way, rewriting the context of our history to justify the abominations that we've committed upon the African American world.

As I stated before, I greatly enjoyed Broad's essay. His thesis was novel and fascinating, his argument was clear, and his final point was pleasantly unexpected. Kudos, props, etc. The problem I have with his theory is that it is wholly founded upon a very particular reading of a very small section--and a very small esoteric, extremely poetically oriented section at that--of a decent-sized book. There is not another page, not another word that would imply, let alone obligate belief in a "collective spirit consciousness" possessing Beloved. Not one. There is not a hint dropped anywhere in the book that Morrison assumes any type of collective unity, let alone consciousness, among African Americans, living or dead. So why would the catalyzing character of the entire novel be some type of smorgasbord of the deceased of an entire race?
You cannot expect to build a four-thousand square foot house on a four foot square foundation without building it on the lawn. And that's what Broad is doing here. Yes, it is a possible interpretation, but it's an interpretation that does far too much violence to the text to be readily accepted, and his reason for doing this much violence to the text is so small that I simply cannot give his theory credence. He fully fails to compel. To assume that an author as completely capable as Morrison chose to give us one intentionally inchoate, incredibly isolated and extremely, obscurely poetical page (out of over three-hundred) to conclusively demonstrate that she named her magnum opus, Pulitzer-Prize winning novel after the "collective spirit consciousness" of an entire race? A glacial titan of a theme that's otherwise unmentioned in the entirety of the book? This is so far-fetched it must have killed the dog. And it is the entire fantastic foundation of his argument.
The second issue that I have is with his final point, his inferring a criticism of revisionist historians from Morrison's Pauline quote. I fully grant that Morrison makes enough Biblical references to compel any Biblical scholar to credit her with some level of Scriptural awareness. Also, I gladly grant that she is a complex author, and that her story contains "wheels within wheels," for a Biblical reference of my own. But again, where is his evidence? If an author wants to make a point, isn't it generally helpful to, I don't know, make it? Maybe Morrison does think America is rewriting history. But she doesn't say so in this book, and ten bucks says that twice the number of Americans have read Romans as could find Hosea. C. S. Lewis claimed that writing was like herding sheep: if any side gate was left unlocked, then that's the one his ovine readers would take. I believe that Broad has demonstrated this admirably. He found a hammer, and the world became a nail.

Take Home Essay: Stephen Crane, The Open Boat

As always, I apologize for any formatting issues. HTML is not condusive to block quotes, and I typically can't be bothered. Blessings, JB J. Broussard
English 344
J. Ladino
Take Home Essay

GLEE! the great storm is over!
Four have recovered the land;
Forty gone down together
Into the boiling sand.

   Ring, for the scant salvation!
         Toll, for the bonnie souls,—
Neighbor and friend and bridegroom,
Spinning upon the shoals!

   How they will tell the shipwreck
When winter shakes the door,         
Till the children ask, “But the forty?
Did they come back no more?”

   Then a silence suffuses the story,
And a softness the teller’s eye;
And the children no further question,
         And only the waves reply.

–Emily Dickinson

"When it came night, the white waves paced to and fro in the moonlight, and the wind brought the sound of the great sea's voice to the men on shore, and they felt that they could then be interpreters."

So ends Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat." Lovely as a forest in flame, it is a stark, terse story spanning fewer than twenty-four hours, gracefully sliding from the first person perspective to the omniscient narrator and back again, the prose wry as a Scotsman, dry as a desert and bare as a tree in winter, and it is the account of Crane's own experience in a ten foot dinghy off the coast of Florida, having survived the shipwreck of the Commodore. He and three others (including the captain) were among the last to leave the sinking ship, and when their dinghy capsized off the coast of Daytona Beach all four men attempted to win the shore. Three were successful. One drowned in water that, had he the strength, he could have walked ashore in.
One of the first rules of writing is to write what you know, and Crane follows this. My contention is that his chief aim in this story is to posit a worldview with an utterly indifferent natural universe. I'll assume, for simplicity's sake, that he was writing what he believed, as well as the necessary assumption that he is the correspondent in the (obviously at least somewhat autobiographical) story. But first, let's look at the text:

"When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no brick and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers."

