Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Second Redaction

Quite frankly, I have no idea what the other four crises were, and I have no interest at this time in spending any effort trying to identify them. All I know is that as I was returning to the current chapter-under-rewrite of "Contemplatives" - a couple of days ago - it came into my head that the very idea of so many quite significant changes to the 80-88 text was "the fifth major crisis of my life". Now as I was a dozen chapters on the downhill pull from this cataclysm, I was no longer in danger of any sort of trauma from mentally revisiting original scene of the stunning event - a total surprise when it came - but I did put myself to wondering whom I knew that had been made to face into something equivalent and I thought of our Bishop, plucked out of his very happy retirement amongst his beloved Toronto Capuchins and exiled to the diocese of Nelson, with its history of abusive priests and still-in-place experimental approaches to the liturgy. As a former minister general, he was a much-challenged administrator in one context, and now he is a much-challenged bishop in another. So he gets to do it all over again, but differently.
One also thinks of the Pope, for so long the fiercely attentive - albeit lovingly - doctrinal watchdog the progressives loved to hate -or feel superior to - now the main man himself getting to bless the sick and kibbitz with the kids and all that stuff that makes the whole man instead of just the cop on patrol be manifested.
There must be those who would say that I'm puffing myself up rather much to bring in those two comparisons, and possibly they're right, especially if they can prove that novelists are never as important as administrators, but I'll stick to my comparison not because of my own talents or lack thereof, but because of the subject material the Muse decided long ago it would be my lot to take on. It was definitely the Holy Spirit who wanted Benedict as Pope, then John Corriveau as Bishop Nelson, and only He could have designated a klutz like myself to wrestle with the problems of putting the Transformation on paper. (And now computeronics.) And having chosen such a klutz certainly only He could guide me through it all, with no little absolutely necessary help from my spiritual companions.
So, yes, "Contemplatives" is getting some significant reworking, more extensive I think than the two works of John of the Cross that experienced the same fate. (The Spiritual Canticle and the Living Flame) I think it's been freed up for this, in the mind of Muse, because NWTA has emerged. If the second novel better takes care of the actual history, the first can be even more ideal, more instructive in its use of the imagination more than memory. And readers have different moods. At one time they like to know how things could have gone, with sufficient intelligence and virtue in place, and at another they want to hear about just how much running room the Devil was allowed in the hearts of the faithless and the traitors.
Does this mean that the old version of Contemplatives is buried? Not at all. There is the tape of two-thirds of it, the readers' copy long circulated in the family, and the quite two-thirds in the Vatican Library, where the scholars can go to draw comparisons with the new stuff. This is what redactions are all about, giving the scholars something to do. This probability regarding my writing of the future I was well coached on in first year English, one of the few things that made university English different than that in high school. I could never think of myself as a scholar - and still can't - because my drive was character and plot, but it was interesting to think that a few people might find reasons to do all the scholarly stuff with my writing, eventually, and I took not of the anguish these ladies and gentlemen suffered when detail were missing. I would, I thought, try to keep my notes as best I could.
It's quite fascinating, of course, to ponder the great gaps in my knowledge of the then Church Militant as I was winding down to March of 1980, when Contemplatives finally saw the light of a "final" text. I did know our diocese was pretty rotten at the top, but I was not all that aware of how common our situation was throughout the Western Church. Because I had grown up in Vancouver and been converted there, and also because it is our neighbour diocese to the west, I was much aware of Archbishop James Carney and his predilection for his Catholics actually being Catholics. He expected them to read the directions when all else failed, or maybe even be smart enough to stay out of predicaments that guaranteed failure. I had some knowledge of Carney being considered "conservative" by most of his fellows, but I had no idea of the depth and breadth of their follies as a nationwide situation until we started to hook up, in a very practical and immediate way, with John Paul and the Vatican. That was at the end of 82, so previous to then, the tension of the Contemplatives plot was due merely to the immediately local enmity to Saint Thomas, John of the Cross and the Scriptures as they were read and understood by men and women of real faith.
My first real tip about the Canadian Church generally, and "modern" nuns specifically, did come about, however, because of the writing, and quite quickly after I started. That story later, but I mention it now because it shows that I was not totally locked up in my ivory tower.
Nor have I done a Lady of Shallot with the music studies. She who follows the web sites reporting instantly on the Church - I still prefer to peruse after the fact in L'Osservatore Romano - made my heart sing last night with a report that now that Rome has pretty well straightened out the translations battle - I hedge my bets because I remain convinced that only a half-wit uses the word 'humankind' - all half-wits invited to defend their reasoning to the Transformation, face to face - Rome will begin to deal with the music madness.
This may be the biggest single reason for the second redaction,thirty significantly painful years after the beginning of the first.

1 comment:

cabbage ears said...

Humankind is nothing more,nothing less than what you live in. Apart from Rome, from the Vatican, from Catholic theology. Frankly nothing is apart at this point in your life or mine...from being human. But if some are more and some are less...some are in the haven of mercy. They may not realize, but they are. Witness Haiti.