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Knowledge of Angels
by Jill Paton Walsh

To: ALL Date: 09/02
From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:35 PM

KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS...greetings...this book i read a while back and enjoyed it immensely and felt JILL PATON WALSH should have won the BOOKER AWARD instead of JAMES KELMAN..FOR HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE..you all remember the 4,000 'f' word book...and i couldn't get through the first page... a wee bit of bio on JILL PATON WALSH. JPW is a get on with it and buck up woman..the sort of gal with a face as scrubbed and shiny as an apple with capable square cut nails and with hair that is freshly washed and fluffy...ready for the photographer..ready for hoeing the vegetable patch..ready for anything...

her brish and homely appearance gives no clue to her volc anic love life...which includes a 13 year affair with fellow author JOHN ROWE TOWNSEND..who was the children's book page editor of the GUARDIAN when they first met..'i rather lost my footing' she says...she waited until the youngest of her three children was 18 before she finally ran away with TOWNSEND..they have lived together for the past 7 years and both remain great friends with her husband..who rather sportingly turned a blind eye to their relationship but does not want a divorce because of his CATHOLIC faith...

(dear readers do continue this gets even juicier!)

even more complicated and unexpected is her emotional invol vement some years earlier with her fiance's best friend..who happened to be a priest..she was at st. anne's, oxford and it all became rather messy..resulting in her leaving the church..' i was offered a straight choice in the confessional : stop seeing him or no absolution. so i chose to go without the absolution and told my confessor: remember me on JUDGMENT DAY..FATHER..because one of us is damned! oh, it all happened a long time ago...i am 57 now and i was 26 when i left....

JPW lives near CAMBRIDGE in a village that meets her simple requirements...a grocer, a baker a building societ and a bank..she lookslike a leader of a brownie pack, which she is not or a successful children's author which she is....

JPW is the only woman on this year's BOOKER shortlist... the book was turned down by 14 british publishers including her own house, weidenfeld....'i am not a child. no one has a right to be publishedwith someone else's money....

i would say that it is a strange book and that itis perfectly possible even legitimate to hate it'

in the end TOWNSEND announced that they should publish it themselves on their own tiny green bay imprint which they launched eight years ago to issue work..including their own. which was not attractive to commercial publishers..they were bolstered enormously by an american publisher..peter davison of houghton mifflin who called one evening to declare his interest...' we were doing salmon in the microwave and i very nearly said to john..there is a strange man on the phone.tellhim to push off until we've had our supper.'

if anyone is interested in what the book is about ..do let me know..my fingers are tired...soon i shall be acquiring a scanner and i will have no excuses.... gail..a passionate reader who was rather bored this afternnon viewing an INDIAN film..JALSAGHAR..the music room...while my friend found it.. illuminating....i popped into the ending of BELLE DU JOUR...and that was actually the part i was most interested in viewing...


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/02
From: GJFH50B KATHARINE HIGGINS Time: 10:42 PM

Dear Gail,
If I had just waited a few minutes longer, I would have put my reply in the right thread! (See reply 2 to note 13) Anyway, this is what LAPSING is all about. By the way, John Rowe Townsend was at the same Conference, but at the time I had no idea that they were long-time lovers.

Walsh is a fine writer. Check out this final paragraph from LAPSING:

"But though she had long known that the Church was empty, that any church, however magnificent, held only the void, was nothing but a lovely and intricate shell, that what we heard in it was only the backwash of human sighing, yet she knew also that beyond the last campfire, somewhere beyond the the last firm foothold, there ebbs and floods at every human limit the infinite water of the One True Sea."

Thanks for the further details.

Katy Higgins


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/02
From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:35 PM

Oh gail,
You are the best and the brightest!! Thank you for the information on Ms. Paton Walsh. It certainly explains her interest in religion. I have not quite finished the book so I am waiting to post. I think it is wonderful so far. Like all of the recent books on the CR reading list, it gives me so much to think about. Religion has always played a big part in my life and always will, but it is good to question and test one's faith I think. People who are absolute about religion are so dangerous and boring. Jane who urges you to stay away from THE INNOCENT. The usually marvelous Anthony Hopkins is awful as an American military man.


To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 09/03
From: GGTZ54D HUNTEROSE SANDMAN Time: 1:06 AM

Oh, yes Jane . . . I think it is a dreadful error to "preach" ones religion. If one ought argue the validity of one doctrine versus another I feel that it is absolutely ESSENTIAL that one argues TO the doctrine and not FROM it . . . here,truly, the half-converted who "find their intellects getting in the way" can have their need for supported logic satisfied, and see that their "school-boy" religious philosophies belong with the rest of this ages politically correct, socially affirmed zeitgeist (sp) I enjoy the "cut and thrust" of skillful theological argument . . . I am not a theologian, or a lawyer, but very few of either have I met who can: #1) say he has a basic,factual understanding of the Christian doctrine. or, #2) prove that Christianity is false after all these centuries,etc . . .)

Perhaps, my point is that so many discoveries have been made, and so many things about HUMAN nature remain/confirm what remains the same . . . that like with the O. J. case, the most damning evidence as to the validity of O.J. being a murderer is the lack of proving otherwise in an age where "otherwise" CAN be proven by rather concrete, scientific investigation. I'm rambling, so let me know what you( or the others )think.

Morpheus in the mild but not-so-sticky Atlanta nighttime


To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 09/03
From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 1:19 AM

Walsh's love life reminds me of the Tilton/Beecher/Woodhull affair of the last century. I'll probably post more about that during the discussion of ANGLE OF REPOSE, since Stegner seems to have added somewhat to the Beecher family. Currently I'm working on the life of Victoria Woodhull, whose unconventional life style got her pilloried and kept her from being remembered in the Women's Rights movement, in which she was very important.

Cathy


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/03
From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 2:31 AM

KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS by Jill Paton Walsh

Here we have an example of a literary genre that's a favorite of mine: the novel of ideas, in this case, relig- ious ideas. The plot is driven by and built around them; action-wise, the book is pretty quiet. Many books that contain say, interesting philosophical passages, could survive without them; KOA without its theological debates is unthinkable. I enjoyed the way that Walsh constructed the story, with its two intertwining threads, both of which are concerned with efforts to save someone: Josefa strug- gles to rescue Amara from her animalistic degradation, and Severo and Beneditx to preserve Palinor from the fire. The first is successful, the other fails. The threads are linked by those few characters who have knowledge of both: Severo, Beneditx and the inquisitor, but it seems to me that they crucially intersect only once, when Josefa coaches Amara in what to say on her interrogation. Thus by releasing the wolf-girl from captivity does she unwit- tingly seal Palinor's fate. (I felt certain that Palinor was doomed when the inquisitor arrived; it seemed that the author couldn't possibly save him without some contrivance that would not have been true to the spirit of the novel.

