Archives for July 2005

Admission

I loves me some saucy.
I hate pious condemnations.
But I believe in piety.

Lancelot’s Last Word


Amy Welborn’s website, A Spirited Life, is worth having a look at. Her Catholic Writers section includes some perceptive Percy ponderings, including this:

One of Percy’s most difficult books is Lancelot. As I read it, I felt that I’d never hated a book (or simply a central character) more, and that this was truly the depths of whatever nihilistic side Percy harbored. Until the last word. I’m not kidding. Astonishing, and almost shocking – a novel in which the very last word of the novel gives shape and a profound moral dimension to the entire work. Now, don’t ruin it for yourself, and run ahead and peek at the end before you read the whole thing. But do read it.

Also check out Amy’s book: Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life.

Adventures in Jesus-Buying

From Portnoy’s Complaint:

“Tacked up above the Girardi sink is a picture of Jesus Christ floating up to heaven in a pink nightgown… What kind of base and brainless schmucks are these people to worship somebody who, number one, never existed, and number two, if he did, looking as he does in that picture, was without a doubt The Pansy of Palestine. In a pageboy haircut, with a Palmolive complexion – and wearing a gown that I realize today must have come from Frederick’s of Hollywood!”

There was a time when that was hard to read. Then came experience. Then came wading through an endless morass of hideous religious art, wallowing in the swamp of Catholic aesthetic impoverishment – goofy hymns, barren prayer-barn/prayer-silo churches, tacky pictures, bum-ugly statuary, etc. etc. – wondering how we went from the producers of the best art Western Civ had to offer to this, this bad joke on beauty.

I was so happy to read this on People of the Book, from B16: “Images are also a preaching of the Gospel. Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message.” Heads up, art-people.

So yesterday, the wife was walking third son around the block while we waited for our most excellent scallop burritos and chicken rolled tacos at El Zarape, when she passed a Jesus picture (in a glorious and enormous frame) outside an antique shop. Very subdued colors, very Jewish Jesus. Big eyes, sunk deep. There was a whiff of piety about it, but by God, at least it offered something to contemplate. She rarely expresses an interest in art, so I encouraged her to buy it. As we left, we thanked the saleslady. “Yeah,” she replied. “It’s a beautiful frame.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins


Was born on this date in 1844 and died in 1889.

Thou mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

[from “The Wreck of the Deutschland”]

Mistakes Were Made

Meryl Zegarek of Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, bless her heart, has gone and very sweetly confused me with somebody important. It started with a review copy of Mark McGinnis’ The Wisdom of the Benedictine Elders (foreword by Joan Chittister (!)). Then, yesterday, I received The C.S. Lewis Chronicles, and a tearsheet from PW reviewing Pope Benedict XVI: A Personal Portrait by H.J. Fischer. (Apparently, a copy of that last one is in the mail.) “Dear Editor,” reads the note at the top of the tearsheet. “I’ve sent you a copy of this new book – hope you will consider a review.”

The books were sent to the San Diego Reader offices, where my title is Staff Writer, and on a good day, Wine Editor. “Poor Zegarek PR,” I thought. “They think I’m a books editor – ha! Our Books Editor has a best seller, a NYT Notable, two NEA grants and a Guggenheim! I’m just a punk with a first book! It’s not as if I have a forum to spout off about boo…”

Oh. Right. The blog.

Tell ya what, Meryl Zegarek: I’ll chalk it up to providence. Maybe I’m getting this stuff for a reason. Watch this space for a review of The C.S. Lewis Chronicles. We’ll see what happens.

Father-in-Law: Aphorisms

“Here’s to life and to hell with criticism.” – standard toast

“There was drinking and dancing and carrying on, and that was just in the parking lot outside.”

“Good children get rewards; bad children get criticism.”

Just a taste.

A Burnt-Out Case

Pardon the lack of bloggery. In-laws plus grandmother-in-law have been in town, and it has been busy. Haven’t been able to think of anything worth sharing, except maybe the image of carrying my youngest into the family room as he gnaws on the head of a baby doll (oh, he’s gonna *love* it when the little one arrives), and finding second son affixing handcuffs to the legs of first daughter’s giant stuffed dinosaur. Violence is near to the heart of children.

