Sunday, 22 February 2009

Doubt

Finally I watched Doubt starred by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I watched it after my Korean final examinations as some sort of compensation for the stressful week.

Based on a play by John Patrick Shanley and adapted by the playwright himself, Doubt may have been a very sophisticated play, but it seems embarrassingly weak to be transformed into a film.

Perhaps the film editor also shares the blame. But I don't know.

In fact, I expected a lot more depth in the character of Sister Aloysius played by Meryl Streep. There is a lot more about her to be told and yet remains untold. Why does she choose Father Flynn as her target of opposition? Why does she hate him so much that she would rather take "a step away from God" to expunge Father Flynn from the school? Why does she insist to take advantage of an innocent suspicion and then make up a story and hold on to it so deliberately firm and tight? Why does she look so thirsty of power but out of nothing? Of course answers were sprinkled over the film, but, just like Sister Aloysius often says, "I am not satisfied."

There is also something very interesting and intriguing with the church structure described in Doubt. In the 1960s soon after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the church still runs a structure that may look similar to what it was during the Middle Ages. Unconditional obedience to priests is required from the nuns. Priests seem to be superior at all times by taking the host's seat even when they come into the nuns' offices and enjoying the tea served by nuns in their meetings. Priests can smoke and drink and eat and enjoy themselves while nuns seem to lead a life that is no better than the Puritans. Not sure if it has anything to do with the Catholic Church in Vatican or just the way it is in the United States, but to me it is certainly an eye-opener and may give some sort of hint to answer the questions that I raised in mind.

Doubt also reminds me of the convent school where I have spent 12 years, during which I grew from a child into a young adult. The solemnity and rigorous standards of discipline all seem familiar, but sometimes I can't help being grateful to all the strict rules and regulations that helped me understand where to draw the line and become who I am. The problem with Hong Kong nowadays is that we take freedom for granted too much that many of us have forgotten, or don't ever have the chance to learn, where the line should be drawn.

文海隨筆--讀罷《宋代文言小說研究》

花了差不多兩個月,才把《宋代文言小說研究》這本二百餘頁的小書讀完,工作太忙是事實,但這篇博士論文也實在沒有甚麼發人深省的結果,令人失望。全書首三章尚可緊扣主題,探討不同類型和寫作特色的文言小說,不過分類頗嫌瑣碎,所謂的寫作特色如「行雲流水之美」、「纍如貫珠之美」等也有牽強附會之病。比較可讀的倒是書中大量引用小說原文,就當作是宋代文言小說的一次速覽,讀來頗有《聊齋》風味,但用語淺白流暢,不及《聊齋》讀來佶屈聱牙的難懂。

最後一章探討小說與宋代文化的關係,本來立意極佳,但結果卻成為一篇按照綱目摘錄原文片段的流水帳,作者只引述當時幾位理學家的一些說話作證明,對於小說和所謂文化思想之間的關係沒有太多闡述和發揮,令人失望。最不可原諒的是最後一章把多部宋代筆記(尤以中華書局出版的宋代筆記叢刊為主)與小說混為一談。即使筆記作者難免會記載一些真假難辨的傳聞,但作者始終是以「實有其事,姑罔聞之」的態度記載,那麼,這與首章論及宋代已有認為小說乃虛構、敷演鋪敘的特質,豈非前文不對後語?洪邁《夷堅志》和司馬光《涑水紀聞》、陸游《老學庵筆記》、邵伯溫《邵氏聞見錄》等書的性質迥然不同,豈可同日而語?

我同意有關宋代文言小說的研究有限,本來是個可以深入研究、大加發揮的好題目,但是這部書似乎只是有關研究的入門,對於考察宋代文言小說的水平、社會意義、文學地位等課題,探討仍屬皮毛,有待高明。不知道是我期望太高還是怎地,一篇博士論文居然如此草率粗疏,大概我也有機會可以唸個博士學位了。

Sunday, 8 February 2009

從樓上書店說起

用了三年多的手機,終於要光榮引退。為了買新手機,上星期到了旺角一趟,順便逛逛久違了的樓上書店。

赫然發現專售內地文史哲圖書的文星圖書公司已於大半年前結業。回家上網一看,連公司網站也沒有了。

不由得心中一陣惆悵。

文星圖書公司開業多年,記得高中時代就已經開始光顧。家裡至今還珍藏著當時在文星買到的《中國歷代政治得失》、《中國現代歷史事件選編》等書,一晃眼又是二十年了。那時文星設在亞皆老街先施百貨公司對面的唐樓,那道又斜又窄的樓梯,每次遇到有人,也要像在單程路上行駛的汽車一樣停下來讓對方先走,情景至今歷歷在目。

現在,先施百貨公司早已變成龍蛇混集的手機集散地先達廣場,對面那幢唐樓也早給拆掉了,所以文星圖書才搬到西洋菜南街、亞皆老街口的商業大廈裡。不過近年香港看書的人愈來愈少,對文學、哲學、歷史有興趣的讀者更少,經營想必十分困難。加上人民幣匯率不斷升高,以前在專營內地圖書書店裡不時見到的人滿之患,恐怕已成歷史。

