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Quarantine
by Jim Crace


Amazon.com
The story of Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness is surely among the most celebrated and widely diffused narratives in Western culture. Why, then, would Jim Crace choose to retell it in strictly naturalistic, non-miraculous terms? The obvious answer would be that the godless novelist is trying to debunk divinity--to take the entire New Testament down a notch. And at first, this does seem to be the case. Crace's Jesus first got religion as an adolescent, and "was transformed by god like other boys his age were changed by girls." His peers view his spiritual fervor as a youthful eccentricity. Even now, as the thirtysomething Jesus heads out to the Judean desert for his 40-day retreat, he's perceived by his fellow anchorites as a flighty and impractical Galilean. They even call him "Gally" for short--and what sort of deity answers to a nickname?
      Yet Crace is hardly the jeering materialist we might expect. As Jesus takes to his cliff-top cave, the author renders his religious transports without a hint of irony, and with a linguistic elegance that can hardly be called disrespectful: "The prayers were in command of him. He shouted out across the valley, happy with the noise he made. The common words lost hold of sound. The consonants collapsed. He called on god to join him in the cave with all the noises that his lips could make. He called with all the voices in his throat." And while most of the temptations of Christ are visited upon him by humans--by the motley crew of his cave-dwelling neighbors--he resists them with what we can only call superhuman will. Quarantine does, of course, operate on a fairly realistic plane. Jesus dies of starvation long before his 40-day fast is complete, and his fellow retreatants, who take center stage throughout much of the novel, are much too confused and brutal ever to figure in any Sunday school pageant. Still, Crace leaves at least the possibility of resurrection intact at the end, which should ensure that his brilliant book will rattle both believers and non-believers alike.


From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, August 16, 2003 01:47 AM Quarantine comes from the Latin word “quadraginta” which means forty. So, quarantine is a period of forty days. In the title of this book, it means a forty day period of self-imposed exile and fasting during which, like Ramadan, no food or drink is consumed from sunset to sunrise. In the opening, we meet a dying merchant whose wife is so certain of his death that she leaves his side to dig a grave. A small group of pilgrims passes the merchant’s tent on the way to the nearby caves where each one will undertake a quarantine period of fasting and prayer. One of the pilgrims, goes into the merchant’s tent to ask for a few drops of water. He is Jesus from Galilee, the carpenter’s son. In the tent, he finds water and he tries to rouse the merchant to ask for some. The merchant is unresponsive and so feverish that he is hardly aware of the stranger’s presence. Jesus realizes that the merchant is dying but he cannot stay with the merchant. He must leave him to die alone because Jesus is compelled to start his quarantine for he longs to be united with god. To the surprise and extreme disappointment of his wife, the merchant recovers. He wonders if the stranger was the cause of his miraculous recovery. He needs to learn more about the stranger and so he seeks out the other pilgrims in the hope of finding the one who came to his tent. Jim Crace’s exceptional descriptions and vivid prose allow us to experience the sights, smells, tastes and customs of life in the early decades of the common era. The novel also proposes a “what if” scenario about Jesus. As one would expect from Mr. Crace, this scenario is well grounded in reality. I really enjoyed reading about the day to day life in these times. My heart went out to the women, though. I also thought that the “what if” about Jesus was a good counterpoint to the way in which he is usually depicted. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, August 16, 2003 08:41 AM I thought that Musa was described very vividly--his bulk, his always conniving mind and his love of goods. Didn't you just know he would survive? His almost death scene, with their eggy smells and his black devil tongue, was certainly evocative. If death doesn't really look like that, it certainly fits the idea of death. I wish Crace would come here to talk about this, like he did for Being Dead. I wonder if the names are symbolic. Miri and Marta sound a lot like Miriam and Martha. Sherry
