Sunday, August 31, 2008

Penelope Fitzgerald: Why I Write

This week's TLS reviews letters of Penelope Fitzgerald by Ruth Scurr (Penelope Fitzgerald
So I Have Thought of You: The letters of Penelope Fitzgerald 532pp. Fourth Estate. £25. ISBN:978 0 00 71366640 7)

In 1989, Fitzgerald gave a short interview to Lib√©ration, entitled: “Why I Write”. Her first reason was that “Unlike history, fiction can proceed with confidence”. Her third was “to make money”. Her second reason was enigmatic:

"I am drawn to people who seem to have been born defeated or, even, profoundly lost. They are ready to assume the conditions the world imposes on them, but they don’t manage to submit to them, despite their courage and their best efforts. They are not envious, simply compassless. When I write it is to give these people a voice."

Scurr comments:

I have never been certain what this really means, resonant though it is with the kind of characters one meets in Fitzgerald’s novels. One of the most important letters in this collection is a help in understanding it. In 1979, writing for the first time to Frank Kermode (“the only critic, and indeed the only Professor of Eng. Lit, whose opinion I value since Lionel Trilling died”), Fitzgerald begins:

"I hope you won’t mind my writing to you, partly because I’ve relied so long and so much on The Sense of an Ending in trying to teach university candidates something about fiction . . . but also to thank you for what you wrote about me in The London Review of Books. Could I make one comment – you said in passing that the “apocalyptic flood” at the end of Offshore wasn’t a success and I expect it isn’t, but it isn’t really meant as apocalyptic either – I only wanted the Thames to drift out a little way with the characters whom in the end nobody particularly wants or lays claim to. It seems to me that not being wanted is a positive condition and I hoped to find some way of indicating that. – I realise too that the danger of writing novels, even very short ones, is that you get to take yourself too seriously."

As I am writing furiously to meet a deadline this reflection is much more engaging.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sea of Galilee drying up

According to the Independent, (UK):

The Galilee region had been verdant through the ages with a ribbon of flourishing towns and villages beside the lake. The historian Flavius Josephus, writing in the first century, was so taken with the area that he wrote: "One may call this place the ambition of nature." He reported 230 fishing boats working each day.

Ari Binyamin, a fisherman, said he wished he was living in that time. "We used to say even a few years ago that one place where you couldn't go wrong fishing was Kinneret [Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee] but now it is getting very, very hard because the stocks are so low. Many fishermen fear for their livelihood and so do I. But it seems no one really cares about us."

At Ginosar, after showing another group of visitors round the Galilee boat – made out of 12 different types of wood -Mr Binstock said: "Of course many of the disciples of Jesus were fishermen at Galilee. If you recall, he said he would make them fishers of men. Well, that wouldn't be possible now, there are hardly any fish left around here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

David M. Scholer R.I.P.

The LA Times reports the death of Prof David Scholer.

David M. Scholer, a popular Fuller Theological Seminary professor and articulate advocate for women in the ministry who inspired others by showing them how to live with incurable cancer, died Friday at his Pasadena home. He was 70.

Scholer was diagnosed in 2002 with colorectal cancer. Even as he underwent harsh treatments and the cancer spread to other parts of his body, he continued to lecture and teach, turning his struggle with the disease into a testament for his faith that he shared in the classroom and from the pulpit.

His course "Women, the Bible and the Church" was one of Fuller's most popular electives. Scholer showed how the New Testament could be read to support women as authority figures in the church. He delivered a message of tolerance and egalitarianism, encouraging skeptics to listen to the stories of women and homosexuals who felt the calling.

"I've had students tell me the course was a life-changing experience," Fuller President Richard Mouw said. "In our evangelical world, we take the authority of the Bible seriously. Traditionally, women have been excluded from ordination and things of that sort. David really took the text seriously and led people through it to show them you can support God's call to women in all calls to leadership, including ordination. That was a major contribution."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


There's a fabulous piece by Elissa Ely in the Boston Globe posted here. Having just said goodbye to my niece and her parents on their way to the airport, it seems particularly appropriate. Having family visit is not unlike watching migrating birds...and my piece in Daily Episcoplian on Twitchers is posted today at Episcopal Cafe.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Virgin Mary Magdalene, mother of Jesus

allAfrica reports a celebration of the Feast of the Assumption:

Yaounde cathedral was full to the beam with catholic Christians who came to witness celebrations marking the ascension of the Virgin Mary Magdalene, the mother of Jesus to heaven.

