The discussion was on the Facebook post of a friend, Gillian, who was bemoaning the ways that movies changes short stories and books. I actually think it was likely to have been occasioned by the new FOX television show, Sleepy Hollow. Which soon led into a diatribe contra Burton, worthy of come of Augustine’s best contra dances with truth and damnation.
But, as the venom toward the new got more intense with other of her friends adding to the gleeful impossible attempt to have the sun stand still over Gibeon I got rather tired of reading the babble and decided to overwhelm the lot with brilliance and fact.
An open letter to my dearest Gillie.
Golly, all this chatting about finding “a way to break the static unchanging nature of the written word – or at least ignore it.” and more about “sacred words” leaves me with a definite urge at 9:54 a.m. to go mix a margarita and wait to see if the world doesn’t perhaps implode today.
Prithee, beloved friend, tell me exactly how one goes about determining “the author’s original intent?” Spoz that we’ve anything extant that even approaches anything Homer might have sung in the hall of the rulers in Argos or Sparta? Or likelier the old goat never sang in those towns at all, but perhaps on Lesbos or the Ionian Shore. How about the original intent of the “Framers” of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 or the scribblers and folk-tellers who composed what we quaintly refer to today as the Christian Bible?
Suppose any of us that anything like original intent or wording is feasible? Even more to the point: I began reading this morning Chalmers Johnson’s, The Sorrows of Empire. Given the vicissitudes of the publishing trade I wonder how much of what I am reading fits exactly with what he wrote in his early drafts? Let alone after some editors at Henry Holt had ministered gently to the manuscript. Alas, like Job, Moses, Ezekial, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James and “the Framers” Mr. Johnson has sailed to the West, entered the Somerlande, gone through Sleep’s dark and silent gates, taken Charon’s pirogue to the nethershore. In short, he’s dead and cannot any longer be asked about the current accuracy of his work.
I know you know as well as I know that there is only words that we decide are sacred. No one gives much of a flip if I am accurately reciting the “original” version of “London Bridge” or “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.” All else is posing and pedantry. Or so it seemth to me.
Okay, or should I write that word differently? OK? I rather like Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow.” Although I am fully cognizant that it hews not at all anything like closely to Irving’s short story. But, then Irving no doubt took more than a bit of license with some old knickerbocker’s tales of the Hudson Valley and most assuredly did so when he presented us with his Moorish and Spanish tales. Yet, in spite, or because, of that, I quite enjoy all those works of Washington Irving.
Language is never crystalized or solid, ever. Never has been and you, of all my friends must, in your great erudition, know that. (None of this is sarcasm, btw, but some is exasperation.) Augustan Latin becomes Aurelian Latin, becomes the Latin of Odoacer, becomes Gothic, becomes, Lombardic, becomes Milanese becomes Italian or something of the sort, but whatever the track it becomes other than it was.
Depp and Burton, fr’instance, work in the medium of sight and sound, pictures rather than words for definition and nuance. How often have I tried to paint portraits or pictures of people and places with the written word and bemoaned the fact that I am not a plastic artist? Yet, words can paint pictures and language is nothing if not a plastic art. Damn near, it’s as plastic and fluid as water itself.
So, if we might could we sound somewhat less like a chorus of old blue-haired ladies sitting at tea of a Saturday morning bemoaning the passing of the dashing Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Nawthuhn Vuhgeneeah? You know better.
If you don’t then drive out to Malibu or somewhere approximate and drag Canute’s chair along with you. Place it at the edge of the waves and command them to recede. But, first, message me with your wager on your ability to have them obey thee.
I miss stuff from my childhood as well. I also think it’s absolutely imperative that Layamon’s Brut and Malory’s “L’Morte” are preserved as they have come down to us. I want my children to appreciate Chaucer and Homer. I think schools of economics and MBAs ought be dismantled and ground into dust and everyone be taught from cradle to grave the liberal arts whose Queen is literature. More o’ humanity can be taught in a Shakespearean sonnet than will ever be taught in any depratment at Georgetown or George Mason, Columbia, Penn, Princeton, Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge, except in their faculties of Literature.
I know, as well, that the sea will not stop roiling at my command and that the rose’s bloom is soonest blown when I determine to preserve her. For what is a rose encased in plastic or concrete or melted glass? I know not; but, ’tis something with a name other than rose. Any attempt to halt creative use/s of the past by those alive in this moment are doomed to fail. And should.