Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Satan to Read "Paradise Lost" on Radio 4

Well, no.  But that's the spoof headline from a British site, and the second-funniest thing we have seen today, as the world celebrates John Milton's 400th birthday.

Granted, most of the planet will celebrate with a yawn.  We awoke this morning to hear a Milton expert interviewed on the BBC, explaining that even though just a generation or two back, Milton's works were a public-school staple, today they barely appear in British university curricula.  As he explained it, reading even the prose, much less the epics, requires a grounding both in Scripture and in the Classics which has simply vanished.  

To this we would add that reading Milton requires a kind of patience -- with complex ideas and complex grammar -- which began disappearing the day radio was invented, and which has finally been killed by Twitter, the crystal meth of media.

Still, the day's commemorative articles are interesting.   Everybody has their own take:
  • An Irish paper reminds us that, despite his support for Cromwell, Milton (along with Batman, seriously) is a critical figure in modern struggles for intellectual and political liberty.    
  • The Guardian compares him, tediously and tendentiously, to Shakespeare.  
  • A big-time Hollywood director is working on a Paradise Lost movie.  
  • Forbes argues that Milton's genius was only possible because of inherited wealth.
Oh, and the first-funniest remark on Milton that we have seen today?  Adam Gopnik, in this week's New Yorker, mentions in passing that "nobody ever wished Paradise Lost were longer."  Amen to that, brother.

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