Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Culture Watch

A couple of notes to show what a highly cultured person I am.

Books

Today was my day in Parkville, having a class at the Jesuit Theological College. After three hours of deep and meaningful thoughts about the missions of Peter and Paul I wandered over the Lygon Street to recharge (despite living in the Macedon Ranges I really am still a Lygon Street person). Browsing through Book Affair (large second-hand bookshop on Elgin Street) I noticed that they had introduced a new section. Next to the Fantasy and Horror sections was the brand new section: Vampire Literature.

Seriously. There is so much vampire-based fiction around nowadays that it fills a bookcase at the Book Affair and gets its own category. Does anyone else find that weird? My vampire literature only takes up a shelf and a half in my fantasy section (yes, I organise my books in alphabetical order within genre – deal with it) which seems much more reasonable.

Television

This is only going to make sense to Australians, and only those Australians who have televisions, but this year people can vote for the winner of the Gold Logie without actually buying a copy of TV Week. And there are three nominees that I think are worth voting for.

To vote for Adam Hills SMS “Adam” to 199 888 99.
To vote for Andrew Denton SMS “Andrew” to 199 888 99
To vote for Chris Lilley SMS “Chris” to 199 888 99

I’m not going to bother to tell you how to vote for Natalie Blair, John Howard, Lisa McCune, Rove McManus or Kate Ritchie, but you can probably work it out.

ADAM HILLS FOR THE GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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April 17, 2008 - Posted by | Pop Culture | , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. Vampires are the ‘hot’ new thing in literature, especially young adult literature. Every second new book at work is seemingly about Vampires, and when a particular type of book is selling well publishers will try to cash in and release similar books leading to a glut of vampire books. Of course this encourages academics to write about the cycle and we’re back at the beginning.
    Yes Buffy and Angel really started something, the mainstreaming of Vampires. Try reading Let The Right One In for an interesting take on Vampires. Avoid books like Vampirates. (I know Vampires and Pirates how could it fail!) Trust me this one sucks (Ha Ha).

    Comment by Pete | April 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. Avril:

    I can understand your reaction to the “vampire literature” shelf, as I had a similar experience in Borders the other day…I was browsing through their “Religion” category, studiously ignoring the New Age/Self-Help/Papal Conspiracy Theory guff that always (annoyingly) gets put on these shelves because they can’t think of somewhere else to put them (have they tried General Fiction? Comedy?) when my roving eye was arrested by the following title: SPIRITUAL VAMPIRES: HOW TO DEFEND YOURSELLF FROM PYCHIC PARASITES.

    My despair was such that I was tempted to ask the Almighty to take me there and then…but instead, I bought a copy of the “Cloud of Unkowing” and Bart Erhman’s “Lost Christianities” instead!

    Mind you, having just come back from three weeks in China, where all media is strictly controlled, I appreciated the mere existence of a bookshop, even if the content sometimes had me pulling out what remains of my hair!

    Comment by Brendan | April 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. Nice to have you back in the blogosphere, Avril. I must be very uncultured, because I don’t own any vampire literature. (Does Sesame Street count? No pun intended.)
    Have you read The Jane Austen Book Club? You might enjoy the pitching of Austenites against sci-fi fans (and dog fanciers). And for once, my anal habit of reading all the pre- and end-pages paid off: there’s a chronology of Austen criticism at the back, followed by hypothetical book club discussion questions . . .
    To whit: is it rude to give someone a book and ask them later whether they read it?

    Comment by Olivia | April 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. Brendan:
    Your definition of religion seems very narrow. New Age and Self Help may not be ‘mainstream’ but are still structured and modeled on religious lines, and are also followed with the same unthinking fervour that inflicts ‘mainstream’ religion. They may not meet your definition of what religion really is, but are well suited in the religion section alonside the other guff. Whey not put christian texts in the comedy section, to some people this would make as much sense as your suggestion, or the Bible could go in fiction, again a valid place for it. Papal conspiracy books could go in the history section, but again they deal with a religious figure so putting them with books about religion seems a good fit.
    Personally I feel that there are many paths to God and religion gets in the way of this. I think God is probably laughing her head off as he looks down and watches us draw meaningless lines in the sand and try to define the undefinable.

    Comment by Pete | April 21, 2008 | Reply

  5. Always knew you were cultured, Av… So I’ve posted a contribution too. Lost is very big with the Walton minors!

    Comment by PaulW | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. [God is probably] Crying, more like.

    Comment by Olivia | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  7. No god has too much of a sense of humour to waste tears on us.

    Comment by Pete | April 28, 2008 | Reply

  8. Pete:

    I have no desire to turn Avril’s blog into a battleground (as it is her blog, afterall), moreover, I am not sure from your post whether you are an angry atheist (a la Dawkins, etc) or an angry Deist who views “formal” religions as some sort of imposition on the essentially unknowable essence of the divine. Nevertheless, I will try to provide some thoughts on your post, since you have taken the time to address yours to me.

