I have these fundamentalist Christian relatives. They're not bad people. Actually, they're quite ok. Well, my male cousin and my uncle are. The aunt and the female cousin are too uptight for my liking. And I mean, they DID make us watch a documentary on how the United Nations was a Satanic affair, but hey. I'm sure it was just because there was nothing else on TV.
Being the only of my dad's brothers who permanently resides in Brisbane (a mere three minutes away!) my uncle's family are REQUIRED to buy me birthday presents each year. Not really. I'm sure they'll stop next year when I can surely afford my own religious books that I don't need. Yes, they buy me religious books each year for my birthday. Last year for Christmas, they did buy me a book of Singapore ghost stories, which I thought was hardcore for them. Yes, this gives you an idea of what they usually get me...
Last year or the year before, they bought me a novel called Left Behind, the first in a series of books about the apocalypse. The Christian apocalypse. It's under 'inspirational fiction' in Borders. Apparently it's a real hit, hit enough to spawn 15 other books, an album, a PC game, graphic novels, four movies and a decent amount of spin-offs. Note that I used very neutral terms. Anyway, I decided, yeah, the Apocalypse is a pretty neat concept. So I sat down and read it for its entertainment value. Let's just say that after five chapters I became so mind-numbingly bored that I had to stop reading. The book's somewhere in the storage room. I was also given the movie on old-school VHS. Needless to say, that, too, is somewhere in my household where no one cares to look. I'm not saying I'm ungrateful. It's just that, well... let's just say that the words 'don't judge a book by its cover' really applies here. And I could just as easily have buried it under a mound of stuff when I realised it was a religious book.
Anyway, back to the real point of this entry, which is to share with you the book I was given for my birthday this year, titled One Night with the King.
Read that title again. Maybe it was just my horrible, tainted mind that clouded my innocence when I ripped open the packaging, but I thought... you know. It sounded like a bad porno film. But I supposed I'm not alone - my dad agreed with me.
But it is a religious book. What could a book with a name like have to do with religion? Well, anyone who attended Sunday School and/or a Christian school (or is just plain smart) is likely to have heard of Queen Esther, the lady who became the King of Persia's main squeeze and saved a bunch of Jews. This book is basically a dramatisation of the biblical tale. When I say dramatisation, I actually mean sappy, romantic reworking. It was also turned into a movie, which apparently sucks balls. Thanks to the former school captain (who knows her biblical stuff), the whole tale of King Xerxes and Queen Esther was that they didn't fall in love. I guess those romance novelists are willing to try anything to rake in the bucks.
Entertainment-wise, it's not as bad as Left Behind. I did manage to get up to chapter fourty (they're relatively short chapters too) before deciding that the sheer hilarity was not enough to keep me going any more. Although I do wonder why I waded through 323 pages. There were some amusing parts (although I'm about 99.9999% sure that the humour was NOT intentional) which I present to you here in a less-than-concise collection of laughable quotes from One Night with the King. Yeah, you can stop giggling about the name now.
Page 40, Chapter 3:
When he awoke, the tent stood dark but for a few candles his servants had lit in the corners. He rolled upright and fought to regain his clarity. And then he was reminded of his impulsive threat to Agog:
I have some raping to do.
No comment needed.
Pages 97 and 98, Chapter 11:
Realising that God was real, palpably so, actually filled me with a fresh resentment that I could barely contain within my reserved demeanour. Somehow, dealing with my anger toward Him was easier when He had simply been a relic of tradition, a remote institution of my ethnic heritage. Knowing that He was real and approachable, and that I could personally experience those realities, made Him the perfect arm's-length target for my rage.
Oh, so you wanna do the barroom tango with God, eh, Esther? Boy, I wonder who would win. I honestly do.
Page 164, Chapter 20
Rough hands groped at places no one had ever touched before.
That is the absolute weakest way I have ever seen molestation described.
Page 202, Chapter 25
As for matters of the bedroom, Hegai knew far less, yet more than anyone else. Xerxes was an adventurous lover, I was told - assuming he truly fancied the girl. He had spent his youth with captures beauties from Alexandria, Damascus and Cush and had found that a woman in fear for her life made for a vivacious and compliant partner.
Oh... oh my. I can imagine my fundamental Christian aunt reading this and saying "Oh my goodness! This kind of filth should not be allowed on our shelves!" Seriously though, I haven't seen her since she gave me the book, but expect details of a confrontation during the Christmas season when I see her next. GATHER YOUR WHORES FROM ALEXANDRIA, DAMASCUS AND CUSH! WE'RE GONNA BOOGIE LATE TONIGHT!
Page 218, Chapter 27
"What's the matter?" I finally asked.
"What do you mean, my lady?" asked Shakel, the handmaiden nearest me at the time.
"Everyone is acting strangely. Is it my request for quiet? Did I offend you?"
Shakel looked over at the others, then turned to me with a faint smile. "It's not that. It's just that you look so beautiful. You truly are the loveliest woman in the whole Palace. Truly. I imagine we are all asking ourselves the same question. How could Xerxes see you and not fall in love on sight?"
Well gag me with a spoon. Turns out Esther is a Mary-Sue. A pretty hardcore one too.
If that wasn't enough, we now have a fuckload (first and last swear word, promise, unless you want to count the phrase 'sucks balls') of typical romance-novel dialogue and description. Not that I ever read them, of course, heh heh. The romance-fest goes on for, oh, I dunno, five plus chapters? But the ultimate part of the book, its climax (no pun intended) is in these next two paragraphs.
More than ever before, the world consisted of me and the King. The closer we came to the bedchamber, the smaller the world became - until it had shrunk down to little more than the space between our lips. The moment our litter nudged the landing of the Palace entrance, the King was on his feet. He turned to me and swept me up into his arms. Xerxes nearly sprinted through the short hallway into his bedchamber, calling good-humoured condemnations of death along the way to any functionary who dared intrude.
I was still held closely in his arms when we entered the room. He used his back to push the giant door shut. Then, as soon as the great clang of its closing stopped echoing, he looked at me with deep longing and, yes, love. His next kiss was both intimate and powerful. I was shaken to the core of my being. Next, he laid me on the bed, and I can tell you no more.
What have we learnt from this escapade?
1. You should never turn biblical stories into works of romantic fiction
2. You should never turn biblical stories into works of romantic fiction and turn them into movies
3. My fundamentalist relatives should really just give me cash from now on
4. I have far too much time on my hands.