There were a couple of contrivances needed to make the story work, which resulted in me with the feeling of reading something akin to a fable. For one, the wolf-girl seems quite impossible -- a wolf's instincts would never drive it to adopt a human child, nor would they permit success assuming such an attempt was made. Having posited that this did occur, however, Walsh does a fine job of depicting the consequences, so my disbelief was well sus- pended for the duration. The second artificial element was the existence of Palinor and his unknown country, Aclar. His philosophy is distinctly un-medeival, as is the tolerant, enlightened society he describes his home to be. In addition, it seems quite incredible that a country could be capable of routinely sending merchant ships -- and at the end of the book, a fleet -- abroad but still be unknown and unmarked on any maps. This was something that struck me as less plausible than the wolf-girl, so Palinor never seemed as real to me as any of the other characters.

There's no shortage of tragedy in KOA, but I noticed at the end that Walsh has left one tragic element for the reader to imagine. On the last page, a fleet from Aclar is just arriving to rescue Palinor, who has just been burned. Palinor stated earlier that if his countrymen learned of his death their revenge would be terrible. At the very least it seems that, given that their prince has been mur- dered, the Aclarians revenge would be to take the life of the prince of Grandinsula -- Severo.

Obviously, there's much more here I could go on about, but I think that should suffice to start things off. Have at it, my friends!

Allen

P.S. I wrote this offline before seeing that the thread had started....whatever!


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/03
From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:57 AM

gail: I can't tell you how (perversely) pleased I was to hear the straight scoop on the long path of rejections for Jill Paton Walsh's KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS, one of my favorite novels in many years and one which I think will easily outlive every one of us here gathered. Even after Walsh's book saw print, Publishers Weekly gave it a lukewarm reception and dismissed it as "didactic," much to my dismay. (CELESTINE PROPHECY fared somewhat better in PW, if that tells you anything...)

On a similar note, though, my best and oldest friend called me up a year ago and sounded as low as I'd ever heard him. "I need to talk," he croaked, and I met him on his porch swing the next day for a pitcher of iced tea.

Turns out that after he and I had discussed a nonfiction book idea of his for several months, with my encouragement he'd put together a formal proposal and had submitted it to several people in the business whose judgment he trusted. All of them gave it thumbs down, big-time. He was dismayed.

"Charles," I said, "it's just not realistic to expect a consensus of approval, even on something you've ALREADY written--much less, on what you PLAN to write." I went on to say how this whole business of writing is such an insanely subjective undertaking, it's driven hundreds of people to addiction, mental illness, and suicide.

"In fact," I added (naively hoping to cheer him up, here), "so many dozens of people tried to dissuade me from my novel (THE SHINING SHINING PATH), the one that I've worked on every day for the past seven years, that just for spite I started keeping a list. So that whenever the novel's published, and I'm asked to give a talk about it somewhere, I can encourage writers who are struggling with their work by telling them how many people initially hated this project of mine."

Charles suddenly looked distraught. "Oh, crap," he said, and held his head in his hands.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I'm at the top of that list, ain't I?" he said.

"You sure are, buddy," I said. "There's a lesson, here, I think."

Namely, this writing biz is not for the easily discouraged, that's for sure.

Dale in Ala., grateful for the grinding capabilities of the wheels of the gods, if one can only live that long...


To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 09/03
From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 10:09 AM

Allen: I second the notion that KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS is strongly fable-like. So much so, in fact, that it suspended my disbelief early on and I swallowed the story--distant Aclar, fleet of avenging ships, wolf-parenting and all--hook, line, and sinker.

I grew very fond of both Benedixt and Palinor, especially the fact that they could discuss with such civility, and even something like love, a subject that was life-or-death in that instance, and one which divides whole nations violently until this day. And yep, once the Inquisitor hit town, I'd say the odds-makers of the day got very little betting action on behalf of Palinor.

I've been eagerly awaiting a chance to hear what CRs think about Palinor's "morality," in light of the morality-in-art thread elsewhere here. He was obviously an intelligent, charming, principled, humane person who would have been highly regarded by Benedixt and his colleagues if not for the small matter of his atheism.

Then too, there was the matter of his sexual initiation of the servant boy and girl, which even in 1995 would still be grounds for prosecution in some places around the country. What do you think is his basis in principle for assuming this is natural and right--the vague "free love" notion of the Sixties, or something more formulated? And if Palinor were around today, how would we classify his philosophical outlook...Pagan? Humanist? Other?

Fascinating book.
Dale in Ala.


To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 09/03
From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 5:08 PM

I'm about half through KOA. Ohdearme, boys and girls. How we gonna keep off religion discussing this one???

Ruth


To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 09/03
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:15 PM

Ruth: If we just stick to your phenomenology, ontology and epistomology (but stay WAY away from episiotomy, unless of course Leif wants to step up to the plate for us), we'll do fine I think. It's pretty hard to get too heated up about concepts and jargon that, in careless hands, could anesthetize a rhino. Actually, my plan for peace in Northern Ireland depends almost soley on such changes in vocabulary....

Dick in Alaska, where the chicken may be burning (we grill all year round, even if I have to snow-blow the grill out of a drift)


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/03
From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 10:28 PM

KOA..part two..greetings....
JPWalsh WAS Inspired after a cheap winter holiday in MALLORCA where she and JOHN had stayed in an 'eggbox' hotel and explored the churches and the mountains together...here was the landscape she had waited 10 years for, the perfect backdrop for the religious plot that had long simmered in the back of her mind....on her return, she started work at six a.m. and the novel was complete three months later...'i was possessed..i couldn't stop until i had finished..i couldn't even check my bank balance or go shopping...'

ANGELS has already been compared to the work of FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT and UMBERTO ECO...and has received a slew of raptur ous reviews...lucky for us, then, that PATON WALSH was not the sort of jelly knees to despair or give up ....

however, she did find it hard to believe that it was not a publishable book and admits to periods of gloom and irritation....'someone who rejected it said it reminded her of PILGRIM'S PROGRESS..such a ridiculous thing to say....i thought that if they were going to compare it to one of the great classics of ENGLISH literature and still turn it down, then it was never going to find a home.'

NICHOLAS CLEE of the trade journal BOOKSELLER diplomatically points out that individual publishers must make individual choices...but adds that the rejection of KOA reflected badly on BRITISH publishing as a whole....he says, 'it is astonishing that a book of this quality was ignored. it seems that there has to be a marketing angle to sell modern fiction these days..but you can't blame the publishers too strongly...she did not have a good track record with her adult books.'

when she was 11, JILL PATON WALSH'S father 'dumped' her with a french family for six weks during the summer holidays so she could learn the language. he advertised for someone with a girl of the same age and took her to paris himself...the lady was a widow who lived in such a dreadful area he nearly took me home again but when the door opened her welcome was so warm all was well...

it sounds like an extraordinary thing to do, but BOOKER PRIZE contender JPW points out that in those days people didn't worry about children as they do now..and in the context of a childhood scattered with unconventional ways of doing things it begins to sound perfectly normal... she did not talk until the age of 2-1/2 ..a neighbour leant over her playpen and asked 'and what do you do all day, little girl'....the precocious infant looked him straight in the eye and replied, 'normally i play with bricks.'

