Friday, 29 April 2016
We have a manuscript with much more content than we need. It is being sent soon to our Editorial advisers for their comments. It is still all copyright protected as we are still going through that tortuous process. Authors (those still alive) are all delighted to be included but it takes unmentionable amounts of time to get the permissions agreed. In one case I have waited for four months just for the name of the relevant excective to deal with permissions. In others one can't find the ownership of the rights.
However every time I look at what we have I am more pleased; there is so much beauty and inspiration and fun.
The idea is that each passage should be a disceet anecdote, event, moment that entertains on its own. Fun to have in the bath. I am making sure that it is not considered to be a listing of the 'best' , 'most admired'. It is a collection of the passages that have excited and amused us; often they are accompanied by someone's personal comments about where and when they read them. Many great books and writers will not be incuded, only because no special passage has been offered or they do not fit the categories selected.
Please still send ideas. I am already overflowing with long listed items, but great pieces still come in. Recent additions: Isabelle Eberhardts' Oblivion Seekers in the Kif Den of Kadansa, Algeria. Two guidebook excertps: John Betjeman's Introduction to the Shell Guide to Cornwall 1953; Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls' splendidly inconoclastic views of the Vatican. Here is a taste:
‘The Papacy is not other than the Ghost of the Deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof,’ said Thomas Hobbes, though since Hobbes this imperial ectoplasm has been confined like an afrit in a magic lamp. Better known as the independent state of Vatican City (pop. around 1,000), it was the papacy’s consolation prize negotiated in the 1929 Lateran Concordat. But the temporal power of the popes had been in decline for centuries; the old Papal States by the 18th century were the worst run in Europe, kept ‘alive only because the earth refuses to swallow them’, as Goethe put it.
Unfortunately, thanks to Mussolini, much of the evil of the Papal States has been concentrated in a country the size of a golf course – one where the duffers don’t always count all their strokes. For instead of creating a realm of the spirit, as Vatican brochures would like you to believe, members of the Curia who run Vatican City have used its sovereignty (read unaccountability) to create the Corporate Papacy, the world’s last real autocracy, with a tiny tax haven all its own. The scandal of Vatican finances, Mafia connections, the laundering of drug money through the Vatican Bank, and the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of John Paul I have been so unsavoury that the government across the Tiber has responded by steadily decreasing the Church’s role in the state, legalizing divorce and abortion, making religious instruction optional in schools, taxing Vatican profits from the stock market, and taking away Roman Catholicism’s special status as the official religion of Italy. Ask any Roman about it, and you’ll get an earful. It’s one reason why the city has one of the lowest percentages of church attendance in Italy – ‘Faith is made here and believed elsewhere’, is an old Roman saying.