The Mill on the Floss
Hans Küng and Mozart


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Remark prompted by such a scene in Night School, an espionage thriller by Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher novels are very popular. I had a long drive a couple of days ago and listened to part of it. It's a good story, but that scene was cringey. My objection is aesthetic, not moral. I just don't think it works, though I haven't attempted to analyze my reaction.

I was just having a cringey reaction to the love scene between Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. Not the same, but uncomfortable nonetheless. I was thinking that all love scenes seem trite or overdone or awkward. Kind of like pictures of Jesus. There are some things that just evade portrayal.


I don't have that reaction to love scenes. But I do have that reaction to pictures of Jesus, or nearly all of them anyway. And am very glad to hear that you do.

Which reminds me: has anybody seen this life of Jesus tv series called The Chosen? I have not but a couple of people have recommended it on Facebook, including in one case a picture which I assume is the guy who plays Jesus, and I'm sorry to say that I cringed a bit.

I didn't always have this reaction to love scenes. It seems to have come on me slowly. Maybe it's just in writing.


I've seen the Chosen. It is very good. Well-produced. The characterizations of the Apostles and their interactions are very human and believable--even dramatic. You really want to get to know them. Jesus is quite human, but not in a way that his divinity doesn't come through.

I guess I like it, but I've decided not to watch any more of it lest its images color my imagination about the Gospels.

Yes, that would be my biggest concern. If I did have an inclination to watch something like that I would go back to the Zefferelli Jesus of Nazareth that came out in the early '80s (I think). I thought it was quite good.

I've long felt that sex scenes are pretty much unnecessary in both books and movies, and the more graphic the less necessary. Romantic scenes can be alright if they're done well, but the problem is that most aren't. Many times they're just embarassing.

Can't agree about pictures of Jesus, I'm afraid. After all, we did have the Iconoclastic Controversy, and the 'Christ of Sinai' icon dates to the 6th century, so the Church has had such representations for a very long time. I guess it depends on what is meant by "pictures of Jesus."

Oh, icons are definitely not what I mean by "pictures of Jesus." Though the most effective "picture" for me is the Shroud of Turin. Anyway it's not that I think it's wrong to create them, just that most of them don't speak to me and may even get in the way.

My objection to sex scenes is way beyond "unnecessary," especially in fiction. They're actively detrimental in a way that I can't quite explain, but one word that comes to mind is "ludicrous." In movies and tv I guess I've come to sort of expect them, and have gotten jaded. I just roll my eyes at the now-cliched moment when the couple kisses in the living room or hallway or whatever and then there's an abrupt cut to them plunging through the bedroom door, tearing at each other's clothes. But it's unusual enough in fiction (at least what I read) that it seems misguided, especially if there's an attempt to make it a serious business, to say nothing of artsy.

I've never read any of John Updike's fiction that's reportedly pretty "explicit." Don't know what I would think of that.

I wasn't thinking of icons at all. In fact, I almost said that I vastly prefer them. The difference is, I think, that they don't try to convey the thing that always misses the mark in other pictures.


Yeah, I figured you weren’t including icons in that.

I'm tetchy about complaints against "capturing the ineffable" when it comes to Christ's image, as I was once tangentially involved with a group of very iconoclastic Calvinists. Their arguments were silly but annoying because they made them with such vehemence.

I have a bit more sympathy for that view. I'll go as far as to say there's a valid point there about the problem. But not so far as to say it shouldn't be done. All theological considerations aside, I think "Just look at a Baptist church..." :-) At least the ones I grew up with.

It's kind of funny to see churches that more or less come out of that tradition having very show-biz-y forms of worship. Or so I hear. The Babylon Bee makes fun of them sometimes.

I have read a bunch of those John Updike books, and the majority of Philip Roth's novels as well. Lots of sex, lots of sex scenes. I suppose, in defense of these two (and they don't really need my defense considering their careers and continued sustainability after death), when their novels are filled with sex scenes (and not all of them are) it is because the male protagonist is pretty obsessed with sex. In other words an integral part of the plot, as opposed to a quick diversion.

As I mentioned, I haven't read Updike, and the only Roth I've read was an excerpt from Portnoy's Complaint, when it first came out. People argued back and forth about its sexual content, but, right or wrong, as far as I remember it didn't trigger the reaction I'm describing. That *may* be because the whole thing was pretty ludicrous, and also that it didn't describe the sex acts in detail and/or expect that they be taken seriously.

My impression (from fifty years ago) is that PC was indeed, as you say, *about* the guy's sexual obsessions. Whereas the sex scene that prompted my complaint, in the Lee Child novel, was very much a quick diversion. I suspected it was coming when the female involved was first introduced. I thought something like "There's only one reason why the author is describing this National Security Council person as attractive." Sure enough....

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