This is easily one of the most blatant of all of his references to the indifference of nature, and it's pretty self-explanatory: the universe doesn't care about you. You are not essential. Were you to die tonight, the sun would still come up on the morrow. And if this makes you angry, there's nothing you can do about it. Your greatest attempt at blasphemy—for note, you are looking for a temple to desecrate—your greatest attempt at blasphemy, born out of whatever depth of volcanic rage, can do no more to offend indifferent nature than throwing tissue-paper can bring down the sun. It doesn't even help if you wad it up. But the text continues even more starkly:

"Then, if there be no tangible thing to hoot he feels, perhaps, the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying: 'Yes, but I love myself.'

A high cold star on a winter's night is the word he feels that she says to him. Thereafter he knows the pathos of his situation."

Here, with more religious terminology, prayers are nullified and the supplicant is left wholly alone with the unsympathetic world. "A high cold star." Pathos indeed. Though we are the center of our world, reality and our versions of it do not often converge. The final text that I'll use here is the correspondent's thoughts upon seeing the wind-tower.

"This tower was a giant, standing with its back to the plight of the ants. It represented in a degree, to the correspondent, the serenity of nature amid the struggles of the individual—nature in the wind, and nature in the vision of men. She did not seem cruel to him then, nor beneficent, nor treacherous, nor wise. But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent."

Flat indifference. Man is of no central importance—no, man is of no importance at all. Nature needs him not. And there is no court of appeal, no anthropomorphic god will answer his prayers: he is alone. And nature is entirely unconcerned. This is the greatest insult that a man can receive: glacial apathy.
So the correspondent's perspective is obviously that of an indifferent nature, but demonstrating this obvious fact is not demonstrating that this is the principle aim, the end-all of the story. But further study makes the centrality of this view clearer. For example, Crane never mentions the ship. We are dropped into the ocean with the correspondent, out of all context. Nor does Crane mention more than a few moments after their salvation. He intentionally flattens the characters: did they get onto the dinghy to save themselves at the expense of other lives? Were they the first off the sinking ship? The last? We don't know. And afterward, did the Captain get another commission? Was the wreck his fault, and did it ruin his career? Did the oiler have a family? At least he's given a name—a singular courtesy in a story rife with anonymity. The story is intentionally abbreviated to the time frame in which the dinghy is sailing to shore. Man at sea at the mercy of nature, and nature doesn't care.
The shipwreck would have been fascinating. The history of the life of the oiler would have deepened the pathos of the situation, would have made him seem more real. The segué to life after such a near-death experience for the correspondent would have been amazing—Dostoevsky at least gave us a short story when he got his reprieve five minutes before he was to be executed. But not Crane. These are all entirely outside the scope of his interest. He gives us four men in a floating bathtub off the coast of Florida; he gives us the incessant waves and the endless sky. And, for good measure, he throws in a shark or two. We know of little outside of this,—just a scene or two of shoreline. But this is the story he is telling: man vs. nature. And nature does not care. Nature does not care.
The argument could be made that this interpretation is too grand an interpretation, that Crane had no intention of presenting us with a worldview to walk away with. The story was just a narrative without a moral. Which is plausible. I mean, if you are a writer struggling to make a living, surviving a shipwreck might just be the kind of thing worth writing about. It couldn't hurt, and it would probably sell. And of course that is at least one of the primary reasons he was writing (as Dave Barry puts it, "the alternative is gainful employment"). But it doesn't explain why the main view of the main character is "indifferent nature." Moreover, not only is this the main view, but it's the entirely unchallenged view—can you imagine how fascinating a Jack London Sea Wolf-esque dialogue would be here? Further still, this view of the world is also attributed to the other characters:

"A high cold star on a winter's night is the word he feels that she (nature) says to him. Thereafter he knows the pathos of his situation.

The men in the dingey had not discussed these matters, but each had, no doubt, reflected upon them in silence and according to his mind..."

No doubt.
Also, if Crane had no intention of leaving us with this worldview—this central, unchallenged, universally held worldview—why is he, famed for being niggardly with his prose, suddenly a spendthrift when it comes to this? We are given repeated sections reiterating the same thought from different angles. If Crane was not aiming to leave us with this thought, that "Nature will not pity, nor the red god lend an ear," then why does he? It seems out of character for him.
But, it can be argued, hitting a target you didn't aim for doesn't necessarily mean you didn't hit the one you did aim for. Better yet, you may have had more targets than just the one, and this interpretation of Crane's story—to demonstrate the indifference of nature—may be too limited. It may be that he had a far grander scope in mind. We've demonstrated that pointing pitiless nature out is at least part of his scope—it's too often presented, too unchallenged, too central to be accidental—but what if it's a minor part of his scope? Then the obvious question is: what's the major part?
The most noticeable feature of the story is the thrice-repeated "If I am going to be drowned—if I am going to be drowned—if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far?" But how is this anything but yet another demonstration of the indifference of nature? Had nature cared at all, it would not have drowned the oiler and left him in water that wouldn't have hit his ankles if he'd had the strength to stand. But it did. Nature did not care. And what other theme will the story support? Nothing political, nothing religious. There's a magnificent section about the brotherhood of men, but it's by no means central. There is no other theme that's as recurrent as the flat incomprehensibility of the situation, explained only by the fact that nothing cares.
The final argument to be made is that the correspondent seems to love nature, and he appends beauty to it, even when it is about to kill him. "There was a terrible grace in the move of the waves, and they came in silence, save for the snarling of the crests." Or:

