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Finally– Sayers and The Man Born to Be King

09/15/2011

At the beginning of September, I finally finished The Man Born to Be King. It only took renewing it the maximum number of times (three), guiltily glancing at it lying by my comfy reading chair (unfinished), and getting a new job that has some downtime during the day (perfect reading time). Twelve plays (w/ individual introductory notes)+ (wonderful) introductory book material does take quite a bit of time to read, at least for non-skimming type reading. But I’m done.

Dorothy L. Sayers impresses me more each time I read her. For Inklings class we’d read the essay collection The Whimsical Christian (which I absolutely recommend) and The Nine Tailors, one of her Sir Peter Wimsey mysteries (my copy of which remains on my shelf–mostly unread–because that semester there were just bigger books to read AND the prof was having us watch the BBC video outside of class, other excuses ad infinitum). There is something unsatisfying about reading plays rather than watching/listening; at least some of the original radio plays are available on Youtube, and Sayers’ believable dialogue made me wish I had been listening instead of reading. However, my first exposure to this play cycle was the Covenant College Drama Association’s stage adaptation of plays eleven and twelve. These two cover the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus; though the stage dressing, costumes, and effects were minimal (as befit both the small budget of our college and the plays themselves), I wept through pretty much the entirety of that production. As a woman who professes to follow Christ, I cherish the “story” itself because it is the Truth that anchors my life’s center and rounds out its corners; two, dramatic retellings of the redemption story just kind of make me lose it. Even hints of it in a film or play will get to me (the same Drama Assoc.’s retelling of H. C. Anderson’s Little Mermaid with a family member sacrificing his powers for his daughter also had me wet-cheeked and wobbly-lipped).  Sayers didn’t help the waterworks matters much with her masterful filling-in-the-edges of the account of Christ’s death, with his mother’s and disciples’ sorrow given words–Mary watching her son die bravely and unable to help, John’s tender heart deadened in empathy with Christ’s pain, starting from watching Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before. While I was moved only seeing that stage adaptation, I felt the culmination of events/choices/relationships so much more when I’d read the ten plays preceding the last two.

As best I could, I read the plays concurrently with reading the Gospel of Matthew. Sayers is no flighty dramatist–she carefully researched the cultural/political happenings in Judea and provided good explanations in her notes to her actors on how communicate these situations and societal issues. I was most impressed with Sayers’ blend of  the English Bible  and 1940’s British vernacular; she succeeded in rendering what the biblical characters said in contemporary speech without being unfaithful to the account. The Apostle Peter is as marvelously blustery as one would expect him to be–I thought Sayers’ handling of his three-fold denial of Christ was especially well done. It was strange at first to read Christ saying things like “Come on lads” but Sayers’s Christ felt more human than any fictional account of him I’ve read (this is not a bad thing). Throughout the plays, Sayers portrayed His disciples as honestly bewildered by Christ–something totally there in the Gospels if you read carefully–but trusting and willing to follow despite Christ’s sometimes cryptic words. After all, He was turning a whole paradigm on its head so the disciples were rightfully and understandably confused/boneheaded. I enjoyed the disciples’ interactions with each other and with Christ because reflected the divinity and humanity of Christ–there was the awe and respect of Him but also a brotherly hubbub among the disciples.

In full disclose– when I finished play ten, I put the book aside for a long time. I was afraid to read the last two plays. I’d been reading them during the slow time at work, but the plays (as do the Gospels) were leading–unswervingly– to Christ’s death. Sayers draws her foreshadowing from the Gospels themselves, but the newness of her dramatic depiction filled a dread of the crucifixion in my heart that I’d not experienced before. I didn’t want Christ to die because as the reader, I could see how his disciples were worrying for Him, how much they loved and would mourn for Him; yet I knew that Christ had to die in order to make the world whole again. I wondered (presumptuously) if that thought (“I don’t want this, but it must happen”) was along the same lines as Christ’s heart-thoughts when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane– about having the cup taken away from Him if it were possible, but affirming to the Father that He still would do what the Father willed. But He still went, obediently, faithfully (praise Him for His unfailing love!).

I did read them in the end. I wasn’t as emotional as I had been at the stage version, but there were still tears. Ah well. Sayers’ did what I haven’t experienced with many dramatists of biblical material–she is faithful to the original accounts without being cloying or super-preachy (imagine! a play about the Bible that isn’t beat-you-over-the-head-didactic. Really, it’s amazing. The teaching of Christ is still there–and the play cycle was commissioned to take place of Sunday school during WWII for bomb-bound Brits), emphasizing the story that is powerful all on its own. The Man Born to Be King is an excellent dramatization of Christ’s life and I heartily recommend it to anyone who might be interested.

Oblivion

08/12/2011

I’m halfway through The Man Born to Be King: The Life of Christ in Twelve Dramatic Episodes by Dorothy L. Sayers, started The Zero by Jess Walter per The Biblioracle’s recommendation, and have The Keep by Pulitzer-winning Jennifer Egan on deck, but I’ve put them all aside in favor of good old DFW.

