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Pope in his grotto
It's clever, but is it art?
(This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time.)
 
Forbidden
All right, finals are underway. Time to get back to this 100 Things business.

We left off when God had just finished putting the heavens and the earth in order, and his prize creation was just about to start making a mess of it all, with the help of a certain irresistible tree.

I’m sure you all basically know how the Eden story goes, but if you haven't actually read it, you might be surprised by how short it is. It’s about a page and a half long (Gen. 2.4-3.24). But I think you’d be hard pressed to find another story that packs quite as much potential significance into such a small space.

Let me see if I can explain.Collapse )

...It would make sense here to talk a bit about Milton and the Christian interpretation of the Eden story as “original sin” and the “fall” of man (I don’t know how I managed to not talk about Milton for almost this whole post), but this is already getting long. Maybe some other time. :P

(I feel like I should be citing sources on this stuff. >_> I'm not going to go to all that trouble, but if there's anything in particular you want a source for, just let me know.)
Science: space
Okay, so. Yeah. I'm actually going to try this. 100 posts -- sometime over the course of the indefinite future -- about Judeo-Christian traditions.

And while I don’t promise to keep to any kind of chronological or thematic order, there’s probably no better place to start than in the beginning.

So here are some thoughts on the creation of the world.Collapse )

...I have no idea if I have the stamina for 100, or even, like, three of these, but there you go.

(Also I may possibly be considering signing up for 100 Photos of My Little Ponies Doing Random Things. Or 100 posts about ancient Sumer/Babylon/Akkad/Assyria. Or both. >_>)
Romanticism, Paradise Lost
Holy hell, saving that Milton essay until the last minute was seriously not a good idea. Jesus Christ. I spent last week reading a couple of hundred pages of literary criticism, then on Friday spent probably five hours typing randomly about the poem until I finally arrived at something that looked like a viable argument for a paper, spent some twelve hours yesterday writing a truly horrible first draft, and then spent literally another twelve straight hours today turning it into something I was not too embarrassed to send to my professor. Seriously, I went to bed at 7:00 PM last night when I absolutely could not look at the thing anymore, got up at 3:00 AM and started writing again, and finally, just now, at quarter to 4:00 PM have at last emailed the file to the teacher. I thought about asking one of you guys to go over the draft, but... I was afraid there would be things wrong with it, and I'm not sure I could have stood going over the thing again. EGADS.

On the bright side, I think I can say I now know Paradise Lost pretty damn well. I mean, there are like three bookcases worth of books about how to interpret PL at the university library, so I'd be kidding myself if I thought I "understood" the poem. But I at least understand it in a few different and probably relatively valid ways.

I was surprised, actually, to find that although I understand the text much better now, and appreciate the art and precision with which Milton composed it, my impression of it still hasn't significantly changed. I spent the whole semester making a point to read the poem, as far as possible, the way I thought Milton would have wanted it read, taking God's goodness and righteousness pretty much for granted, and avoiding the temptation to sympathize with Satan. But now that the class is over, I find that I feel pretty much the same way about Milton's treatment of Christianity as I felt the first time I read it -- I think, first of all, that the task of "justifying the ways of God to men" was hopeless from the get-go, given the text of Genesis and the Christian doctrine that Milton had to work with; and I think Milton made some severe errors of calculation in deciding just how sympathetic to make Satan and just how odious to make God. 'Cause his Satan is pretty much a perfect Byronic hero, aristocratic, arrogant, tormented, flawed and petty and even somewhat despicable, but a lot less ugly even than, say, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. God, on the other hand, goes about doing a lot of the same damn things Satan does, only they're supposed to be viewed as completely different and good merely because it was God and not Satan who did them. Which reminds me of something Milton himself said in his De Doctrina Christiana (emphasis mine):
In short, many visible proofs, the verification of numberless predictions, a multitude of wonderful works have compelled all nations to believe, either that God, or that some evil power whose name was unknown, presided over the affairs of the world.
...Yeah. He then concludes that it must be God, not He-Who-Must-Cannot-Be-Named, who rules the world, because "that evil should prevail over good, and be the true supreme power, is as unmeet as it is incredible." That's the whole strength of his argument for why all the evil in the world has to somehow ultimately be explained as the divine and beautiful will of a benevolent God.

Oh religion. What can one possibly do with you.

(LOLWTF, 24 hours of essay-writing and apparently I wasn't tired of talking about Milton after all. Sheez.)

One more exam to go. There's no food in the house except for like ten zillion tamales, so I think I'll go buy some Little Caesar's breadsticks for $1.50 to celebrate the completion of the Essay of Doom. And then start studying for the most boring linguistics test ever.

...AND THEN FREEDOM OH MY GOD.
Devil: Temptation
Finished To Reign in Hell. The premise was really interesting, but I'm not so sure about the execution... I'm afraid Brust has rather reminded me why I don't generally read sci-fi or fantasy novels. Like so many of them, this one came off more like a really excellent fanfic than like a professional work, I thought. I found it particularly jarring in this case because of how blatantly similar Brust's style is to Zelazny's, yet without being anywhere near as polished or natural as Zelazny is. But besides that, his writing just felt very rushed to me, a bit haphazard, a bit heavyhanded... I mean, I realize it's hard to deal with messiahs and gods and damnation without being heavyhanded, and Brust sure as hell could easily have done much, much worse. But --

Well, enough skirting around spoilers. On to the review.Collapse )

This turned out a bit rantier than I intended. I didn't actually hate the book or anything -- I'm just disappointed because it had so much potential, and I feel like Brust could have done a lot better with such rich material. I'd be willing to try another of his books sometime, though. This one was certainly a quick read, in any case.
23rd-Jul-2009 09:25 pm
Literature
Okay, and on a (mostly) totally different topic, I also just read Lord Byron's Cain, a Mystery. In which I ramble about Byron, Satan, Cain, and Steinbeck.Collapse )
10th-Aug-2008 01:04 pm - The Golden Compass
Forbidden
Following several people's recommendations, I've started reading His Dark Materials. I finished the first book yesterday. It was... very much not what I was expecting.

Spoilers.Collapse )

(Someday I will learn how to write a review that's actually shorter than the thing I'm reviewing. But... not today, apparently.)
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