Thursday, May 31, 2007

Badder than old King Kong,
far more dangerous than a hydrophobic dog

I think everyone at the abbey starts to go a little crazy as we approach page 400. Not the least of which is my buddy Salvatore. I wonder if I have a little bit of a crush on Salvatore? He's such a freak. But I kinda like it. At any rate, now I've passed page 400 and now he's been sent off to his doom with the "witch"/object of Adso's affection and Remigio. And Remigio, by the way, just FELL APART on the stand there. Well, I say "on the stand" at what passes for a trial...your friendly neighborhood inquisitor meting out justice or something like it...

But, see, I don't think Salvatore is really gone. I think he's going to rear his ugly head (and it is, by all accounts, an ugly head. I don't mean any offense by that) and save the day or something, like Hurley on Lost, when no one else believes he can help. Either that or he's guilty as sin. Hard to say which.

But now Malachi is slumping in his seat at Matins, and I've got to see what happens!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Homo literatus

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Evening by Susan Minot
But the latter I'm just kind of reading. I'm so greatly fascinated by the preview for the movie, which I have seen two out of two times I have attended the cinema in Harvard Square this week, that I had to wander into the Harvard Coop bookstore there and start reading the book. I've read three chapters of it. I'm calling the movie "the sequel to The Hours." Joining author Minot in writing the screenplay was none other than The Hours author Michael Cunningham (my boy!) and the cast is kind of like an Hours reunion. I'm pretty sure I don't want to buy the book Evening but I kind of like reading a chapter a day in the Harvard Coop. (Which, I love that bookstore. I so do love my Boston things. My old haunts.)

But I digress, reader, from the tale at hand. Salvatore! Salvatore! What is going on?! You must save yourself!!!

I am starting to get toward the end of The Name of the Rose, and my goodness. Bernard Guido Inquisitor or whatever his name is is so mean! And I'm getting really sad for Salvatore. But I don't think he can be the murderer, because he's caught now and I think some more people still have to die. We're only on the fifth trumpet. Poor, ugly, picked on Salvatore. As he put it, he "sinned with no malicia." Indeed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blood and bones and such

NOW READING: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

I love this book. But I've officially reached the point where occasionally I'm like, "Wait. Who's this guy again?" Furthermore, I've also officially reached the point where I don't always care enough to flip back a bunch of pages to find out, and instead just trust that William and Adso will drop enough tidbits into their conversation to remind me of this or that monk's prior apperance(s). And William and Adso are nothing if not conversation tidbit droppers.

But then there are characters like blind Jorge and especially my boy Salvatore who are just unforgettable. Damn, I love Salvatore. I get excited every time he appears, and especially when he starts his special language-blend of speech. This happens far too infrequently for my tastes. And p.s., just where has Salvatore got to now, with Benno having removed (or did he?) the Greek/Arabic manuscript from Severinus' ransacked laboratory? Benno, by the way, being a key example of the "Who's-this-Daisy-person?" phenomenon I mentioned above. (bonus points to the first person who can cite the "Who's-this-Daisy-person?" reference, no cheating)

I guess my point is - I so don't want Salvatore to be guilty! But he so totally might be. I really have no idea. And, I don't know if law school and the glacial pace at which I've been reading this are to blame for my utter lack of fingering a suspect, not to mention my not at all keeping good track of who the suspects are. Or is it just that convoluted of a book? Well, "convoluted" isn't really the right word. But I did get really happy when they finally just made page 321 a map of the freakin' library and the first letters. Throw a girl a bone, eh.

And speaking of tossing bones about, do sentences get more evocative than this...

"This side was the one brought down on Severinus's head, as was revealed by traces of blood and even tufts of hair and horrible gobbets of cerebral matter." - p. 359

How can you read a line like that and not think you have met your writerly match?

Monday, May 28, 2007

I fought the law and the law won

Deep into the 300s (pages), Adso and William attend the gathering of all the assembled cardinal, abbot, papal delegation, suspected heretics, etc. So there I am, happily back in the world of reading a novel again instead of a laborious law text, when suddenly William jumps up and starts prattling on about the origins of law, jurisdiction, why the Pope can or can't tell people what to do in a secular sense, and even freakin' property and how when Adam started naming animals *that's* when human ownership of things first came into being...