St. James’ Day


From Universalis:

He was the brother of St John and, like him, a fisherman. He was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration and one of those who slept through most of the Agony in the Garden. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred, being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I to please the Jewish opponents of Christianity. He was buried in Jerusalem, and nothing more is known about him until the ninth century.

At this time we learn of a tradition that the relics of St James were brought to Spain some time after his martyrdom, (perhaps early, perhaps as late as 830), and his shrine at Compostela in Galicia grew in importance until it became the greatest pilgrimage centre in western Europe. In every country there are churches of St James and known, well-trodden pilgrim routes. In Paris, the Tour St Jacques marks the start of the route and the Rue St Jacques points straight towards Compostela. In England, pilgrim routes lead from all parts of the country to the major ports that were used on the pilgrimage. This network of routes is a vital witness to the fact that the Middle Ages were not the static stay-at-home time that we often think them to be: everyone must have known someone, or known someone who knew someone, who had made the pilgrimage. The scallop-shell, the emblem of St James, has become the emblem of pilgrims generally.

In 1987 the pilgrimage routes to Compostela have been designated by the Council of Europe as historical cultural routes of international importance; and the Confraternity of St James is working to restore and upgrade the refuges on a route which is still in active pilgrim use today.

See also: The Patron Saints Index and New Advent.

You Be the Judge

UPI News Service, 07/25/2005

In an exclusive interview on Entertainment Tonight, President Bush disclosed plans for a new reality-based television show that will decide his next Supreme Court pick. You Be the Judge will air on CBS, going head to head against NBC’s corporate reality show, The Apprentice, on Thursday nights.

“I’ve been a big fan of reality TV ever since Survivor,” Bush said.

Kids’ Songs II

You get kids, you make up songs, revisited:

I once knew a boy
Who just liked to eat
He’d walk into the kitchen
And sit at his seat

Then he’d roar roar roar
For more more more

Bring more peanuts more popcorn
More candy more cake
More eggs and potatoes
More chicken and steak

I don’t know why it works to have him asking for dessert first; it just does.

Bookish

A writer-type friend, one far more accomplished than myself, suggested Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. It turned out that Daedalus had the very book at a typical, fantastically low price, so I jumped at it. A wonderful detail:

“When one of us caught measles or whooping cough and we were isolated in bed upstairs, we wrote notes to each other perhaps on the hour. Our devoted mother would pass them for us, after first running them in a hot oven to kill the germs. They came into our hands curled up and warm, sometimes scorched, like toast. Edward replied to my funny notes with his funny drawings. He was a born cartoonist.”

Are you kidding me? How could you not become a writer after that? These precious missives from a beloved, held prisoner upstairs, arriving in such exotic fashion…

Mercury Radio Theater

Growing up, I spent a lot more listening to old-time radio (recordings, collected by my brother) than I ever did watching TV. Radio was one step closer to reading in terms of engaging the imagination, but it had the drama of live theater. This is a link to online recordings of just about all the old shows – Orson Welles when it was still all genius and promise. Welles as the narrator for Our Town? Oh, my, yes. And of course, the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds that shook the nation.

(Link via Thighs.)

The Unstrung Harp

This is one of the funniest things ever written (and – brilliantly – illustrated by the author) about trying to write a novel. Nobody has, as yet, to my knowledge, composed a similarly brilliant take on trying to write the damnable second memoirish thing. I’ve had a copy for some time, but Maud let me know it was online.

Novel Blog

My machine is still in the shop, so there probably won’t be much today, but here’s this to help while away the time:

Sam Torode, author of several books, book-jacket designer, artist (check his G.K. Chesterton sketch), and, most importantly, cartoonist (okay, maybe not most importantly to everyone), has gone and written a novel. He’s on his third draft. He’s also gone and started a blog about being a first-time novelist: Always Emerging. His website is www.torodedesign.com. Do check it out.

If I Were A Ro-Man…

…I’d no doubt be able to make some sort of augery out of this…

There’s a short tree I can see from my window, and every day, it’s crammed full of enormous crows. They look like the tree’s black fruit. But ever since the Cooper’s Hawks returned (as they do every summer) to the neighbor’s ash tree, one of them has taken to daily attack runs on the crows in the tree. The hawk flies straight into the branches, sending crows scattering everywhere. But the hawk never stays to fight with the crows, and the crows return after the hawk’s attack. Nothing seems to be accomplished. And every day, another dive, another scattering.

