Monday, April 02, 2007

"I've even heard her singing in the abbey!"

NOW READING: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

This one is definitely filed under 'At Long Last.' I first heard about The Name of the Rose years and years ago when I did my brief year at ASU, in between my first "unfortunate incarceration" undergraduate university and my "final resting place" undergraduate university. I took an English class at ASU called Medieval Lyric. It was quite honestly the most specialized class I took throughout undergrad. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the woman who taught it, either, despite the fact that I liked her, and she even had us over to her house at the end of the semester. In fact, she was the first person I heard talk about Dolores Claiborne, too. And we all know what a life-changing experience watching Dolores was for me.

Well, in good ol' Professor What's Her Name's class we talked about lots of medieval things but we also talked about lots of medievel women things. In fact, that was where I first heard of Hildegard von Bingen, too. Wow! I learned a lot in there. Why don't I know her name? Anyway, the class was small. About 10-15 of us. There was one girl in the class who seemed to have read every book on the planet. She was sort of intimidating, in that college-student-feminist-granola-fiercely-smart way. I liked to read, but this girl put me to shame. She brought up The Name of the Rose during one of our medieval women discussions. She said I would love it and "HAD to read it." I was mighty intrigued and pledged to do so. Well, years later I finally make good on this promise.

In the intervening years, of course, we have seen the phenomenon of folly that is The Da Vinci Code. Now, don't get me wrong. I was all over Dan Brown's little mystery, too, and in fact was the first on my block to read it. (And I have a great story about that, too, as anyone who has spent enough time in a bar with me knows.) But I had the misfortune to work in Borders during pretty much the entire reign of The Da Vinci Code; I'm pretty sure it finally came out in paperback sometime while I was in Korea. (The movie came out while I was there, too, but near the end of my time. I still haven't seen it.)

I call the Da Vinci craze folly because I was working in heavily Catholic Massachusetts and I got really sick of people coming in all in a snit about the book. For two reasons. One, these people acted like "God" had just strolled into their bedroom and announced "he" was taking back everything "he" had previously "said," and I just wanted to say, "It's FICTION people. Get over it. When did Dan Brown become your pope/prophet/pastor?" Whatever.

Second reason, though, is because I found nothing all that contradictory to Christianity as I knew and somewhat liked it in the book. Toward the end of my time as a religious person, I was also becoming quite the philosophical feminist, and I pointed out on more than one occasion that Jesus was clearly a feminist and that The Church has hidden certain things over the years and the Bible best illustrates truths when it's not being taken literally and so on and so on. Now that I'm entirely over religion, I don't really care about most of that anymore, but I still marvel at people who are clinging to their religious fervor on whom none of that has dawned quite yet.

Anyway, this is why I am very much liking William, with whom our narrator hangs out visiting the abbey. William is a brilliant monk, inquisitor, judge of human nature and more...and he seems to be challenging some traditional notions of what is good/bad/sin/holy. I like it.

Long live the trobaritzes!

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