JPW went to a convent where in spite of the ERB'S PALSY she was flogged to try to make her write with her right hand...she was also made to stand in the corridor because i didn't find ST. THOMAS's proofs of the existence of GOD convincing, but i could not argue about it then in a logical way..i was just instinctively mulish..NUNS considered you were in moral danger if you were very intellectual..you might commit the sin of pride..when i was awarded a state scholarship to OXFORD they said a MASS for my soul.'

there was one nun, however, who recognised a gifted pupil and advised JPW to follow a radical study programme...she told me not to go to any more ENGLISH classes so i read my self through the library....consequently when i tried to get into OXFORD i didn't interview like anyone else. i had read a great deal more primary texts and no criticism so i had to propound my own opinions..i am quite bright but i am not an alpha brain and i am sure this unusual approach made me look something special and got me in where no conventional schooling would have done anything of this kind...

gail..a passionate reader ..reporting from SAN FRANCISCO where the cool and breezy temperature is something i will miss when we land in NEW ORLEANS...where i am told the heat and humidity is horrendous....


To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 09/03
From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 10:55 PM

greetings to our ESTEEMED CONDUCTOR....

kindly what is the next book in the SLO MO reading group....

gail.. a passionate reader ..who is starting to adopt a new attitude that heat and humidity is good for one's health...just getting ready for NEW ORLEANS....


To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 09/03
From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 11:34 PM

KOA was a real "interrupter" for me. I read it en route to and from San Diego this past week. My three favorite characters wer Severo, Beneditx and Palinor. The dialogues between Beneditx and Palinor were interesting to me because I was so in agreement with Palinor. My interpretations or impressions of the story and characters are most likely different than many readers because God to me is an idea. An idea of perfection. A goal. As I read about Palinor I couldn't help seeing him as Ayn Rand's concept of man as a heroic being with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason as his only absolute. There seemed to be a message in the fact that Palinor who was so nearly perfect was burned at the stake and Amara the other main character when left to her own devices went with her animal instincts, the book often pointed out human failings, minor or otherwise.

I wondered if there was any comparison intended between the story of Romulus and Remus and Amara--she too had a twin raised by a wolf? I am not familiar with that story. I also was puzzled about Palinors going to bed with his servants. Did the reasoning have to do with consent? B. Hill in OR


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/04
From: GNHC31E VICKI KARNO Time: 0:10 AM

gail, they say that the humidity is the reason southern women resist aging. Although the tennis crowd looks somewhat weather worn, most of us have dewy skin. You know southern women don't sweat, they glow. (Yeah, you rite).

Vicki who has lived in N.O. for 30yrs. and is still asked "You're not from here, are you?"


To: GNHC31E VICKI KARNO Date: 09/04
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 0:30 AM

gail: (sorry, I've been capitalizing that 'g' forever; thoughtless guy stuff, I guess) Think of N.O. as a sauna for the claustrophobic -- all that excellent heat and steam, without the confining walls. I am both jealous and regretful that I can't join all of these fine people (not to mention, missing some truly naughty pub-crawls) for the September bash. I do promise a video via Mr. Short, however.

Dick in Alaska, where the chicken did not burn


To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 09/04
From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 8:13 AM

Didactic! Mercy me! Just exactly how can a book so even handed as this be pigeonholed into the category of trying to teach a moral lesson? I'm sure all of us, and Dale, most of all as a published author, are sick of these critics who spend about 12 minutes with a book only to make a sweeping pronouncement like this. I'm sure this critic must have read at least 5 pages, yes? I always lament the books I've never read....because they couldn't get the backing of the Northeastern establishment or make it past the critic whose major accomplishment in school was his/her speed reading course.

Now that I've read gail's info on Walsh I feel even more certain that the purpose of the book was to expose the danger of adhering to 'the letter of the law' over 'the spirit of the law '.

Walsh, in my estimation, presents a great argument for and against the idea of faith. While Palinor presents an almost flawless debate, Walsh does allow for the loophole of faith. Near the end of the book, Walsh has Severo answering to Palinor's question of why there is suffering on earth if God is a good God and Severo makes an illustration of a stained-glass in the nave of the church (sorry, no book for reference so my details may be off slightly) and he shows how the master artificer needed the dark tesserae to create a foil, so to speak, for the bright glass. Severo reminds us that the dark tessarae alone is ugly but in context to the whole, it is only a tiny fragment of creation but serves to make the large picture more beautiful. I think it's Alexander Pope's 'Essay on Man' that has this similar theme...life as a huge quilt.

Yes, there were certain stretches that had to be made re: Aclar, the ships coming etc. but when the process serves to lay a foundation of an intelligent argument, then I will gladly make concessions. Although I didn't find Palinor too far fetched. I can't remember what year the book took place but I can see him as the first Renaissance man to appear on a provincial island.

Ellen


To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 09/04
From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 8:28 AM

Barbara,
That is so true about comapring Palinor to an Ayn Rand character. I just finshed reading Anna Karenina and while I would never compare Palinor to Alexi Karenin, his flaw too was being totally logical and absolute and he certainly could not account for any matters of the heart.

The scene with the servants I can only guess was to make a glaring statement about the differences between the two worlds. Even I was caught by surprize when this scene appeared out of the blue. Severo and Benedixt would have a coronary if they knew what type of instruction that Palinor was offering to the servants!

Ellen


To: GGTZ54D HUNTEROSE SANDMAN Date: 09/04
From: GGTZ54D HUNTEROSE SANDMAN Time: 4:58 PM

Whoa . . . sure looks like yours truly was "preaching" there, eh? My apologies for that interruption.

Morpheus who ought not to import before proof-reading.


To: GGTZ54D HUNTEROSE SANDMAN Date: 09/04
From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 6:24 PM

I have to admit that the title of this book put me off. I'm sick of the current fad for angels. Books with sappy pictures, stickers, books actually purporting (in this day and age) to be serious, people with cutesy little gold angel pins. Phooey. But I told myself this was a title only and bought the book like a good little CR. By the time I was far enough into it to realize I was running into angels here, too, I was hooked. Walsh is a beautiful writer. But I was also pulled in by Amara. The wild child syndrome has always fascinated me. (Did any of you see the story of Jeannie on TV, or read it in The New Yorker?)

A note at the front of the book says this is based partially on the Maid of Chalon. This sounds vaguely familiar to me, yet I'm unable to find it in any of the reference books I have here at home. Was she a wild child? Help me, someone.

Cathy?


