Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the beginning was the word count

In what feels like a 21st-century update of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, a six-year-old child in Scotland was tasked by her teacher with writing a letter to God, asking how he was invented. The girl’s father – who happens to be the journalist Alex Renton – forwarded the letter to a number of religious leaders, including Rowan Williams, the prophetically beardy, Incredible-String-Band-digging Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Williams’s reply imagined the Almighty’s response, which in his version ended thus:
Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!
Now, I’m not sure how this chimes with orthodox Anglican theology, but it sounds to me like a textbook example of metafiction, the literary device by which the author persistently draws attention to the fictional nature of the text itself. Examples range from the works of Laurence Sterne, Luigi Pirandello and Italo Calvino to that bit in Trading Places where Eddie Murphy looks straight into the camera. So there’s a respectable precedent; but it does rather suggest that while he was busy inspiring the Bible, God would occasionally break off to say “You do know this is just a story, right?”

Happy Easter, everyone!


Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you for maintaining the tradition of being both entertaining and informative. Rowan Williams should have quoted from another work by the ISB
Maya, Maya
All this world is but a play
Be thou the joyful player.

That would have shut the brat up.

GreatSheElephant said...

I'm in the middle of Santa Evita at the moment, which involves a lot of metafiction in that much of the novel appears to be about the process of writing Santa Evita.

It also contains disconcerting echoes of Tim Rice's lyrics from Evita, which predates Tomas Eloy Martinez's novel by roughly 20 years. I'm wondering whether this is the fault of the translator or it's deliberate. Either way, I feel like if there's a direct inverse of meta anything, it will involve Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Annie said...

love it

Anonymous said...

Sure it wasn't Douglas Adams she wrote to?
Ah, right enough, it wouldn't have been.

Tim F said...

Indeed, Vicus. I imagine him in front of the mirror, playing air hurdy-gurdy.

I wonder how many people known Evita was a real person, GSE, not just another Madonna persona.

It loves you too, Annie.

Good point, BWT. I can imagine Rowan suffering from a puff of logic.