Tuesday, 5 May 2009

MaltaMedia: Irish parallels

5.5.9 by Gattaldo

From time to time, I shall be highlighting favourite books which have a particular connection to my notion of Malta.

A few years ago I read a book that had me in fits of laughter. Michael Carson's 1988 book Sucking Sherbet Lemons has stood the test of time. Any homosexual brought up in a fervently Catholic country will relate to Benson, an overweight teen, racked by guilt struggling to come to terms with his blossoming sexuality, but any Maltese is bound to find the accurate observations on Ireland strangely familiar.

He had been kneeling in front of his open wardrobe in his room putting the finishing touches to an altar, the centrepiece of which was a plaster statue of Saint Maria Goretti. This child Virgin and Martyr stood atop a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare which had been covered with a gent's white linen handkerchief, one of three Benson had been able to raise little enthusiasm for when he had received them the previous Christmas from Auntie Muriel whose son was a White Father in Fiji. Around Maria Goretti he had ranged in obeisance a number of Holy Pictures. Medals hung from the ceiling of the niche and he had fashioned gold stars cut out from the paper inside Cadbury's Bournville wrappers.

Saint Maria Goretti held a special place in Benson's affections. She had been knifed to death at the age of sixteen while attempting to fend off a rapist. For this lethal defence of her honour, the culmination of a short life of quiet piety, she had been canonised by the Pope in Rome. Her body lay somewhere in Italy in a glass coffin and hadn't gone bad. Her killer, following many years in gaol, had been present at her canonisation and then had resided in a monastery. He too died in the odour of sanctity.

Only two years older than Benson whe she died, he found Santa Maria Goretti extremely inspirational in his uphill struggle to preserve his own Holy Purity.

He had just added a torch with red cellophane wrapped round the business end to give the correct ambience to the altar when mum announced Eric's arrival.

'O my God! Saint Maria Goretti! Pray for me! It's Eric Jenkins!' whispered Benson to the sadly smiling saint. 'Ask him what he wants!' he shouted.

'You ask him what he wants. I'm your mother, not the maid, and don't you forget it!'

'All right! Coming!' Benson shouted. Then he added to the crimson altar in the wardrobe. 'Sweet Jesus, save me! Saint Maria Goretti, intercede for me!'

He got up off his knees and went slowly downstairs to face the fidgeting temptation on the step.

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