Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It's Cruel Up North (Minus The Roalds)

Found in the bargain bin, $5.99, a New York Times Notable.

Yesterday's grass fresh-cut in the field, the bright sun blazing in the bluest sky ever seen, and it's 1624 AD, a warm Sunday morning across Chipping Camden. Miles Smith, Bishop of Gloucester, first and final editor of the fifty-four Translators of the King James Bible, is so face-down bored by the sermon he's hearing that he walks out of church and gets a drink at the pub down the road. That's on page 215 of Adam Nicolson's God's Secretaries: The Making Of The King James Bible, published in the UK under a slightly different title.

You know that friend of yours, does a million different things a year, gets excited about museums and vinyl and black velvet paintings, new movies and Martha Stewart recipes? (This bit added later: yeah, that's what I said, Martha Stewart recipes—can you believe it? but I'm leaving it in because tasty food is the bits.) The guy showed you the difference between an aggie and a regular marble and keeps pictures of Roald Amundsen and Roald Dahl in his cage-filled livingroom. Your friend could get you interested in paint on a wall providing he was interested in it. That's his gift. He transmits so much genuine enthusiasm for his interests that he stirs up the interest of whoever is around to witness his current fascination. I know your friend's name, don't I? He's Adam Nicolson. Minus, perhaps, the Roalds.

Nicolson's book has been on the big READ THIS! list on the yellowed paper tacked to the fridge for a few years now. The book has been worth the wait, for sure. Nicolson reveals/creates a labyrinthine soap opera around the Jacobean translation of the Bible. The author speaks of a pantheon of dark and selfish motives, pure and unclean characters, a web of politics, prudery and paranoia (and a textbook on alliteration, repetition, parenthesis, and the heights of Elizabethan accomplishment in prose). The book is strong and beautiful. If it was but a single piece of paper, instead of 281 pieces between covers, quotes and index, it would be origami, a silver-starred foil crane flapping sturdily on the mahogany table in the living room. It's exotic, it's simple, it's new appreciation for a foundational fold in the construction of English literature, Elizabethan politics, and Western thinking and culture. I love this book.

Reading: fairly obvious (and on a break from The French Revolution)
Listening: "It's Cruel Up North" + Radio LXMBRG (godsake, this song is an ice-gold apple!)

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