tag : bright yellow-green apples: heady days (edited)

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

heady days (edited)

A couple of weekends ago, before going to the second SCM gathering, I was at my chapel's annual spring fair. And for once I was doing the bookstall rather than the plants. Pleasant as they are, it was fortuitous as they wouldn't have afforded me the chance to be part of a brief flurry of controversy. Gasp! The new joint circuit minister, a lovely lass who shall remain nameless, came over to browse and then firmly declared some of the material to be occult. I assumed she was joking in some way, as nobody's ever spoken like that round these parts, so did my mock "oh what will become of us?" face. But she went on to insist, in all seriousness, that they should really be cast out the building as liable to corrupt the ickle minds of new Christians. Satan likes to sneak in them with - ahem - subtle ways such as books of the clearly occult type. Who was the author concerned but Dennis Wheatley?

I've never heard of him, but decided this was a reason to acquaint myself. Thus far The Irish Witch is no disappointment; it's brilliantly trashy, with stilted dialogue and terrifyingly clunky scenarios. It's fair to say that, in amidst gentlemen out for the defence of honor and licentious young ladies, there are no surprises on the horizon with this tale. So not only did I get to nostalgically re-live the heady days of my bust-up with Reading University Christian Union over issues around the bookstall, but I've got a tacky bit of literature to laugh over. Huzah!

I thought it might be helpful to give you an idea of the kind of book this is, so here’s an extract that brilliantly epitomises the whole sorry enterprise:

"It is not I who refuse, but your mother."
Jemima’s blue eyes opened wide.
Lady Luggala gave a gasp of dismay. "There! Oh Satan help me! By throwing me into a tizzy about Charles going off to the war and our losing him, you’ve led me into disclosing that she is not dead, as I’d given you to understand."
Springing up from the chaise-longue, Jemima cried, "Who is she? Who is she? I insist that you tell me."
"No, child! No! That I cannot do. I am sworn to secrecy."
"’Tis too late!" Jemima flared. "To me it is a secret no longer. Who could have refused your request that I should be admitted into the Hell Fire Club? Only one person. The Irish witch. It is she who is my mother."

It has the feel and flow of a locale amateur dramatics convention. Unlike The Blind Assassin, which is a beautiful and subtle story that manages to be profoundly moving without ever straying into cloyingness. But woven within it there are funny and clever pulp sci-fi short stories, rather like the above story. Only they have a point.


Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

Ha ha ha ha ha - very funny :D

Brilliant - strange woman!

7:13 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I always thought you were sort of dodgy in an undefinable way. Now I know it's your occultic book dealings that give me the spiritual creeps lol!

9:10 PM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

Congratulations on reprising those heady Reading days. (But if you end up possessed or spell-bound by an Irish Witch, don't say you weren't warned!)

However you missed a clear opportunity to make it a hat-trick with the SCM conference - why no attempt to smuggle Chick Tracts or, worse, IVP books (joke!) onto that bookstall? Perhaps next year...?

11:41 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

oooh...fun as this situation was, I can’t help but feel that is a rather appealing prospect. Consider your challenge accepted – assuming you don’t mind, as one who often looks after said stall ;)

2:17 PM  
Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

rotfl @ that extract!

5:14 PM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

Bring it on! You're likely to have at least as much to do with the stall as I.

As regards Denis Wheatley, that "Oh Satan help me!" was a nice touch. Incidentally the trashy faux-Dumas novel I was reading turned out to have a gratuitous cameo satan-worshipping scene too: The lady turned her back to the altar. Her hair twisted as though serpents were writhing in it and gave her forehead the aspect of the Omenides. With trembling lips, and panting bosom, she called out three times: "Satan! Satan! Satan!")

But a better taste of its clunking dialogue would be:

"Would you harm a woman?" sneered Athenais in bravado.
"Well, no, I will leave the executioner to do that!"
"The executioner?"
"Is it not he who will deal out justice to the poisoner?"
"I say to you now that
you lie!"
"Mademoiselle de Fontanges stood in the way of your ambition, and you were the cause of her death: I hold the proof in this locket, enclosing your own death warrant, your order for the poison of Pierre Lesage."

9:18 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

I have no idea who the author is, though he doesn't look too threatening. I have, however, Googled to try and find the name of this joint circuit minister without success!

Thanks for putting (exceptionally hypocritical!) quote at the top there :D

5:17 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

And yes, despite missing the great Book Stall Controversy, I can imagine that was a glorious nostalgia trip for you!

5:17 PM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

"I have no idea who the author is, though he doesn't look too threatening."

I've chiefly heard of Wheatley in the context of accusations his prolific novels bear a significant (though likely unintentional?) share of the blame for shaping mid-to-late c20th paranoia about `satanism'.

(I first met his accusation in Ronald Hutton's history of neo-paganism; but cf. also this review of a more recent book.)

So perhaps he really is/was threatening in a roundabout way...

8:35 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Robert -
hehe, great quotes there. Oh the goings-on are quite a lot more soft-porn in this one - imagine the teenage boy/male fantasy of kitsch basement temples and initiation rites involving copulation, followed by religious rites that all seem to proceed with different assortments of pairing. Thank God the scenes weren't too extended! The satanism things is very much unintentional, as the author makes clear in this prefaces, but crimes against literature and any notion of real eroticism are much harder for him to evade.

Now, to compile a list of potential sneaky entries to a liberal bookstall...

11:36 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -

I just had a quick go, and found the name online very quickly. This is just by way to taunt you ;P though I thought it might be fairest not to make this a personal attack; hense leaving the name out of my recollections. I hadn't heard of him, either, until this highly idiosyncratic introduction.

Thanks for throwing in the charge, as it struck me as particularly quotable. Perhaps one day I'll be brave enough to call up the best compliment I've ever had from your direction: "You big pluralist bastard". :)

11:37 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Sure, you found the name quick, but you knew what you were looking for! What is the only underground station to contain none of the letters of the word 'mackerel'? Eh? If you don't the answer before you ask the question, it's much harder!

When did I call you that? That's brilliant.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Having stuck that problem in Google, I see the answer comes up straight away.

Perhaps it's time to give up and go home :(

11:52 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I didn't type her name in, you know; it's just a matter of thinking up the names of *circuits and *Churches within them and *towns. And thus, for a masters student, surely a piece of virtual cake ;)

You called me that by way of greeting, on MSN, one afternoon, after summit I said on some forum discussion. Touching stuff!

1:11 AM  

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