Monday, 27 July 2009
old, new, whatever
Still on the topic of new and old: I am reading an Inspector Morse mystery. A pretty good one. And as I am puzzling my way through the investigation, sympathizing with poor Lewis and grimacing at Morse's alcohol intake, I notice that the front cover reads: THE NEW INSPECTOR MORSE NOVEL. Of course it is not new any more. It's new to me, but it's about fifteen years old. This book, towards the end of Morse's fine career, was published before my own modest one even began. And that leads me to wonder about the nature of the new.
Don't worry, this discussion is not going to get very deep. Or if so, not for long. A quick foray past the shallow end buoys, and then I'll turn around to where I can feel the bottom again.
Everything is said and we come too late, since seven thousand years, since we exist and think ... says some (I think French) guy. This new Inspector Morse novel is simply another reworking of an old old story. Humans have been killing each other and trying to get away with it for as long as we've been around. Cain? Sure, but I bet that (Christian fundamentalists cover your ears. You can skip this part) long before Cain there were murders, and lies. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the most popular stories around the fire were the ones about a body that was found in a locked cave with a flint axe in its back. (Thank heavens for Inspector Thag and his trusty henchperson, Sergeant Og)
My book does not look new. It is tattered and stained, and at least one page is missing. But at one point it was new, and that newness was real. This idea of the new reminds of ... now, dammit, which movie was it? Ivanhoe? Maybe -- or maybe something Arthurian or Robin Hoodian. I can't remember. Anyway, it was a historical drama set in an olde Englande castle with lots of gloom and dust, and everything looks old and decrepit and authentic. (Maybe not quite as decrepit as the picture there, but along those lines.) Except that it's wrong. Not authentic at all. The castle would have been bran spanking new at the time. The crumbling stones would have been perfectly smooth. Think monster home in a modern suburb, with the Duke and Duchess as medieval yuppies.
Everything new is in fact a reworking of something old. Fair enough. But remember that everything old was once new.