Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bravely Facing the Applause

Mark P. Shea has a withering review of "The Testament of Mary":

Into the midst of this devolution of the Country That Used to Be Ireland comes Colm Tóibín, the issues-filled author of (ahem) New Ways to Kill Your Mother, to deliver unto us what NPR breathlessly calls “A New ‘Testament’ Told From Mary’s Point of View”: his novella The Testament of Mary. It’s a book that fills a profound void—in the twice-annual need of God-haters in corporate publishing to find some sort of media phenomenon that will insult and blaspheme Christianity for Easter and Christmas.

Tóibín is the man of the hour, doing for Mary what Dan Brown did for Jesus: turning her into a blank screen upon which the author can project current cultural and personal obsessions for 30 pieces of silver. Tóibín, it will shock no one to know, is an ex-Catholic homosexual who “once contemplated the priesthood” (that clause is mandated in the standard corporate biosketch of every embittered ex-Catholic screed writer), but jettisoned his faith when he went to college and came out as gay.

In terms of content, the book is a by-the-numbers hatchet job written in sensitive, spare, and poetic diction for the delectation of UK and New York Chattering Classes and dipped in a bath of relentless, willful sadness and bitterness. The basic premise is that it has been 20 years since the crucifixion, and Mary is one nasty hag, sounding for all the world like a nun in iron grey, short-cropped hair and sensible shoes who has seized the microphone in a We Are Church group process breakout session and is now on the third hour of an extended free association monologue, grousing bitterly about the patriarchy.

That last line is simply delicious. The piece is chock full of such scathing gems and I would encourage to read the entire review. I won'y be giving away too much by telling you that Mr. Shea did not much like the book.