Thursday, January 26

Benedict who?

I picked up the January issue of the R.C. publication First Things on Tuesday. I've been impressed with the monthly's quality and coverage since Joseph Bottum took over; it wasn't disappointing before--and I'm not sure that it has improved objectively--but it seems that more of its articles catch my eye these days.

Two articles in particular drew my attention this month. One was a piece entitled "The Spirit of Abstract Art," by Algis Valiunis, and the other was the lead article, "Europe and It's Discontents" by Benedict XVI. The first intrigued me because I spent a good part of last autumn learning about Western art post 1750 while helping my girlfriend study for her Ph.D oral examinations in December. Flipping through the article, I noticed that the author discusses (rather inexpertly and indirectly) the work of Professor Anna Chave, who happens to be my girlfriend's doctoral advisor. For that reason alone I was obligated to buy and read the issue.

I would, however, have bought the issue solely for something in the other article that struck me as profoundly amusing. Bearing in mind that First Things is about as papist an outfit as you are likely to find this side of the counter-reformation, the author bio for "Europe and It's Discontents" began: "Benedict XVI is pope of the Catholic Church."

Oh that Benedict XVI! Not the Benedict XVI who was under-secretary for trade and development during the Carter administration? Or the Benedict XVI who empties my office wastebasket in his red apron at 5:30 every day?

Maybe this really isn't all that funny, but it killed me. It made me laugh out loud in front of the newsstand. No, laugh is the wrong word. I guffawed. Actually guffawed. I think I scared an old lady.

Made me wonder what other laconic gems they could devise for future author bios. Perhaps, "Europe and It's Discontents," by The Devil. "The Devil is the embodiment of evil. When not entertaining the damned in Hell, he can be found lurking in the details." Or, "Europe and It's Discontents," by George W. Bush. "George W. Bush is President of the United States of America. George is a devoted husband to Laura and father of twins, on whom he dotes. He enjoys clearing brush, following his beloved Rangers, and dabbling in leading the free world." In case you were wondering.