"Viewed from a balcony, the whole thing would doubtless have been weirdly picturesque... The sun swung steadily up the sky, and they knew it was broad day because the color of the sea changed from slate to emerald-green, streaked with amber lights, and the foam was like tumbling snow."

Lovely indeed. But it makes it no more gentle, no more cautious for the sake of man. A man can love the thing that kills him—it's not uncommon—and it's no proof that the thing loved him. Nature, Crane would argue, is just as indifferent as a bottle of Jack or a pack of cigarettes. So this argument falls flat as well.
So the central theme of this story is that nature is indifferent to these little man-beings, these upright, bifurcated mammals. Man is very small. The world is big, and it doesn't need me, and it doesn't need you. Nature is not, as (pre-Christian) C. S. Lewis asserted, "red in tooth and claw," nor is nature some type of pantheistic benevolence. Nature is, and there's an end on it. This is the argument presented by Stephen Crane.
But why should we care about any of this? What does it matter what Crane thought? Well, what you believe determines how you live. So ask yourself: was he right? We each have our own views on this, but we ought to recognize what has shaped them. As the great medievalist Dorothy Dunnett says through her main character, "We are each our nurses' turn of speech, our sword master's dead men, the courage of our first horse..." Everything in our lives makes up who we are and what we believe, including, now, Stephen Crane, who here makes a tremendously compelling case for the indifference of the world:

"In the shallows, face downward, lay the oiler. His forehead touched sand that was periodically, between each wave, clear of the sea...The welcome of the land to the men from the sea was warm and generous, but a still and dripping shape was carried slowly up the beach, and the land's welcome for it could only be the different and sinister hospitality of the grave."

Most of recorded human history up through the present disagrees with Crane's thesis; most humans have at least professed to believe in some type of a benevolent force behind nature, whether the Faeren of the Druids or the Christian God of the Bible or any of a host of others, but, I suspect, even most of these people don't like to think about it: it's a nice thing to occupy a Sunday (save Super-bowl Sunday, of course). Dillard, ever potent, agrees:

"On the whole I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry set, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return."

I posit that we prefer to view nature from a house rather than a hill-top, in a coat rather than a coracle. We build very expensive boxes to shut out the world, and seeing stars as you're going to sleep is so rare an occasion that everyone cherishes a memory of it. So it is good for us, every so often, inside our climate controlled little box, with our hot cup of tea, our warm, purring cat, a fire in the fireplace—in a word, our life as we like it, nice and controlled—it is good for us to come across a Stephen Crane with his worldview as inexorable as the waves he describes, disquieting as Donner Pass on a dark night, nihilistic as Nagasaki. It is good for us to notice his worldview. And we ought to know if we agree. We ought to care. We ought to care.
Or we just ought to avoid large bodies of water.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Good Country People: Review

Well, due to scheduling issues (a conflict arose between my personal tendencies and my hope of future gainful employment), I just wrote this. I started at 1:30 am and went till 5:50 am, and I'm now posting it. The story is well worth reading (it is, after all--but after all what, I wonder? Anyway, it is O'Conner, and she had peacocks), and the review will make a bit more sense if you're familiar with the story (theoretically, but I won't really know till I read this when I'm actually conscious).


P.S. "From tonsure to toenails" was fun to write.

J. A. Broussard J. Ladino, English 344 Short Paper, Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor: The Violent Take it by Force

My argument is two-fold, and goes from a broad general claim to a nice little pointy one. First, I'll demonstrate that Good Country People is, from tonsure to toenails, a story about a girl whose sense of identity consists solely in being different than anyone else being shown exactly how normal she really is. Her difference from the others is chiefly demonstrated in three ways: her atheism, her education, and her pursuit of ugliness, and in reverse order. My second argument is that her wooden leg stands as the foundation of her relied-upon uniqueness in this, her tiny little world, and that without it, she is no different from any other human.

