Monday, November 17, 2008

Rushdie’s sermon

“For a man who is both an avowed skeptic and who was once sentenced to death by Iran’s spiritual and political leader, Salman Rushdie is remarkably open toward faith. It’s not that he’s got it.

“‘I would argue that religion comes from a desire to get to the questions of where do we come from and how shall we live,’ he said [Nov. 6] at the opening of Columbia University’s new Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life. ‘And I would say I don’t need religion to answer those questions. Regarding origins, I think you can say [they are all wrong]. The world was not created in six days and God rested on the seventh. It was not created in the churning of a giant pot. Or the sparks unleashed by the udders of a giant cow against the boulders of a gigantic chasm. And regarding ‘how shall we live,’ I don’t want answers that come from some priest.’

“‘But,’ he continued, ‘When I’m writing books, something weird happens, and the result is the books contain a large amount of what you could call supernaturalism. As a writer I find I need that to explain the world I’m writing about. As a person I don’t need it, and as person I do. I would agree, that tension is irreconcilable. [But] it’s just there. It’s just so.’”

-David Van Biema, writing in “God for the Godless: Salman Rushdie’s Secular Sermon,” on Nov. 8

Welcome to D.C.

“The membrane between society and Washington’s power crowd is a porous one. Some new presidents, like George H.W. Bush, are already creatures of Washington when they move into the White House. Others, such as Ronald Reagan, must court the locals like the ambitious son of a banker wooing the daughter of old aristocracy. He badly wants her cachet to take the edge off his raw money; her secret is that she wants his money just as badly. …

“Though a common complaint is over the city’s transience - no one who figures in official Washington is from here, after all - the truth is, many newcomers stay forever, secretly at home in the city everyone loves to hate. As each administration departs, it leaves behind a layer of flotsam on the shore … all now too smitten or too connected ever to move away. The city happily absorbs its quadrennial infusions of new blood. But Washington always does more to change its newcomers than the newcomers do to change it.”

- Marjorie Williams, writing in “Welcome to Washington,” excerpts of which were posted on Nov. 7

Looking for Bond

“‘Quantum of Solace’ is the first James Bond film in which I didn’t for one moment want to be Bond. This is not a good sign. The key to Bond, dating back to his first appearance as Ian Fleming’s imaginary self-projection in the 1950s and especially to the arrival of Sean Connery’s still-potent incarnation in the early 1960s, is that he’s an ultimate male fantasy figure, an impudent, self-possessed, worldly man of action who is a villain-killer by vocation and a lady-killer by avocation.

“Unfortunately, Bond as we’ve known him is scarcely to be found in ‘Quantum.’ The character, whose oft-submerged sadistic side [Daniel] Craig commendably resurrected last time out, has turned into a veritable killing machine. …

“Perhaps taking a different road this time seemed like the thing to do after years of playing it safe during the [Roger] Moore era and then making a shrewd choice by going with Craig. But … Bond has gotten lost in the process. When I go to a Bond film, I want to see Bond, not Jason Bourne [of the “Bourne Identity” movies] - he’s got his own series, and there’s room for both.”

- Todd McCarthy, writing in “James Bond goes MIA,” on Nov. 6.

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