She came into the room with the self-effacing ease and gracefulness of a loaded 18-wheeler tooling down the interstate. What she doubtless hoped would be a picture of radiant inner beauty was closer to a study in the limitations of cosmetics. If she gave me her moniker it whizzed by quick as a Sandy Koufax fastball. We got right down to business.
Q Why did we need another biography of Mrs. Eddy? You were chock-a-block with them before. Employees must stumble over boxes of them in the hallways. And who needs a better and more thorough and sympathetic biography than Robert Peel's excellent contribution?
A The world was crying out for a feminist treatment of her, and we didn't have one.
Q Must have been a pianissimo cry. Most of us never even heard a distant peep. Are you sure that what you didn't have, and wanted, was a bio with your fingerprints on it?
A Now, now, you sound jealous of what we produced.
Q Just what were you looking for? Someone like one of those pigs that sniff out truffles to snuffle for warts, shocking revelations, secret midnight trysts, and meaningless peccadillos? Or maybe to root up something really big that you could mount on the wall behind your desk with a tag underneath which says "She wasn't so special after all"?
A Ms Gill is a professional and well qualified researcher and feminist scholar, and that's what we wanted.
Q Yes, and if what she knows about Christian Science were reduced to an edible crumb, a hungry mouse wouldn't bother with it. She also has no respect for Mrs. Eddy or Christian Science. Nice qualifications.
A She can back up everything she wrote.
Q No doubt. I'm surprised she didn't find a flimsy accusation that Mrs. Eddy wore trousers like George Sand and Hillary or was once caught puffing on a hookah in the cellar of Pleasant View. Or maybe a "discovery" that she had tattoos on each shoulder, one reading "Free Love" and the other "George". If Ms Gill had done to Christ Jesus what she did to Mrs Eddy people would have been outraged.
A Mrs. Eddy is not Christ Jesus, and that's not a nice thing to say.
Q Neither is the book. And why is it that a non-Scientist with no real understanding of Christian Science or appreciation of and respect for Mrs. Eddy was allowed to graze at will in the MC archive pasture when lifetime MC members would be lucky to get a quick gander at it and probably be charged for the privilege to boot?
A We need to control access to those irreplaceable documents. We also didn't want anything to hinder or limit her research.
Q You mean anything like a humble and respectful attitude toward her subject, our Leader?
A This is a feminist biography.
Q In other words, bitchy.
A That's not fair. We wanted to bless the public with a full and unbiased contemporary picture of her.
Q And Peel didn't? Not butch enough or whatever for feminists? And jumping Jehoshaphat, that picture on the dust jacket! Who is going to want to know more about Mrs. Eddy or Christian Science when they see that, not that it matters in this instance? That picture will do about as much for her and Christian Science as the photo of Gov. Dukakis in the tank did for his chances of being elected President.
A Well, we think it's a nice picture. And in spite of your derogatory remarks, we had reports of long waiting lists at many libraries for this book.
Q That's because, as you know, some hostile religious groups and religious bigots heard the book had done a Lizzie Borden on Mrs.Eddy, and they wanted to feast on the carnage. Yes, nice job. The book only helped in adding to the ridicule and mockery directed at Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science.
A You surely don't expect me to agree with that assessment?
Q I know, "L'Eglise, c'est nous", but if you think the Mt. Rushmore act will cut it forever, you're mistaken. Has it never occurred to you that the spiritual, pure, and divinely inspired will always be a mystery, and ergo resented, by the materially minded, impure, and uninspired?
A What's your point? It wasn't our intent to deify her.
Q Obviously not. Just cut her down to size, take her down a few notches. Well, thank you for your time.
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say.
* * *
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!
Edward Lear, from "The Jumblies"