I shiver with antici-pation

I am not a very nice person. Sometimes I get wind of a book which fills me with a sort of black, terrible joy, and I can’t wait to read it, but not, I am afraid, for any noble reasons. Pursuing something round Google à propos of my new Byzantium course, I found this:

Theodore is the fictional memoirs of England’s most unlikely archbishop. Saint Theodore was a homosexual Byzantine monk with heretical tendencies, and a taste for Platonic philosophy. He was born during Europe’s darkest age, when the Byzantine Empire was overrun by pagan invaders, weakened by civil war, and divided by religious controversy. He sought certainty, and love, among monks, soldiers, philosophers, and barbarian horsemen. He wandered ceaselessly, fleeing war and persecution, pursuing wisdom, searching for security in a collapsing world. In the East, he saw brutality and destruction. In Constantinople, he was drawn into court intrigue. In Italy, he found love, then lonely exile. Then, almost by accident, he was given the task that changed his life. Though greatly learned and widely experienced, Theodore disliked authority, and was undermined by conflicting desires and religious doubts. Despite these obvious disqualifications, he was chosen by the Pope as Archbishop of Canterbury, and sent to England to civilise the semi-pagan Anglo-Saxons. He proved an unexpected success, and, with help from his partner Hadrian, established the Church in England in a form that has lasted, in many respects, until today. Even so, he is less well known than his ineffectual predecessor Saint Augustine, or his bitter rival, the sack-cloth politician Saint Wilfrid. ‘

I spent the best part of three years writing a book about Archbishop Theodore, and edited some of his writings. He struck me as a very remarkable person indeed, possessed of a clear and vigorous mind, with the sort of ghastly pragmatism which is a leading Byzantine characteristic, and I came away with the greatest respect for him. I can’t begin to think what he would have said about this schlock, but I’m sure it’ll provide more than no moments of inadvertent comedy. One of the fatal flaws in most books about the early modern and earlier is evident even from the blurb; modern writers can’t quite believe that people actually thought religion mattered. I look forward with anticipation to seeing what Mr Harris does with the monothelite controversy, which I’d bet you anything you like occupied a great deal more of Theodore’s time and attention than his sex-life.

9 Responses to “I shiver with antici-pation”

  1. carol Says:

    Heh, heh, heh!
    The writer’s agent has plainly decided that the film rights will lead to a vehicle to enable the actor Joachim Phoenix to follow up his camp rendition of the Emperor Commodus in Gladiator (better earrings than his sister if I recall), with the Theodore of Hollywood’s dreams. Or something.

    Am pursuing my enhanced academic role in life in my aspect of Bloodhound B***h Queen of the Baskervilles… Head of Acting Dept having proved remarkably elusive, I have now cornered him into an admission that actually chosing the second year’s set texts today could be useful, unless he really wants an ‘insert name here whenever’ approach to getting the little darlings actually TAUGHT. Is it me?

  2. The Barbadian Latinist Says:

    Is the work in question actually published (as the blurb would suggest) by Mills and Boon? (When did they start doing gay fiction?)
    Please get the most influential relevant journal to let you do an absolute hatchet job of a review on it. This sort of thing deserves to be exposed to public ridicule.

  3. Jane Says:

    Dear Worried: being Bloodhound Bitch Queen of the Baskervilles is a necessary role at this time of year. Sometimes, as you have discovered, us mild mannered intellectual types are forced to assume it. Sometimes, alas, we find that a secretary has assumed it towards US. ‘Heavens to Betsy! Didn’t I tell you that months ago?!’ ‘NO.’ ‘Oh …’. It all sort of comes out in the wash.
    I will report to the world in general and the Barbadian Latinist in particular, on Theodore once it has arrived. But I would ask him this: does it merit the oxygen of publicity?

  4. carol Says:

    Oxygen of publicity - nah! Helium, with added Red Noses, Custard, Sparklers and Tap-Dancing Hamsters in Tutus… this book must be allowed to reach its demographic suitably announced…

  5. will Says:

    I was once told that the idea of going to church was that we are all sinners, not saints. Why the shock?

  6. Jane Says:

    Will: not shock. 1) some of us ARE saints, though nobody should assume that that status is definable straightforwardly as connected with lack of sexual experience. 2) the point is, Theodore’s life and preoccupations are to a great extent recoverable, which is what I am on about, since they suggest that the plot summary before us represents the most appalling travesty of the experience of a major-league intellectual of the 7th century. Don’t be daft.

  7. The Barbadian Latinist Says:

    I take your point about the oxygen of publicity. Curiosity led me to look at the thing on Amazon, and I see it was published in 2000, so it may be too late to have any effect anyway. Amazon have only one left in stock …

  8. canadian professor Says:

    Be of stout heart. Perhaps they had only two.

  9. canadian professor Says:

    I looked it up too, but couldn’t find the offender.

    I DID find the LM - authors listed as Theodore and Jane Stevenson.

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