Like many of you, I find that Palinor is the most admirable character. I don't feel that Severo is admirable. Beneditx, at least, when he is beaten, owns up to reason. Severo, by his blind faith and obedience to what he himself admits is not reasonable, causes the death of Palinor and probably Amara.

Like many of you, I'm puzzled by the sex scene. The only reason I can think of for its being included is to show Palinor's view that bodily joys are to be as cherished as the spiritual.

An interesting book, fable-like, I agree, beautiful language, but a bit too preachy for me.

Ruth


To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 09/04
From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 11:56 PM

Ellen, Re: Knowledge of Angels,
Thanks for your response in the other thread about this book-you provided me with some insight into the background of the debate which takes up much of this book.

I was completely taken aback, as well, by the casual encounter between Palinor and the two servants. In spite of the sexual intensity described, the whole thing seemed very detached and passionless, at least on Palinor's part. I couldn't fathom his response on being discovered by Joffre as the initial seduction has just been completed. So matter of fact, so politely curious as to the real relationship between the two servants, who had previously passed as brother and sister, but admit in this scene that they are sweethearts. The whole episode seemed outside any reality I know about in regard to human nature.

As far as the approach of the flotilla of ships, I feel sure this is the beginning of the end for Grandinsula and especially Severo and the Inquisitor. A broader and more powerful force than the hermetic world of the island is about to engulf them all. Sort of like a reformation, if that's not stretching the historical connection.

Ah well, back to more books on my TBR shelf,
Felix Miller
(http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/mountaineer/ursus.html) 9/5/95 12:00AM ET


To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 09/05
From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 0:05 AM

I'd like to just "ditto" what Ruth said. Especially the phooey! I made the mistake of reading this thread before I finished the novel, and now that I know what happens to Palinor, I'm finding it very difficult to look objectively at Severo and Beneditx. I usually save the comments until I'm done, but reading the thread helped so much during BLOOD MERIDIAN, I thought I'd try it here.

That said, my favorite passage so far is when Beneditx shows the newborn baby to Severo and asks what he thinks the baby sees:

"Infinity," said Severo
"At first they see only God."

[shiver] Makes me realize just how little us humans know... Amara and Josefa are the reason I'm still reading. Like Ruth, I am fascinated by the "wild child." Walsh seems to know her subject; so far Amara's development rings true. The story of Jeannie on PBS (was it Nova? I can't remember) was heart-breaking, as was the story of the french boy they used as a parallel. I saw the Trouffout (sp) movie when I was in college, but every time I read Amara, I think of Jeannie. I'd like to read more on this subject, if anyone has any recommendations...

Peggy, who could top Ruth's escaped snake story, but won't, out of deference to our conductor and the more squeamish CRs

PS Would someone spell Trouffout for me? This is driving me nuts....


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/05
From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:48 AM

Dear Peggy,

TRUFFAUT

Ruth


To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 09/05
From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 11:21 AM

Felix,
The sexual passage could also represent that the island was already in the process of evolving,even before a revolution or reformation from Aclar....the lover/servants obviously were making a decision against their upbringing by engaging in pre-marital sex and being so receptive to Palinor's suggestions.

Ellen


To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 09/05
From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:57 PM

Ellen and All: I attempted a previous post on this book Sunday, but I managed to e-mail it to the High Priestess by mistake: angels or Freud? I'm still thinking abou that.

To recap my major points in the Lost Posting: It seems to me Pelinor is very much a Hellenistic figure -- and a modern one, naturally. The books seems to me to be about the sources of human morality: clearly the pre-inquisitor island society is an idyllic and romanticized view of a pre-modern Christian society. The people are simple, their rulers wise, and the relationship between God and man, while misty in the details, seems to be a source of great strength and consolation. Enter Pelinor -- an attractive guy, and I play golf with him twice a week. It's not quite clear where all Pelinor's ethical views come from, but it is clear that he holds them: he defends his "integrity" as a reason for declining Pascal's Wager (If there is a God, believing in him makes good sense; if there is no God, no harm, no foul). One wonders if he had been given an illustrated slide lecture on medieval torture he might have found the courage to prevaricate, particularly in the interest of his (apparently) much loved wife and son. Frankly, I found all this a little less than convincing: Pelinor is a modern man, who is being asked to admit something that has about as much personal moral relevance to him as conceding the existence of the Tooth Fairy. Since he came from a society with many religions, and recalls having many religious discussions with his friends, he is no stranger to the concepts -- and his stiff-necked refusal to submit to the local superstitions appears suspiciously like a kind of piety and moral resolution, the sources of which are never made clear. So, Pelinor is a moral creaturem, even if his morality is different from that prevailing upon the island: and I think that is one of the reasons for the sex scene. Without it, what are the essential differences between Palinor and Severo? What are a few harmless supersitions among urbane, humane, cultivated friends? So, I think Pelinor's rather cold useage of the servants (in all fairness, he swung all ways for all folks) was to remind us that he was fundamentally DIFFERENT in some ways -- and in some unattractive ways, perhaps -- from the island folks. I also think that this scene may be a bit of Ms. Walsh's personal life and spiritual angst creeping into the story: can you be a good person, and still have sex with strangers? Walsh and Pelinor say 'yes', although Walsh might say only on the second date and with a condom.

The only character without a moral compass in the book is Amara -- the wolf girl. I've not found any references to the Maid of Chalons, but there's a ton of stuff on feral children out there, a lot of it narrated by Leonard Nemoy. Apparently, skepticism is in order on some of these stories. In any event, Amara seems to show us that our morality is a result of humanness -- if you take away that quality, if you are raised by wolves, then and only then will you be a lost soul, or perhaps a person without a soul.

There's a lot of interesting philosophical and theological discussion in the book, but frankly it's all so sketched in that it's not a very fair portrait of the issues being discussed. As I noted to Her Highness, Pelinor's easy parrying of poor Beneditx' arguments are so glib, it sounds as if he had a copy of 'The History of Western Philosophy' tucked under his arm.

I very much enjoyed this book: particularly it's luminous quality which reminds me very much of the tempera tryptichs of the time -- one of which by Campin (Merode Altarpiece, Annunciation, complete with Joesph drilling all those little holes while the Holy Spirt comes down to beat his time....) is my all time favorite painting, ever, period.

Dick in Alaska, where it's pouring


To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 09/05
From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 2:39 PM

RE: Knowledge of Angels

Walsh has set up a very interesting scenario--one that involves the two elements of the wild child and freethinker.

Both were free in their native elements. Both were, through some force of nature or accident, captured by the people of the island. Amara was forced to adapt to human ways and was used as a "control" in the intellectual game that Severo and Benedixt were playing with Palinor. However, when the inquisitor came to town, the game stopped being a game. It seemed to me that Palinor never took any of this seriously enough. He seemed to be relying on the good sense and reasonableness of all these fine people. He did not adapt to the environment nearly so well as Amara did. As soon as Josepha recognized that a lie would free Amara, she lied. Would any of us not lie if it would save a child of ours? Would any of us not lie if would save our own life? I find that the most interesting element of the book, and because of that I find that the religious aspects are almost side issues (obviously I did not find the book didactic). Why didn't Palinor, this wise, free man, recognize that it would have been very easy to outwit these people and go home? Is it immoral to save your own life because of the sanctity of an idea?

