October 31, 2006

-image-Protected: howl and hush

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October 29, 2006

-image-lifetime to do list #453

There’s a house in our neighborhood that’s really, really decked out for Halloween. Their yard is crammed full of pumpkins and skeletons and ghosts and spiders and vampires. Their trees are draped with webbing and lights and more lights. No inch is wasted. Or spared, depending on your perspective. Like some raucous Halloween party raging in a cramped apartment.

Oh, and hosted by …. Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. A Jesus statue, to be exact.

Yup. He’s there, smack in the middle, smiling down on the hoo-dang with that benign, domesticated Jesus smile we give him. He towers over all the party ghouls, a garland of fall foliage crooked on his head, patiently ignoring the vampire lurking over his left shoulder.

I find the whole thing truly, deeply inspiring.

And so I will make my movie — my big, fat blockbuster — and I will call it …. The Nightmare Before Advent.

That’s right, Bobbo.

Hmm ….

I wonder who I should get to play Jesus.

October 27, 2006

-image-more cold comfort farm!

You know, I’ve just become fascinated with Stella Gibbons, author of Cold Comfort Farm, who met such great success at an early age and is rewarded now, years later, with virtually no one knowing of her wonderful book. It is just such a delightful read — and how many books does a person read these days that ARE that — just plain delightful? I mean, really. There are so many twists of phrase and layers of humor in the way she writes. Her brain seemed to possess this ability to swerve deftly from A to some unexpected B that just makes you laugh out loud. You can read a passage, go back to it later, and howl at something else altogether. She was a comic genius. With Cold Comfort Farm, Gibbons wrote a kind of parody on the “natural” novels of Thomas Hardy and D. H. Lawrence. The public loved it; the critics decried it.

Okay. Blah, blah, blah. Really, it all boils down to this: I have a crush on Stella Gibbons. And please don’t freak out on me. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. It’s just … if she were still with us — she died in 1989 — I’d want to be able to sit like a little kid at gramma’s knee and say, “Oh, please tell me a story.” Sometimes you just feel you want to know someone just by the way they write. You’d give anything just to sit silent for hours while they talk and talk and talk. So, see, that’s my crush on a dead woman.

There’s an introduction to Cold Comfort Farm written by Lynne Truss that I particularly like. She discusses the book’s special magic, why it was popular then, why the critics were jerks, why no one knows about the book now. I like this excerpt:

Timing counted for a lot, too. It certainly accounted for the book’s success on first publication. It seems that other readers had started noticing the annoying fashion for the rural novel, and were even getting a bit tired of D. H. Lawrence and his tumescent buds as well. The only trouble with the critical reception of Cold Comfort Farm when it was published in 1932 (apart from the interesting assumption made by one critic that it couldn’t possibly have been written by a woman, and must have been the pseudonymous work of Evelyn Waugh) was that all this talk of it being a “wicked” parody began. It is even sometimes called “cruel.” Reading the book now, it seems very clear to me that no wickedness or cruelty comes into it — and that perhaps casual misogyny had been at work in the collective critical mind again. Women being funny are nearly always said to be nasty with it. A truly wicked parodist of the loam and lovechild school would just have pushed all the Starkadders down the well, or strangled them with their sukebind.

No, the key to its success as a novel is that Stella Gibbons is personally quite torn between the values of Flora (ed. our heroine) and the values of, say, Flora’s cousin Elfine, who flits across the Downs behaving like something out of Wordsworth. Nature called to Stella. The natural world was a much of a solace to her as books. Her own descriptions in Cold Comfort Farm are sometimes breathtaking. The book satirizes the rural genre in just one very pointed way: it corrects the idea that nature (and by extension, country life) is all brute doom and chaos, and shows that equating man with beast is simply a reductive thing to do ….Flora finds at Cold Comfort Farm a group of people who have been reduced to novelistic cliches — rather like the curvy cartoon-figure Jessica Rabbit in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, who famously drawled her existential plight, ‘I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.’ Flora helps each character out of his or her difficulties and they quickly find happiness. She is a character in a novel who reads the other characters as characters and rewrites them as people. It’s the ultimate narrative miracle. No wonder other writers revere Cold Comfort Farm.

And if you read that to the end, BLESS you! And stayed tuned for more excerpts — because I’m pretty sure I can’t stop!!

-image-cold comfort again …

Told you I couldn’t stop.

