Archive | August, 2012

B side. Reading

23 Aug

Adam Nicolson.  Power and Glory: Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible.   Full of the court politics and social setting, there’s no end of observations relevant to the modern era, many of them dealing with religious intransigency, others like Abbot’s “straightforward denial of creationism:

Often times new and strange shapes of Beasts are brought foorth there: the reason whereof is, that the Countrie being hott and full of Wildernesses, which haue in them litle water, the Beats of all sortes are enforced to meete at those few watering places that be, whereoften times contrary kinds haue coniucion the one with the other: so that there ariseth new kinds of species, which taketh part of both.”

On the next page is an astonishing explanation of the European denigration of the Native American based on literacy:

“The American encountered by Europeans on arrival were to be condemned because they weren’t literate.  ‘There was no sort of good Literature to bee found amongst them’, Abbot wrote.  Not only were they not like the people of the Old World, who, for all their differences, were untied from here to China by this one thread: they all wrote and read.”

Nicolson rarely deals with the actual translation, preferring to describe the fascinating related court, academic, and religious intrigues.  Here though are the pages in which he sets up a deep and convincing condemnation of the New English Bible as “a form of language which has died”  by presenting the translators’ versions of Luke 1:57 in which Elizabeth gives birth to John the Baptist.

Nicolai Lilin.  Sniper.  Vingettes from a Russian sniper in the Chechnya war, it’s half a routine life on the battlefield and half an instruction manual.  The prose is good, Jamie Richards the translator.  p 286 “So as not to fall into the trap of exhaustion — which in war can cost you your life — I decided to take part in the battle anyway.”

N. Scott Momaday.  The Ancient Child.  An efficient and luminous book, it’s hard to find a passage that doesn’t reveal its plot.  Here’s a good quote:  “The wildflowers were innumerable and more beautiful than anything he had ever seen or imagined.  And when he thought his heart could bear no more , a dragonlfy rose up, glancing and slipping just above him. In his brimming eyes it divided again and again to effect an iridescent swarm upon the sky. And he took a step, laughing, and another — dance steps.  Then he declined slowly to the ground, and he was serene and refreshed in his soul.”