Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I listened to a presentation of The Psalms that I found on iTunes. It was a recording of an event in NYC in 2007. Forgive that I do not have the names of the participants in my head. It was like this: a new translator of the Psalms, and two people who read these translations and discussed them, plus some musical settings. I am no scholar of The Bible but have read it, as any curious, literate person might. The Psalms are certainly due for a rewrite, since the Elizabethan floridity of the King James version creates an entirely different experience for modern readers than for Jamesian contemporaries. Some of the Psalms were read in the original, and the experience of that--the sound, that is, I do not know Hebrew--certainly differs from the loping of King James. There were several good musical settings but one was embarrassing. It had a jarringly frisky piano accompaniment and the vocalists pushed the words forward with Broadway sincerity. Ouch! The words themselves should serve, they need not be impressed upon the auditor, but that is not how Broadway musicals roll. It was like Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar, a collaboration with bolstered insincerity. There is this muddle that the religious aspect instigates, that you must read the Psalms with appropriate religious respect. I think treated as poetry, with the sanctity of poetry's implication, the Psalms resound more deeply. Appropriated, they sound like whingeing. In other lit news, I put my hand on The Third Policeman this morning and got sucked right in. Flann O'Brien is a wonder. I do not know that any of his novels are perfect, but the buoying intent is marvelous in every one. At Swim Two-Birds is exuberant to the point of pyrotechnic exhaustion (exhaustion, that is, on the reader's part). Dalkey Archives, I remember, had its wonders, ferlies, which I need to revisit. The Third Policeman is cinematic in its clear visual clues. The humour is a red shift, a kind of trail from some ordinary stance to an enveloping verity. O'Brien had a queer career, distracted from the assault in a way that Joyce, for one, was not. I would put O'Brien right alongside Joyce, as maybe Joyce would too. Wonderful.
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