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, August 16, 2003 11:06 AM Just for fun, I typed "Musa means" into google and got a site which says that "Musa" means Moses. Miri didn't turn up much. I got this from a site about names: MARTHA: Aramaic for "lady" or "woman." The biblical Martha (Luke 10; John 11,12) was a bit of a drudge who complained to God about her household duties and was admonished by Him. She has since become the patron saint of housewives. Relatives: Marth, Marta, Martina, Marella, Martita, Marti, Marty, Mattie, Matty, Marthe, Masia. Where did people get the idea that mortification of the body was the way to find god? Did this find its way into the Middle East from India? There are still cults there whose followers put themselves through extraordinary ordeals. Buddha, however, came to the conclusion that understanding and attitude were more important than self-imposed suffering. Asceticism was taken up by the early Christians and found particular expression in a group called The Stylites or Pillar Saints who lived on top of pillars (Greek "stylos). http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14317b.htm All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, August 16, 2003 01:37 PM I don't understand the idea of hurting yourself for God, either, Dean. Maybe it's some logical conclusion drawn from the idea that pleasure is bad. If pleasure is bad, then pain must be good. Marquis de Sade was a really good Christian? Sherry
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, August 16, 2003 02:59 PM The revolting outcome of such inane thinking was to heap scorn on women because they were the source of pleasure. Quarantine describes a time when life was hard for men as well as women but women had the added burden of the attitudes of men. In keping with the tenor of the novel one might ask if Joseph treated Mary that way. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, August 16, 2003 03:54 PM I read this during my Jim Crace Craze, and didn't like it well enough to read again. And don't remember it well enough to discuss here. Not my cuppa, tho, as I suspect those of you who know me well would know. R
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 09:10 AM I finished this yesterday and am a bit confused about the ending. I understand that Crace was writing an alternative history. However, is it alternative to the point of wiping away all of the further information that we have about the rest of Jesus' life? At the end, I kept thinking that he was going to somehow emerge from a coma or that Shim was going to take on his identity. I was very surprised that Crace chose to kill him and ignore the fact that Jesus seems to have lived for quite a few more years. I understand that his premise is that 40 days of total fast would have most assuredly killed him. However, it's interesting to me that he chose not to alter the story of the actual fast, to explain how he survived it, and instead just kills him off. My religious feelings fall somewhere between agnosticism and atheism so I don't have any trouble with the fact that the original story is probably a bit skewed. However, I have always assumed that an incredibly dynamic man named Jesus did live and lead a religious movement. If we follow Crace's premise, it's hard to explain how the rest of the history developed. Barb
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 09:15 AM There's an interesting interview with Crace about this book on-line (since we don't have the luxury of his presence here this time) if you go to the following website: http://www.jim-crace.com/ Click "Books", then click "Crace on Quarantine". Barb
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 12:30 PM Thanks for that link, Barbara. I agree with Mr. Crace entirely. There were multitudes of religious types running around during the Roman occupation of Israel. The character Jesus in the Gospels could be a melding of several people having similar ideas combined with a resurrection myth. Such a myth is ubiquitous throughout human cultures. Here are some dates from "The Timetables of History" by Bernard Grun c. 58 St.Paul: "Letter to the Corintians" 62 Seneca resigns his position at Nero's court 64 First persecution of Christianity 65 Gospel according to St.Mark 67 St.Peter executed 68 St. Linus becomes second pope 68 Flavius Josephus writes "History of the Jewish War" 85 Gospels according to St. John and St. Matthew 85-97 Pope Clement I All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 01:02 PM Ruth, this isn't the kind of book which I would re-read, although the writing and descriptions are very good. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 01:12 PM Unfortunately it isn't the sort of book I'd reread except after a very long time. I did like it, and have many images still. The tent and a goat. Following the bumblebee. Women scrambling and climbing an embankment (wasn't that toward the end?) Reaching Jesus's cave. Many images, but nothing really to discuss! I'll be reading all the posts though; it is an ambitious book and I did mostly enjoy it. Tonya
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 01:20 PM S P O I L E R A L E R T So, Dean, you are saying that this particular Jesus in Quarantine would have been just one of the many that were melded eventually into the character of Jesus in the Bible? Makes sense....thanks. I suppose this observation didn't really need a spoiler alert, did it? Barb