I did try, J. Walter. I tried for about 10 pages and it DID seem interesting and I do trust you, John Warner (i.e. The Biblioracle himself though the other time he suggested a book for me I didn’t read it because it was “political satire” and I’m wary of that genre for no good reason and yes someday I will read Catch-22),  but it had just been too long since I’d curled up with DFW, specifically, it had been since May. So maybe that’s sad, that I couldn’t go without him for more than 2 months.

Or maybe it’s not sad that when I got past the excruciatingly acronym/corporate jargon dense beginning of “Mr. Squishy” into where the intrigue and heartbreak and vocational lostness and layered betrayals  all coalesced, I felt at home again, wandering in DFW’s oft-wandering prose. Right now I’m in “Good Old Neon,” which I’ve read before, but it remains as heart-rattlingly convicting as the first time–the self-aware fraud who knows he’s a fraud because he does everything he can to control how others view him but can’t stop even though he knows what the problem is.

It’s funny, but since joining tumblr I’ve been following the DFW tag and seen people repost bits from the Kenyon Commencement Speech and other things from stories, interviews, or IJ. There’s not much activity on the tag (unlike other ones I frequent like *cough* “harry potter”) but most are devotees or are struggling to get through IJ or just finishing IJ and wondering what the hell to read next (I recall feeling the same way; I think I read some Neil Gaiman, maybe Neverwhere?). I don’t really have any hipster sort of sadness that “oh noes other people like reading him too” because YES I want more people to read him. But not revere him hagiographically with no discernment, which is a great temptation for me. Such earnest love for DFW has definitely put off many lit-heads, leading to statements like “oh they worship at the shrine of DFW” and to writing infuriating little articles explaining “why people do this ” that I can’t even read because I already know and it needs no explaining.

So, while I’m devouring Oblivion, there’s an uneasiness inside me too: That soon I’ll have read everything he’s written that’s been collected into books, and then I’ll go after all the articles/interviews that I haven’t read/seen/listened to yet, and then eventually it’ll all be done.

Not that it’ll be devastating or something–probably will be a good feeling (“why yes I’m familiar with his entire oevre“), but it will be a weird feeling. I’m trying to read as much as I can of DFW’s previously published work before starting on The Pale King with Luke (who is finishing up our summer read of 2010– Roberto Bolaño’s 2666). So I still have Consider the Lobster and Girl with Curious Hair and if I’m feeling  philosophically/mathematically ambitious, Fate, Time, and Language and Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity.

Sigh, the travails of fandom/borderline obsession. I did put IJ as the number one book on a recent “Books that Changed My Life” list I had to write for a job application. Book lovers know how hard that is, ranking books in terms of life importance, but it wasn’t a hard decision at all. Ah well.

Just for fun, here’s a great BBC interview with Geoff Ward and others about DFW’s work:

The National – “Exile Vilify”

08/08/2011

Here’s an infectious piano ballad with strings (sighing away, don’t they always) from the Portal 2 soundtrack. It’s become the standby song  for those times when I need to loop something awesome while futzing* around on the internet.  You gotta hand it to Valve to have gotten The National to do something for them. As far as I can tell on Tumblr, the Portal playing folks say the song is thematically spot-on for the game’s protagonist. Legit!

Prepare to have a new favorite.

*To futz– Waste time; idle or busy oneself aimlessly; e.g. playing solitaire on Neopets.

Things I want to learn

08/04/2011

Mechanically related:
1. How to parallel park.
2. How to drive stick shift.

Technologically related:
1. How to use Indesign/desktop publishing
2. How to fix my optical drive and prevent having to buy a whole new computer, unless it’s worth buying a whole new computer.

Foodstuffs related:
1. How to bake Cornish hens
2. How to peel peaches/apples/skinned fruits with a paring knife (i.e. get over my fear of slicing my hand open).
3. How to poach an egg.

Writing related:
1. Patience, perseverance to get through the 400 bad poems and however-many-bad short stories in my brain before the good stuff emerges.
2. Variation in my sentence structure.

(guess who’s a listmaker, I am)

Web Presence

06/28/2011

I’ve been thinking about “web presence” recently after finishing Jennifer Egan’s (Pulitzer-winning!) A Visit from the Goon Squad. The book jumps around in time to tell the character’s stories–from before the internet to after, you could say–but also gives a picture (eerie, in my opinion) of a parallel present to our own.  One of the characters lived decidedly in the “cracks” of society–never joined any sort of website, put information of himself up anywhere, was nearly completely anonymous in all the usual modes of “finding someone.”