Sherry, pondering the universe in Milwaukee (back from Up North)


To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 09/05
From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 8:58 PM

I just finished KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS and would like to submit that this is a more "horrifying" book than BLOOD MERIDIAN. No contest. In BLOOD, evil was smeared across the pages, but was clearly labeled as evil. In KOA, evil wears the mask of piety and goes about without conscience:

"The Church is innocent of the blood of these recalcitrants. The Holy Inquisition merely discovers heretics; they are handed over to the civil power to dispose of. Any blood guilt is on the hands of the civil powers."
Fra Murta says at one point. What are good people to do in the face of this evil? Give me the Judge and his "No thing can exist without permission" brand of evil any day.

I know I'm rambling, but this book has upset me. The evil here is far more relevent to our daily lives - I think the Fru could slip into American society with greater ease than Judge Holden. And he scares me more....

Peggy, ready to curl up with a nice, safe comic book

PS Thanks to Ruth for the spelling assist - I was so far off I couldn't even look it up...


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/05
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:06 PM

Peggy: I noted that same passage and considered Pelinor as a Christ-figure (ferreting out Christ-figures was all the rage in my young, impressionable, Nathaniel West days -- however, when Paul Newman and his bloated belly in 'Hud', got on the bandwagon, I kind of dropped out of the movement). Even after I thought about it, I couldn't really make heads nor tails of the the symbolism, but it sure looks a lot like Pilate washing his hands there. I do think you over-react to Fru, who after all, is just a garden variety pyschotic who's never gotten over the fact that he enjoyed being upended in the bushes by the village shepards. Of course he IS evil (or at least in need of therapy), but against his and the Church's sins, you must weigh the great peace and happiness that has been constructed on the island. And, as I previously posted, I believe there is symmetry here between the Christian and the non-Christian values: Pelinor represents another type of "good" than that prevailing on the island -- a society of freedom and inquiry, mutual respect and casual debauchery with young innocents. In short, there are warts on the secular society as well as the religious one. And, it's no help to say that Pelinor's 'sins' are a mote in God's eye compared to the Inquisition; this is true (what sins aren't, compared to the Inquisition, leaving out your odd Holocaust, Khmer Rouge purification campaign and so forth). However, recall the end of the book: are these hundreds of ships arriving to bring improvements to the irrigation system, or are they going to slaughter the islanders like so many Bosnians at a Serbian peace rally? And the islanders really haven't done much -- anymore than had Pelinor. I believe Walsh sees great value in all types of good-hearted human endeavor, and condemns only that which is evidently and clearly inhuman or inhumane -- she wants to expand the moral universe and not create an exclusionary zone for any one viewpoint. And, poor Amara -- denied humanity by the absence of human contact. A lesson for us all. I do agree with you, though Peggy: this book is the most fun I've had since Blood Meridian.

Dick in Alaska, where it appears the children were NOT stolen by gypsies on their first day of school, so will require some dinner....sigh


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/05
From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 10:07 PM

Peggy: A very fragmentary reply to your note, I admit, but your line "evil wears the mask of piety" so chilled me with its relevance to today's ideological climate that I had to let you know I hear where you're coming from. Maybe it's not whether a tree falls in the wilderness that matters, but how many voices are crying in that same wilderness. I'd be honored to add mine to yours.

Driving home from an out-of-town appointment today, I kept thinking about KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS, and particularly the very very dark humor interlude early on, when the "official report" of Palinor's case at last works its way up through the system and two very low-level bureaucrats (i.e., clerks) discover the paperwork and are taken aback.

"What do we do to atheists?" one asks.
"Burn them, I think," the other says.

To the first clerk's horror, the second replies something to the effect (I'm quoting from memory, as my copy is loaned out) that the two clerks don't PERSONALLY have to burn this guy, it will be handled higher up. The story of civilization in a nutshell, I think.

A disturbing book, indeed. And one with repercussions we ignore at our peril.

Dale in Ala.


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/05
From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 10:14 PM

Peggy,
Are you sure about that assertion you make? Evil was indeed smeared across every page of BLOOD MERIDIAN, but recall that the captain or whoever says that the savages must be killed because they're lesser human beings (or some such manifest destiny prattle). And I don't recall that anyone in the book admits that he is evil; the evil labeled comes (mostly, if not entirely) from the book's narrator.

I can't really comment on KOA because I haven't read the book, but the judge horrifies me because he is such a seductive figure. He can draw you in and make you listen to him, then you find yourself agreeing with him. Despite yourself. Like someone said of the judge, his mantra seems to be, "Consider the evidence." And that's frightening.

I'd argue that Judge Holden IS present in American society, as is the character you speak of...the judge is a chameleon. As is all evil. It perverts good to its own ends (for it cannot exist at all without good). In that respect, the judge and the character who you're talking about aren't all that different from each other at all. If I'm not mistaken about the finer points of history, folks like the judge and his marauding band would have been considered (at that time) heroes who had made the west safe for settlement and expunged the savages from the memory of man. So the church official, who, literally cloaked in the respectability of his office, speaks with the authority of God, which is not to be questioned. It sounds to me that both of these men are diabolically evil. Like Iago in OTHELLO.

--Marty in Memphis
(http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 9/5/95 9:15PM CT


To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 09/05
From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:02 PM

Dear CR friends,

I just finished the wonderful KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS, and since many of you have discussed the major points of the novel, I thought I would add one or two things.

I have been thinking about the section that describes the dark pieces in the mosaic that Ellen has already mentioned. It is somewhat disturbing that Beneditx uses the dark pieces as a metaphor for the ugliness in life. He seems to think that the ugliness is justified to make the beauty stand out even more. I know he does temper this argument by saying that the dark pieces are only a small part of life. I also found Palinor's statement interesting: "No glass is dark enough to stand for the suffering of a tortured and dying child." I expected this to be explained further in the book, but Walsh just let it drop. I thought that perhaps she was going to use this as a reason for Palinor's lack of belief in God, that he had lost a child in the past.

I always find stories about the Inquisition to be fascinating. There is all that suffering and dying for Christ. I looked up the chapter of Candide about the same subject, and Voltaire treats the Inquisition more lightly. Pangloss (Candide's mentor) was hanged for having spoken of philosophy, and Candid was spanked for having listened. Palinor says it best again,"...he wondered ruefully why it is those who believe most passionately in a merciful deity who are themselves most murderous and cruel."