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 02:44 PM Barb, from what I gathered from what Crace said in the link you posted, he originally intended to de-bunk the idea that anyone could live for forty days without food and water and survive. And his Gally/Jesus died from his fast. But it seems that he put enough "ghostly" kinds of things into the book to undo any de-bunking that he might have intended. I really liked this: "I present my atheism as something richer than just the bleak and heartless absence of belief. For me it is a powerful persuasion in its own right. A universe which is an outside job, inflicted on us by a Creator in seven days, is a lesser marvel than a universe which is an inside job, the slow, painstaking product of natural forces. Evolution is a greater wonder than all the gods. The Blind Watchmaker is more inspiring than Blind Faith." Sherry
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 03:12 PM Great quote, Sherry. Ruth
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 03:25 PM When Musa thought that he saw Jesus walking after his fast, I thought of how Gandhi had to be carried after his fasts. There comes a point of no return when you can't get up any more. There were three major Jewish sects in the years during which Jesus was said to have lived, the Parisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05546a.htm Christianity could have come from a synthesis of ideas from each of these or as a reaction to them. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 04:45 PM Was the ghost of Jesus a hallucination or merely wishful thinking on the part of Musa? Nancy, you've put your finger on the major question I was left with after finishing QUARANTINE. Also, it occurred to me that, since this is a work of imagination anyway, it could be an "alternative history" not in the sense of how things really happened, but how they could have gone if real events had taken a slightly different course...i.e., how would the gospel have changed if Musa were the eyewitness left to create it on the basis of this one bizarre encounter? Much food for thought. As much as I admire Crace's achievement in QUARANTINE, it also required a much higher level of concentration on my part. A harrowing ride that I'm not sure I'd want to go through again, though scenes and ideas from the novel still linger clearly in my mind, which is not the case with the vast majority of books I read. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Nancy Hudson nhallo@netscope.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 03:45 PM Barb, The same thoughts passed through my head, Barb. It takes the entire Jesus story and turns it on it's head, which is fine but it leaves a big gap there just dying to be filled up. And who or what is Crace saying Jesus really is? Who is the man Musa sees and where is he going? I found the book somewhat tedious and not nearly as likeable as Being Dead, but I would like to explore the book more, particularly as Crace is an atheist. I am also a weak atheist (or agnostic) and therefore found the whole premise of the book to be very interesting but I think I missed some key points. Hoping you all will help me understand it better. I really don't think it is one I would re-read. Nancy
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 04:58 PM Even as I read that interview with Crace, I still wasn't sure that I understood the ending. I was probably looking for something more concrete than he was willing to give me. It's interesting that many Christians have embraced this book. It certainly underwrites that viewpoint that a novel can take on a life of its own which has nothing to do with the original intentions of the writer. I, too, had a hard time reading this one and I flew through Being Dead. I thought that the writing was excellent. I could see and believe the characters. I even liked Miri and Marta so it's not a case of not liking anyone. I'm trying to decide if it was the discomfort of waiting for Musa to do something brutal. Or, was it the difficulty of reading the description of Jesus' slow disintegration when he had the power to stop it? Or was it something else? What do you all think? Barb
From: Nancy Hudson nhallo@netscope.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 06:50 PM That is tough for me to answer right now because just about anything I have picked up in the last week or so has left me feeling bored and distracted. I read The Da Vinci Code while on vacation, using every spare second to read, cause it really sucked me in. It kind of left me disappointed at the end (I so wanted the Sacred Feminine to be revealed as the word of God! LOL!) Of course, I knew that wouldn't be too practical or probably too smart if the author wanted to make lots of money, but after that it was difficult for me to read Quarantine. The topic doesn't really interest me tremendously, though I was intrigued to see what Crace atheist stance would do with the story. I was hoping for more interaction between Jesus and the others, didn't really see what the others got out of the experience (it was so focused on Musa and to some extent the women) and I was sorry to see Jesus die--I felt sorry for him. But none of those things really explains why it was a chore for me to finish. I raced through Being Dead. I guess, ultimately, it was just the subject matter. I am not sorry I read it and will probably remember, but in a way it was a bit too contrived if you think about it. Nancy
