Making Darkness Light by Joe Moshenska–Book Review

I chose this book from the local library in one of my English major moments — it’s a biography of John Milton (best known for his epic poem, Paradise Lost). On one hand, Milton has been called the greatest Christian poet, and on the other, because of his unorthodox view of the trinity, some say he cannot be called Christian at all. The author, Joe Moshenska categorizes himself as a Jewish atheist, but he does an excellent job of navigating and describing the religious history of the time, as well as the personal beliefs of Milton.

This is not a traditional biography. Instead, it is part literary criticism, part personal memoir and travelogue, and even historical fiction, as the author often imagines who Milton might have met and what conversations he might have had with well known figures of his time. Instead of a straight forward, linear account of Milton’s life, Mr. Moshenska uses relatively short vignettes describing his own travels — you might say pilgrimages– to various places Milton lived or visited during his life. Each chapter illuminates a certain phase of Milton’s life, seeking to capture the general sense of that time and place rather than a listing of facts, dates and events.

This is not an easy read, but it is also not dry or overly academic. You’ll come away with a deeper understanding of this great poet and also learn something about the times and places he inhabited.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. A good read for those interested in English literature and English history.

For more of my English major moments see:

Another of Joan’s English Major Moments

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

An English Major Moment from Joan

For more about John Milton see:

What’s a Libretto?

A Poem of Surrender

What’s a Libretto?

“A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.” (from Wikipedia)

I believe there was a Dr. Suess song entitled, “Oh The People You’ll Meet!”  It’s very true that there are so many interesting and amazing people all around us.  Each person has been created by God to be one of a kind, special and unique.  For example, my husband and I have been getting to know one of our neighbors a little better… going beyond the “hi, nice day” sort of aquaintance.  Well, it turns out that Sean has written a libretto.  In case you’re not sure exactly what that is ( I wasn’t), the definition is above.

The title of Sean’s work is “Paradise Lost, Elvis Style.”  I’m not particularly an Elvis fan, but I am an English major, so I was intrigued.  He gave me a copy to read, and a CD of the music.  I was impressed by the amount of work that went into creating this.  Sean used to be a long distance truck driver, and told us ideas would whirl around in his brain as he drove for hours, alone.

Of course, Paradise Lost, Elvis Style is a modernized, abbreviated version of the epic poem by John Milton that some of us studied in college.  The scenes in the libretto depict the fall of Satan from Heaven; his temptation of Eve resulting in sin and Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden of Eden;  a new, present day Adam (Adam Mann) who marries his girlfriend, Eve and is killed by Satan;  and finally, the apocalyptic battle in which Satan is finally defeated and Adam, Eve and others are received in glory amidst great joy.  Well-known Elvis favorites, many of them gospel songs, are creatively interspersed throughout the action, in the form of a “jukebox musical.”

I can imagine this winsome production being enjoyed by many people who would never read the original!  Certainly, it will hold the greatest appeal for fans and contemporaries of Elvis.

I give it 5 stars for charm and originality and would like to see it performed.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy, it is available from Amazon.

And just in case, you ARE a big Elvis fan and a Christian, here’s an Elvis quote for today:

“I’m not the King.  There is only one King.  And that’s Jesus Christ.  I’m just an entertainer.”