Joy is introduced somewhat late in the story--as it is about her--but her role upon entering is quite significant: she is the "large blonde girl who had an artificial leg," and she lives with her condescending mother even though she is "thirty-two years old and highly educated." This is all the description given to the main character: she is a bulky, blonde spinster with one leg and a Ph.D. We later find that she also has big glasses, a constant scowl and a weak heart. Both Glynese and Carramae are contrasted to her by both being beautiful and being thought beautiful, and they (and their mother) are constantly praised to the skies by Joy's mother, who, in the contentedness of her nescient oblivion, fails to mention her own daughter. But so does the narrator, for quite some time. But then Joy is remembered, and the narrator makes the only reference to her father, informing us that he isn't dead, but Mrs. Hopewell (such a telling name) divorced him, and he appears to have made no further incursion into the lives of his former family. Now Mrs. Hopewell often needs her daughter Joy to walk the fields with her, a task that Joy ironically takes no joy in. But then the irony is undone with the name, as well as any beauty that we could have stubbornly managed to cast over Joy as a veil: Joy is Joy no longer; hello Hulga.

Joy, at twenty one, achieved her crowning ugliness in changing her name. We aren't led to believe that she was innately ugly--at least, her mother thinks that "if she would only keep herself up a little" she wouldn't be, but Hulga is smart enough to know that she could never be as pretty as girls like Glynese and Carramae, so instead of being rejected as a third-rate beauty, she decides to preemptively reject beauty entirely. Again and again and again and again we are given the same type of adjective; whether it's describing her attitude, her expression, or even the noise she makes, it's the same type of adjective; it's always the same type of adjective: it's an ugly adjective. Awful, lumbering, bloated, rude, squint-eyed, bad looking, hulking, stout--on and on they go. She was plain, but plain is normal, and instead of joining the throng trying to be like the "Southern Belles," she decided to despise them all. From her first entrance into the story she mocks the pretty girls, as if beauty itself were a sin. And she takes pleasure in dressing in a rather hideously eclectic outfit, rather as if she were walking through a thrift store when a tornado struck. But there's a security there: if you don't try, you can't fail. So she can't have beauty? Fine. She didn't want it anyway. So none of the nice young men want her? Well she could "smell their stupidity;" why would she want them?

Bierce defined erudition as dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull, and true to form, Hulga gets her doctorate in philosophy. Not out of any love of Boethius or fondness of Plato (though she seems to have adopted his maxim that true genius largely consists in being intelligible to fools), but because it further alienates her from the world that didn't want her. So, she who desired nothing so that she could be denied nothing has now achieved superiority for superiority's sake: she has constructed an ivory tower, the better to despise all those pathetic beings on the ground with. And despise them she does, for she leaves academia, where her knowledge would have been nothing special, returns home and quotes Malebranche to her condescending (and rather dense) mother, which seems somewhat akin to performing a quantum physics equation for the benefit of a june bug.

The natural result of this arrogant ascendency alienates her yet further. In this world of religious pretensions she declares her furthest removal yet: atheism. After all, her mom is a "good Chrustian;" what further distance could she possibly travel? Her mom prizes beauty; she seeks ugliness. Her mom adores "good country people;" she goes to the city to get her Ph.D. in philosophy. And now she openly rejects the same thing that her mom professes to believe, though her reason for it is not so much a profound, personal belief in atheism as it is a product of her liberal and progressive education, designed to set her apart from all the hidebound religious people where she lives. For, as it turns out, she is a hypocrite in her unbelief the exact same way that her divorced, lying mother is a hypocrite in her belief: each use their "beliefs" in an attempt to deceive the same person. She may use a different method, but it's to the same end of impressing and gaining the approval of the Bible salesman.

So, I've unpacked the character and motivations of Hulga-Joy: she must be different, and she must be superior, like every fourteen-year-old girl who gets a belly-button ring. Now it's time to turn to the final, climactic scene, in which all of her defenses are undone in a single stroke, in which the tiny world that she lives in is crushed in an impact with a totally alien world: the world that she thought she lived in. Here, the statue meets the man, the shadow meets the object, the imitation meets the model. Here, Hulga meets the man who truly is who she falsely claims to be, and she realizes that she is no different than anyone else.

