Friday, February 15th, 2013


Dreaming of the garage blackboard lectures … and I’m told that a recording of my reflections are now on the website.

If you are in Melbourne on the last Sunday of the month, contact the organisers for the address and get to one, get to ‘em all. In fact, if you are visiting Melbourne and you can do one thing and one thing alone, then this has to be it.

Always fun, this one: seeing how you or perhaps what you have written is read and misread. It struck me again recently while I was negotiating the passage for a revised edition of Marxist Criticism of the Bible. Being a thorough bunch at the press, the senior editor sent out the proposal to a spate of reviewers. Apart from one or two of the more bitter and twisted types using the occasion to unload – ‘anonymously’ – their layers of resentment, what I noted above all was the way the original edition of the book had been ‘misread’. I thought I had written a book primarily targetted at Marxist literary and cultural critics who may have an interest in the Bible. These reviewers read it very differently: as an introductory survey for biblical critics (and students). They were commenting on a book that did not exist; or perhaps they were trying to conjure it up. Somewhat bemused by all of this, I have agreed with the press to revise it as precisely that book. At least it might exist second time around.

But that reminded me of the somewhat annoying but infinitely entertaining people who believe they know how you tick. I keep coming across such people – mostly those who think they might be or have been my friends, or pride themselves on having an insight into human nature, or wish to be paternal/maternal, or whatever. The weird thing is that when they attempt to provide an insight into my own workings, the result is a person I don’t recognise or know. Given that I reckon there are two people in the world who know me rather well (and about that number of friends), the rest offer amusing tall tales. Then again, it might be fun to try and be the person they conjure up.

We really have lost the art of writing appropriately to our superiors. ‘Dear’, ‘Hey’, ‘Hi’ doesn’t really cut it. So how about we return to something like:

Say to the king, my lord, my god, my Sun: Message of Adda-danur your servant, the dirt at your feet. I fall at the feet of the king, my lord, my god, my Sun, 7 times and 7 times. I looked this way, and I looked that way, and there was no light. Then I looked towards the king, my lord, and there was light. A brick may move from under its partner, still I will not move from under the feet of the king, my lord.

Written to Amen-hetep III, who happened to be a pharaoh in the second millennium. But spare a thought for the poor scribe, pushing this stuff into a piece of wet clay before getting to the substance of the message.