At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cultural Gluttony July (ultracondensed)

Books: E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros--Eddison's Renaissance prose is beautiful, his Renaissance value system less so. Stephen R. Donaldson, Lord Foul's Bane--Exciting fantasy which plops a cynical Moorcockian antihero into a lyrical Tolkienesque universe. Agnes de la Gorce, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre--Sober hagiography (I don't see that as an oxymoron) of an Enlightenment-era Frenchman who embraces extreme poverty as a hobo visiting pilgrimage sites across Europe. This sort of outwardly useless life doesn't make much sense without a Catholic belief in the treasury of merit, so the book left me cold.

Flix: The New World--The John Smith/Pocahantas story. Lots of beautiful shots of Virginia, some good old-fashioned noble savagery ("these people do not know greed or envy," says Smith of the Indians), a lot of mumbled monologues drowned out by James Horner's swelling tone poems (and what is audible is remarkably hokey coming from the pen of a former MIT philosophy prof, e.g. "His love flows through me like a river"), Jewel Kilcher's cousin in a leather bikini, minimal plot. A Nun's Story--Audrey Hepburn as a beautiful Belgian nun who has problems with the vow of obedience while serving as a medical missionary in the Congo. Competent, but I preferred Black Narcissus. Don't Drink the Water--Woody Allen revisits one of his sixties comic plays--pretty funny except for Dom Deluise's hammy performance. To Have and Have Not--Fun, minor-league Casablanca with Bogey and Bacall giving off sparks. Dark Passage--Bogey and Bacall have a lot less charm in this noir yarn. Merton: A Film Biography--Done in the 80s, so doesn't mention the later-revealed love affair between Merton and the nurse, but features interesting interviews with the likes of the Dalai Lama and some famous beatnik poet I can't remember now, plus some audiovisual of the man himself.

Tunes: Horace Silver, Song for my Father, The Jody Grind, Serenade for a Soul Sister--catchy without being trivial. Herbie Hancock, Best of the Blue Note Years--maybe a little too mellow--there's even a flugelhorn in there--but well-written nonetheless.


Blogger Felix said...

I never did actually manage to read all the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. After getting a few chapters into the first one, I heartily hoped that someone would spit him on a spear.

It's pretty difficult to sympathize with a self-pitying rapist.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Felix said...

Continuing my previous comment...

The values system depicted in The Worm Ouroborus may be distasteful to modern or Christian eyes, but its characters (primarily the four brothers of Demonland) at least have the virtue of being passionate and unapologetic about their pagan buccaneering ways.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

I guess Hitler was passionate and unapologetic about his projects as well. But yeah, Lord Juss and company do have admirable traits, just that caritas and humilitas aren't among them. I find it somewhat surprising that Ouroborous was one of C. S. Lewis' favorite books, but since he was a scholar of Renaissance literature I imagine he was taken with Eddison's recreation of that prose style.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Felix said...

Godwin's Law! I win!

Seriously, though.... I suspect that the Worm Ouroboros appealed to Lewis because of its similarity to the craggy northern sagas that he admired, as well as for its poetic, chantable recreation of Renaissance English.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Carlos said...

I had to look up Godwin's Law; evidently I don't frequent discussion boards enough. There needs to be a counterpart law which prohibits use of Mother Teresa as a paradigm of goodness.

I can't remember now whether Lewis first read Worm before or after converting to Christianity. He was a Christian by the time he read Mistress of Mistresses, though, and wrote to Eddison "as for yo~ hono~s metaphysick mistresses, beatificall bona robas, hyper-uranian whoores, and transcendentall trulls, not oonlie my complexious little delighteth in them but my ripe and more constant ivdgement reiecteth..." So his theology did influence his reaction to that Eddison book at least.

9:22 AM  

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