She sets out to seduce the childlike salesman, though she's never so much as kissed anyone before. She gets him to take her to the desired seclusion of the barn-loft (or he gets her to get him to take her there), but then the tables are turned: she is prepared to seduce him so that she can give him a deeper understanding of the world but she was not prepared to actually expose herself to him. But then he asks to see her soul: he asks where her leg attaches, and in such a way that she can't really back down without losing her chance of seducing him. She asks why he wants to see it, and he responds with the absolute truth: " 'Because,' he said, 'it's what makes you different. You ain't like anybody else.' "

This is the crux of the entire matter: her leg is what makes her different. But being different is all that she is. She has always simply sought to be unlike the other people, so that is her entire identity, her superiority and her strength. Her leg was to her what Sampson's hair was to him, and in surrendering it, she surrendered herself.

She allows him to remove her leg. "It was like surrendering to him completely. It was like losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his." Her own life was the life of being different, being in control, being smart and independent and opposed. Now she has surrendered her leg as another would surrender his soul, and she is fully his. But his life truly is that life that she had tried to live. He truly is an amoral atheist, and he cheerfully goes ahead with their mutual "seduction;" she's suddenly the puritanical prude who proceeds to accuse him of hypocrisy. He responds with a hilarious unrighteous indignation that he is a perfectly consistent sinner who doesn't believe in any of that Bible "crap" that he peddles.

The fascinating thing in all of this is her volte face: he is willing, yea verily eager to be "seduced" by her. But she doesn't seduce him. She can't. She can't seduce him, because his seduction of her is wholly and irrevocably complete. He has done to her what she was going to do to him, and the remorse she has to deal with is not his, but her own. She wanted to give him a deeper understanding of the universe; instead, he gives her a deeper understanding of herself, and she realizes she is not the amoral, untouchable, high and mighty intellectual she'd thought she was. She went to seduce a child, and ends up a child: their roles are fully reversed. He is revealed to her as a man truly is who she falsely claimed to be, and she is revealed to herself as a woman who truly is who he falsely claimed to be. Then, in his final words to her, he makes a profound statement. He says "you ain't so smart. I been believing in nothing every since I was born!" He had thought, a few moments before, that she was "some girl" because she professed to believe in nothing. But now she is brought to the edge of nothing--as McCarthy would say, "as close to nothin' as you can get without fallin' in," and she doesn't fall in: she isn't willing to go any further. Before, she had something and believed in nothing. Now she believes in something and has nothing. Nothing but normal, run-of-the-mill humanity, and the knowledge that she never had nothing to begin with.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Son of Morris

BelovedBeloved by Toni Morrison

As always, spoiler alert. If you don't like spoilers, just read the book, not a review of it. Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer with the novel Beloved, and there is no denying it is compelling. Compelling as a horror film is compelling. Complete with bestiality, child murder, semi-incestuous relationships, the physical incarnation of the wronged, long dead coming to visit, slavery and torture, yes, this has all the fixings of Texas Chainsaw Massacre Ten save two: no chainsaw--there is a handsaw, but no chainsaw--and there is no protagonist.
The story is told via the semi-omniscient narrator, as the omniscient, we feel, must have declined the offer. So, the event, the occurrence, is uncovered through reminiscences as a body bag unzipped in jerks from feet to head: two charred, toeless feet and we feel ill, but then are given twenty pages for the nausea to subside, and as we catch our breath the legs are shown to the hips and we are retching on hands and knees, on and on until the entirety lays, in all its naked, mangled gore, open to our uncomprehending eyes.
But then, somehow, the known abomination, like the first bubbles of a pot coming to boil, no longer scalds, no longer repels us with the vehemence we had assumed we would have, and only then is the full horror realized: we are in the mind of the mother of two girls who would tear her toddler's head off with a hand saw, who would take her infant by the ankles and smash her skull against a doorway, and we, appallingly, astoundingly, inhumanly, can--but how can we?--sympathize. The only abomination that exists is an unexplained abomination; when explained it becomes no more than a horrifying, but understandable, sacrifice, complete with the innocent, opened throat purchasing the life of the sinner.
Scripture speaks of the "spirit of restraint" being removed from men in the last days. Suddenly hell seems merely to be earth given over: we are the demons that freely roam; we are men unrestrained; we are devils incarnate. It is a tremendous testimony to authorial skill that any reader ever finished the book; it is a tremendous testimony to human resilience that the myriad readers that did finish the book are not mad; indeed, the entirety is a tremendous testimony to the human ability to steep oneself in nescient oblivion. For this is based on a true story.