I’m coming up on 22 years old. That is and feels extremely young, yet I remember a time before the internet. I remember my first email address through the Junior Beta Club in middle school; I got to stop using my parents’ email account and it was a big deal. I remember my first webpage (also courtesy of Beta Club, which incidentally is still online, but I went back and changed info for it back in 9th grade so it doesn’t have all the middle school me on it). I remember going to Lissa Explains and learning to write HTML from all those Day-Glo colored, be-butterflied tutorials. I remember using Geocities, Geocities shutting down, using Angelfire and abandoning it, for obvious reasons. Somewhere in there I did that weird Cartoon Network collect-stickers-for-your-profile-thing; my computer couldn’t handle the Java or something on it so I had to go to a family friend’s house to save my account from being deleted from time to time. My Neopets account (har har har, yes I did that too) is still active and is 8 1/2 years old.  I met some folks on the chat boards there that I am still friends with on facebook whom I have never met in person. We sent presents and birthday cards for a long time.

And now there’s facebook, but I joined that after high school. During high school, I leapfrogged the whole myspace trend, but I did learn 1337 (have a t-shirt to prove it) and started my livejournal account which I wrote in almost daily. I’d roleplayed on Neopets (made an angelfire website with tutorials on rping…) and on a set of forums that I founded myself for my friends and me to play on. I was wooed by my first suitor on the private messaging feature of that same forum; we went to the same school and I did the coding for his online “nation” and we talked for hours in its chat room on IRC (nope, I didn’t do AIM. Ever). So romantic. We never did learn to speak as honestly in person as we did with some kind of mediating technology between us. My second suitor wooed me from yahoo email (that account is also about 8 years old) and we still keep up that way, but unromantically.

For the record, the man I am dating now actually got to know me in PERSON. It still means a lot to me that he didn’t try to text, chat, or email his way into my affections.

For a college class I had to tweet about the books we were reading. Every now and then I tweet some link so I can download free music from NoiseTrade. I wasted so much time on facebook my freshman year I had to use Lent to wean myself off of it.

The other day I joined tumblr too, mostly to keep up with my sisters’ microblogging fun, but also because memes are essential to communicating in my family and so you have to keep up to stay current (thinking back to dinner where replies of “U MAD” and “trololololol” were flying around the meatloaf and green beans).

Apparently my ghostly presence is all over the web (not to mention where I’ve left comments on forums, on blogs of mine I abandoned, on other people’s blogs, my fiction writing on fictionpress and fanfiction websites, on whatever else) and I’m only now starting to be bothered.

Will I worry when the “real me” shows up even faster on Google searches?

Well.

“You and me

Walk on, walk on, walk on

‘Cause we can’t go back now”

– The Weepies

Boredom and Baking: From the Unfinished Pile

06/27/2011
tags: ,

I suppose I would be lying if I was saying I was bored already after only 2 weeks since graduation, but apparently when my eyes are too tired to do any reading, I like to bake.

It’s good to have a big family to bake for because it’s guaranteed to get eaten and no one (unless you’re my thirteen year old sister) complains that I’m purposefully fattening them up.

I’ve come to the conclusion that cookies are mostly made of butter (or shortening, since butter’s been in short supply at our house between grocery runs).

What I have baked in the past two weeks:

1. whole wheat chocolate chip cookies: Recipe from the Gold Medal flour bag, but they wouldn’t mass publish it if it wasn’t good (right? I hope). Simple and tasty-tron. The great thing about whole wheat cookies is that they are rich enough that your teeth are singing from good-sugar-pain but the whole wheat fills up your stomach. You’ll feel sick if you eat more than two at a time. Satisfaction.

2. big soft ginger cookies: Just what they sound like. My sister would open the container they are in and sniff them. It was a toss up between making those or chocolate crinkle cookies, but I’m sure the crinkles will have their time soon.

3. coffee cookie brownies: They have a layer of sugar cookie on the bottom, then fudge brownie mixed with a little cooled coffee with chocolate chips generously sprinkled on the top. Guaranteed to have zero leftovers at church get-togethers.

Update:

Since writing this, I made #3 again for a church picnic (only brought home two, which were promptly eaten before the night was over) as well as #1 again for my little sister’s softball teammates AND

4. Clafoutis Grandmère: Tasty French cherry-cake, which, as best as the internet has told me, is crepe-batter in the shape of a cake with fruit suspended in it. I say YUM. We needed a quick way to finish off a large sack of rather ripe cherries, it was Father’s Day, who needs an excuse for baking. The best part was the book I took the recipe from: Kafka’s Soup by Mark Crick. Crick writes recipes in the form of stories as if they were penned by certain famous literary figures. The Clafoutis came from the pen of our dear Ms. Virginia Woolf and was quite entertaining to read the first time. When you’re trying to make the recipe though, you do have to read through the story again to get the embedded directions (which can be frustrating if you’ve lost your place in the stream of consciousness writing). Crick does a great job approximating literary voices–I recommend the Raymond Chandler and Chaucer especially.

The family has been feeling rather inundated with baked goods so I might have to lay off for a while. But oh DEAR it’s so much fun.

 

Courage.

06/16/2011

“If someone prays to God for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?”

– Morgan Freeman