Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Thoughts of 2008

I am somewhat belatedly doing some research into Medieval mystery plays, specifically The Wakefield Cycle, for a talk I’ve volunteered to do at my church in which I will argue that these plays are precursors or ancestors of the traditional mystery novel. The argument is more in fun than serious scholarship, but it has a serious point to make. The old plays were portrayals of Bible stories, starting with Adam and Eve and ending with Judgement Day. They were about the ceaseless struggle between good and evil, and how good does and will triumph. I think the traditional or "cozy" mystery novel is one of the very few places (perhaps the only place) in which that struggle continues in modern fiction and goodness (or justice, if you like) also always triumphs. This is a comforting thought, and that’s why these plays were performed for centuries and why mystery stories remain popular.

It’s New Year’s Eve and tonight some of our friends are coming over for our annual penny-ante poker party. We’ve been playing poker on New Year’s Eve for nearly every year for the past thirty years. I remember one time when we went to a party instead – and five of us ended up in an upstairs bedroom playing a few hands. We chew on those thick pretzel rods as if they are cigars, drink soft drinks as if they were beer, and are persuaded often with difficulty to pause at midnight to drink a little champagne, sing a chorus of Auld Lang Syne. Then it’s "Okay, whose deal is it?" None of us are really any good at the game – I have to provide a "cheat sheet" listing the rank of hands because most of us can’t remember if a straight beats a flush or if it’s the other way around from one year to the next – but the same friends come back year after year.

And on that note: I hope 2009 is happy, healthy, and prosperous for all of you!


Sheila Connolly said...

Well said!

Years ago I attended a performance of The Play of Herod, by the New York Pro Musica. It was staged in my college chapel, and the players walked the aisles among the audience. We were part of the event.

I think cozies are much the same. As you point out, the age-old conflict between good and evil is the core, but it is set among people we can all recognize and identify with, which humanizes it.

Jackie Houchin said...

I recently reviewed a play at the Stillspeaking Theatre in San Marino called "The Mystery Plays" based on the same Medieval stories you will speak on. Here's the link to my review, if you'd like to read it. Jackie

Camille Minichino said...

The talk sounds very inviting, Monica.

And I love your poker story with good friends - and the cheat sheet. I'm going to find one and print it out so I won't have to keep asking my husband who's winning when there's poker involved in a tv show.

Terri Thayer said...

My niece taught me a new game - Shanghai which involves many decks and changing parameters. She forgot the rules so we went online to find out. The internet has the answer to everything!

Happy New Year, fellow hobbyists!