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, August 17, 2003 07:03 PM I seem to remember feeling that the book was straining for Importance. R
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, August 18, 2003 07:29 AM You seem to be as baffled as me, Nancy, and you liked Being Dead too. If I remember correctly, you really liked that book as well, didn't you, Ruth? I have also been trying to figure out more about the word Badu, referring to the Badu villager. I've looked it up in the encyclopedia but haven't been able to find anything about it. I googled it and could only find references to Erykah Badu, a singer who says that she chose her name in tribute to jazz scat singers of years gone by. After our conversation with Crace on-line in which he said that he just made up many things that I had assumed were fact, I am wondering if this is another invented one. Barb
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, August 18, 2003 07:36 AM Knowing that about Crace, that he makes stuff up (it is fiction, after all, he said) kept me an a remove while reading this book. There's something about making up scientific or historical stuff that makes me wary. It IS fiction, so why is it important to me? Is it important to the rest of you? Sherry
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, August 18, 2003 08:50 AM It always bothers me too, Sherry. I just don't want to take a chance of letting anything lodge in my brain cells that is inaccurate. Then, I'm pulling it out as fact someday, forgetting the source. Of course, with my memory these days, it's unlikely. However, it also sort of takes away the reliability of the construct on which I'm trying to base the story. Sometimes I think I might be a bit too concrete for my own good. Barb
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, August 18, 2003 11:29 AM I absolutely loved Being Dead, Barb. The book, that is. R
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 12:53 PM Barb, I remember feeling greatly disappointed to hear that Crace had invented some of the details in "Being Dead." I recall that he made some allusion to mythology but I can't accept that. Mythology about natural phenomena arose because we couldn't know at the time. Crace's inventions were because he chose not to know. This is bad enough but the details he avoided concerned precisely the central idea of the book: an unflinching look at the process of death and decay. By not looking factually at the process, he either blinked or was too occupied to do the research. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 02:08 PM Dean: I have to say, I'm in the contrary camp when it comes to the appropriateness of Crace's "inventing facts" in his novel BEING DEAD. To me, the magic and the chief accomplishment of imaginative writing comes from the fact that a work of fiction literally creates, for whatever length of time we're under its spell, a world that has never existed before. Because the process is not bound by convention, it can hurdle what we "know" in an academic sense and lead us to levels of realization and understanding that would be impossible if each writer were forced to start at the same gate: i.e., of whatever culture's agreed-upon mass view of how reality operates. From my viewpoint, Crace is not "choosing not to know," but rather choosing not to be constrained in his invention by what everybody else "knows." As long as a piece of writing is represented to the reader as fiction, it seems to me the writer is under no obligation except to push the envelope in making his/her work of imagination as unified as possible within its own speculative world. If factual accuracy is our expectation, we should read nonfiction instead, because its writers are held to that standard. Just my two cents, and I realize I'm probably in the minority here. Fascinating subject, by the way. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 02:14 PM If so, I'm in the minority with you, Dale. Despite my minor in zoology way back when, I didn't care at all whether or not Crace's "facts" were true. They were true to the story and the experience and that's what counted. R
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 03:28 PM Dale, as I recall the particular details which Crace invented were the names of the creatures which were attracted to the bodies as they lay on the beach. How did Crace's use of made-up names for these creatures "lead us to levels of realization and understanding that would be impossible" if he had used the actual names of these creatures? All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 03:57 PM Dean: Well, for one thing, when I visualized for myself these creatures that Crace was talking about, pictures were created in my mind of organisms that didn't exist in the physical world before that moment. And many other versions, I assume, in the imaginations of other readers. Maybe not a giant leap for mankind, but it's nothing to sneeze at. {G} One book this subject brings to my mind is COSMICOMICS, stories by the late Italo Calvino about major changes in the structure of the universe as it evolved. The science is absolute hogwash, but the stories are funny and heartbreaking and have become a permanent part of the way I view the world. Obviously I wouldn't replace my shelves of "real" science books with COSMICOMICS, but being able to participate in both realities is, to me, an immeasurable gift. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 03:58 PM Because those creatures didn't exist, Dean. He made up the creatures, too. I'm somewhere on the fence with this one. I felt distanced with my second reading of Being Dead knowing that his natural history was partly made up. But I really do see Dale's and Ruth's point, too. It might strangle imagination if we had to hold to scientific reality in our fiction. Sherry
