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Archive for the ‘odd metaphors’ Category

Will The Real Lady Chatterley Please Stand Up?

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I picked up a copy of Roxana Shirazi’s The Last Living Slut today. I don’t know what really compelled me to do so, I usually stay away from such things, preferring my titillating literature be some crappy romance rag. But I picked it up none the less. I was reading it out in the car on my lunch break, my legs sticking out the window in a vain attempt to get some colour and munching merrily on a brie and veggie sandwich. A tomato slice fell on my white skirt.

I was going to write this post a long time ago, actually when I first wrote about D.H. Lawerence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover here. This was going to be the very next one, although it wouldn’t have been quite like this. I was going to write about how the fictional Lady Chatterley was actually a real person, who actually happened to be quite an influence on the writer’s of her time, she is immortalized as a character in no less than five works of fiction, most notoriously as Lady Constance Chatterley.

But as I was sitting in my car I found my nutty little brain drawing these imaginary parallel lines between the Last Living Slut, Roxana and Lady Ottoline Morrell. Separated by nearly a century they are not so very different, call them what you will, patron, inspiration, muse, groupie, slut.

Back in the day, say around the turn of the century or so, the bad-boys of the world were the poets, the writers and the artists. If you wanted debauchery and dirty loving, that is who you hung out with. Today it’s the rock stars, the writers take a bit of a backseat to accessibility of the rock star, there’s a certain draw I suppose, the rock stars get all the dirty loving and the writers sit there suffering to make deadline, or even get published. Maybe, I don’t really know, I’m not talented.

Lawerence’s Lady Chattereley’s Lover is allegedly based on Lady Ottoline Morrell’s love affair with a stonemason named “Tiger”. It follows of course, the good lady’s romance and growth within the relationship and how she comes to learn that one cannot be all mind, nor all body, but must strike a balance which can only be found in true love. Ottoline, an incurable romantic had many love affairs and kept a circle of writers and artists around her, offering hospitality and friendship that resulted her literary immortalization.

Ottoline Morrell is an extremely interesting person to me, because she seems as though she is the type that creative individuals were drawn to, obviously she inspired and encouraged their work,  but she was also interesting and charismatic enough to become their work.

She appears in two of D.H. Lawerence’s novels, Lady Chatterley of course, but also in Women in Love, where her character strikes her lover in the head and sends him running naked through a forest after he spurns her. She is Mrs. Bidlake in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene’s It’s a Battlefield, and Lady Syballine Quarrell in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On. It’s quite the legacy.

I haven’t finished Roxana’s The Last Living Slut yet, but I can’t help but think about Lady Morrell when I read her book, she talks about a desire to be with people which is utterly romantic, it’s there, all hidden in her stories of female ejaculation and getting peed on by Avenged Sevenfold, it’s there. The interesting thing is, Roxana’s rock stars seem to want to be around her as much as Ottoline’s writers wanted to be around her. They are similar in their appeal, their romantic qualities and magnetic personalities.

Also, a post script here, I find it incredibly serendipitous that Roxana dedicated her book to a “Tiger”.

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The Man, Always Keeping You Down, Even in 1853.

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Do you remember reading Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell in Grade Seven? Please tell me you do, I do, and I still read it today.

It’s about a young girl named Wonapalei, her secret name is Karana, because all the people in the village she lives in have secret names, which is like code names or spy names, but much more meaningful and magical. It’s important that you not tell too many people your secret name because it will lose its magic. Wonapalei lives on the Island of the Blue Dolphins, in the village of Galas-at. One day a Russian Captain and his team of Aleuts come to hunt on the otter on the island, striking a deal with the Chief of Wonapalei’s people to pay them well for the time they are there. The deal goes wrong when it is discovered that the hunters have lied and try to leave without fulfilling their end of the bargain. A fight breaks out and the village is nearly obliterated, only women, old men and boys are left, which is devastating to the tribe.

A decision is made that one of the remaining men will travel across the sea to another island in search of help, which eventually comes by way of another ship sent to bring the rest of her people to the mainland. Wonapalei, discovering that her little brother has not made it aboard the ship in time, launches herself into the sea to swim ashore so that he not left behind alone. Wild dogs on the island kill her brother and in an act of hardcore survival she makes that island her bitch. Teaching herself to fish, defending her home from the pack of wild dogs that roam the island, taming various animal sidekicks and living by herself for eighteen years while she waits for the ship to return.

Her story ends here with her rescuers making her wear a dress. I like to think of it as a metaphor for the man trying to keep her down.

