30 May 2013

index to CW book summaries

I had begun summarizing CW's works in chronological order and posting the summaries on this blog. However, since I am launching my brand-new CW blog, THE ODDEST INKLING, next week, I will post these summaries there from now one. Enjoy! 

Index to summaries of books by Charles Williams:

1912 -- The Silver Stair -- poetry (sonnet sequence)

 1912 -- The Chapel of the Thorn -- unpublished play ("dramatic poem")

1917 -- Poems of Conformity -- poetry on love and war

1920 -- Divorce -- poems

Index to summaries of books about Charles Williams:

1983 -- Hadfield, Alice Mary. Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work

28 May 2013

The Doctor Diaries III: Xmas special

The Runaway Bride” and The Ultimate Things

What makes a work of fiction terribly powerful? What makes it memorable? What makes it emotionally wrenching? One factor is often how it deals with The Ultimate Things: birth, death, and the end of the world. I've written a bit about The End of the World in fiction previously.

According to Christian theology, there are either Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, or Seven Last Things: the second coming of Christ, the defeat of antichrist, the binding of Satan, the millennial kingdom, the release of Satan, the last judgment (a.k.a. the end of the world), and the revelation of the new heaven and the new earth. These are often presented archetypally in fiction, especially the defeat of antichrist: the protagonist and antagonist are often presented as being equal-but-opposite to each other, necessary to one another's continued purpose and/or existence. This is presented most clearly in fiction of the comic book, superhero, and epic kinds. See, for instance, the (SPOILERS!) ending of Unbreakable
or Sherlock and Moriarty's last conversation. Since the “good guy” and the “bad guy” are presented as complimentary opposites, or foils for one another, this is typologically resonant with the theological concept of Christ defeating Antichrist.

Another factor in making a work of fiction terrifically powerful is how it pushes its characters to the extremes of human action and emotion, which might be considered another set of Ultimate Things: murder, suicide, star-crossed love affairs, betrayal, loss of a child, loss of the beloved, salvation, and damnation.

The characters in Doctor Who encounter one of the Ultimate Things in nearly every episode. That's as much part of the genre as the fights with silly aliens or the Doctor's obsession with picking up pretty young companions.

In “The Runaway Bride,” the Doctor takes Donna to witness the beginning of the Earth. It turns out that the particularly overdone villain in this episode (a giant red spider who apparently can't walk and just stands in place listening to all her children being murdered) was there at the creation of earth—in fact, she caused earth's beginnings by using her spaceship as the first rock in the center of a cluster, thus creating a gravity field that began drawing in all the other rocks and space debris around it. All this rubble eventually coalesced into the planet we know and love.

Anyway, the point is that Donna gets to witness the birth of the Planet Earth. This is obviously quite a ultimate Ultimate Thing. And it has on her exactly the effect the Doctor planned; Donna is singularly gifted at missing the Big Picture. She missed the invasion of the Sycorax because she had a hangover. She was unaware of World War Three because she was scuba diving off the coast of Spain. So the Doctor decides she needs a little perspective in her life. And what better way to infuse a bit of Big-Picture Perspective than to shove a little human right into the middle of one of the Ultimate Things? And which Ultimate Thing could be better than one that no human has ever seen before, which is beyond human ability to observe? It's like watching one's own birth—only it's more like watching everyone's birth, at once.

And it works. Donna says, “That puts the wedding into perspective.” Indeed it does. It puts most everything into perspective. That what The Ultimate Things does, and I believe that is one reason that fiction of the epic, fantasy, and comic book types are so popular, and always will be—at least until we experience the Ultimate Things themselves directly, without fictional mediation. /

25 May 2013

The Doctor Diaries: Interim

As a late-blooming Whovian, I made an awkward entry into the series by watching Seasons Five, Two, and One—in that order. I had actually tried Season One, but was so turned off by Christopher Eccleston's big ears and funny face, Billie Piper's unclassy accent, and the absurdity of the plots in the first three episodes that I quit watching. It was such awful B-movie scifi. But then, on the advice of several very savvy friends, I randomly jumped into Season Five. I don't know whatever possessed me to skip The One and Only Doctor, David Tennant. But even sweet, silly Matt Smith got me over the goofy stories and into the profound depths of the Steven Moffat stories.

