In other news....

A Polish author is being tried for committing a murder that exactly matches one at the center of his bestselling crime novel. I am not sure which is more terrifying, the prospect that he is guilty (and used murder as a source of literary inspiration, in defiance of all rules of prudence and shame) or the possibility that he is innocent (and the police are treating vividly written literature as "proof" in a criminal investigation). [via This Book is for You]

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Earlier in the summer, two of my closest friends got married in what I believe might have been as close to a perfect wedding as has been seen on this earth. They had planned the ceremony and the reception down the minutest detail with tremendous humor and consideration, and every reading and song, every decoration, every dish that we ate was expressive of who they were and what was important to them. I cannot even describe how fun it was to attend, and how moving it was to witness such an unusually sincere expression of love and community.

One of the most successful aspects of this very successful wedding was their choice of officiant: a friend who had both a great deal of charisma and a nuanced understanding of what the couple wanted agreed to be ordained online. Neither the bride nor the groom is religious, and it meant a lot to them to have a purely secular wedding which nonetheless was somewhat more elaborate and malleable to their wishes (which included delightful readings from children's literature, evolutionary biology, and law - this last championing the right to marry whomever one chooses, regardless of gender or sexuality) than a courthouse wedding can generally be. So their officiant chose to be ordained as a "wizard," in perfect keeping with the whimsy and affection that characterized the whole event, and he played his role to perfection, really doing honor to the tremendous love and intelligence that had gone into composing the ceremony.

Then, earlier this week, the bride read in The New York Times that (despite their having done extensive research on the legality of their plans) she might not actually be married. Why? Because Connecticut might not recognize marriages performed by ministers who were ordained online. The article quotes two lawyers from the state who, while planning their own wedding, were unable to understand what CT's stance on the issue was. What hope do those of us who have never gone to law school have?

Bring over the rant apparatus, because I am going to hop right on it. This seems to me to be an outrageous intrusion of the government into the private life of its citizens. If a couple finds that their wedding will be more meaningful if it is performed by someone they love than by a (never before seen by them) Justice of the Peace or a minister of a church that is not their own, then why would the government try to thwart their wishes? Why do we, a secular nation, grant religious officials in some states privileges (like the right to conduct state-recognized marriages) that are not permitted to laymen? Can anyone tell me what is at stake in allowing marriages to be performed by online-ordained wizards? What is the peril?

Wait, it appears that an employee of CT's government can tell me, in what has got to be the silliest, most irresponsibly hurtful remark I have read all week:

Elnora Douglas, the office coordinator of the St. Louis County marriage license department, finds it odd that couples would want to circumvent them.

“It’s like you want your favorite cousin to do a surgery, so they go online to get a medical degree,” she said.


How could surgery POSSIBLY be compared to conducting a marriage? When has anyone ever died in a wedding-officiation-turned-sour? How dare Douglas speak so condescendingly about people who, after all, are merely seeking to guarantee the sincerity and meaningfulness of a very important moment in their lives? And shame on The New York Times for quoting such a baseless, uninformative, and upsettingly flippant remark.

Hrumph. OK - rant over. We can now resume our regularly scheduled programming.

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Playwright Mark Ravenhill, famous for his (ahem) seminal play Shopping and F**king as well as for throwing the UK into a debate about the meaning and mandate of a National Theatre with a play he wrote for the NT that depicted anal intercourse, has conceived a formally innovative project for this year's Edinburgh Festival. Every morning of the Festival, he will present a new twenty minute piece, for a total of over five hours of new material, which he says takes the distinctly modern form of an epic-in-fragments.

That is newsworthy enough to my (easily excited by formal innovations in the theatre) mind, but this article from the Telegraph reveals a backstory that seems ripped from the world of soap operas. After agreeing to this grueling writing project, Ravenhill had a massive seizure (not, I believe, as a result of the Festival contract) and, while being treated for it, received a faulty anaesthetic procedure. The resulting asphyxiation forced doctors to keep him in a coma for several days, and he emerged without several weeks' worth of memories -- including all his plans for the epic-in-fragments. Take a look at the story to hear how he pieced his life and project back together.

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My very good friend J has just made his bloggy debut under the moniker of his internet alter ego, Max Renn. If I know him as well as I think I do, his blog will feature a combination of tales from academe; disquisitions on continental philosophy; reflections on film, fiction, and poetry; and maybe, if we are very lucky and well behaved, some thoughts on the world of comics. He is bound to be a source of tremendous wit and wisdom on all these subjects, so go by and give him a quick welcome to the blogosphere, when you have a chance!

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James Lee Burke seems to be in every nook and cranny of the litblog world this week, because he has a new collection out featuring several Katrina-themed stories. My "favorite thing I read this week" award goes to something he said in this fantastic interview on Critical Mass:
It's not about the storm, it's about the betrayal and abandonment of the people, the poorest of the poor. It's about greed. And the same people wage war. People who never go themselves. They use the suffering they cause to validate their deeds. They are timeless.
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Today's poem is H.D.'s "Helen," which you can find in its entirety on poets.org. Too tired to do its delicacy justice, I will simply give you the last stanza:
Greece sees, unmoved,
God's daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

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This weekend was D's birthday, which we celebrated by cleaning obsessively all day and baking like victims of a culinary compulsion, all in preparation for having a number of friends over in the evening. As part of the festivities, I engaged in an activity that I had always avoided on the grounds that I wasn't going to partake in any activity which decadently bored aristocrats at 1920s house parties had performed. No n0, nothing shocking or flapperish - I merely played Charades for the first time. But first I had to confront that, when told that I must come up (instantly!) with a book, a movie, and a television show and scribble them down on tiny sheets of paper, my media-saturated consciousness provides me with NOTHING. Not even a single book came to mind. (This was complicated by the fact that D was on the other team, and I knew he had a good idea of what I had been reading and watching lately.)

I am in the midst of a mad work schedule in preparation for a conference this weekend, but I am still making my way through Ana Castillo's The Guardians, which is proving very readable despite my total lack of Spanish (it is constructed as a series of monologues with varying mixtures of English and Spanish slang and idiom). In mere moments, when I am done with this post, I will make an attempt at my current Netflix - 2000's You Can Count on Me. D is still at work, by the way, and it is midnight here. Ah, well.

4 Responses so far.

  1. I'm pretty conservative in my marriage views, but was so very grateful to have a good friend who is not in fact, an ordained minister at all, legally perform the ceremony. I'm with you- that's just ridiculous.

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your friend and that whole wedding issue. Australia has a much better system for secular weddings, we had a celebrant (whom we knew personally), which is somewhat like a justice of the peace. But, they will do whatever you want for your ceremony, which makes it a great option for interfaith marriages (like ours).

    I completely agree with you, that in a secular society (I recall learning a little something about the separation of church and state when I was a kid!) their should be more than 2 options: religious service or the judicial system. It doesn't leave much room for creativity and uniqueness.

  3. kookiejar says:

    I agree with you about the wedding stuff. That's not right. My son got his reverendship from the internet (yes, he's an atheist), and I would love for him to be able to join two people who love each other in marriage. That would be a great honor that the government shouldn't intrude on.

  4. Thanks for being so supportive of my ranting everyone!

    Although I myself am not marriage-minded, my rule of thumb is that everyone should be able to have the wedding/marriage/relationship that they want, without interference from the government or excessive judgement from their community.

    And the odd thing about this is that it seems slightly anti-marriage - like the government is trying to make it HARDER for people who want to get married to do so (especially if they are taking the rituals seriously, and thus don't want a ceremony that is ill-suited to them, because it would feel like a lie).

    Boo to that.

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