Et tu, Umberto?
Can't I escape law school at all?
Even at the Memorial Day cook-out I attended today, within two minutes of being there my friend had introduced me to three law school people. (2Ls-now-3Ls) They were talking about the reasonable man and using suspiciously familiar casebook terminology. I thought, 'I speak that language...' Ugh.

I daresay William's ramblings on when humans came to own things and whether Christ did or the Church should were interesting. And probably would have been good philosophical reflection for my Property class. Maybe even as good as watching Lost. Maybe I never should have taken a break from The Name of the Rose after all.

Still, I think I prefer William when he's trading cheeky comments with Adso about how crazy are the folk who hail from Anglo lands.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't be such a martyr

NOW READING: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Again. Finally.

And I still love it! Like an old friend, it patiently awaited me as I slogged through finals and everything else the universe has been offering up. It sat on the floor of my room (where pretty much everything has been flung and scattered the last few weeks, so it was in good company) and I would eye it but I could not touch, I could not give in to the tempataion, I had to keep moving. On Wednesday after the last final, I crouched down to scoop up the novel in my arms and nearly cried with relief.

So. I don't really remember where William has disappeared to (maybe he's just having a nap) but Adso is talking to Ubertino and hanging around the library by himself and even, bizarrely, encountering a woman in the kitchen! And when I say "encountering a woman in the kitchen" I mean it in the "what Sawyer thought Jack meant when he said he and Kate were caught in a net" sort of way. We are totally getting into the Woman, thou art the embodiment of evil, oh temptress, oh vessel of sin stuff. Good times.

Just before that, however, Adso remembers the execution of heretic Brother Michael who died defying the bishops and pope whom he considered apostate. Adso has it on good hearsay that Brother Michael said, "If we read with such fervor the doctrine of certain sainted abbots, how much greater should be our fervor and our joy in desiring to be in their midst?" (p. 235) Which, I have to say, reminds me of something that has stuck with me from childhood.

As many of you (many? maybe. who are you, anyway? who's reading this?) know, I was pretty much raised Mormon, although some of you don't know that because it's so not in the Top 10 Things I Reveal About Myself these days. More like the Top Ten Significant Things That Manage To Stay Hidden Until I've Known You For a While Unless, Inexplicably, I Trust You Right Off the Bat. (It occurs to me that if I actually made that list, the title might be longer than the ten items.) Well, Mormons are seriously misunderstood. Although they are possibly about to be either much better understood or even more seriously misunderstood, as presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's publicists seems to have found a great way for him to avoid talking about the political issues by just talking about what it means to be Mormon all the time.

Anyway, I always try to dissuade people from disliking the things they've got wrong about the religion ("lots of wives" "magic underwear" "not allowed to drink soda") because the real things that are wrong with the religion are so much more worth disliking! So this one time when I was about eight I was being fed one of the usual legends of founding prophet Joseph Smith's greatness, decidedly free of grains of salt. Mormonism is a fascinating study of modern-day folklore. Forget the claims of angelic visions and golden tablets; the mundane day-to-day life of Joseph Smith is mythologized enough. This particular day we were talking about when when he and his brother were shot and killed by an angry mob at Carthage Jail, aka his martyrdom. They were pretty much imprisoned for their beliefs (although I hear that only happens in Cuba, eh) (ooh, watch out, don't step in the puddle of sarcasm) and now that I think about it, it would be kind of interesting to revisit the whole event from a human rights perspective. But when I was eight I had no perspective, and instead I gobbled up the sweet story of martyrdom and was flat out told in my little Sunday School class that should we ever be placed in the position we, too, must be prepared to die for our religion.

