As readers of these posts will have seen I take my inspiration from many different sources and I always have lots of stuff on the go. I want to use this post to reflect on some of that stuff;
Films; as nobody can really ignore the burgeoning weight of George Lucas’ original concept I saw the new instalment ‘The Last Jedi’ with my son on a recent trip to a wintry Belfast. I found the film immensely enjoyable and boasting a sense of humour I had not previously noticed (especially in the dialogue between Poe Dameron and General Hux in an early sequence!). I also found it an intensely religious film, full of themes (besides the good and evil and the light and the dark) like redemption and choice, and, in the climactic duel between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker, the impotence of evil. I found Adam Driver’s performance magnetic, his face showing all the conflicts in his mind and heart. Excellent!!
Then, in Newcastle I saw ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ on the big screen as part of a birthday treat- this film is one of my favourites and is full of light and darkness (and is still a ‘U’!!). Those close-ups of James Stewart’s face as he realises he has nowhere to turn are still, for me, the most frightening images in cinema. How Frank Capra and his actors managed to fit so much into a piece of ‘popular’ entertainment still amazes me after multiple viewings! When it was over the audience burst into a round of applause!
Reading; I am re-reading Michael Chabon’s novel ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’, a story about struggling comic book artists that takes in the fraught history of that genre, Jewish legends about The Golem, and the panorama of the Second World War and the efforts of Joe Kavalier to free his family from occupied Europe. Like all good novels this book contains multitudes and is excellent. My Christmas reading has been enlivened by two books, I started to read ‘God is no thing’ by Rupert Short last year before I went into hospital, it is a spirited defence of thinking Christianity that is well written and intelligent. Also worth a mention is ‘Windows on a Hidden World’ by Jane Maycock, a series of Advent meditations that use metaphysical poetry alongside scripture to illuminate the season. As she says the poetry of Robert Southwell (‘The Burning Babe’ and ‘New Heaven, New War’) deserve to be better known and the whole book is an excellent way to, as the subtitle suggest “explore the Advent landscape’’
As ever, music is in this mix; the genius of Todd Rundgren has been mixing it with the grace of pianist Bill Charlap and the ever surprising Thelonious Monk. I have also been listening to a sampler from the Jazzland label set up by pianist Bugge Wesseltoft; his collaboration with Henrik Schwarz (‘Leave My Head Alone Brain’) is an intriguing mix of gospel piano and beat influenced electronics and guitarist Eivind Aarset who on the track ‘Wanderlust’ manages to travel from hard rock, jazz to ambient atmospherics in 12 glorious minutes!
One final thing; as the feast approaches we have been listening to ‘The Box of Delights’, I taped this radio adaptation of John Masefield’s fantasy from BBC radio 4 in the late 1990’s and it has worn well. Masefield’s books were a great influence on Tolkien and C. S. Lewis and this story is tremendous. I read an illuminating article in the Guardian yesterday by Stephanie Merrit (“We need the darkest Christmas stories. These are dark times” (on the Guardian website). Surely the Christmas myth reminds us that darkness never has the last word, for the light is always coming and, as someone put it long ago; “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”.