Sunday, 11 May 2008

IN THE BEGINNING... Well, last Thursday

At last! --- Sunday!

I don't know about you, but I've had a hell of a week: anxieties and tensions, worries about work and health (or deficiencies thereof), This 'n' That and So-on 'n' So-forth. But Thursday evening turned out to be a wonderful, recuperative oasis, in a desert of despondency.

That was the day of the official launch, at London's Westminster Central Hall, of Lion Hudson's new book, 50 Favourite Bible Stories - an event noted in the pages of The Times and other papers.

The reason for there being fifty such stories is because - with a synchronicity that only the media can achieve - they were chosen and are read, on three accompanying CDs, by Sir Cliff Richard who happens to be currently celebrating exactly that number of years in showbusiness. And if that fact makes any readers feel old, well then that probably means you are (or on the way to being so!) whereas Sir Cliff himself has definitely worn rather better than most of the rest of us...

When I was approached to write - or, rather, retell - the fifty selected stories, the project struck all kinds of chords with me. I had met Cliff on various occasions in the past and, a couple of times, had even shared a stage with him -- or, at least, appeared on the same bill!

But the driving imperative was the indelible memory of my own first collections of Bible stories - especially a pop-up book which showed (in the nearest equivalent to virtual reality as 1950s paper-folding could manage) the animals processing into the Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, David's defeat of Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den and, my personal favourite, Jonah stepping out onto the beach from the open mouth of the Whale...

Over the lifetime that has followed, my reading and understanding of the Bible has passed through many phases but, whatever questions I have grappled with, I have always believed that the Bible is a great - arguably the greatest - work of literature. Whether you read it as an orthodox, a fundamentalist, a liberal or, even, an agnostic - it's pages are crammed with unforgettable exploits, monumental dramas, potent imagery and sheer soul-stirringly magnificent poetry.

For several decades now - as the world in general knows - Cliff has been open about his simply-held, strongly-maintained Christian faith and has successfully ridden out the derision and mockery of those who sought to put him down or - because of his beliefs - attempted to denigrate his talents and achievements as one of the most enduringly successful performers in the world of pop and rock. At the press conference on Thursday, he spoke passionately about his wish that people would read what has increasingly become "a closed book".

He is right. Consider, for example, the impact of this book across the centuries: the way in which it has motivated far-reaching social reforms and inspired some of the greatest works of art in the history of civilization - Michaelangelo, Veronese, Handel, Milton, Blake, T S Eliot, the list is endless. If on no other level, the Judeo-Christian narratives that make up this book - or, accurately speaking, this library of books - provide a timeless perspective on human nature: not just in its examples of vision, heroism, courage and sacrifice but also in its catalogue of frailties, failings and foibles.

Anyway, something of all that has, I hope, found its way into the pages of 50 Favourite Bible Stories (25 from the Old Testament and 25 from the New) which has been vividly and vibrantly illustrated by the talented Stephen Waterhouse, whose imaginative interpretations of these well known stories fizz and zing with colour and energy.

Here are Stephen and I with the man who has been rightly described as 'Music's Mr Nice Guy'...


At the top of this post and below are two of Stephen's pictures accompanying the account of Creation in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis...

Click to enlarge

And this is Sir Cliff at Thursday's launch, reading my version of this oft-told tale - and coping with banging doors, passing emergency vehicles other such twenty-first century distractions that God certainly didn't have to put up with...



You'll find lots more examples in Stephen's illustrations on his website's Portfolio; and if you're interested in knowing about the genesis of the Genesis creation story, you'll find a good starting point here on Wikipedia...

Illustrations: © Stephen Waterhouse 2008
Photo: © Anne Rogers
Video: © David Weeks

9 comments:

Boll Weavil said...

Again ! Another famous person you've been pictured with ! I'll bet you got him to sign something for you didn't you.... Shame he's not played Scrooge now he's old enough.You could have gone with an armful of things !

LisaH said...

I hope it ends up a bestseller, like the original book.
The illustrations look terrific and I like the photo. I presume the one of Buttons with Cliff will appear on his blogsite at some future date.

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL - Cliff would certainly understand and empathise with Scrooge's route to 'conversion' as described by Dickens. But, somehow, I just can't imagine him singing Leslie Bricusse's 'I Hate People'. Best left to Tommy Steele, I think...

LISHA - Unfortunately, being (like most rabbits) agnostic, Buttons decided not to attend...

Eudora said...

I feel some envy of anglosaxon culture, the mixed of religions, of experiences, of such history... This kind of books, this kind of projects are unthinkable in my country...

Well mister Sibley, I must say that you look nice in that photo., (better than sir Cliff), I like too your tie... the spoonfuls of sugar have, at the end, and advantage....

Brian Sibley said...

Not sure about looking better than Sir Cliff, Eudora. Check back in 2017 - when (if I live that long) I'll be the age he is now - and we'll see... ;-)

Phil said...

I like the way Mr Waterhouse has tastefully composed the image so that we see Adam and Eve only from the waist up...and Eve has convenient Alanis Morrisette hair!

Brian Sibley said...

Well, Phil, of course that convention goes back many centuries. Check out Lucas Cranach's 'The Golden Age' (painted c. 1530) to see how foliage could be miraculously trained to hide those parts of the human anatomy which, propriety required, should be concealed.

Angela said...

I am thrilled the book is getting so much press attention - even a (slightly inaccurate) cartoon in the Times! Anything that gets people - especially children, reading the Bible stories is to be encouraged.

Eudora said...

Yeeess, I know: 10 years of difference, but believe me, you will better than sir Cliff in 2017....;)... I will remember you this point the next 05/11/2017..