Sunday, September 14, 2008


It's now been over a year since I started my "Intertextual Reading Project" which, well, is just having a non-school book to read in the bathroom. Seems simple enough, but the whole point was to have some input from and connection to the world beyond what I was reading for school. Whereas I need to use my bus rides and work breaks for class reading, and frankly, I'm too brain-fried to come home and just read, somehow having something to read in the bathroom suspends the idea that I'm using time I could be doing something else- and ta-da! I've finished 17 books that way.

And though I've always thought of it as an inter-textual project (hoping outside voices and stories would add new dimension to my MHGS roster of study) sometimes the intertextuality is more than striking- it can be disruptive. Most recently- yesterday morning on the bus to work.

*spoiler alert*
So, currently in my "office" I'm reading "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald. I'd heard the book title off and on growing up, but honestly, I think I conflated it with "The Black Cauldron" or "The Swan Princess" or something, so never thought twice about it. Then recently, I heard three different trusted, respected women raving about the beauty, imagination, and yes, theology of George MacDonald's writing. CS Lewis credits him with having baptized his imagination. So that's why I find myself reading a children's story from 1872. In my "real life" I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's novel "The Poisonwood Bible" for a research paper I'm working on.

The previous night in "Princess and the Goblin" little 8 yr. Princess Irene stays the night with her beautiful mystical grandmother in the attic, and there's an image-rich scene where the Grandmother washes Irene's feet by moonlight then swaddles her into soft bed covers to rest peacefully for the night. The next morning (my morning) in "Poisonwood" I'm reading about another little girl being washed and cradled. For a moment, I got confused about who was the princess and who was a missionary child in Africa. A second later sorted it out, and I continued to read the scene of a mother delicately washing the body of her 5 yr old daughter who was just killed, and weaving together mosquito nets to make a shroud. The rhythm of both the scenes felt so similar: meditative, almost in slow motion, except in one, a beloved little girl was being laid down to sweet dreams and in the other, was being mourned and buried. It definitely augmented the tragedy of Ruth May's sudden death, the idea that she perhaps should have been spending time with mystical grandmothers, not being held captive and put in danger by a father's arrogance and stupidity half way around the world. It felt like Princess Irene had been murdered in the Congo in 1960. It was a powerful inter-textual moment.

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