A unique celebration, that is...

Abraham Darby Rose

This morning's Abraham Darby Rose, courtesy of David Austin. It has fully double, apricot yellow flowers, with abundant, continual blooming. Fabulous!
This is the Great Spangled Fritillary on our zinnias yesterday. Although the most common fritillary throughout most of the eastern United States, this one looks a bit the worse for wear. See the tear in the bottom right hand wing? Another case of injury making identification easier.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hugh Reid MacCallum, R.I.P.

From the Globe and Mail:

Prof. MacCallum had a worldwide reputation in Milton circles, according to Glenn Loney, one of the professor's former PhD students and now registrar of the U of T faculty of arts and science. He cited a short reading list of books and essays about Milton prepared for students at the University of Oxford. Two of Prof. MacCallum's works are included: Milton & the Sons of God: The Divine Image in Milton's Epic Poetry (1986) and an early article based on his PhD dissertation.

Paul Stevens, another former PhD student who is now Canada Research Chair in English literature at U of T, said Prof. MacCallum was the youngest and last member of the Woodhouse group, which sought to understand Milton's poetry by studying the writer's vast output of religious and political prose.

But while Prof. Woodhouse and many others associated with his group, including renowned literary theorist Northrop Frye, were alpha males, Prof. MacCallum was a gentle man with no desire to make waves. He was “an unusually perceptive and careful thinker” who worked on a smaller canvas, he Prof. Stevens said.

He said Prof. MacCallum's main contribution to Milton studies was to show that the poet's religious thought was reasonable and moderate, although some critics emphasized passages that “might appear strange, harsh or even heretical.”

Nicholas von Maltzahn, a Milton expert at the University of Ottawa, said Prof. MacCallum made “a large, judicious but, I expect, under-read contribution” to his chosen field.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Still Life: Summer 2008

Zinnias grown from seed, Golden Celebration roses planted this Spring and my MacBook--this is Summer 2008.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ear Bible

Here's the blurb:

Our lives are busy. Cooking, cleaning, commuting, and many other tasks consume much of our time. The Ear Bible was invented to convert these daily routines into time for becoming better acquainted with the Bible. Just 25 minutes of listening per day will take a person through the entire Bible twice in one year!
(Who is the target audience here?)

By fitting comfortably on one ear, the Ear Bible allows the user to listen to the Bible while still interacting with the surrounding environment. When need arises to stop listening to the Bible and give attention elsewhere, the pause button is easily pressed - with no need to remove earbuds or headphones.

The NASB translation is read by a New Zealander. Why the NASB?

At NO point did the translators attempt to interpret Scripture through translation. Instead, the NASB translation team adhered to the principles of literal translation. This is the most exacting and demanding method of translation, requiring a word-for-word translation that is both accurate and readable. This method follows the word and sentence patterns of the original authors in order to enable the reader to study Scripture in its most literal format and to experience the individual personalities of those who penned the original manuscripts. For example, one can directly compare and contrast the simple eloquent style of John with the deep complexity of Paul.

Instead of telling the reader what to think, the updated NASB provides the most precise translation with which to conduct a personal journey through the Word of God.

The NASB (1971) is a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. While it does adhere to the original languages, it is not particularly readable nor does it have a literary style. If I were to listen to the Ear Bible, I would be pressing the pause button frequently.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Echinachea Hammock for a bee

This bee seemed to be resting in the Echinachea petals one evening last week. Perhaps after a busy day a petal hammock is just the thing. Although honey bees are under strain nationally, suffering perhaps from being ferried across the country to pollinate, Maine bees may be in a different situation. At least our garden, small as it is, may be helping wild bees.