All that to say: I haven't been blogging the Doctor for a while because I went back and watched Season One. And of course, I fell in love and got my heart broken with the rest of you. Yet not journalling about those episodes is no great loss, I think, because of the cyclical nature of the series. Each deep theme gets revisited at some point in the “future” (funny how the very nature of the Doctor messes with the meanings of words like “future”).

This also gives me a chance to blog about another Big Idea the Doctor has given me. I'm calling it Retrospective Linearity.

That's a big name for a fairly basic idea. The idea is that at the end of the whole Doctor Who experience, you could go back and reconstruct human history, in order, from beginning to end, to show how the Doctor created that history. He does not visit historical events in order—that is, in order from his perspective, according to when he encounters them relative to his personal chronology—but the chains of cause-and-effect he puts into motion end up spanning human history.

Here are the historical events and people he has visited, in his order, since the reboot:
1. Charles Dickens
2. World War II, the London Blitz
3. Queen Victoria
4. Madame de Pompadour
5. the coronation of Elizabeth I
6. the 2012 London Olympics (although this was in the future when the Doctor visited)
7. Shakespeare
8. the construction of the Empire State Building
9. 1913, right before the start of World War I
10. HMS Titanic
11. Pompeii, A.D. 79
12. Agatha Christie
13. Winston Churchill
14. 16th century Venice
15. Vincent van Gogh
16. 17th century pirate ship
17. Christmas Eve, 1938
18. Queen Nefertiti
19. American Wild West in the 19th century
20. London, 1892
21. the Cold War
Now let me re-order those to match earth's history: 

1. Queen Nefertiti
2. Pompeii, A.D. 79
3, 16th century Venice
4. Shakespeare
5. 17th century pirate ship
6. Madame de Pompadour
7. Charles Dickens
8. Queen Victoria
9. American Wild West in the 19th century
10. Vincent van Gogh
11. London, 1892
12. HMS Titanic
13. 1913, right before the start of World War I
14. Agatha Christie
15. the construction of the Empire State Building
16. Christmas Eve, 1938
17. World War II, the London Blitz
18. Winston Churchill
19. the coronation of Elizabeth I
20. the Cold War
21.the 2012 London Olympics
This, of course, doesn't include any time the Doctor visited in his first eight regenerations. Here is my point: The show gradually, non-chronologically reveals that the entirety of human history was written by the Doctor. At every moment, he stepped in to save earth, to save the human race.

At least, that's what I think the show could do, or should do, over time, as it layers more and more historical visits on top of one another. You'll notice that in 7 seasons, well over 70 episodes, he has only visited 21 times in the past—all the rest have been in the future. If they play it right, they could reveal how history was, at every moment, about to be different—disastrous—ending! —but the Doctor stepped in and made it what it now has been. And Steven Moffat & Co. are perfectly capable of constructing this elaborate historical revisionism.

So, I rather hope that's part of their grand scheme. We'll see.

10 May 2013

Announcing the Charles Williams blog

Hear ye, hear ye! 
On Wednesday June 5th, 2013,
a new venue for Inklings information, discussion, and interaction 
will appear. 
It is my new blog, entitled:

An Exploration of the Works of Charles Williams (1886-1945)

This new blog is hosted by WordPress, and you can see the dummy site here
I will begin by offering weekly posts 
-- "Charles Williams Wednesdays" ! -- 
covering the following topics:
1. The Life
2. His Themes
3. The Works (summaries of CW's books, in chronological order)
4. Bibliography (Secondary Sources)
5. Influencers and Influenced
6. Arthuriana
7. Rosicruciana
8. Academic Articles (Paper Abstracts, Selections, and Links)
9. News (Calls for Papers, new links, media, etc.) 

I will begin by collecting, revising, and tidying the Charles Williams-related material on this blog and moving it over to that one in a neat and organized fashion. Then I will start generating new content, especially book summaries, with the goal of one post a week
-- "Charles Williams Wednesdays"--
Meanwhile . . . 
please contact me  
if you have ideas for posts, themes, discussions, books to summarize, books to review, guest bloggers, material you would like to post, etc. 
Thank you, and I hope you join me in exploring 
Charles Walter Stansby Williams.