接著再到附近其他較新的樓上書店看看,結果發現售賣的大都是流行小說、旅遊指南等消閒讀物,無論是內地或臺灣出版的,主要都是看一遍就不會再看的類型,對我全無吸引力。其中只有專售二手圖書的「梅馨書舍」比較有意思。這家書店的名字極富詩意,早已叫我暈浪,不過相對於其他能吸引青少年的書店,梅馨書舍就顯得門庭冷落了。

梅馨書舍的店面很小,裝修已經有點殘舊,圖書也放得不太整齊,看上去有點其貌不揚,不過也有一點雜亂而溫暖的家居感覺。店裡藏有很多年代久遠的圖書,紙質早已變成深褐色,連書脊也可能殘缺不全。讀者只要有耐性,應該也可以像淘金子一樣淘到自己喜歡的東西。我那天也淘到郭沫若編著、一九七九年人民文學出版社出版的《武則天》劇本。雖然紙箋變黃,但保存得很好,完全沒有翻閱過的痕跡,可能是不見天日多年的「倉底貨」,至於來源就不可考究了。

在梅馨書舍樓上的「序言書室」,又是另一番光景。這家書店以「文化學術書店」自詡,店面裝修以白色為主色,比較淡雅素淨,附設一個只有兩三張桌子的咖啡角,頗有以前洪葉書店的影子。出售的圖書類型則近似已結業的曙光圖書,以西方社會科學和文化研究為主,中、英文書都有,但以中文書較多,約佔六七成。最可惜的是英文書取價很高,動輒三百元以上,比老牌英文書店辰衝有過之而無不及。大概因為這類圖書在香港沒有甚麼市場,往往在辰衝和商務印書館英文部都找不到,只得多付一點錢來訂購罷?問題是,英文書取價那麼高,如何吸引讀者親炙英文書?如果把英文書當成奢侈品,以經濟負擔和閱讀能力分化讀者群,骨子裡是否只是延續以往認為英國文化更優雅、社會地位更高的錯覺?借用本港所謂「文化人」津津樂道的理論詞彙,這是香港「去殖民化」過程中的不幸,或是宿命?

上星期去逛書店,又令我想起唸書時的快樂時光。現在工作繁忙,心浮氣躁,精神和體力早已消磨淨盡,平日連好好坐下來看書的時間也沒有,更遑論優哉悠哉的逛書店。愈是沒有時間做自己喜歡的事,心情就愈是煩悶急躁,就像在沙漠裡煎熬一般。真的不知道可以怎樣打破這樣的惡性循環,讓自己身心都健康一點。

零容忍

這個多月裡,接連發生多宗懷疑因醉酒駕駛而導致的嚴重交通意外,造成多人死亡。社會各界紛紛要求政府加強刑罰,以收阻嚇之效。最近更有人提出醉酒駕駛「零容忍」、司機體內酒精讀數「零容忍」等建議,不過政府認為不可行云云。

坦白說,我聽到「零容忍」三個字,就頭皮發麻,無明火起。這三個字,徒有中文之形,卻不是具備溝通和文化意義的中文。簡單來說,中文不是這樣說的。

多年來,香港人的語文水平備受詬病,我們也往往從功利角度看語文。甚麼「英語是國際語言」、「中文的影響力愈來愈強」等陳腔濫調,只不過是重商主義者、功利主義者的潛台詞。說得粗俗一點,還不是「有奶就是娘」唄?以這樣片面、僵化的態度看語文,語文怎會學得好?至於掌管教育的官員,對中文的無知和輕視,更是毫無寸進,但那不是這篇文章要批評的事情。

「零容忍」明顯是硬譯自英文zero tolerance,字面看來也能勉強解釋過去;不過從語感的角度來看,實在別扭得可以。雖說語文是活的文化,多年來中文用語照搬外語詞彙也不是甚麼新鮮物事;但在另有選擇的情況下,何必偏偏選中下下之策?當我們可以說「絕不容許醉酒駕駛」、「絕不姑息違法者」、「竭盡所能杜絕醉酒駕駛」、「但不能完全避免人體裡含有少量酒精」等豐富多變的句子,為甚麼統統給說成淡出鳥來、硬如鐵石的「零容忍」?

我明白公文用語須審慎、語氣要嚴正,但中文還有很多詞彙可用,為何捨優求劣?更不可饒恕的就是本地傳媒助紂為虐,任由劣質中文橫行,荼毒學子。小時候看報紙雜誌是為了學習寫作技巧,如今卻成了「捉人字虱」和修改語病的習作,把持不住就會上當。

各位自命飽讀詩書、歷練老到、高人一等的高官和編輯,可曾想過給「零容忍」劣質中文「零容忍」?