an unsuitable blog

A collection of thoughts and resources on the wilder end of biblical studies, postcolonialism, postmodernism, kierkegaard studies and music, among others.

Monday, April 17, 2006

In the last few weeks, three of my favourite writers have died, two of whom I have written on - Stanislaw Lem, Muriel Spark and Ivor Cutler. All of them shared a wonderfully wry sense of humour with a dark edge at times which have concealed a penetrating insight into human folly, but with a deep, almost hidden, undercurrent of compassion. Each in their own way can leave me marvelling at their skill with language and their sustained originality. For all his popularity, I still think Lem is an under-rated writer, far more than a science fiction label would suggest - I think he had greater scope than Borges, for instance. Muriel Spark never ceases to amaze, and works through a kind of theology of writing that would be fascinating to unpack, although sensibly she doesn't articulate it often, and just gets on with it. Ivor Cutler is someone who I think if he had written in French, we would be fed up hearing about. Both he and Spark epitomise something in a Scottish worldview which is harder to describe than to recognise it is a kind of merciless compassion, if that isn't too oxymoronic. Anyway, read them if you haven't.

Easter was quiet, but gave me the chance for an annual listen to some of the most moving works I know. My programme for Easter was

Good Friday
St Matthew Passion
James MacMillan's The World's Ransoming and Cello Concerto
Holy Saturday
Haflidi Hallgrimsson's Passia
Frank Martin Golgotha except the final resurrection part
Poulenc Stabat Mater
Easter Sunday
James MacMillan's Vigil
the last part of Golgotha
Medtner Piano Quintet

All very moving and inspiring for the rest of the year, I hope. I also managed to finish a paper for Aarhus, entitled Stage-fright - I'm there for a Kierkegaard conference in a couple of weeks, just after I get back from Vilnius, in fact, which is crazy, but should be fun.

Hope to post a bit more here in the next few weeks. Keep well!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Back from Philly

Well, another AAR/SBL and I'm back fatter, poorer, tireder - and wiser? I was getting some stick there for saying my own paper was the most interesting I heard, though I still think it would be a shame not to be interested in your own work, but that was before I heard Yvonne Sherwood, as usual - I should have known. A fascinating glimpse into the work she is doing on the Akedah, and a remarkable reading of Auerbach's 'Odysseus' Scar' in its political context - again very useful to me as I keep thinking about the role of the 'Old Testament' in Western history. I'd echo Jennifer Glancy's remark in her response, when she said,' I'd sell my soul to write like Yvonne - and anyone reading my work will know I haven't yet found a buyer.'Anyway, as usual a good time for meeting my bad, bad friends, as James Crossley calls them - and of course I proudly number him among them, though I concede he has a few things to learn on the badness front - but he's a quick study in any area, that one. One thing that I continue to rail at is the unrelieved wordiness and worthiness of so many presentations, with honourable exceptions of course. Boy are they worthy! I spoke to one presenter, who gave a better than average talk, and he said it never occured to him to use any of the techniques he uses in classroom teaching in an SBL session. I hope that is most people's excuse, though it's not a good one. How often do you sit in a paper and think, 'I love this subject, and I know more about it than most, but if this person goes on any longer, I'm going to lose the will to live, let alone touch the topic with a barge pole.' If that's how feel after 20 minutes, what do their students feel after a semester? On the other hand, surely it takes talent to make the biblical texts boring, so perhaps I should learn to appreciate that. In any case, perhaps you' d care to estimate, as I tried to do, what proportion of the presumably dozens of papers I've heard I even remember hearing, let alone remember what they were about. How efficient a way of communicating is the average conference session? - though that presupposes that communication is what they are about, itself maybe a questionable presumption. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on what they're for. I did learn a few things in Philadelphia, and had a very good time, but of course that wasn't generally in the sessions. It did make me think about the role the blogging community could have in raising the standards here - any reactions?

BTW, on Jesus's blog, how about the gospel of Thomas as a candidate - or an edited transcript - or, more likely, an early writer's guess at what Jesus would have blogged?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Thanks for all the welcoming messages, guys! A nice surprise. I'm just finishing getting ready for AAR/SBL, which is one of the many things in life that I find both intriguing and just a bit absurd - still, if anyone described me in those terms on my tombstone, I suspect I'd be rather flattered. If anything particularly intrigues me, or presses my absurdity button, I may let you know. Tonight's question - if Jesus had had a blog, would we understand more or less about him?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I should know better

Well, time to join the bandwagon, I suppose, if only on an 'if you can't beat them' basis. After all, I think we're already on to the stage of metablogging, so roll on postmetablogging and long live unsuitability. In case you hadn't come across it, 'An Unsuitable Book' is the title I've given to a recent collection of reflections on the Bible - other people advertise their books, so why not me? - available at only a few good book stores from Sheffield Phoenix Press, and a bargain at whatever price it is. Anyway, I find this whole blogging thing weird but oddly fascinating - mind you, I also watch WWE wrestling, in much the same spirit - though I am grateful to those who pull together links to all sorts of interesting information I don't have the time to chase. I hope from time to time this blog will point to resources that I've come across from the places that I stray into during the course of what I laughing call research. What makes a suitable blog - or a suitable blogger? Answers on a postcard.