Terry and Me Redux

Over at the Old Hag’s last week, I blogged about the Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index, in which readers of the man’s fantabulous blog were invited to compare their own x or y? choices with Teachout’s. One that struck me, and that I didn’t mention before, was this:

43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter?

Had I read that before my 32nd birthday (back in June), I would have had to disagree (Teachout prefers Mercer). Cole Porter was, um, the top, the Louvre Museum, the top, the Coliseum. I will never forget seeing Kiss Me Kate at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca – too darn hot, indeed. That was the life for me, yessir.

But thanks to Teachout, I bought Nancy Lamott’s Live at Tavern on the Green, and liked it so much that I told friends about it. They, in turn, bought me this collection of Lamott performing Mercer. When I read that Index entry, I started thinking.

Nobody, but nobody, says me, will ever be as clever as Porter, and I likes me some clever in my songs. But I found myself comparing So In Love, one of my very favorite Porter songs, with Mercer’s Come Rain or Come Shine. Here are the lyrics:

So In Love

Strange dear, but true dear,
When I’m close to you, dear,
The stars fill the sky,
So in love with you am I.
Even without you,
My arms fold about you,
You know darling why,
So in love with you am I.
In love with the night mysterious,
The night when you first were there,
In love with my joy delirious,
When I knew that you could care,
So taunt me, and hurt me,
Deceive me, desert me,
I’m yours, till I die…..
So in love…. So in love….
So in love with you, my love… am I….

Come Rain or Come Shine

I’m gonna love you, like nobody’s loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain and deep as a river
Come rain or come shine
I guess when you met me
It was just one of those things
But don’t ever bet me
Cause I’m gonna be true if you let me
You’re gonna love me, like nobody’s loved me
Rain or shine
Happy together, unhappy together
And won’t it be fine
Days may be cloudy or sunny
We’re in or we’re out of the money
I’m with you always
I’m with you rain or shine
You’re gonna love me, like nobody’s loved me
Come rain or come shine
Happy together, unhappy together
And won’t it be fine
Days may be cloudy or sunny
We’re in or we’re out of the money
But I’m with you always
I’m with you, I’m with you rain or shine
I’m with you, I’m with you rain or shine

Both talk about love ’til death – I’m yours ’til I die vs. I’m with you always. But what a difference otherwise. What gets me in the Mercer song is that one line:

Happy together, unhappy together, and won’t it be fine?

Suddenly, love has left the realm of happiness-inducing experience (or uncurable sickness – deceive me/desert me/I’m yours ’til I die…) and entered the realm of willed fidelity – but we haven’t left the confines of a proper pop song. Nor have we left behind the capricious character of romantic love, with all its joys and sorrows (Mercer certainly isn’t trying to paint love as drudgery, and if you could hear Lamott singing it, you’d see/hear this even more clearly). Amazing. “Days may be cloudy or sunny/we’re in or we’re out of the money” – these are sung wedding vows.

Modern pop is forever talking about things lasting forever, but it’s a house built on sand – the feeling is what must endure, and passion is too slippery a creature for that, too willowy a wisp. Porter presages this with “In love with my joy delirious” – hooked on a feeling, indeed.

I’m with Teachout.

Apologia

Terribly sorry for the radio silence. The OK computer is not OK, and is in the shop. (They told me OS X was practically glitch-free. They lied. Has anybody made a joke about the audio-similarity of UNIX and eunuchs? I’m grumpy.) This message is being posted by my brother, who may or may not consent to fill in a bit. I haven’t asked him yet. Actually, since he’s posting this, I just did. Either way, I’ll get back to y’all as soon as my titanium-encased darling is up and running again.

[Poster’s note: Happy to help fill the silence. After all, failure to generate new content incessantly is the kiss of death for any website. Being an addict myself, I know how quick I am to write off any site that does not offer something brand new for my enjoyment every time I hit my Refresh button. That being said, I can’t post today…too busy…even to write this…let alone re-work it to make it funnier…ML]

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider —
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

–William Stafford