    Firstly, I think it is in fact possible to argue that New Age movements and their Self Help counterparts are not religions based on an examination of their fundamental end or purpose. For New Ageism and Self Helpism, this is essentially that the practitioner “feels good” about themself, and achieves their “potential”, whether this be success in relationships, wealth creation, power acquisition, etc, etc. By contrast, most faiths eschew such concerns as essentially ephemeral in favour of the adherent coming into a fulness of being (whether this is expressed as salvation, nirvana, paradise, etc), a fullness that involves a relationship between the created and the creator, the universe and the individual. In otherwords, a relationship in which the Self must go beyond the Self, reach out for the transcendent, as oppossed to being focused on the Self as is the case with New Ageism and Self Helpism.

    Secondly, your view that both “mainstream religion” and New Ageism/Self Helpism are both followed with “unthinking fervour” (and that this consequently defines both as religions) is a fairly gross generalisation of religion and religious faith, and, ironically, a fairly narrow definition of what constitutes religion. Any serious scholar of Christianity (my particular faith tradition), for example, will acknowledge that it has a long and honourable tradition of sceptical scholarship and profoundly deep philosophy; indeed, I delivered a lecture last year in which I argued that disconnection from this tradition of scholarship and philosophy only impoverishes faith. Indeed, the “unthinking fervour” to which you allude is any example of such impoverished faith – but it is not the only, or even the representative, example of what faith can be.

    (Indeed, I might also argue that these traditions of thinking and questioning are another element that distinguishes religion from New Ageism and Self Helpism; religions possess such traditions, whereas the latter tend to be characterised by superficial and syncretistic borrowings from a wide variety of sources).

    As for your comments about the Bible belonging in comedy, or in fiction, I’m afraid my response is that, with respect, such a view tends to be emblematic of an individual’s baggage with such texts as oppossed to the product of any serious analysis. Dawkins is typical of this. Indeed, one of the characteristics of the angry atheists is that they deride what they see as either the scientific laughability of the Bible (Genesis, for example) or its cruel inhumanity (Joshua, some parts of Deuteronomy) – and then accuse Christians of hypocricy if they don’t regard such passages as the literal divine word of God to be followed inerrantly. But, of course, thinking Christians (in my view) regard such passages as emblematic of the human response to the possibility of God, and that they are therefore texts which do not require blind obedience, but which actually challenge us to respond to them within our present context and in light of our present knowledge. If scientific knowledge can advance and become more subtle and complex, why cannot theological knowledge?

    I agree with you that, in many cases, religion does get in the way of God – or, rather, the way in which religion is practiced or understood gets in the way of God. I am presently a ministry candidate to the Uniting Church, and as I have told more than one interview panel to date, I believe one of the tasks of the minister is to clear the path of the obstacles that get in the way of a relationship with God – and then to stand aside and let individuals pursue that relationship. And, to date, I have heard no serious objections to this view – which seems to indicate that it is not religion, per se, that is the problem, but, rather, what some individuals believe religion should be that is the issue.

    As for whether God is laughing at as or crying because of us – well, I don’t presume to know the mind of God! As one old Jesuit said to me: Boy, if I were to put words into the mouth of the Almighty, I should tremble! As for the multiple paths to God, I believe that the plenitude of God’s grace cannot be understood by, or contained within, a single faith system. This is not to adopt a syncretistic view that all faiths are the same and involve the same eschatological outcome; rather, as the American theologian S. Mark Heim argues, the question is not “Which faith saves?” but “What is salvation?” – this being the case, it is possible to see all faiths as representative of God’s saving grace, even if the “salvation” they lead to is not the same as this is understood by Christians.

    Comment by Brendan | April 28, 2008 | Reply

  9. As a Christian I suppose the point I was trying to make was that it’s easy to roll my eyes at the ‘poor fools’ who believe in something I don’t, without realising they have just as much reason to roll their eyes at what I believe. When it comes to belief systems and religions nothing is exempt from this. They all contain elements that will make others roll their eyes in disbelief. Unlike Dawkins, etc. I don’t want to stop people believing, I just want to move on from this eye rolling stage and start excepting difference. And I still think New Age and Self-Help books belong in the religion section.
    Is it a case of picking out the speck in my neighbours eye without noticing the log in my own? Probably.
    Unlike Dawkins et al I also think people are smart enough to make their own minds up, without someone screaming in their ear. Of the hundreds of people I’ve watched and talked to as they return Dawkin’s and Hitchen’s book I have yet to meet one who has changed their views because of it. The books have either confirmed them, or they thought it was a waste of paper. (To paraphrase)

    Comment by Pete | April 29, 2008 | Reply


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