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 04:59 PM I see your point but you are taking my objection to what Crace did and generalizing it beyond what I intended. I'm not making a global statement about the use of fiction as opposed to fact. I think that each work should be evaluated on its own merits. I'm saying that the central idea of "Being Dead" was to look closely at death and its consequences including the process of decay as it actually happens. Does everyone agree with this? If it is the case, my question is: Why did Crace invent the creatures involved in the process? Perhaps, the author found that the actual creatures didn't make the impact which he wanted to make or he used fiction as an excuse for not doing the research. Dale, you make a very good point, fiction is about imagination but we should consider the central idea of this work. I think that the author could have described actual creatures in such a way that it would have encouraged our imaginations but then those who are so inclined could have had the additional fun of looking these things up and learning. Not the least lesson would have been how what we imagine compares to what is actually out there. In this particular case, not using facts detracts from the integrity of the book. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 08:39 PM Dean: You make some excellent points, but it looks like I'll have to agree to disagree on this aspect of BEING DEAD. As for the proposition that: ...the central idea of "Being Dead" was to look closely at death and its consequences including the process of decay as it actually happens. (emphasis mine) That's certainly a worthy approach, and one that Crace could have taken to powerful effect, but it's not the one he chose here. If it's a question of whether he (a) wrote an unconventional narrative with mixed success, or (b) tried to write a conventional narrative and either cheated or flubbed it, then based on the evidence I'd have to go strongly with (a). The success of his experiment comes down to personal taste at some point, but I don't doubt that the leap of illogic was a very conscious choice on his part. For one thing, it seems counter-intuitive to me that a writer of Crace's caliber, and productivity, would "use fiction as an excuse for not doing the research." Most writers I know (myself included) love doing research...which is, after all, reading...and many of them (myself included) are guilty of using research to put off the grueling work of inventing an alternate reality and making it convincing. To the contrary, I wouldn't be surprised if the work of creating non-existent organisms required more research and thought than merely repeating what science knows about the ones that do exist. I read BEING DEAD twice, and never once suspected that some of the critters were imaginary. I think making an invented world convincing to a reader is perhaps the highest mark a fiction writer can aspire to, and whether it's a make-believe world with real bugs or a real world with make-believe bugs is irrelevant. Example: once in every creating writing workshop, there's a student story that the other workshop participants critique as not being convincing. To which the writer of the story responds, "Ah-hah. That's where you're wrong. Because this story really happened." Which, of course, has nothing to do with whether or not it works as narrative. As a teacher explained it to me once, "Reality doesn't have to be believable. Fiction does." Right now, I'm reading a nonfiction book titled PARASITE REX: INSIDE THE BIZARRE WORLD OF NATURE'S MOST DANGEROUS CREATURES, by a biologist named Carl Zimmer. It's a fascinating, beautifully written, awe-inspiring book, of the type that brings to mind the "truth is stranger than fiction" adage. But there's an itch in my soul that PARASITE REX can't begin to scratch, because it's not fiction. Certainly, there are cases where the spheres of fiction and nonfiction overlap--when a book is true to both its fictional world and the one we all accept as reality--but it's not a requirement. And I've seen many a promising work of imagination hamstrung by the author's slavish insistence on literal fact as opposed to taking risks and testing Faulkner's philosophy that "a lie, well enough told, is truer than any mere truth." Again, just my two cents. And I admit that personal preferences play a role. But I'm sure glad we've got such a neat forum as this in which to disagree. Respectfully submitted this 21st day of August, Year of Our Lord 2003... >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 09:38 PM Dale, I certainly don't mind disagreement especially as I have met it here from you and others. I realize that only Crace himself could answer some of my questions directly. I regret not having asked him to elaborate when he was here. So, I appreciate your writer's point of view. With equal respect. 