Well, if you didn't find anything above that would have convinced you not to read it, you won't find anything here. First off, I was biased from the beginning: this is just not the type of topic that any artist can safely touch. Obviously no white author in his right mind would approach it, and honestly, I don't think the man exists that's dense enough to put his hand to this particular plough. So that leaves a black female. Intrat: Toni Morrison. But this has a whole host of problems itself: how can this story be written without dumping miracle-grow and two weeks of sun and dewy mornings onto the mordant, monthly mowed lawn of cynicism that is my heart? For the benefit of the dense child in the back of the class, it can't. If a black authoress is going to write a story about a black slave woman killing her child, she could do so in Italy without me batting an eyelash. But if she's here, in America, where we had slaves and "we all feel real, real bad 'bout it; shore are sorry," then I will undoubtedly view the entire thing as a guilt trip. If Morrison doesn't care (and she shouldn't), then kudos to her; I'm never reading another page she wrote if I can help it.
Then there's this lovely culmination of events. First, she doesn't win the Pulitzer. Fine, leave it there and we're all okay. She's already on Oprah's bleeding heart book club, so she's going to make bank off of a bunch of upper class white women who want to feel good about doing good things (so long as it doesn't involve actually, say, buying dinner for the homeless guy ten blocks from their house), and people like me might eventually read her book on purpose, of all things. But no, the art society was too deeply offended: was she not a woman? Was she not black? Why, then, did she not get the Pulitzer? Because she was a black woman? So the Pulitzer commission group thingy gave it to her the next year, and I think she should feel insulted: her book ought to stand on its own two feet, regardless of whose picture is on the cover. Either it's good enough to win the Pulitzer or it isn't, and we ought to treat her the same as all the white male authors; it's not like she's handicapped. But then, to make things even worse, she ends up winning the Nobel Prize for literature.
The argument could be made that the book was actually that good. But it had too much baggage for any American to make that claim without a bias in one direction or the other. I, sick of the "save the third-world starving AIDS infected Eskimo Lesbian whales" crowd, will write it off out of hand (which is unfair, but I don't particularly mind: as I'm going to snub one book or another, I might as well snub in such a way as to offend the maximum number of people that annoy me as is humanly possible), and all of the people that like lying to themselves that they're doing God's work by destroying sweatshops (really? God wants all those families that got a dollar a week to starve?) and forgiving third-world debt (because God definitely wants all those dictators to have more money for weapons with which to commit genocide) will praise the book regardless of how good or bad it is. The only way they'd praise it more is if Morrison had made Sethé, the lead character, into a lesbian who had rebelled against her master, who just happened to be a rich, white, Presbyterian Minister. Cause they're just evil.
But c'est la vie. The book was dark, depressing, and only had one semi-main character that I could bring myself to semi-like, and that was Denver, the swinging infant. Everyone else just sucked: you've got a woman that murdered one daughter and completely ignored the other one for twenty years because she loved them so much, then you've got dying granny who likes colours, then a former slave guy that liked calves more than he ought to and sleeps both with Sethé and her ghost-daughter Beloved, and then you have Denver. There are also two noble characters that appear occasionally, and each gets a page or two toward the end (one is now-dead fond-of-rainbows granny). Everyone else is simply vile.
Possibly worth having read, but definitely not worth reading.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

100 Something I Can't be Bothered About.

Ah, here it is: 100 Quotes to Make You Think.

Well, half of the title was accurate, and I don't want to say which, but I'll give you a hint: he's decent at counting.

Some of the quotes were worth reading, and some were funny, but if you spend more than five minutes reading this book, you read way too slowly. To sum it up, I got it for free, and feel slightly ripped off.

Austenian Sarcasm

Probably not surprising to anyone who has read ten sentences of Austen together, but in Emma, Miss Harriet Smith asks Robert Martin to get and read The Romance of the Forest, a doubtlessly priceless little gem that just so happens to be written by none other than the inimitable and all too often imitated Ann Radcliffe. I'm sure that you, my faithful reader* are saying "Oh, but of course, Ann Radcliffe; I should have known" or some other such rot, but I'll just go ahead and spoil the surprise. She is the inventor of the Gothic novel, and the authoress of a book of no less fame than Udolfo. I suddenly like Robert Martin a good deal more.

*(or readers; let's be optimistic, shall we?)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I feel quite justified. I have a few favourite poets that few people have heard of, and chief among those that are recent is Henry Timrod. Well here's the justification: I've long loved Bob Dylan's album Modern Times, but thought that some of it seemed extremely familiar. Come to find out, Timrod is actually a huge source for the album. Uncredited, yes, but Dylan can get away with it. Half a century of culture-defining music covereth a multitude of forgotten / ignored footnotes, regardless of what Mr. Appel says to the contrary.