Thanks, Ellen, for the excellent recommendation. Jane who encourages you all to see the movie LIVING IN OBLIVION. It is a movie about making movies. There is a very vain young actor whose character is based on none other than Brad Pitt

I just logged on and am considering your comparison of Fra to the Judge. I find them both frightening because of the power they hold. But I need to give this more thought. A bientot (soon, Allen)


To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 09/06
From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:56 AM

Re: Chalon and any maids thereof - READER'S ENCYCLOPEDIA revealed no maid of Chalon. The nearest entry was the Prisoner of Chillon, Lord Byron, unfortunately a MALE prisoner. My NEW COLUMBIA ENCYCLOPEDIA shows me two Chalons, one with and one without an "s". Chalons-sur-Marne was the scene of Attila's defeat by Western forces. I checked under Attila, knowing he did not die of this defeat. He died of a nose bleed (so help me, that's what it boils down to) on his wedding night, but the lady involved is not mentioned as a maid of anywhere. Chalon-sur-Saone


To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 09/06
From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 1:03 AM

Chalon-sur-Saone - Excuse the fragmented post; I was interrupted. The only historical figure this is associated with is Charlemagne, and there don't appear to have been many maids when he was around. Anyway, I couldn't find anything cross referencing him either.

The Inquisition is perhaps more scary than Judge Holden holding up manifest destiny because it would be easier to get influential voices to speak out against Holden and manifest destiny than against an inquisitor. In fact, in the Spanish-American War era, practically everybody who was anybody in liberal/intellectual circles was against manifest destiny. Since the inquisition deals with the religious fears of man, it's more difficult to find somebody willing to speak out against it for any reason. To me, one of the most chilling scenes in opera is the confrontation between the Grand Inquisitor and Philip II in DON CARLO, and I used it to teach Larry the necessity for the separation of church and state.

There is one way, of course, you could get a popular swell against either figure or idea - convince people that they are losing money thereby.

Cathy


To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/06
From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:01 AM

Sherry, Dick & All: Wonderful notes on this thread, here...I was about to take a crack at answering Dick's question as to why Palinor didn't just smell the coffee, undergo a quick religious "conversion," and high-tail it home, when I ran across Sherry's note with an alternate explanation. Makes sense, that Palinor thought he was dealing with people as reasonable as himself. I can't recall--was he given a last-chance opportunity to convert when it was clear to him he was doomed?

My guess as to the reason for his stubbornness is this...While it's true, as Dick says, that Palinor is in most respects a very modern man, I think it's expecting a bit too much of him to have developed situational ethics to the fine art that our society has today. When I think of all the wars, duels, etc., that have been fought throughout history "merely" as a point of honor, with nothing practical to gain, I can see even someone with Palinor's intelligence believing in principle-above-all.

(As opposed to our own era, of course. When's the last time you heard somebody say "It's the principle of the thing," without prefacing it with the white lie, "It's not the money..."?)

Dale in Ala.


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/06
From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:21 AM

Peggy,
I find a difference between Fra Murta and the Judge. One is the instrument of evil and the other IS pure unadulterated evil; although I agree that it hardly matters to the guy on the rack. The Judge would be the one to come up with the IDEA of the Inquisition. He would need little toadies like the friar to carry it out. I think your horror is justified because it is horrifying to think that so much torture and pain can be associated with a religion that ostensibly extols brotherly love, but is that a modern-day interpretation? What I have always wondered about (and I know very little of the history of the Inquisition, just what I've seen in plays and movies) was how the people responsible could justify their actions within the realm of the religion. In my naiveteI would have thought the religion itself would have forbade such stuff. All of which makes me think that there were control issues and power issues at stake that I know nothing about. It couldn't possibly have actually been about religion now, do you think? And that makes me think about some of Dale's connection with modern day issues. I believe the religious right uses some of the same techniques of using religion as a cover for attaining power and control. Very scary times, when we start undermining a major point of why this country was started in the first place.

Sherry who sometimes watches religious programming just to scare herself


To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 09/06
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:40 AM

Sherry: I laughed out loud whenI read your comment on watching religious programming just to scare yourself -- I have wondered if there is a special diction school for television preachers, who seem able to put a remarkable number of syllables into otherwise ordinary words. I have heard "Jesus" rendered in no less than nine syllables, and of course words like "armaggedon" can go on for minutes at a time.

We've all been talking about the inquisition, and I realized that I knew nothing about it. That's still true, but I did check into my trusty 1935 Columbia Encyclopedia, and picked up the following: The medieval Inquisition was started about 1233 as an administrative device for investigating heresy. Inquisitors were appointed by the Pope for life, but had no independent organizational structure. The medieval Inquisition was active in southern France (those pesky Albigensians -- when will they learn to leave well enough alone?), in Germany and Northern Italy. Britain had only a brief visitation. An Inquisitor would arrive and a thirty day repentence period was announced; you could come forward and confess your heresy during this period and receive some form of penance, such as mutiple daily sacraments for a month. After the grace period expired, trials were held in secret before the Inquisitor, an assistant representative from the episcopacy, and some number of lay witnesses. Informants and witnesses were not identified. Torture and burning both occured under the medieval Inquisition, but according to the article were rare: the more important abuses of the Inquisition, again according to the article, were its use to cause forfeiture of property owned by those accused of heresy, leading to corruption (or maybe leading to MORE corruption). Anyway, that's the medieval Inquisition. Then we've got the Spanish Inquisition, instituted by Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain in the late 16th century. This was a complete system of ecclesiastical courts, that was a definite arm of the Catholic state. The papacy was very reluctant to approve such an independent organization (recall the Pope had personal control over each Inquisitor in the medieval Inquisition, and there was no 'inquisitional organization' to create a power structure). The focus of the Spanish Inquisition was all those Muslims and Jews left over from the Moorish occupation of Spain, something not completed until the capture of Granada in 1492. As with the medieval Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition was a useful instrument for acquiring property from infidels, or anyone else who owned something the Church or State found attractive. The Spanish Inquisition was exported to the New World, and to Spanish territories in Europe -- where opposition was open, with Papal support. The Spanish Inquisition is of course the Inquisition of Torquemada, and was apparently far bloodier and abusive than it's predacessor. It was formally abolished in 1820.

Don't know whether any of these helps the discussion, but I thought it was kind of interesting.

Dick in Alaska, where he would like to "put the question" to the kids about who left the garage door open last night


To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/06
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 12:31 PM

Er, that's the 15th century there, folks, not the 16th, on that Spanish Inquisition.

Dick in Alaska, where he is listening to the Bros. K on tape (thank you, Dale), and finds it instructive on the sources, uses and consequences of excessive religious zeal


To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 09/06
From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 4:03 PM

Sherry,
Conservative columnist Cal Thomas wrote a column recently about just what you sepak of; he said that the Right was in grave danger of using religion as another means to the achievement of political ends. He said that when religion became a slave to politics, then we'd be better off without it.

