Dracula Was a Baptist….and..
I discovered something; I stumbled across it the other day while paging through some theological literature. It was Loren D. Estleman’s “Sherlock Holmes and Dracula.” (Okay, so theology crops up in some strange places.) Early on, before the game is afoot, Dracula pays a visit to Holmes and Watson in their apartment on Baker Street. The following dialogue ensues.
“The night is cold and I am not so young as I once was,” Dracula said. “May I come in?”
“Please do. Perhaps you would care to join my colleague and myself in some whisky. Watson, a glass.”
“Thank you. I do not drink alcoholic beverages,” he said stepping in.
You know what this must mean? Count Dracula was a Baptist. And you know what else? When Anne Lamott discovers a new adverb that blasts her out of the doldrums of writer’s block, she dances around making noises like James Brown. I wonder if she wears the cape too. One more. Lancelot Andrewes was a smart guy who lived around four hundred years ago. He led the translation team that produced the King James Bible and had no challengers as the most brilliant man of his time. His mind held a library of sixteen centuries summoned with instant recall. He fluently spoke fifteen living languages and six ancient ones. But everybody has to kick back, right? Lancelot Andrewes was an extreme boarder! Who knew? This sure beats punching fellow translator and Cambridge scholar Richard Clarke in the face over a Hebrew verb stem.
Okay, okay! So maybe all this isn’t quite true the way I’m saying if you read the WHOLE story. Count Dracula wasn’t a Baptist. And while Anne Lamott DID dance around and make James Brown noises, it had nothing to do with writer’s block (Although, I have strangely danced around attempting to escape writer’s block.) And finally, Lancelot Andrewes had no clue about freeboarding even though he often wanted to punch Cambridge scholars in the face in the process of doing the King James Bible. All the real truth can be found in the books listed at the bottom of this post. (All of which can also be had at Hearts and Minds Books. Be sure and ask for the 20% “Geezer” discount. This is for real.) But these aren’t the only stories that come off a little strange when we don’t tell it the way it was first written.
People make the Bible say weird things. We pull just enough out to say what we want to believe; it’s not intentional even though it can be. Stephen Langton and Robert Estienne didn’t help. While these two inserted the chapter and verse divisions that help us find anything in the Bible, their work also lays out predissected fragments that can make people believe, and therefore live, weirdly.
We also get outside help in bending all reading, including the Bible, into saying whatever we want from postmodern guru Jacques Derrida. For those who don’t know, Derrida is to postmodernism what Tony the Tiger is to Frosted Flakes. (I am NOT saying that, with his thick shock of white hair, that Jacques Derrida is a frosted flake.) If you have to read his books directly, email me so I can pray, fast, wear sackcloth and ashes, go on a pilgrimage, do the Hokey Pokey and turn myself around on your behalf. He is a tough read. But he insists that the reader of anything brings his own experience into the interpretive grid determining the final meaning of what we read. This means that a reader without knowledge or thought influences the meaning of the text simply by virtue of having an opinion. This works out great for those of us who like to come off as being smart without knowing anything.
As a published writer, I’ve read reviews of my stuff. Actually, the publishers send them along so I can see them. Some stand as thoughtful, even constructive. Others must have been written by someone with a cantaloupe for a head; reading them reminds me of a cozy evening spent by the fire chewing tin foil while shaving my head with a cheese grater. Try going to any prof at your school to discuss their doctoral thesis, bringing our own experience and interpretation into the grid. How do we think the prof who completely derailed his or her life for six or more years of grad school, almost having a breakdown (maybe a divorce) and selling their soul, will respond to our opinion of their work? If we try this, be sure to have an entry application to the online degree program of our local community college in the backpack.
Let’s go against the grain, rebel, be radical, jump outside the box and play tag on the walls of postmodernism. Let’s put a muzzle on our experience and opinion humbly assuming that the author really knows what he or she wrote means. We can agree, disagree or dismiss. But let’s listen instead of reacting. The pre-postmodern word for this was (wait for it…) “learning.” In the Bible’s case, that mean that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul know more about it than we do. Give them a shot and put the review on hold; they did quite a job. The Bible still sells well after almost 2000 years. The King James Bible just had its 400th birthday. The Bible’s critic’s haven’t fared as well. And let’s read each of these sixty-six books as books instead of snatches of things that sound like Dracula was a Baptist or that Buckwheat Zydeco was a secret apostle (He wasn’t.)
I hope the writers below (and their lawyers) saw the humor in my points above. Their good work and the REAL truth can be found as follows.
Loren Estleman, “Dracula and Sherlock Holmes” (New York: the Quality Paperback Book Club, 1978), p.113.
Anne Lamott, “Grace (Eventually); Thoughts On Faith” (New York” Riverhead Books, 2007), p.41.
Adam Nicolson, “God’s Secretaries; The Making of the King James Bible” (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), p.93.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you leave.
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