August 10, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
I may have been too easy on Denise Spellberg (whose name I keep trying to write as ‘Spellman’ – I guess I watched too many episodes of that Teenage Witch show). After trawling the blogosphere, I note the following:
– In addition to contacting Random House with her concerns – which is perfectly valid; after all, they did send her the galley and ask for her opinion – she also sent an e-mail to a guest lecturer of hers, who put the information on a listserv, which then prompted the calls for Jones’s apology etc. Why did Spellberg do that? Surely if she tells Random House ‘dudes, this book is very wrong’ and they respond ‘says you’ then she’s done her part? Did she know her information was going to be put on that listserv? If it were done without her permission, did she not point that out?
Spellberg could not have been the only commentator whose opinion Random House took into account when they decided to ‘indefinitely postpone’ the book, but she’s the one who took her opinion beyond Random House – who, incidentally, don’t have the obligation to announce who else they consulted. When Spellberg states that ‘Random House made its final decision based on the advice of other scholars, conveniently not named in the article’ she’s neglecting to mention that, in essence, she named herself. If she had restricted her complaints to Random House, we would probably not know anything about her. Spellberg put herself into the public discussion when it was not necessary to do so; she doesn’t now have the right to complain that she’s the only name being batted around.
– Spellberg states (in an interview quoted by Asra Nomani) that ‘I walked through a metal detector to see ‘Last Temptation of Christ,'” the controversial 1980s film adaptation of a novel that depicted a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. “I don’t have a problem with historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate misinterpretation of history. You can’t play with a sacred history and turn it into soft core pornography.”‘
As far as I can tell, LToC not only claims that Jesus had carnal relations with Mary Magdalene, but depicts it (in the film, at least). There is no basis for this claim in any Christian holy book. How in the world does this story not count as ‘deliberate misinterpretation of history’? I have no information on whether the scene can be described as soft-core but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that any depiction of nooky with the Lamb Without Blemish is by default not condoned under the rules of revealed exegesis.
I also see that the foreign rights are still being dealt with. Good. Maybe that’s what Random House means by ‘indefinitely postponed’ – that when other publishers have the guts to take on the novel and fail to be denounced as heretics, they’ll scoop up the profits. Boy, I hope not.