Just to let you know that not all of the Right is fallinmg victim to the sort of thinking that frightens you.

--Marty in Memphis
(http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 9/6/95 2:51PM CT


To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/06
From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 5:08 PM

Dick
Ok, I'm a little calmer now; but I'd still say that the peace and tranquillity on that island came at too high a price. And I do agree about the symmetry - Pelinor was as pig-headed as the Fru, though I doubt he would have turned to torture to get his point across.

I can't really account for my strong reaction to this book. I started to get upset at about the same time Severo had his dream and realized that he had kept Pelinor around as an intellectual curiosity and was therefore responsible for his torture and death. The transcripts of the torture show Fru telling Pelinor "Why do you make me continue? I am distressed to see such suffering - I, who only mean you well."

I've been groping for a quote that goes to the effect: "The righteous man is more dangerous than the evil man; because on some level the evil man knows what he is doing is wrong and at some point the human conscience may kick in. The righteous man, with a clear conscience, has no limits."

I am a strong believer in "Live and Let Live" - an unthinkable concept in the world of this novel (and in some segments of our own world). I do not consider Severo and Beneditx evil men- they recognized the wrongness of their actions and it cost them their faith. Given the opportunity to do it all again, I'm guessing Severo would put Pelinor on the next outbound boat. Whereas Fru considered Pelinor's torture a job well done and sat down to a nice dinner, looking forward to the next heretic...

I hope the Alcarians keel-hauled him.

Peggy, in way over her head (as usual)


To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 09/06
From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 5:08 PM

Marty,
Upon reflection - you are right. And now I'm really depressed. (Not that you're right and I'm wrong, but that both the Judge and the Fru are out there, aligned against me). Judge Holden and his merry band did sweep through the desert like the Terminex guys, but they weren't proclaiming themselves holy as they did it. And, this is just my opinion, I think the Judge knew his actions were evil - I think he reveled in it.

I guess I'm just trying to figure out why I waded through all the gore in BLOOD MERIDIAN without so much as a shudder, yet am shaken by KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS. Both are mythical in flavor - yet in KOA, the myths have names and faces. Even the protagonist in BLOOD didn't have a name - the players were dehumanized.

That's today's theory anyway.

Peggy


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/06
From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 9:54 PM

Peggy,
If you really want to scare yourself, get hold of a copy of NOTES ON BLOOD MERIDIAN by John Emil Sepich. It turns out that much (meaaning lots) of what's recounted in BLOOD MERIDIAN actually happened. And that the judge, among many other characters, actually existed.

I'd agree with you about the judge's reveling in violence--but I'd say that he combines that with a sort of religious fervor; he thinks he's always right, and he's completely justified his behavior in his own mind. One of the most troubling scenes in the book for me is the scene where he kills the Indian girl who they've taken in--for no reason. The judge, I think, would say that no reason can be given for his acts, because there is none--except death.

I'd like to know how Steve likes ALL THE PRETTY HORSES after BLOOD MERIDIAN. The die hard McCarthy lovers, most of them, say that HORSES is an inferior book to almost everything else McCarthy has written. I don't think I agree. ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is not nearly as bleak as the rest of the McCarthy, but bleakness does not necessarily equal greatness.

I'm positing that McCarthy is after something different in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES than what he was searching for in BLOOD MERIDIAN. In any event, "Cormac-Lite," as some critics have called HORSES, is still pretty heavy.

--Marty in Memphis
(http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 9/6/95 8:53PM CT


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/06
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:01 PM

Peggy: If you're over your head, then I'm afraid we're all doing the backstroke. I agree Severo's realization of his own guilt and responsibility was an emotional low point. From then on you KNEW Pelinor was a bit of history waiting to be realized. I think Benedidtx (sp? I left my copy at the office -- honestly, it's billable time; if you don't know good from evil, what kind of lawyer are you?) was the symbolic intellectual of faith. Perhaps a Dominican (although they were the hammers of the inquisition, traditionally) or a Jesuit; when his intellect failed, his faith was insufficient to bridge the gap: note he couldn't save himself, much less Pelinor. Severo was of course a politician, always compromising and dealing, relying on an inchoate, undefined and comforting 'faith' that had little relevance in the end. He thought he could make a deal out of anything, and found that he couldn't....A discovery that cost Pelinor his life. Like many who temporize with evil, he found out his limitations too late. It's a very good question: would Severo have smuggled Pelinor out of the country if he had known the eventual outcome? I think yes, with the emphasis on "smuggled"; Severo might have been heroic if saving the entire island were an issue. I think for one man, he would not have taken many risks. Pelinor himself is pure reason, uninhibited by superstition. Yet he fails to save his own life through stubborn adherance to ideals that look suspiciously like those held by the primitive Christians. I've thought about Dale's comment regarding honor and codes of behavior as bases for Pelinor's action, and how he was perhaps not modern enough to lie to save his own life. Maybe, but that part still doesn't work for me -- codes of honor requiring deathly devotion aren't all that common in the kind of pluralistic, democratic and humane society Pelinor described; in fact I can't think of even one such society. And, his world view is so perfectly formed in all respects, save this one, it still jars me: if you can think in such a 'modern' way about so many issues why would there be this particular logical/philosophical deficiency in your world view?

Finally, I very much liked the young people: the ice gathering boy who first found Amara and who through simple human love (I think; God, the alternative theory is unthinkable, although I just thought it) followed her life in captivity and tried to ease her pain. And the novitiate who dedicated her life to God (if there is a God undoubtedly she pleased him enormously -- caring so tenderly for that piece of human wreckage named Amara -- even committing a 'sin' to save her and permit her her freedom (ironically contributing to the loss of Pelinor's life, ultimately). Those young people who lived simple lives, and based their actions on the most basic of human values -- values that exist independently of any church or any philosophy -- were truly admirable. Unfortunately, I'm sure that when the avenging fleet arrived, they were cut down like winter wheat along with the rest. And Fru probably had some kind of bolt-hole someplace and managed to scuttle back to Madrid or Rome, or where ever. Gosh, Peggy, you're right. Now I'm depressed.

Dick in Alaska, where they worship oil


To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/06
From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:14 PM

I think maybe I have an answer to why Palinor and some historical characters have not taken the easy way out. It's really more basic than any creed or the like; a do-it-my-way or-die demand is in some degree a demand to give up part of your self-hood, your right to choose or make a decision. I think that kind of thing instinctively puts a person's back up, especially a thinking person used to being treated seriously. It's a sheer stubborn clinging to one's self concept; I think subconsciously most folks recognize that, because such behavior almost always arouses unwilling respect. You don't do it, even if you think it's right, because somebody DEMANDS that you do it.

