Saturday, 4 July 2009

Lewis, Samuel, and the Nomenclaturcon

"This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very long important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began.
"In those days, Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street, and the Bastables were looking for treasure in the Lewisham Road. In those days, if you were a boy you had to wear a stiff Eton collar every day, and schools were usually nastier than now. But meals were nicer; and as for sweets, I won't tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain. And in those days, there lived in London a girl called Polly Plummer."

So begins The Magician's Nephew, which I have taken out from the Fort McMurray Public Library. In the same trip I returned The Silver Chair. There do not appear to be all of the Narnia books in the library; either that, or they are so popular that not all of them are ever in at the same time. Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle were also there. I have read Voyage most recently of all of them, and in fact own a copy, so I didn't take it out. I am also waiting to have read all of them before reading The Last Battle, as it is the ultimate work. I want to work through them all, though, before reading any of the critical literature offered in the library: there is are three books, including the atheistical one subtitled "The Skeptic's Guide to Narnia," as well as the somewhat dubious criticism of Planet Narnia. I intend to read them all, though.

Once I have depleted the library's resources on Lewis, I will see what they have for Lloyd Alexander.


Well, I want to write something marvellous, as you all know, but haven't the guidedness of Jon Wong, nor the--what, insistence?--of Cait's project. This is an issue, obviously. I do not lack ideas so much as I lack ideas which interest me for any period of time. What fascinates me most daunts me most in execution. Also, I lack the time here in Fort McMurray for sustained creative endeavours. I work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, plus an hour and a half to two hours travel time, as well as either cooking supper and washing dishes each night. I am also the primary grocery-shopper for the current household. Once you calculate in eating, sleeping, Bible readings, etc., I have very little time to write, and what time I do have is often lost because someone else is using the computer or I am simply too lethargic or restless after a day's work and evening's supper-prep to try. So even if I am enthused about writing something, I can't get involved in it enough to have a sort of sticking power. It dies in the infant stage.

Of course there are weekends, but I find these don't work well for writing either: I build up so much pressure to write on the weekends, but then don't have time to anyway because I have to wash the dishes from the night before and run errands and do laundry and buy groceries and cook supper, all on one day. Even if I have an hour or two throughout the day during which I could write something, I feel so much stress about having to write something and having to enjoy my day off in prep for a week's worth upcoming that I feel too wretched to get anything done anyway.

So instead of worrying about it, I'm going to read imaginative fiction that I enjoyed in the past but that I don't particularly desire to copy, like the Narnia books or the Taran books. I don't see how I'm going to get out of this trap that I'm in, but I must push on anyway.

Well, it's one of those weekends I spoke of just now. The dishes are mouldering in the kitchen, so I ought to go do them soon. And then I need to buy groceries for supper. I will start cooking supper at 5:00 or so. Say I am back from grocery shopping by 3:00. Provided that Nick doesn't come home, that will give me roughly two hours in which I do have time to write if I can drive myself to do so. Alright. That is a plan, perhaps. But 3:00 might be optimistic, and I know I'll be sore tempted to play a computer game instead of writing.


I am currently reading from the Old Testament. That is an area I generally feel weak in, so I am giving it a quick run: roughly four chapters a day. I began in Joshua, and am now in 1 Samuel, having gone straight through Judges and Ruth.

One thing that strikes me about it (and my coworker Josh mentioned this as well) is how much of Judges could be made into a movie. Samuel also seems possible so far as well. The number of battles and speeches and political affairs is fascinating. The Bhagavad-Gita (a Hindu sacred text) has been made into Bollywood-style soap operas and is rerun daily in India; illiterate Hindus now have access to one of their texts through this medium, congregated daily in whichever village home has television access to watch their religious-cultural epic. The Old Testament (I man all of it, not just the Veggie Tales and time traveler "highlights") could also be adapted to such a model, it seems to me. Perhaps Biblical literacy would improve if this were done. It would be no adequate replacement for the textual version, of course, but it's something to think about.

I am having trouble in interpretation, though. I struggle to understand what I am supposed to get out of land divisions, for instance. I read them all, but I didn't really feel like I gained much insight. Also, it is difficult to not feel somewhat concerned by the massive genocides the Israelites committed. Wholesale slaughter tends to go against modern ethical norms: I frequently find myself asking (as I have before) how killing everyone in this village could be the will of God. I remind myself that complete understanding is impossible and that I oughtn't worry over it, but it still gnaws at me whenever I read these parts.


I am going to accession in the boats at the Marine Park after all. I now have myself a nice new (well, OK, used) Nomenclature book, which I often call the Nomeclaturcon or the Gnomenclature book. It feels like one of those magical books in a LeGuin novel, which contains the true name of everything in the world.

In actuality, the book contains the name and category of every object the Nomenclature Committee though a curator was likely to come across. When you accession an item, you must choose a name and category from the book. This makes things consistent across museums, easing loans and allowing new curators to go through their precedent's files without confusion. What you see when you open the book, though, is simple a list of names of objects. Hence the LeGuin reference.


Well, off to the dishes, I suppose.


yolanda said...

my sister has audio-tapes of the narnia series, and whenever her and i are hanging out and she puts them on i fall asleep within minutes. i'm not 100% sure why, but i think it has something to do with the deep voice and thick british accent of the voice actor, which could also explain why i always fell asleep in geography 101, even though i loved the subject. there is another odd connection here because i took that class at the castle, which, in a (bad) bbc version of the silver chair, is cair paravel (sp?). it appears in quite a few scenes, though always shot from its prettier side.

i really love how the series begins in the magicians nephew, but i'm not a fan of how it ends. i have 3 siblings, and we used to sometimes play-act parts of the books. pieter was peter, i was susan, and our younger siblings were edmund and lucy, of course. i never liked being susan because of the last battle. but i won't spoil it!

Christian H said...

I believe I read the Last Battle once, and heard it read once. I recall the premise and a few of the lines, but do not recall how the main plot of it goes. I do know what happens with Susan, but I oughtn't say what either: I don't think Jon knows how the books go (but maybe I'm wrong).

skatej said...

I bought a big collected edition of all the Narnia books in one paperback when I was a senior in highschool. Every now and then I read through the entire volume again. These books were so important to me in my formative years, though I must say, my favorite, A Horse and His Boy, is widely overlooked by just about everyone. I hope someday to have huge dogs I name Breehee-hinny-brinny-hoo-ha and Hwin.
My church is going through the entire Bible through a journal and Bible study this year (the highlights of one book a week. I think when we get to the smaller books they'll be combined) and the teaching pastor said he had the same problems with reconciling mass genocide as God's will. In the Methodist denomination, we have a more open interpretation of the Bible as a holy document inspired by God but with human fingerprints. Perhaps genocide wasn't God's will? Another explanation -- or really reminder -- that I was told is that these other cultures were written to practice human sacrifice of their sons and daughters. Not good. It's not exactly as if the Israelites were sacking convents. I know that's a lame explanation. I think treating it as history and getting through it is probably the best, also remembering that yes, this is the Bible, but this is also a cultural document that contains practices and customs we don't quite understand.

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