Wednesday, October 18, 2006
In the penny press! the TLS and Jebus!
Unlike with virtually every other penny press publication in existence, the TLS never needs pruning for these dispatches. It's always great, in all its parts. The task I have here at Stevereads is to single out the things I think will be of interest to you little marmosets, not, as with other publications, to pick out what's good.
We should start with the perennially enjoyable J.C.'s NB column: it always has something to start the senses.
This issue is no exception: JC has a great deal of fun with a new issue of Perdika Press:
The poetry pamphlet is among life's gentler pleasures. Fine paper, good printing and elegant design are essential; editorial discrimination, even more so. Perdika Press has issued the first three of a projected series of numbered pamphlets, nicely printed and well designed. What about the contents? The 'Series Editors' are Mario Petrucci, Nicholas Potamitis and Peter Brennan. According to Mr Brennan, 'Nicholas undertakes design, typesetting and runs the website. Mario advises on every aspect - very much a hands on counsellor'.
From Mario's counselling emerged the decision to devote the first Perdika edition to work by Mario Petrucci ('one of the most dynamic and original poets writing in English'). Thus we have 'Catullus,' eight 'contemporary adaptations' of the Roman poet, with original facing ('No one is better equipped to present Catullus to the modern reader'). Catullus' 'Melitios oculous tuos Iuuenti/siquis me sinat usque basiare' is wittily transformed into, 'Honey - when it comes to kissing/ we'd out-score Juventus.'
That's awful, of course, and it prompts one to recall that my young friend John Cotter is a dab hand at Catullus adaptations himself - his are, in fact, breathtakingly good. Perhaps he'll share one with all my loyal readers? Or better yet, compose a NEW one, based on Melitios oculous, for our delectation? Well, he's a busy lad, but we can always hope ...
Speaking of poets, Andrew Motion has a wonderful piece in the same TLS about the preservation of original manuscripts in public libraries. He has a wonderful passage about seeing a couple of autograph drafts of Wilfred Owen's sonnet 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' with comments by Siegfried Sassoon:
I learned more about writing by looking a those two pages and in whole terms of study and instruction. To realize at a glance that first thoughts were not inevitably best thoughts; to see in the most pratical way imaginable how what we used to call inspiration needed to be combined with ingenuity and sheer hard work; to understand how valuable the interventions of a second and sympathetic mind might be: all these things made my discovery of those pages feel like a revelation. And when I later saw the pages themselves, in the British Library, the revelation deepened and the pages became almost sacred. I still glimpse them in my mind's eye now, almost forty years later, whenever I write a poem. Think harder, they say to me. Stretch your imagination. Write better.
Wonderful stuff! 'Think harder ... stretch your imagination ... write better.'
One little thing in this TLS did perturb, however. In a brief review of Cinematic Savior - Hollywood's Making of the American Christ, Stephenson Humphries-Brooks writes:
To this point Jesus movies were made by Protestants. With 'Jesus of Nazareth,' Rome takes over. Zeffirelli - and, following him, Mel Gibson - bases his interpretation on Isaiah' Suffering Servant: 'He was wounded for our iniquities ...' With Gibson, however, this theme has been joined by another, roped in, so to speak, from the Western ...
I know, I know - it says 'however.' But even so, considering a) the depth of Gibson's current public disgrace and b) the scabrous ineptitude of 'The Passion of the Christ', I felt I should stress to any of you out there who might not be familiar with Franco Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" - it's NOTHING like 'Passion of the Christ. NOTHING. "Jesus of Nazareth" is incredibly intelligent and moving and epic. Linking it - however ephemerally - with a loud, brainless, masochistic, anti-semitic piece of crap like 'Passion of the Christ' does it a disservice that can only be remedied by all of you putting 'Jesus of Nazareth' on your Netflix list right away!
So there you have it, folks, for perhaps the first time in history: Catullus, John Cotter, and Jesus Christ!