[Milton-L] A Miltonic Tale?
Horace Jeffery Hodges
horacejeffery at gmail.com
Fri Jul 19 18:31:32 EDT 2013
Please forgive my self-promotion, but for anyone interested, my *BBB* story
is now in digital book form and available on Amazon Kindle, and it can be
The many illustrations are by Terrance Lindall. The story is by me, but
draws upon the writings of others, as explained below, should anyone be
*Statement of Aims and Allusions in The Bottomless Bottle of Beer*
Some years ago on the Milton List, I asked if any other scholars had read
Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel *The Master and Margarita* and knew whether or not
Bulgakov had ever read *Paradise Lost*. No one knew for sure, so I looked
into the issue but found nothing substantive for a scholarly article. The
thought stayed on my mind, however, and I suppose I felt that Milton’s epic
poem and Bulgakov’s *magnum opus* really ought to be joined somehow, else
this story would never have been written.
But I had more in mind than these two writers. I was also thinking of
Goethe’s *Faust*, and not only because Bulgakov drew upon it for his novel,
for I had read *Faust* in German when I was about 21. Naturally, I had also
Dostoevsky in mind, as is made obvious by the Latin quote under the title
and the Russian quotes heading the sections. Those allusions to Dostoevsky
are rather playful, but I suspect deeper subterranean connections can be
found as well.
Other fiction writers alluded to are Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft, Dante
Alighieri, Bram Stoker, Honoré de Balzac, Walter Mosley, Stephanie Meyer,
Stephen Vincent Benét, Alexander Griboyedov, Leonard Cohen, C. S. Lewis,
Charles Baudelaire, George Abbott and Douglass Wallop (with Richard Adler
and Jerry Ross), John Davidson, John Donne, Alonzo Deen Cole, Lewis
Carroll, Herman Melville, T. S. Eliot, Mick Jagger, Samuel Taylor
Coleridge, and probably others that slip my mind at the moment.
A number of nonfiction writers are also alluded to, among them, C. S. Lewis
(already noted for his fiction), Hans Blumenberg, Roger Scruton, Franz
Leopold Neumann, Stanley Fish, Blaise Pascal, Abraham Lincoln, and --
obliquely -- myself. There are also numerous allusions to the Bible, as one
might expect, as well as to various intellectual streams, for example,
fideism, scientism, and postmodernism, and an understated avowal of the
value of Western Civilization.
While there are irony, satire, spoof, and other literary games, my style is
what might be called “playful seriousness,” or *serio ludere*, as the
Renaissance writers called it, signifying the struggle for knowledge in a
paradoxical and contradictory world. As such, the story is concerned with
epistemology, how we know what we know, and with the distinction between
two kinds of knowledge, theoretical and experiential. What my story does
that is different will likely seem unimpressive, primarily because the
achievement was rather simple (and already noted): it brought together John
Milton’s *Paradise Lost* and Mikhail Bulgakov’s *The Master and Margarita*.
This basically took two weeks in February 2012, though I fine-tuned and
retouched for another six months. Those two weeks of writing proved rather
uncanny for me because the story came so easily, despite taking a vacation
trip on Jeju Island (South Korea) for one of those weeks, when I spent the
daytime driving, with only a little time each evening for writing. I really
came to understand why ancient writers believed in and called upon the muse.
I do not know if this story is important, but it draws upon important
stories to tell its tale -- a Faustian story that borrows characters from
Bulgakov and language from Milton, among other things from other tales --
so it is at least important for drawing readers’ attention to these other
stories. I hope that the basic story is accessible, and I think that it
will be, so if readers enjoy it, they might follow up some of the allusions
and immerse themselves more deeply in Western literature.
Most of all, I hope that the story offers enjoyment . . . *fun*.
Horace Jeffery Hodges
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