Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Sticking a tentative toe in the water
Jonal entry 1059 | July 9 2008
It's by sheer conincidence that the one-thousandth Jonal entry appeared here just two years and a week ago, July 3, 2006: I had no idea at the time, after finishing my Everything Jesus book and waiting for it to appear in stores, that I would be researching and writing a book on C.S. Lewis. That, like Everything Jesus, was a purely serendipitous development. I had had receptive communications with my editor for my idea for a book on Saint Patrick, but when my editor introduced that idea to her board it was shot down with the research finding that "there is no market for books on Saint Patrick."
I doubt that Lewis was ever shot down that unceremoniously, but it is true that his first books were flops in the marketplace and even his Narnia Chronicles began against the advice of his publisher, who agreed to publish the first of them only if Lewis would agree to make the idea into a series, as series of children's books were more marketable than a single title. The rest, as they say....
When my Saint Patrick project was shot down, though I was devastated, I replied to my editor with the thow-away line, more out a sense of obligation to keep up an optimistic spirit than real hope of success: "would there be any interest in something on C.S. Lewis?" There was, and two weeks later I was framing the manuscript.
At present, I'm working on three new book ideas, two of which already have some writing underway, but none of which are yet under contract. The most marketable, at least in my own sphere of activity, is a collection of one-chapter "hagiographies" on Contemporary Luminaries. A hagiography is the biography of a saint. The contemporary luminaries, meaning "light-givers of the current and past three generations," are chosen from my own Eastern Orthodox, as well as Protestant and Catholic communions. Each will be accompanied by a full-page "portrait" by my collaborator, Val Craig Murray, whose rendering of C.S. Lewis has graced the "Lewis Overflow" Jonals of recent months and is permanently prominent in the index for those articles. And yes, Lewis is one of the "luminaries" who will be treated in the book.
Another work in progress is a second full-size book on Lewis as a candidate for canonization with a history about sainthood and how cases for it and against it are presented in those churches that have saint halls of fame, so to speak. Lewis's church does not have canonizing saints in its tradition, by the way, but the book is a "supposal," to use one of his own terms for this type of writing. It will delve into his own views of saints and their veneration, as well as his appropriateness for that recognition by the whole church or, to again borrow his terminology, the community of "mere Christians.".
The third is another kind of collaboration in which my co-author, Michael Masterson, will do most of the thinking and I will do most of the writing. It will compare the distinctive teachings of our Orthodox Church to those of our former evangelical churches, as a roadmap to any who are considering making a similar journey of their own.
Now for a complete change of pace and topic.
Back to the 1950s
Frank Charney's comments in his post on Sunday about the Marlon Brando motorcycle cult movie, The Wild One, has inspired some reflections and reactions on my part. Though Frank and I are both grandparents, I'm enough years younger than he to have missed seeing that Brando movie when it was first released, and despite its popularity and position as a cultural icon, have never to this day seen it. I have seen Brando's starring early film of A Streetcar Named Desire, but also missed On the Waterfront. And because our class (or possibly the whole high school, the memory is unclear) made a field trip to the Capitol Theater especially to see it, I saw Brando's early movie Julius Caesar, in which he starred as Mark Anthony, though I'm not sure I knew the actor was Brando at the time.
But I have watched the clip from The Wild One that Frank included with his post, and was impressed by the acting. But I was struck by Brando's physical features, too. There's a resemblance to the later superstar to follow in his train, Elvis Presley. And though Brando became known as a "fat man" in his later years as the featured star in Apocalypse Now and The Godfather, it's apparent even in this 1953 role as a late-teen rebel that the makings of a portly older man were waiting to burst out. (I'm no one to talk on this subject, of course, but I don't think my pictures from age 20 (Brando was 29 in 1953) pressage a fat man in the making.)
Researching Brando a little bit, the most surprising fact I discovered was that he was not of Italian heritage, as I always thought, based on comments picked up in the pop media. According to his Wikipedia biography, "The [Brando] family was of mixed Dutch, Irish, German, Huguenot, and English descent." And the name was earlier spelled "Brandow," but had been changed before Marlon (who is actually Marlon, Jr.) was born.