COTW: Anton Bruckner, 1824-1896

Composer of the week on BBC Radio 3 is Anton Bruckner (repeated from July). The opening piece is the motet 'Locus iste', Gradual for 4-part choir (1869). Here's a You Tube version in case people aren't familiar with the piece.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Appreciation for musical traditions about Jesus and the BVM

As readers of this blog -- all three of you -- know, I'm a Protestant kind of scholar preferring to investigate the text, finding therein "all things necessary to salvation." But I appreciate the riches of musical tradition. Does anyone know "Christ in His Garden?" Its the fifth of the Children's Songs, op.54 by Tchaikovsky. I have a version for orchestra sung by Peter Pears and performed by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Britten. Here are the opening words:

When Jesus Christ was still a child, he had a garden small and wild...

There's also Purcell's Expostulation of the Blessed Virgin in which the BVM cries out to find her missing son in the temple.

More interesting still is Handel's musical setting of Giovanni Battista Ferrandini 1735: Il Pianto di Maria (words by an unknown poet) as sung by Anne Sofie von Otter:

"Se d'un Dio fui fatta Madre per vedere un Dio morire, mi perdona, Eterno Padre, La Tua grazia è un gran martire."
"If I was made Mother of a god in order to see a god die, then forgive me, Eternal Father, your favour is a great torment."

What about Ralph Vaughn Williams' Christmas Cantata Hodie? The narrative is drawn from scripture and other sacred texts, the BCP, poems of Thomas Hardy, Milton, George Herbert, William Drummond and Ursula Vaughn Williams.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A walk along the side of a nearby dam today revealed tiny mushrooms and a small white wild orchid (?). Is this a showy orchid?

Coptic Christians in Egypt Face Problems

Michael Slackman reports for the NY Times (Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo and Upper Egypt, and Nadim Audi from Cairo).:

Egypt is the most populous Arab country, with about 80 million people. About 10 percent are Coptic Christian.

For most of Egypt’s Coptics, the major flare-ups — the attack on the Abu Fana Monastery or riots in 2005 in Alexandria — are faraway episodes that serve only to confirm a growing alienation from larger society. For most, the tension is more personal, a fear that a son or daughter will fall in love with a Muslim or of being derided as “coftes,” which means “fifth column.”

“We keep to ourselves,” said Kamel Nadi, 24, a Coptic who runs a small shop in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo. “Muslims can’t say it, but it’s clear they don’t accept us. Here no one can speak the truth on this issue, so everybody’s feelings are kept inside.”

But the violence at the ancient Abu Fana Monastery in May elevated events to a new level. In a follow-up report issued last month, the National Council for Human Rights described the atmosphere in Egypt as an “overcharged sectarian environment” and chided the state, saying it “turns a blind eye to such incidents” and was “only content to send security forces after clashes catch fire.”

Here's the Al-Ahram account of the report:

There were six other disputes between the Abu Fana monks and nearby Arab residents prior to the recent incident. The bishop of Shubra Al-Kheima, Anba Morcos, the Coptic Church media spokesman, repudiated the report, blaming the government for neglecting the Coptic community. Morcos refutes the NCHR report finding that the Abu Fana clash was centred on a dispute over land, saying, "if it was an ordinary dispute, then why didn't the Arabs resort to the courts? Why did they kidnap the monks? Why did they torture the monks to force them to renounce their religion? Of course, it is related to religion."

Morcos added: "Perpetrators must be arrested and punished," pointing out that all Copts are waiting to see how the government will act against the "criminals" concerned and how it will do justice to the "victims".

Friday, August 01, 2008

Seal of King Zedekiah's minister found in Jerusalem dig

From the Jerusalem Post comes this report from ETGAR LEFKOVITS:

A seal impression belonging to a minister of the Biblical King Zedekiah which dates back 2,600 years has been uncovered completely intact during an archeological dig in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said on Thursday.

The seal impression, or bulla, with the name Gedalyahu ben Pashur, who served as minister to King Zedekiah (597-586 BCE) according to the Book of Jeremiah, was found just meters away from a separate seal impression of another of Zedekia's ministers, Yehukual ben Shelemyahu, which was uncovered three years ago, said Prof. Eilat Mazar who is leading the dig at the site.

The excavation at the history-rich City of David, which is located just outside the walls of the Old City near Dung Gate, has proven, in recent years, to be a treasure trove for archeologists.

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