The most interesting part of the whole story is that she is real. Like, really real. The story is based on the life of Juana Maria, known as The Lone Woman of San Nicolas. She was the last surviving member of her tribe the Nicoleño. She lived alone from 1835 until her discovery in 1853, it her age was estimated to be around 50, and she was described as a pleasant woman who was constantly smiling and who enjoyed singing and dancing for her visitors.

Juana Maria, regrettably her real name was not recorded, died seven weeks after she was brought to the mainland, dysentery is the assumed cause of her death. She was buried in an unmarked grave in the Santa Barbara Mission Cemetery. The items that she brought with her from the island were lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and her skirt made of cormorant feathers was sent to the Vatican, where it too, was lost.

In 1928 a plaque was placed on the site of her burial.

The marker placed in 1928 by the Daughters of the American Revolution

Juana Maria was a bad-ass. There is not nearly enough information about her, which is sad, because she was remarkable. She witnessed the devastation her people, lived in utter isolation and died, sick and in a dress without her real name. Juana Maria had a secret name, one that had magic in it, one that belonged only to her and that she has to this day, because it couldn’t be lost in the archives of the Vatican.

Even Amidst Fierce Flames The Golden Lotus Can Be Planted

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I have a copy of Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel The Bell Jar that I have been carrying around with me throughout my various moves since grade eleven. The copy of which I speak is a printing that was issued in the 1970’s and has a very simple, green concentric circle design and black and white block lettering. I should also mention that I totally pilfered this copy from my grade eleven English class book stacks.

At the time I didn’t think my of actions as stealing so much as liberating this book from its endlessly dreary shelf-life, sitting on the stacks passed over for brighter, newer paperback books. I devoured the Bell Jar, over and over again. There was quite literally a period of my life that I would read it from start to finish and then start all over again. I read it in this fashion to my count eight times, it was likely more, before I moved onto something else. Undoubtedly however, The Bell Jar is one of the novels that defined the utter cliché of my teenaged ennui and shaped my earliest attempts to be “a writer.” As we know now however, I am not “a writer”, and it’s all Marcel Proust’s fault.

I read The Bell Jar frequently even today, often in the bath, coining my phrase “I’m reading Plath in the bath”, which is ironic with the whole suicide thing. Not to worry though, Sylvia didn’t do herself in by opening her veins in a warm bath, she did it by sticking her head in the oven a month after the first publication of her only novel. The stigma attached to The Bell Jar Aside, it’s actually a funny, personal and rather uplifting tale. At least to me.

Semi-autobiographical, The Bell Jar follows the protagonist Esther Greenwood as she works through her internship at a woman’s magazine, return to her mother’s house, attempted suicide, hospitalization and eventual recovery with some flashbacks recalling her lame boyfriend Buddy and his weird underwear. I expect eventually, since my blog here has become a virtual graveyard for the writers themselves I will write more in another entry about Plath herself, her suicide and the destruction of her last journal after her death by Ted Hughes, but that requires a trip to the library and some pant-free research.

Written by Lindsey

June 9, 2010 at 9:21 am

Mustache Dude Will Ruin Your Hot Lesbian Sex Every Time

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Bram Stroker wrote Dracula in 1897. But before Dracula there was Carmilla. Carmilla was written in 1872 by J. Sheridan Le Fanu and serves to prove the point there really no originality in writer’s craft.

Touted as a ‘substantial contribution to the vampire legend in supernatural fiction’ Carmilla is little known and certainly not referenced in the legends and sparkling vampiric romances that we have so readily available today. Which is a shame because Carmilla was way ahead of her time. Today we get to read about Edward and Bella saving it for marriage, although I personally believe that the Twilight series is really about the hard choice between necrophilia and bestiality that every 18-year-old girl in Washington state must face, I digress. Carmilla however gets right down to the gritty truth of vampire lore: hot girl on girl blood sucking action.

Carmilla is a vampire love story that is centered around the relationship between two young women, Laura and Carmilla. Laura has a dream about Carmilla when she is a child and tells her father that a beautiful woman entered her bedroom and bit her on the chest. Years later when Laura is eighteen, she and Carmilla meet in real life and instantly recognize each other. Guess what happens next? Carmilla enters Laura’s bedroom and bites her on the chest, kinky bitch. Carmilla is found out to be a vampire and instead of letting these two have their torrid love affair, Carmilla is destroyed. Which is of course all cloaked in moral lessons which are just as true today as they were in 1872, a.) sex before marriage is bad b.) women are evil and c.) girl on girl will make more money than anything else you can possibly put out there.

Mustache dude does not approve.