21-08-03 BCE All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 09:56 PM I found QUARANTINE to be an interesting book, and I think that the characters are well done. I consider myself a Christian, but not a right-wing hell-fire kind of Christian. I felt somewhat uncomfortable reading Crace's view of Jesus as a nervous young man who was unsure of himself. I know that the book is Crace's interpretation of the forty days in the wilderness, but I kept saying to myself that this is not the Jesus that I think of. Diane Freeman lent me JESUS OF MONTREAL to view over the weekend. It went quite well with this book. Jane
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, August 21, 2003 10:08 PM Jane: JESUS OF MONTREAL is a film I've wanted to see for years and years but have never gotten around to; I need to remedy that. Here's a review I found by Roger Ebert, who gave it 3-1/2 stars... *** REVIEW: JESUS OF MONTREAL By Roger Ebert The Passion play has been a success for more than 40 years in the famous Montreal basilica, but the passage of time has made it seem old-fashioned, and modern audiences are growing restless. It's time for an overhaul. So the priest in charge hires some new actors - younger, more inventive - to stage a revised and updated version. And they make the mistake of taking their material literally. The teachings of Christ, it has often been observed, would be radical and subversive, if anyone ever took them literally. And they would be profoundly offensive to those who build their kingdoms in this world and not in the next. The actors who rewrite the Passion in "Jesus of Montreal" create a play that is good theater and perhaps even good theology, but it is not good public relations. And although audiences respond well and the reviews are good, the church authorities are reluctant to offend the establishment by presenting such an unorthodox reading of the sacred story. So they order the play to be toned down. But by the time they act, a curious thing has happened to the actors. They have come to believe in their play, to be shaped by the roles they play. "Jesus of Montreal" does not try to force a parallel between the Passion of Christ and the experiences of these actors. And yet certain similarities do appear, and Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau), the actor who plays Christ, discovers that his own life is taking on some of the aspects of Christ's. By the end of the film we have arrived at a crucifixion scene that actually plays as drama, and not simply as something that has been forced into the script. "Jesus of Montreal" was written and directed by Denys Arcand, the best of the new generation of Quebec filmmakers. His previous film was "The Decline of the American Empire," in which a group of Montreal intellectuals gathered to prepare a meal and talk about the meanings of their lives; it was sort of a conversational version of "The Big Chill." This film is much more passionate, and angrier. It suggests that most establishments, and especially the church, would be rocked to their foundations by the practical application of the maxims of Christ. Many of the scenes have obvious parallels in the New Testament. In one, an actress from the troupe appears at an audition for a TV commercial and is asked to take off her clothes - not because nudity is required in the commercial, but more because the casting director wants to exercise his power. Arriving late at the audition, Daniel, the Christ figure, shouts out to his friend to leave her clothes on. And then, when the advertising people try to have him ejected, he goes into a rage, overturning lights and cameras. It is a version, of course, of Christ and the moneylenders in the temple. Another way in which "Jesus of Montreal" parallels the life of Christ is in the way a community grows up around its central figure. Filled with a vision they believe in, nourished by the courage to carry on in the face of the authorities, these actors persist in presenting their play even in the face of religious and legal opposition. It's interesting the way Arcand makes this work as theology and drama at the same time; in a sense, "Jesus of Montreal" is a movie about the theater, not about religion. If you go to the movie, pay close attention to Bluteau in the title role. He is considered the most powerful actor to come out of Canada in years, with his emaciated good looks and his burning intensity, and he has recently received strong reviews for his stage work in London. Bluteau is an actor of the Mickey Rourke-Eric Roberts-James Woods school, consumed with fire, intense in his concentration, and he is just right for this role. As for the film itself, I was surprised at how absorbed I became, even though right from the beginning I assumed I would see some kind of modern parallel of the Passion. Arcand doesn't force the parallels, and his screenplay is not simply an updated paraphrase of the New Testament. It's an original and uncompromising attempt to explore what really might happen, if the spirit of Jesus were to walk among us in these timid and materialistic times. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, August 22, 2003 07:37 AM Thanks for posting that review, Dale. It reminds me of my younger days (in which I actually dared to argue with my parents about religion) when I announced to my mother that Jesus was a revolutionary. What a rage she went into. No amount of logic would penetrate. It was like calling him some filthy name. Sherry