I can read the following excerpt again and again and I just HOWL with laughter every time. I’m telling you, the woman was a comedic genius. The parody here … I’m sorry. It kills me.

Okay. So it’s a scene featuring our heroine, Flora, “who likes things tidy,” and Mr. Mybug (whose real name is Mr. Meyerburg, but Flora calls him “Mybug). Mr. Mybug is — as described by Ms. Truss — ‘the corpulent and harmless devotee of D.H. Lawrence’ and Flora, um, doesn’t really care for him. Flora likes to go on walks. Mr. Mybug likes to interrupt her walks and Flora doesn’t really care for that, either.

They used sometimes to walk through a pleasant wood of young birch trees which were just beginning to come into bud. The stems reminded Mr. Mybug of phallic symbols and the buds made Mr. Mybug think of nipples and virgins. Mr. Mybug pointed out to Flora that he and she were walking on seeds which were germinating in the womb of the earth. He said it made him feel as if he were trampling on the body of a great brown woman. He felt as if he were a partner in some mighty rite of gestation.

Flora used sometimes to ask him the name of a tree, but he never knew.

Yet there were occasions when he was not reminded of a pair of large breasts by the distant hills. Then, he would stand looking at the woods upon the horizon. He would wrinkle up his eyes and breathe deeply through his nostrils and say that the view reminded him of one of Poussin’s lovely things. Or he would pause and peer in a pool and say it was like a painting by Manet.

And to be fair to Mr. Mybug, it must be admitted he was sometimes interested by the social problems of the day. Only yesterday, while he and Flora were walking through an alley of rhododendrons on an estate which was open to the public, he had discussed a case of arrest in Hyde Park. The rhododendrons made him think of Hyde Park. He said that it was impossible to sit down for five minutes in Hyde Park after seven o’clock in the evening without either being accosted or arrested. There were many homosexuals to be seen in Hyde Park. Prostitutes, too.

God! those rhododendron buds had a phallic, urgent look!

Sooner or later we should have to tackle the problems of homosexuality. We should have to tackle the problem of Lesbians and old maids.

God! that little pool down there in the hollow was shaped like somebody’s navel! He would like to drag off his clothes and leap into it.

There was another problem. We should have to tackle that, too. In no other country but England was there so much pruriency about nakedness. If we all went about naked, sexual desire would automatically disappear. Had Flora ever been to a party where everybody took off all their clothes? Mr. Mybug had. Once a whole lot of us bathed in the river with nothing on and afterwards little Harriet Belmont sat naked in the grass and played to us on her flute. It was delicious; so gay and simple and natural. And Billie Polswett danced a Hawaiian love-dance, making all the gestures that are usually omitted in the stage version. Her husband had danced, too. It had been lovely; so warm and natural and real, somehow.

October 26, 2006

-image-word*pie leftovers …

Congratulations to Cullen and Brian for correctly mixin’ up 2 of the 3 Word*Pies!! And I have to give extra snaps to Brian for holding onto his pie like a pitbull until it was shaken and gnawed into submission. Good job, men! (Don’t forget to email me with your address, Brian.)

Now just what book were these quotes from, you ask?

It waaaas ……. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A book I love. A movie I love. So so funny. And Pie #3, that vexing little pie that had everyone stymied? Well, here it is, in a larger context:

A thin wind snivelled among the rotting stacks of Cold Comfort, spreading itself in a sheet of flowing sound across the mossed tiles. Darkness whined with the soundless urge of growth in the hedges, but that did not help any.

Here’s another little snippet that just kills me:

The trout-sperm in the muddy hollow under Nettle Flitch Weir were agitated and well they might be. The long screams of the hunting owls tore across the night, scarlet lines on black. In the pauses, every ten minutes, they mated. It seemed chaotic, but it was more methodically arranged than you might think.

Oh, I can’t recommend the book highly enough.

So thanks, everyone, for your guesses! And thanks, Missy, for coining “his old hair bells.” It just cracks me up somehow.

-image-“the most sensual of the cured meats”

“I should always be holding bacon.”

“What?! You should always be holding bacon??”

“Yes.”

“And why is that?”

“Well, look at me.” Waves bacon. “I mean, please.”

Well, he does have a certain bacony charm.

-image-okay, my cyber pants have ripped

But not before I peed in them

And threw up

And wailed loudly for Mommmmmmy!