Now, being the bright and inquisitive (albeit perspective-lacking) eight-or-so-year-old that I was, I then required further elaboration. Like, really? I had to say "the church is true" if it came down to my life? The Mormons are big on that phrase "I know the church is true." It's like a little shorthand for Jesus died for us, the Catholics have long since gone astray, the Protestants haven't quite got it right either, Joseph Smith came to save the day, read The Book of Mormon, be worthy to enter the temple, go on a mission if you're a boy, have lots of kids, etc.) It's kind of weird, if you think about it. Spin. How can a "church" be true or false? But, you see, The Church is this all-encompassing thing. It lives. And, they testify, is true.

I pressed the point with my teacher. "What if someone had a gun to my head and said they won't kill me if I just say that the church is not true? What if I cross my fingers behind my back or something? Or can I say it and save my life and then repent really quick for lying?" And my teacher gravely said she hoped I would be able to do the right thing and be prepared to defend the true church. Can you imagine saying that crap to an eight-year-old kid? I mean, it's ridiculous for anyone, really. At my grandmother's funeral this past weekend (that's the Catholic side of my family) the priest went on about how Christ on the cross is the ultimate sign, or symbol. SYMBOLISM, people. Even IF you believe Jesus "died for us" then Joseph Smith didn't "need" to die and neither does random Mormon-on-the-street, least of all some little kid! But there I was, wholly convinced I was going to sooner or later face the terror of being killed for saying, "The Church is true." No wonder I was scared out of my wits lying in bed at night. Maybe it wasn't the fault of The Shining and Helter Skelter after all. (The Exorcist can perhaps still be implicated.)

Years later at BYU I learned another Mormon legend that basically says denying the Holy Ghost and murder are the only two unforgivable sins. Which is kind of an interesting twist on the whole martyrdom thing, if you think about it. Like, I imagine God and or various judging angels (kind of like God's law clerks) gazing down at someone with the gun to someone else's head: "Say it! There is no holy spirit guiding you!" And God et. al. wondering which one will become the Unforgiven.

Perspective, people. Instant perspective. Just add salt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A few monks' prayers might not hurt...

NOW READING: absolutely nothing

We are approaching the 14-hour mark. Wow! That's huge! Fourteen hours from now I will put to rest the madness of these first year law school exams. And then...then...oh, glorious freedom! Oh happy day! I can return to reading The Name of the Rose!!!!!

Fourteen hours. I can make it. And maybe just maybe I can write a brilliant Property exam in the meantime, with the light of Umberto shining at the end of my tunnel of adverse possession...with William as my guide...he could conquer this exam. He sure could. He would so put Professor One-Man-Show squarely in his place, too.

Fourteen hours. Fourteen hours. Fourteen more hours. Where does that put me now? Nones? Vespers? Compline? Who knows? But I'm almost free.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Civil Procedure final by any other name...

NOW READING: lots of boring law school crap

So. Clearly I am not reading anything fun because today is, after all, Finals Eve. But I do have thoughts. Here are some of them:

The Buffalo Creek Disaster made me so angry, but it also reminded me if I had any doubt whatsoever that I never ever ever want to be a lawyer. Ugh.

If I were allowed to read anything fun right now, last Tuesday was certainly a bonanza of new book laydowns! Michael Chabon, Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Berg. All in one day! I touched Chabon's new one, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a lot. I daresay I fondled it. It's an alternate universe in which FDR made Alaska a safe haven for Jews escaping Hitler when they failed to establish the state of Israel in 1948. I so so so so so want to read it. Now. Sigh. Soon, though. Very soon.

And in a mere nine days and seventeen hours will be my triumphant return to The Name of the Rose!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Always on the outside looking in on others' lives..."

NOW READING: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

I thought some more today about William and Adso trying to figure out how they'll find their way around the labyrinthine library. (Mostly because I haven't had time to read that book so I still haven't progressed beyond that point.)

Adso asks why they could figure it out from the outside but they couldn't figure it out before, while they were still inside. William says it's like Earth/God's creation: God the Creator understands it from the outside but we, who find ourselves plunked down inside life, don't understand it at all.

You guessed it: I think this, too, is like law school.

(Read my main blog for today's other insights into my law studies. )