Friday, March 02, 2007

Reading at the tea-table

I finished John Wain’s book on Shakespeare yesterday, reading it often in the midst of the noise of arguments at the lunch table, or in the middle discussions about roads and drains and electricity. There’s nothing wrong with these discussions, mind, and a lot of them are very interesting to someone who’s world hasn’t really collided with roads and drains and electricity except in the way the world of most of us collides with them. There’s also a lot of discussion of people and places in Dunedin, from a different perspective. Dunedin is big enough to be interesting and still small enough for everyone to know pretty much everyone else of any consequence. So names get bandied about the morning and afternoon tea tables in a way that’s been unfamiliar to me for a long time. And these discussions are even more interesting when I actually do know something of the people involved.
And then there are the opinions on everything and anything that’s going. Some of these are surprisingly at odds with the media’s opinion, and sometimes they add extra facts that open up cans of worms. And then there are the stories, which the better storytellers seem to have an endless fund of. It’s certainly a different atmosphere to the one I’ve been used to for my last somewhat sheltered seventeen years.
Having finished Mr Wain’s book, I’m now reading my way through The Bravest Man, by Jenefer Haig. (Yes, she does spell her name that way.)
It’s a book which not only collates the four Gospels together in a way that gives them a real chronology, fitting the various stories and incidents into their appropriate places – as far as anyone can – but it also offers a kind of running commentary to give us some history and background to the stories. It’s well done, and apart from some typos and proof-reading errors, is a reasonable publication.
Apparently – and I only vaguely remember this – Mrs Haig, who lives in Oamaru, brought an earlier version of her book to my attention some time back, when I was in the shop, and I told it was too expensive for the kind of market she was aiming at. And, I think, it was too big.
Anyway, she’s now dealt with both those issues (such influence I have never ceases to surprise me!) and brought it down to about 80 pages. It’s very readable, and I think would be very good for anyone who was just starting into the Gospels. Certainly it makes the hard work of putting it together seem easy.

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