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, August 23, 2003 09:43 AM Really interesting discussion of the values of fact in fiction, everyone. I'm torn as I usually am when arguments for both sides are well presented. One question that arose as I was reading your notes was: did Crace really meant to chronicle the factual process of decomposition of the body after death? Could that process have been a metaphor for the absolute letting go that happens when one does not believe that there is an afterlife? Also, as I pondered my own perspective, I thought of how ironic it is that I (a lover of fiction who has a very difficult time reading nonfiction) wanted my stories to be factual. Barb
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, August 23, 2003 09:48 AM In looking for information relative to our discussion here, I found this quote from Crace which I found interesting: One of the most thought-provoking comments about the novel comes from Crace himself. In a profile in the Times he told Jason Cowley: ‘Being Dead is the novel of the material I couldn’t include in Quarantine’. The suggestion is that Being Dead addresses issues of ‘belief, death and the search for transcendence’ in a more direct way than was possible in Quarantine, given the tight realist focus of the preceding novel. Both novels have at their heart dead, decomposing human bodies. However, in Quarantine the death of Jesus is the point; Crace has said that he intended to use the novel to ‘kill Christ’ and thereby help ‘erase two thousand years of Christianity’. (For an introduction to Quarantine by Jim Crace, click here.) In Being Dead, the bodies of Joseph and Celice are the starting-point (and also, because of the looping structure of the book, its climax). This was from that same website on Crace that I posted earlier in our discussion. Barb
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, August 23, 2003 12:22 PM Barb: I was especially struck by your comment, I thought of how ironic it is that I (a lover of fiction who has a very difficult time reading nonfiction) wanted my stories to be factual. It occurs to me that I may be a little too touchy in arguing the anti- case, and that there's a reason. Namely, when I was growing up I was fortunate that my mom was an avid reader who encouraged me to do likewise. But the other people in my life, especially the older generation, made a very stern distinction between the value of fiction and nonfiction, as in, "Is that a real book you're reading, or just some old story book?" This greatly pained me, coming at a time when (a) fiction, particularly speculative fiction, was like oxygen to me, and (b) I was beginning to suspect that writing same was what I wanted to do with my life. With that ghost upon me, my knee-jerk reaction when someone insists that fiction be factual is that it's an echo of that old condemnation, i.e. sort of hedging our bets to ensure that fiction, even if frivolous in the long run, is at least educational. Not a fair judgment, but there it is in my psyche, still. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, August 24, 2003 01:02 AM Dale, I know the feeling. The first "grown up" novel which I ever read (at age 16) was "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller. A friend of my step-mother inquired about it. When I told her what it was about, she asked why I was reading that in a way which told me quite clearly that I was wasting my time to be reading that. I was a bit hurt and confused. Not long after that, my Dad asked me about a book he saw me reading, "The Past Through Tomorrow" by Robert Heinlein. I got an even frostier response so I made a note not to read in front of my parents nor tell them about "The Catcher in the Rye." Fiction writing can and has advanced us by broadening our awareness and awakening social conscious but it is valuable even when it does nothing of the sort. A book store here in Vancouver had a letter sign on which a different humourous saying was posted every week. One week the message was "We read so that we do not feel alone." On the other side it said, "Funny sign guy on vacation." All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, August 24, 2003 09:29 PM Dean, I loved your signs. Sometimes we read to be alone. I have a great t-shirt that has a quote from Archie Campbell of the Nero Wolf series, "Go to hell, I'm reading..." Jane

 
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