Yesterday afternoon, we attended a performance in Cedar City, Utah, of the musical Big River, with book by William Hauptman and music and lyrics by Roger Miller. It’s based upon Mark Twain’s 1884 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
That’s a good novel to base a play on. “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” said Ernest Hemingway, who wasn’t a bad writer himself, sometimes. “American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
And Big River is a good play, with remarkably good music.
Fortunately, too, the performance was spectacularly good.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a state and regional treasure.
Curiously, perhaps because it’s getting near time to put kids back in school, there were a few empty seats in the theater. So, if you haven’t yet seen Big River and there’s any chance that you might be or could be coming to or through or near Cedar City, you should make an effort to do so.
Just a few years ago, I published a biography entitled Muhammad: Prophet of God. It was essentially my section from David Noel Freedman and Michael J. McClymond, eds., The Rivers of Paradise: Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus and Muhammad as Religious Founders, a hefty (and heftily-priced) volume that featured a foreword by the celebrated/controversial Swiss theologian Hans Küng.
It’s a simple narrative biography, on the whole, that doesn’t pretend to break significant new historical ground, but seeks to tell the basic story of Muhammad as clearly as possible. On the whole, I’ve been gratified at the response to it. I’ve been especially pleased that the Muslims who have spoken to me about it seem overwhelmingly to have liked it. (Unlike many anti-Mormons, I think it important that descriptions of other peoples’ religious beliefs should be recognizable to those people.)
I was also amused at some of the responses from conservative Christians. One in particular. A certain Protestant polemicist, based in Arizona, who opposes other faiths (principally Mormonism, Catholicism, and Islam) as a kind of full-time job — in my judgment, he’s something of a professional religious bigot — was especially incensed that a very respected and influential Evangelical publishing house (Eerdmans, in Grand Rapids, Michigan) was distributing a sympathetic biography of Muhammad written by . . . a Mormon. Could anything possibly be worse than this? (His indignation still brings a smile to my face.) If such things are allowed to continue, why, people might begin to respect each other’s religious beliefs, and who knows how that might end?
Well, one of the principal functions of this blog is to advertise things. Including, sometimes, even my things.
As biographies of Muhammad go, this one is surely not the worst. I spent quite a few hours writing it. The least you can do is to buy a few hundred copies. Give them to all your relatives. Pass them out to strangers.
Posted from St. George, Utah