I found Geoff Pullum's analysis of Dan Brown's writing style interesting - and amusing. Check it out here. He links to several of his previous pannings of Brown, the funniest of which was this gem. (Raises eyebrows.)
I don't know whether it's just me, but the Lord seems to have a habit of flagging up the irony of the whole thing at this time of year. You can pretty much guarantee that however well things are going for me the rest of the year, by the time Christmas comes around, something has happened to turn life sour. This year it's to do with the bank and the phone call they made me earlier this week. The timing made it a phone call worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge.
This isn't a sympathy drive, by the way. This is just a reflection on how irony -- the main theme of my life, as I've probably said several times -- is central to the Christmas story. The beginnings of Jesus' life (setting aside arguments over how historically reliable the gospel account is) are every bit as ironic as the end of his life. What could compare to the irony of a crucified Messiah? Try the King of the Universe born into a trough and
receiving a bunch of sheepherding peasants as his first guests.
I think it's the irony of the gospel that has kept me clinging to it despite change of mind I've been through the last few years. It's an irony that resonates with me and is true to my experience -- that riches come out of great poverty, and life comes out of death. Hell, if I didn't believe all that, what hope would I have when the shit hits the fan? To me, death is just a precursor of resurrection.
One of my enduring Christmas memories is of standing in the middle of a hospital ward, in only my dressing gown and slippers, reading John Betjeman's poem Christmas to a dozen old ladies. It was another of those ironic festive moments -- me spending the week before Christmas 2001 in hospital (gallstones, *ouch*) with a bunch of old dears for company. I love the way Betjeman (right) encapsulates the irony and the meaning of Christmas in the last few verses. I'll leave you with them as I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.
And is it true? and is it true? This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stained-glass window's hue, A Baby in an ox's stall? The Maker of the stars and sea Become a Child on earth for me?
And is it true? For if it is, No loving fingers tying strings Around those tissued fripperies, The sweet and silly Christmas things, Bath salts and inexpensive scent And hideous tie so kindly meant.
No love that in a family dwells, No carolling in frosty air, Nor all the steeple-shaking bells Can with this single Truth compare - That God was Man in Palestine And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.
Inter-Varsity Press seems to have branched out into the satire market with A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. (What my mother would have given to have this important volume in her hands twenty-some years ago!) Here's a classic comic moment from the introduction:
I told her, "Mom, you saw me play with Barbie dolls. You allowed me to use makeup and to fix my hair in front of the mirror for hours. My brothers never did any of this. Why didn't you stop me? What were you thinking?"
Later on it gets even more devastating:
"Doctor, ... my son Stevie ... [is] a beautiful little boy, a special child. But..." She hesitated. "Stevie's fascinated with little-girl things. Even more so than my daughters. In fact, he just loves the colours pink and red. He even... well, plays with Barbie dolls and... dances around the house on tiptoes like a ballerina."
As I listened, Mrs Johnson gave me a few more specifics. Her son was five.
"I've been noticing this kind of behaviour for almost two years," she explained.
To me, that length of time was significant. It is okay if a little boy wonders what he would look like wearing long blonde curls and so he tries on a wig, simply to be silly. There is nothing particularly alarming about that. But if he keeps on doing it and has little interest in "boy" things, there likely is a problem.
I am finding it very difficult to believe such stuff can actually be written -- by doctors no less -- without tongue firmly in cheek.
At a mere seventy pages or so, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a cinch to leaf through in a couple hours. Surprisingly, it unfolds like a detective story, without Mr Hyde's identity being revealed until somewhere towards the end. It is also told largely from the point-of-view of Jekyll's friends, chiefly the lawyer Utterson. Everyone knows the basic story nowadays, of course, so the intended suspense is not really there; it's nevertheless a gripping tale.
I was surprised by the copious biblical allusi0ns. Jekyll could well have been the apostle Paul, tormented over the conflict between the good he wants to do and the evil that reigns.
There is more than enough material, even in so short a book, to provide the basis for a two-act stage adaptation, which I hope to write over the next few weeks and produce locally next year. There are obvious obstacles to overcome in adapting it, most of which have been neatly solved in the many film versions. For a start, the characters in the book are overwhelmingly male, something it make sense to redress for practical reasons as well as dramatic. (Actually, although I am not given to queer theorizing, I'd hazard a guess from his writing that Stevenson was homosexual, something I intend to look into.)