NOW, LOOK. I am off today. I have cleared my WHOLE calendar — my busy calendar, no less — to sit here and laugh at you and drink coffee and laugh some more and wait til someone makes me a damn Word*Pie!!

Sheesh. 😉

OKAY. HERE’S SOME INCENTIVE:

SWEET DELICIOUS COFFEE.

If you are the first person in with a correct Word*Pie, I will send you a bag of Beanhouse coffee — which is truly the most delicious you’ll ever have. Once you’ve gotten one right, please bow out and let others have a shot at the ones remaining. So, 3 bags of coffee are now up for grabs.

If you’re a winner — oops, no, that’s not PC — if you’re someone to whom a bag of coffee will be bestowed, please send me your mailing address at my OLD blog email:

tracey AT worshipnaked DOT com.

The new email here isn’t working yet.

DEADLINE FOR GUESSING: 11 P.M. tonight, 10-26, PST. I will award coffee based on how many have been guessed, obviously.

So ya better get on it, Crackie.

October 25, 2006

-image-breaking the ice …

Hm. Okay. Confession: I’m feeling all nervous and twittery around the new blog. It’s like I’m on a blind date. But without that creepy guy calculating his business deals on cocktail napkins and telling me, “You look like my ex-wife” and “How come you’re not wearing your regular TV makeup?” and “Well, MY favorite movie is ‘Rambo'” and “Sooo, do you hate me now or do you want to go somewhere else?”

True story. SO much you still don’t know.

Okay. So maybe it’s not really like THAT. Maybe it’s more like trying to impress that really beautiful boy on the water polo team in high school but not feeling beautiful enough for his beauty or even able to speak because of his beauty, but still wanting to be around his beauty.

With my new blog here being that beautiful water polo boy, you see.

It’s more like that. But without the water and those sweet, bumpy Speedos.

So …. I gotta shake it up. Break the ice. Muss things up. Rip my cyber pants. Do something STUPID because I inevitably will anyway. This one will just be on purpose. And once I’ve engaged The Stupid, I will feel much more like myself. Don’t ask. It all makes perfect sense to me.

So I think this all means that …….

I feel up for another helping of Word*Pie — THE WORLD’S STUPIDEST GAME!!

The directions: Below are some scrambled sentences from a real-live book. You unscramble ’em. Write your answers in the comments. I then yell at you, NO, THAT’S NOT RIGHT! TRY AGAIN. And then, THAT IS STILL NOT RIGHT. SHEESH!!! And stuff like that.

Remember how fun that all was? So let’s do it again! Well, YOU do it. I just sit here, actually, knowing the answers, carping at you, making you lose your will to live. FUN!

Oh, and where there are duplicate words, there are duplicate words.

Oh, and I’ll take guesses on the book, too. And, no — before you even ask — it’s not “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Sheesh.

All right. Three Word*Pies. Ready? GO:

1. (Brian got it!)

wedding
tufts
old
of
ears
the
danced
of
in
sound
hair
his
bells
the
between
withered

2. (Cullen got this one!)

roses
water
until
with
cheeks
she
angry
with
young
they
burned
scalding
her
washed

3.

whined
growth
but
darkness
with
not
the
help
soundless
that
hedges
of
in
did
urge
any
the

-image-help, please!

If you’re someone who’s having the problem with the comment box here going underneath the sidebar, could you please tell me what browser you’re on? Thanks!

October 24, 2006

-image-yancey

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog how I love Philip Yancey. Here’s one of them. The way he writes about matters of faith — I mean, I just can’t shake it. The chords he strikes within me are so deep, so resonant. So I imagine I’ll continue to talk about him pretty much whenever I feel like it. Because I can’t help it.

Just now, sitting here, thumbing through “Disappointment with God,” I came across this passage that I love:

“Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden,” begins a story by Kierkegaard.

The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist — no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know?

If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared loved cross over the gulf between them.

“For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal,” concluded Kierkegaard. The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend. He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him. It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on. He renounced the thrown to win her hand.

In his dealings with human beings, God had often humbled himself. I see the Old Testament as one long record of his “condescensions” (“to descend to be with”). God condescended in various ways to speak to Abraham, and to Moses, and to the nation of Israel and the prophets. But no condescension could match what came next, after the four hundred years of silence. God, like the king in Kierkegaard’s parable, took on a new form: he became a man. It was the most shocking descent imaginable.

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