Cathy


To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 09/06
From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:26 PM

Dale, I guess Palinor is what we'd today call a "secular humanist" and what was once termed a "free- thinker." (There is no shortage, of course, of people who would prefer to call him a "tool of Satan.") "Pagan" cer- tainly doesn't fit, since pagans, as far as I understand the term, worship something or other: the sun, Zeus, the Great Woodchuck, what have you. It's made pretty clear in KOA that Palinor worships nothing. The naming issue is fairly complex in the book itself. I understand "atheist" to mean one who denies God's existence and "agnostic" to mean someone who holds that the question is beyond human knowledge. Early in the book Palinor flatly states "God does not exist!" but later on Beneditx manages to get him to retreat from this absolutist position, so we ultimately see that he should properly be called agnostic, though he thinks the term, as used by Beneditx, doesn't quite fit. (Side note: the use of "agnostic" in a book set in 1450 is an anachronism; if memory serves, the word was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in the mid-to-late 19th century.)

The debates between Beneditx (how do you pronounce that name, by the way?) and Palinor, which form the novel's intellectual core, are my primary interest. Setting up the debates was, I believe, Walsh's main purpose in writing KOA; she needs to postulate the existence of an unknown country philosophically advanced well beyond the story's time frame to make them possible. (JPW did, of course, give notice in the book's short preface of what she was up to by stating that it was set in a time "somewhat like 1450, but not 1450." That is, it takes place in an alter- nate past that differs in some ways from that one we know.)

One thought that was in the back of my mind all through my reading was the question of what the author's own position on matters of faith might be. Partly aided by what I've learned about Walsh, many thanks to gail, I've con- cluded that Palinor is essentially speaking for her. I don't think that JPW would have gone to the trouble of inventing Palinor and his country of Aclar if she wasn't vitally concerned with getting his viewpoint across -- at the expense of devastating Beneditx. And in the debates themselves, the author decidedly stacks the deck against Beneditx, first by having him fight a battel he has no chance of winning, and secondly by having him concede to Palinor too easily. For example, I think that Palinor simply evades Beneditx when the latter puts forth the argu- ments of the "first mover" and "first cause." An honest response would be, "These are deep questions of which you speak, and I must confess I can't begin to answer them, but that neither can I accept answers based on faith." So, it seems to this reader that the debates between Beneditx and Palinor are dramatizations of an internal struggle that JPW herself went through long ago. Palinor is probably speaking directly for the author when, in Chapter 24, he comes right to the heart of things:

For I think that it is *in principle* impossible to know whether there is a God or not. I know therefore with immovable certainty that I shall never know that God exists. Likewise, I shall never know that he does not. Such knowledge is always, and in principle, out of reach.
Allen


To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 09/06
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:51 PM

Allen: A thought provoking post indeed -- my bet is that Walsh would still consider herself a "believer", albeit in a broader context than the Church will now recognize. And my apologies, again, for all the misspellings of the names of the characters. Our telephone connection to the rest of the world is supposedly fiber-optic, but it crashes quite regularly (actually AT&T blames prodigy; when I go to P*, they claim it must be line noise -- a perfect solution from the business standpoint. Each entity gets to bill me, with no accountability for screwups. Something I need to inject into my own business.) Hence, on my long posts, I blitz through the typing without doing any careful proofing -- at least a dozen times in the last two months I've lost 4 to 6 pages of draft after being on-line for an hour or so. Very frustrating for the artist.... And my word processing programs upload in such an unsightly mess, that I still am willing to risk losing it all rather than end up with something that looks like e.e. cummings on crystal meth.

Dick in Alaska, who would take e-mail guidance on any of these issues, but it would have to be in small words, simply presented


To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/07
From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:01 AM

Peggy,
You said what I would have like to have said. KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS is a chilling book. Somehow, the violence of BLOOD MERIDIAN seems likely to remain confined to another time and place. And even if it didn't, evil walking through the streets as naked evil is not difficult to identify and those that identify are not likely to have themselves branded as evil for so doing,. Although KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS is set in a time and place much farther removed from us than BLOOD MERIDIAN, its evil its is far closer and infinitely more threatening. I can see the "mask of piety" gaining a foothold in America and it scares me spitless.

Ruth


To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 09/08
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:49 PM

Wanted you all to know that I'm reading KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS along with you, though much slower than my summer reading...how this schedule does cut into my reading time. The notes have contributed greatly to my enjoyment though, as Peggy said, I probably should have read them this time after finishing the book...it's just too hard to resist though. Must say that I think I'd be more riveted to the Palinor parts if I didn't already know his fate.

But, I think the story of Amaru would probably be the part to hold me anyway. JPW is doing a fascinating job of describing A and the relationship with Josefa. It taps right into my fascination as a special ed teacher with those children who seem to operate outside of our reality. The saddest part for me thus far (I'm only on pg. 129) is when they cut her hair, etc. making it more obvious that she's a girl, then she escapes and is raped by the shepherds. What ramifications there are from civilization trifling around with wild things....

Barbara


To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 09/08
From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 11:25 PM

Barbara
I've been wanting to claim that everyone in the novel would have been better off if Severo had put Palinor on a boat, but I keep coming back to Amara. What would her fate would have been if Severo hadn't needed her for his grand experiment....?

BTW - was it you who invited Sparkle Hayter in for a visit? I just finished her book in a single sitting and it was precisely what I needed after KOA.

Peggy


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/09
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:39 AM

I haven't gotten to the end of KOA, Peggy, so I can't comment on Amara's fate yet, though I'm sure this is a subject about which I'll have strong opinions...will let you know.

Yes, I did invite Sparkle...just told her that we were talking about her book here. Got an e-mail from her a while ago that she's been incredibly busy, but I hope she'll be back. Am glad you liked her book. I love that helpless laughter feeling and that book sure tapped it.

Barbara


To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 09/09
From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 6:42 PM

Barbara and Peggy,
I just finished Sparkle's book over last weekend. I enjoyed it tremendously. I just can't seem to keep up with all the wonderful suggestions I get here. Barbara, thanks for inviting Sparkle over, what a delight!

Sherry in perfect weather Wisconsin


To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 09/10
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:08 AM

Sherry,
I'm glad you liked it! It's good to know that you gave someone else a good laugh.

Barbara


To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 09/10
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:24 AM

Peggy: I think that's an excellent observation on the linkage of Palinor and Amara's fates. Hadn't thought of it at all before but think you're on the money -- given the dynamics of the story, only one of them can go free, not both.

Dick in Alaska, where it continues to pour buckets


 

 

 
 
Walsh, in my estimation, presents a great argument for and against the idea of faith. While Palinor presents an almost flawless debate, Walsh does allow for the loophole of faith.
Ellen
 
Walsh is a beautiful writer. But I was also pulled in by Amara. The wild child syndrome has always fascinated me.
Ruth
 
The evil here is far more relevent to our daily lives - I think the Fru could slip into American society with greater ease than Judge Holden. And he scares me more....
Peggy

 
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