Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lord of the World

It behooves a newish convert to be very very quiet for quite a long time, or at least, that's my excuse for a long silence here.  However, I hope this blog can be brought back to life, despite its recent torpor. 

It's probably not the best time to be asking this, what with the impending nativities, but would anyone like to read Robert Hugh Benson's Lord of the World with me?  It's available as a free Kindle download, and I'm intrigued by the fact that it's quoted by Pope Francis. 


I like a good, thumping piece of doom-mongering: the overturning of the global order, the Fate of the Individual in a World Gone Mad, all that. 1984 had me from the moment the clocks struck thirteen, and I'm devoted to films that feature the downfall of New York, always with the Statue of Liberty being drowned, or frozen, or buried in sand: the toppling of the green lady never fails to make me snicker, and not because I rejoice in the heavy-handed metaphor of the humbling of  the US's power - hardly: we know damn well in these parts on which side our bread is buttered, and China is unlikely to be so merciful, and occasionally, bountiful, an overlord to us as the US has been, these past sixty years.  No; I laugh because it's absurd that we cling to a symbol of stability, even when it presides over (let's say it) an increasingly toxic reality.  Don McLean had it right, so many years ago:


The standing of the Statue is a greater rebuke, now that we are well beyond freedom and dignity and are amusing ourselves to death, than its inevitable crumbling will be, however and whenever that occurs.

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business 

So, with those cheerful thoughts in mind, would anyone like to take a clear-eyed, Eeyore-ish look with me, at a past future?   At the very least, it will make the Christmas rush more palatable, fa-la-la.

If you are all too busy, or if this blog has truly gone dark, I'll just post some comments after this. 



BettyDuffy said...

I miss the old days, and you've done a good sales job on it. I will download it, and see what happens.

Otepoti said...

Good! I'll look forward to that.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

I really enjoyed the two of Benson's books I'd read previously and have been thinking about reading this one since, like you, I saw Pope Francis' mention of it.
On the other hand I seem to be in survival mode right now and not worth much in either the reading or blogging fronts. So I'll be honest that I have good intentions but poor prospects of follow through. Still I'm much more likely to read it if I have company.

Emily J. said...

What a pleasant surprse! I'm in. May not get very far in until after Christmas, but I'm not reading much of anything, have never read Benson, and like free downloads.

Otepoti said...

That's the best news! I'll chew the cud and try and get some thoughts up some time in the next few days.
And since I know your individual and collective quality, I expect any off-the-cuff comments you find time for will be worth quids. - So not to stress if you don't have time to chisel your prose.

Enbrethiliel, I am praying today at Mass for you and all Filipinos.

Enbrethiliel said...


Otepoti, thank you!

My December will be very full, but I'll download the book like Betty will, and see what happens. =)

Pentimento said...

Oh, I really really want to, but realistically I won't be able to. I'm already late with a writing deadline and I have to prepare to start teaching ear training in January. I'll miss youse guys.

MrsDarwin said...

I might be able to get in on this. I miss reading with you ladies, and I'm glad to see some activity back on the old blog even though I'm part of the Great Cone Of Silence.

Otepoti said...

I'm going to start with a superficial look at the events of 1900, say, to 1907, the technology at the time, and the things people were talking and thinking about. This is because, in my quick skip-read, I was assuming that Benson had the turbulence of the twenties as his kick-off point. I was very surprised to find the publication date was 1907, in what one generally thinks of as the pre-War halcyon days. So I want to get clear in my mind what sort of present day Benson was extrapolating from, because it can't have been all beer and skittles,after all.

More to come tomorrow, if I have a chance. It's a choir Sunday, so I have to tog up in a robe and belt out the alto to Louis de Bourgeois' version of "Comfort, Comfort ye, my People" while dishing out the stink-eye to non-cooperative ankle-biters. Then I should turn up at a parish hoolie, because a Tongan lady said she was hoping I'd go, so she'd know someone else there.

How's your Christmas rush going? (I'm thinking of you, Mrs. D., and the family.)

Enbrethiliel said...


I love a good readalong, but I fear spoilers. Otepoti, would it be okay if you said in advance how far along we should be in order to read your posts without getting tipped off about later plot points?