Monday, April 16, 2012

So Lovely a Desolation

Every Riven Thing: PoemsEvery Riven Thing: Poems by Christian Wiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Cautions first: some language. Basically, here's a litmus test: if you can spend ten minutes in a store decorated by Thomas Kinkade without wanting to put a chair or small person through a wall, you may not like this book. If you can have a sober, intelligent conversation with a man about his imminent death and remain unaffected by it, you will be unimpressed. If you use the English language to convey points the way the federal government uses money to fix the public school system (just use more until something gets better) then this book will downright annoy you. But if you don't fit these categories then this book may well level you like Hiroshima. It's hard to maintain cotton-candy illusions about the world in the face of a reality so stark as terminal cancer. It's hard to see any real beauty if you keep your eyes desperately shut for fear of catching a glimpse of something that may be harsh, for fear of seeing beauty born of blood. For not all loveliness is gentle, and mercy's scalpel cuts deep as any sword. This book, to steal from N. D. Wilson and Jeffers, is as beautiful as a forest in flame; the sky merciless blue, and the earth merciless black. And there's nowhere to hide.

But Christian Wiman's main topic is not death. It's rarely even mentioned. No, his topic is life, and its wonder; life, and its absurdities; life, and its approaching end. The book is full of lines such as the following:

I loved his ten demented chickens
and the hell-eyed dog, the mailbox
shaped like a huge green gun.
I loved the eyesore opulence
of his five partial cars...

(which is in my opinion one of the best opening lines ever written for a poem)

And the engine-eyed atheists screaming reason

It should, while evoking eternity, cry time,
like a priest at meat.

his antic frantic penny-ante-Ahab stabs of madness

two cloudminded miles over Iowa

and made of the air an unguent made of them

A shadow on the water soft as thought

rock's archaic ache

an inchoate incarnate thought

Welcome to the hell of having everything.

and so, so many others. And these are biopsies, snippets extracted to be studied, not the overarching bodies (how unmodern a poet, to write poems about things). This is a man who writes, not like Dumas, not like Chesterton, birthing brilliance and trusting it to raise itself, nor like Lewis, ever forgetful of the words he had written. This is a man that writes with the desperation born out of a dying desire to leave one lasting impression on this earth beyond his tomb, a man that writes as if far more than merely his life were resting on his words, a man who bestows upon every ink-splash on the page more tumultuous meaning than most poets could wrestingly extract from their own lives. Facing death. To illustrate, I'll leave you with two final quotes, one of them a complete poem.

2047 Grace Street

I do not know how to come closer to God
except by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love
beyond my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night,
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.

The Mind of Dying

God, let me give you now this mind of dying
fevering me back
into consciousness of all I lack
and of that consciousness becoming proud.

There are keener griefs than God.
They come quietly, and in plain daylight,
leaving us with nothing, and the means to feel it.

My God my grief forgive my grief tamed in language
to a fear that I can bear.
Make of my anguish
more than I can make. Lord, hear my prayer.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Islam And Terrorism: What the Quran really teaches about Christianity, violence and the goals of the Islamic jihad.Islam And Terrorism: What the Quran really teaches about Christianity, violence and the goals of the Islamic jihad. by Mark A. Gabriel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, mixed feelings about sums it up. On the one hand, the guy knows his stuff. On the other hand, his stuff is about all he knows: his book (in places) tends to read like it was written by sixteen Pakistani immigrants attempting to compose a cookbook. But that is okay. I can deal with that. What I have more difficulty with are the weighted questions, straw-man arguments, and the carefully applied makeup and lighting to make something look as bad as is possible. If he even attempted to come across as a balanced individual who weighed evidence and offered his opinion, I could gladly recommend this book to anyone interested, but he doesn't, and I can't. No, he comes across as the brother of the victim in a murder trial: willing to convict the defendant upon any evidence whatsoever, so even the virtues of Islam (and they are there) are cast in the worst possible light, effectively assassinating his argument. It doesn't really help that he opens the book with the story of his arrest, imprisonment and torture by the Egyptian secret police: that would have been the perfect way to close a balanced book, but anytime you lead with the pathos, ethos goes out the window, and that is absolutely crippling in this case.

