So I’ve been listening to some BBC podcasts recently – the “In Our Time” series. I really enjoy them – the interplay between the three interlocutors, the broad range of topics they cover within the topic itself: it’s all glorious. What I do often find drives me nuts, though, is Melvyn Bragge himself. He so often seems to think he knows everything about the topic after his preliminary reading – I’m happy to admit that he probably spends a number of hours in doing so, but still, he’s talking to people who have spent large amount of their professional lives, at least, thinking about the stuff! He particularly annoyed me in this episode, but I’ll get to that.
I had a most exciting moment in listening to this episode, which has never happened before: I knew one of the people! Well, ‘knew’ in the loosest possible sense; I’ve read most of one of his books, when I was researching for an essay on Robin Hood; and I heard him speak once on the figure of Merlin – Stephen Knight. An Aussie, who teaches in Wales on Arthur-y type things, among other topics. Anyway, it was a very cool moment for me.
So, the episode itself: focussing on the Fisher King, which I think is very cool in and of itself, that you can talk for 40-odd minutes on a fairly obscure literary figure/convention. Awesome. They looked at when the Fisher King first appears – in connection with Arthurian stuff; what his figure represents, pagan and Christian; and what he came to mean, in the 19th and 20th centuries (and they did indeed mention, if only briefly, the movie – which I was waiting for!), in Eliot (I might have to re-read The Waste Land… scary thought) and others.
All up, it was a great deal of fun to read, as I pounded along the path….
You can even, as they say in the business, listen again!
As I cook an enormous lasagne to feed a 5 year old and 4 year old tonight (and their parents), I’m catching up on my “In our Time” podcasts. At the moment it’s “The history of hell,” which is interesting for a whole load of reasons. But something that just struck me: Bosch and Luther were contemporaries! Fascinating.
Now they’re talking about the fact that in many early traditions, hell was freezing, rather than being, with the speculation that this is some sort of folk memory of the change, 10,000 years ago, from the last Ice Age. Apparently – and I don’t know who thinks this – there is an idea that the Ice Age changed over just 10 years or so, such that people would experience it very obviously.
And now they’re talking about Heart of Darkness The Waste Land. The idea of the journey down the Congo, to the supervisor at the inner station, who might be described as a modern Tiresias. Now that is a really, really interesting idea.
I’ve been listening to “In our Time” today: my house has been invaded by musos, taping a demo of some new songs written by Esther. So I’m banished to the bedroom, with my puter and a couple of books.
So I’ve listened to the episode on the Diet of Worms, on the EncyclopeÌdie, and at the moment to Poincare and his conjecture… which I admit I’m not listening to very carefully, so I’m actually not really sure what the conjecture is. Nevertheless, I do enjoy these episodes, despite the fact that often I think Melvyn is a but of a knob, and seems to try and trip his guests up. Sometimes I guess his seeming-abrasiveness is to get the entire thing done in 40 minutes, which is always an effort.