Pub: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Easter, when a Kindle surprise turns into a curate’s egg
It’s Easter and I’m cross again. What’s that? No. God no, not that sort of cross. Look around. Hardly a species to die for, wouldn’t you say, especially not by crucifixion. (Though to be fair, Jesus was young and he’d been away – not trawling the metropolises of Europe and Asia, as we do, where only the language barrier preserves the illusion of civilisation, but in the desert, for godsake, with lizards and thorn trees for company. So he can be forgiven for the unnaturally rosy view. I mean, how was he to know we’d metastasise into the planet’s largest biomass, eating the planet out of house and home, tipping climate itself into chaos and still looking for new ways to feed our appetites? Still looking, in fact, for new appetites to feed.)
No, that’s not making me cross.
Nor is it the way the shops swell with spiced buns and monster gilt bunnies while most of us are still doing cold turkey from Christmas. Or that so few of the wee guzzlers, said bunnies’ consumers-to-be, haven’t the foggiest as to the meaning of Easter, much less sacrifice. Most of them think Lent is some yucky thing banks do to grown-ups, Ash Wednesday some bushfire appeal and fasting a kind of sport.
I’m not even mad about the snarling vileness of Easter traffic, although every time I encounter a transport plan like Keneally’s new one I see red. It claims greenness (yes, it has the good sense at least to extend the light rail downtown). But how is this reasonable: $158 million for cycleways – over 10 years – and a walloping $22 billion for new roads that will be full again within minutes of opening. When will they learn that roads make traffic, quite as much as vice versa?
I’m also not cross that each year it’s harder to find decent service, church-type service I mean, even at Easter, when you’d think they’d be two a penny. I realise I’m conflicted on this. I’m reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and can’t help but take the heretics’ side – well, natch – so I know they burned for the right to a transparent liturgy and an unmediated god, not just for the monarch’s choice-of-bonk. They died to defy papist hocus pocus.
But when it comes to a service, which for me is strictly occasional, it’s the hocus pocus I love. Not necessarily papist. A personal favourite is the local St George Antioch, with services in Arabic (which I pretend is Aramaic, for the romance), incense-bearing priests popping in and out of a theatrically-perforated screen and a pod of female cantors whose voices twine round the rafters like wisteria in winter. In church, as in travelling, the hocus pocus preserves the bubble.
Curiously, my other favourite church, Christ Church St Lawrence, once housed this same Antioch mob, back in the ’50s, between demolishing the old cathedral (for those very handsome Housing Commission flats) and rebuilding up the road.
But for me that would have made a near-perfect hand-in-glove fit,
Arabic in Christ Church, mystery within mystery.
My top ecclesial experience, though, was midnight in S. Annunziata, just near the Foundling Hospital in Florence. You clamber over beggars and through an entirely unsuspecting wall into this gaunt and smoky cave of smudged pinks and peripatetic congregation like entering a scene from The Magus, with the hoofed creature due
But OK, you’ve been patient. What I’m really cross about is this.
My Kindle. I had to try it, to see whether digital could hold a candle to the book. And I have to say the hardware is fine.
I don’t mind that it’s black and white and matt finish and the technology is clunky daisywheel not glossy iPad. I don’t care it doesn’t surf the net or make dinner. In fact I kind of like it.
But I did want something to read. Something compressed and intelligent for the plane or the swag. But apart from The Spectator and The New York Times, it’s like an airport bookstore with the good bits removed. Kindle Australia has four readable books. Three Stieg Larssons and Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve read them.
Everything else is called Midnight in Madrid or How to Make A Million Bucks with a Gleaming Smile and a Flat Belly. You can’t search alphabetically, and much as Amazon vaunts its relationship with publishers you can’t get Pete Dexter or Tim Winton or A.A. Gill and if you search Carl Hiaasen you get three Lee Goldberg westerns and a self-helper called Active Senior Living.
A couple months back I tried to download Wolf Hall, to avoid taking all 650 pages of it on the road. It was available, said Kindle, but not in Australia. Even if you went to Britain and tried to download it there it told you no, not to someone with an Australian address. Not to a heretic.
Now, of course, now that I’m near the end, now the pyromaniac Thomas More is about to taste his own fire, Wolf Hall is so available it downloads without being asked; then, when I cancel, it kills the download but charges me anyway.
Hmm. Burnt by kindling. Hot cross you, April Fool me.