In Competition No. 3216, you were invited to retell a well-known biblical story in a secular style that would enhance its appeal to a contemporary audience.
You might have drawn inspiration from ‘A Brief Statement of our Case’, a rendering of the Sermon of the Mount by the writer and critic Dwight Macdonald in the style of the New English Bible using only phrases that appear in that translation. (You can find it in the excellent Oxford Book of Parodies edited by John Gross.) Macdonald took a dim view of attempts to bring the Good Book as close as possible to ‘the life and language of the common man in our day’. ‘To make the Bible readable in the modern sense,’ he wrote, ‘means to flatten out, tone down, and convert into tepid expository prose what in [the King James Version] is wild, full of awe, poetic, and passionate…’.
In an uneven entry, Peter Mullen, who also turned his attentions to the Beatitudes, caught my eye: ‘Chirpy are them that mourn, for they shall receive bereavement counselling. Ecstatic are the bashful, for they shall be given assertiveness training…’
The winners take £30 each.
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And the angel said: He’s risen! How cool is that? And Mary said: OMG that’s amazing! It’s been a real rollercoaster journey! When they texted I’m the Messiah’s mum, it’s every little girl’s dream come true, right? And the angel said: What a moment was that, Mary? Then Mary replied: I want to thank everyone who voted for me. Then the angel said: How gutted were you when the public voted for Barabbas and… I was well gutted! Devastated, said Mary. The angel waited, saying nothing, that it might be fulfilled that Mary would cry. And behold, Mary said: I think I’m going to cry. And the angel said: What emotions do you feel now He’s risen? Do you have a message for the guys back in Galilee? Mary declared: I love you guys! (Sniff). You’re always there for me. And it came to pass that Mary started crying again.
He was, like, you just have to do what he says. Bow down. When they make a noise.
We were, like, you for real?
He was: for certain. Or else.
We were: else what?
He was: they’re firing up the furnace for a reason.
We were, like, whatever.
Well. We heard it, didn’t do it. Turned out they were for real, so, the inevitable. We were in the furnace strolling around, waiting for things to heat up. Shadrach did some selfies, like he does. I tried to act cool, like I do. Meshach got in their faces a bit, as usual. He was, like, ‘Call that hot?’ Asking for it, really. A couple of them dragged up more fuel. Managed to set themselves on fire with it, I think. Anyways. Ended it. They gave up. Our God bigger than their god, sort of thing.
Didn’t bow down.
Never bow down.
‘…and now on Woman’s Hour, Jael the Kenite and her incredible new book After the Tent-Peg. Jael, your incredible story begins with an abusive episode that will familiar to many listeners — the defeated general sleeping in your tent situation.’
‘Yeah, thanks Anita, incredible. Yeah, we’ve all been there, right? In my case Sisera the Canaanite, loses his chariots in a marsh, let down by his boys’ toys, wants to exploit some outmoded hospitality trope to crash in what I had understood to be my safe space. Did so with the endorsement of my partner, Heber. That was the bit that really hurt, Anita. So, I played the little woman, bed, cream, all that, then I smashed a tent-peg into his male entitlement. People say: “He had it coming”, Anita, but that misses the point. They’ve all got it coming, right? Fortunately, we’re nomads. We’ve got a lot of tent-pegs.’
December 25. Weight: humongous. Alcohol units: 0, obviously. Cravings: figs and olives. Food available: dried figs. (v.g.)
Totally pissed off with Joseph. Who travels miles for a census? (To be fair, is Roman emperor’s fault. Bloody Romans.) Anyway, Joseph hadn’t booked ahead. Everywhere full, the innkeeper said. I gave innkeeper’s wife a look — woman to woman — and she kicked his ankle and he suddenly remembered. Smelly stable full of oxen plus donkey offers privacy but not much else. Joseph suggested it had minimalist appeal. Kicked him. Feeling labour pains, so will have to give birth here, to Saviour of Mankind, without a decent midwife, unless innkeeper’s wife drops in.
Later: Baby in manger (covered in donkey drool), approximately ten pounds, v. sweet, but I may never sit down again. No divine assistance during birth whatsoever. Innkeeper’s wife says a bunch of shepherds coming to visit. Privacy? Huh.
No. 3219: follow the science
You are invited to submit clerihews (up to three each) on well-known scientists past and present. Please email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 29 September.
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