Thomas Adams on his tongue, Mystical Bedlam on the page.

January 7, 2014 § 4 Comments

Freed from the conforming influence of a grade, R.’s fancies took flight. Reading aloud to Stein from his curated collected of sermons, none his own, of course, or century, seen by more mites than humans, R. found a kinship he did not share with his fellow students. Or, indeed, with himself. R. inhabited these words not his own, so far from common use or hearing, that often even needed to be translated from older archaic spellings, caressing the curves of the unfamiliar characters, in a natural manner he seldom managed his own skin. These words, R. knew, had been made right. What hope had he that his ever would?

For a single semester he fumbled with the contemporary forms, preaching repentance by deduction and edification in story, but distinguished himself in class only by his voice, which he was told was pulpit perfect. Sonorous and deep, quintessentially masculine, they meant, even if he was scrawny and rarely in need of a shave, his baritone was the envy of many. None commented, however, on the transitions over which he toiled, his telegraphed foreshadowing or cliched simile. No one fretted over his leaky logic, emulating what he thought he understood of Anselm. Who among them, he wondered as they stared ahead at him, and later read their reviews (—What a voice! —Jealous of your voice! —Give me your voice! —You should be in radio with that voice! —Maybe a little loud …), heard a word he said?

So it was, until one day he set aside his prepared exposition of the twenty-third Psalm, and began instead: —The subject of the discourse is man; and the speech of him hath three points in the text. None at first paid note. —I. His comma; II. His colon; III. His period. R., for the first time, felt right behind the pulpit, Thomas Adams on his tongue, Mystical Bedlam on the page. —“Men’s hearts are full of evil”; there is the comma. “Madness is in their hearts while they live;” there is the colon. Whereat not staying, at which point Professor Shannon at least looked up, —“after that they go down to the dead;” and there is their period. R. paused to peered down at the lectern, and gave then full voice to the World of Madmen, —The first begins, the second continues, the third concludes, their sentence.

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