However, the book has a great deal of good information, particularly toward the end (the culinary inclinations of the composition notwithstanding). So, if you are interested in finding out how terrorism started and spread, this could help. If you are interested in the philosophy behind it, this wouldn't hurt. But it had the potential to be excellent, and instead the author led with Islam and how horribly evil it is, and how much damage it did to him personally, so by the time he gets to the connection to terrorism you don't have to be a short, fat, finicky Belgian with an mustache that only speaks in an outside voice to be more than a little bit skeptical about his motives.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Piper and Chesterton

Here is an excerpt from Piper's The Sovereign God of "Elfland", a delightful little essay on Chesterton.

It is a great irony to me that Calvinists are stereotyped as logic-driven. For forty years my experience has been the opposite. The Calvinists I have known (English Puritans, Edwards, Newton, Spurgeon, Packer, Sproul) are not logic driven, but Bible-driven. It’s the challengers who bring their logic to the Bible and nullify text after text. Branches are lopped off by “logic,” not exegesis.

Who are the great enjoyers of paradox today? Who are the pastors and theologians who grab both horns of every biblical dilemma and swear to the God-Man: I will never let go of either.

Not the Calvinism-critics that I meet. They read of divine love, and say that predestination cannot be. They read of human choice and say the divine rule of all our steps cannot be. They read of human resistance, and say that irresistible grace cannot be. Who is logic-driven?

For forty years Calvinism has been, for me, a vision of life that embraces mystery more than any vision I know. It is not logic-driven. It is driven by a vision of the ineffable, galactic vastness of God’s Word.

Let’s be clear: It does not embrace contradiction. Chesterton and I both agree that true logic is the law of “Elfland.” “If the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters.” Neither God nor his word is self-contradictory. But paradoxes? Yes.

We happy Calvinists don’t claim to get the heavens into our heads. We try to get our heads into the heavens. We don’t claim comprehensive answers to revealed paradoxes. We believe. We try to understand. And we break out into song and poetry again and again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lee Strobel

The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger (Strobel, Lee)The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger by Lee Strobel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very quick little read, and immensely worthwhile. I differ with him on a few points--I would guess that Matthew was written before Mark, and as far as a "Q" existing, I fail to see why it wouldn't be Matthew instead of some other source that's no longer extant. But other than this and a few other wholly non-essential points, I thought it was nearly flawless.

However, I did go into it with a slightly different view of what I'd be taking away: I was expecting something defending the date of Christmas, not the fact of Christ being the Messiah and the Gospels being accurate. But it is excellent for what it is, and is a great introduction to one of the great apologists of our time.

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The Princess and the Goblin The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well this was just great. "I do not always do what I ought, and I don't always try." I am now fully convinced that I will be reading a great deal of MacDonald for many, many years to come. It is the perfect book to read as a family, and I recommend it highly.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Boniface Journal Intro test #1

This is the first draft of an intro to the Boniface Hill Journal, which if you want, you can ask me and you'll probably never get it. But if you email me at my new official email,, then I'll send you one. It'll be published monthly. I think.

All input is greatly desired, and welcomed.

It was an accident--the decimal kept scooting over, and I think Marty sat on the "print" button. So now, here we are. Unfortunate, I know, but it can't legally be helped, and, like thank-you letters or the plague, ignoring us just makes it worse. You might as well go ahead and meet us (for we are the men of Boniface Hill).
I am the editor, and my gravity-defying hair makes me almost as tall as the male of the species. Marty of the Rectory is the one holding hands with the dual-employed redhead: my stunning sister, his stunning wife, so that if either of them falls through a street-grate, the other can pull them out. Steve is furrier than the rest of us, and our initial experiments have failed to ascertain why. We think he might be a heretic, but when fed he usually behaves. And Cameron? Well, he appears to be some type of Dancing Roman Lobster. In any case, he is truly, deeply unique, winged and vortical, as majestic as a meerkat silhouetted in the sunset.
Next issue we shall introduce Jeremiah "Hobbit" Thompson, of whom descriptions are redundant, and the ever impressive Alwyn Swanepoel, who raises the average maturity by some occasionally tangible amount. He's from that continent with a desert, and he was singing bass long before I was born. We're also bringing in David "Davey" Jones. He has his own iPad and can grow a scary prophet beard.
We plan on showing up each month, and we welcome input and short selections of poetry and prose. We read them aloud at dinner parties, and they're often great hits. More fun than Telephone-Pictionary. We are here to be enjoyed, to provoke thought, and to exhort, and all of this to the Glory of God. We are the Christians of Boniface Hill, and we play with axes. Contact us at

Wodehousian Fun