The reason that I know this is intended to be a love story, rather than some titillating tale of how evil women are when they are unmarried and without the influence of men, is because even after Carmilla is killed, Laura still longs for her, thinking that she hears her footsteps on the stairs. This perhaps was a literary device intended to scare the reader that OMG THE LESBIAN VAMPIRE ISN’T DEAD!!! Really it just serves to underline the point that had Carmilla and Laura just been left alone, they likely would have lived happily together in some little country house and collected cats.

Written by Lindsey

June 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Cookies You Can Believe In, In Bed.

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I was Marcel Proust in another life.  I have proof.  See, I am never going to be a great writer, I will never, and not through lack of trying, write a great novel and I will never see myself published. How’s that for positive thought? You can take your quantum physics and shove them up your ass.

The reason that none of these things will ever happen for me is because when I was Marcel Proust I used up all my writerly mojo and will never be able to write again. Being Marcel Proust has sucked my creative juices dry, so now you are left with pants-free googling anecdotes and semi-coherant rambling in my attempt to emulate having talent.

Looking at pictures of myself and Marcel Proust, you can see the resemblance, he looks all pasty and thoughtful, see? I am also pasty, and while not terribly thoughtful any more, I do like cookies.

And boy-howdy here comes more proof, when I was Marcel Proust in my former life, I also liked cookies. I liked cookies enough that I was able to write a novel in seven volumes about cookies. I wonder how many more times I can write cookies into this paragraph? Cookies.

Also, guess what I am reading? That’s right! The novel in seven parts that I wrote in French between 1913 and 1927, In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past, depending on the translation. Except, now I am reading it in English, because the ability to read this in French did not reincarnate with the rest of me.

The Lover

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I picked up Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawerence on a whim. I was at City Lights Book Shop here in London and I was gathering up various titles and leaving an increasing pile of books on the counter awaiting me to take them home. Lady Chatterley was one of the last titles that I picked, and I held the yellowing, tattered paperback in my hand and I looked at the picture on the cover. A woman stands with her naked back exposed and flowers twined in her long hair. I recall thinking vaguely that it was a classic, that it had a bit of a reputation and at the very least, I could read the dirty bits and snicker to myself about the puritanical censorship that prohibited the story from being published openly until 1960.

Then I read it, and it was wonderful. Not in the way that it’s a fantastic story, or that it imparts some lingering effect, in fact in that arena it misses the mark. The characters of the cold husband and the noble, savage lover become allegorical archetypes, and seem to merely illustrate the struggle between the mind and the body. The lesson, after all the “crises” (apparently the acceptable and literary term for orgasm in 1928) is that one cannot not be all mind, nor all body, but that one needs to exist in sensual harmony, is less a revelation then a big, fat “well, duh” moment.

I found myself bored until the seventh chapter, because it was reading much like one would expect: lovely young aristocratic woman, gets married, takes lover, is unsatisfied by lover, suffers ennui, finds herself getting curious (if it was really pornographic, it would become “Lady Chatterley’s Lesbian Lover” right about here, alas.) becomes attracted to the very unknowable groundskeeper and so on. Then it hits you like a sack of potatoes, when D.H. Lawerence writes so poignantly about the nature of the heart, and you just weren’t expecting it because of all that other emotional chow-chow that you had to slog through first.

I am not going to tell you about the sex, although parts were sexy, and I was glad I got to that part at home, and not in the lounge at work. I am not going to get into the narratives of post World War I England’s class systems, or even the major theme of mind over body, you can go to Wikipedia and look that junk up yourself.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is not D.H. Lawerence’s best work, but it is certainly the most controversial. He himself called it “a very pure and tender novel, but also the most improper novel in the world”. While at times it veered into a sweaty meandering through a garden of phallic symbols and the occasional “fuck” tossed in there for good measure, beneath that lies a deeper truth, the earnestness of the human heart, the true nature of love. For that D.H. Lawerence changed forever how we write and read about love, sex, and men and women, and for that Lady Chatterley’s Lover is wonderful.

Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury

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Reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, is like driving with my octogenarian grandmother. Dreadfully slow, confounding, and you’re never quite sure if you are going to make it out alive. What makes it worth it though is, occasionally the sweet lady looks over and says something that is so inspiring, or so beautiful that you buckle your seat belt, and hold white knuckled to the door handle.

A stream of consciousness tale told in four parts, and published originally in 1929, it appears on several lists as one of the best books of all time. The story also managed to play a role in Faulkner’s Noble Peace Prize in literature, which he was awarded in 1949.

The Sound and The Fury is a difficult story to provide an effective synopsis to, because for the most part, its not easily readable, nor, at times, does it make much sense. For the sake of brevity, I am going to break it down into it’s four parts, and attempt to give some sense of what the hell was going on in there. If The Sound and The Fury is your most favouritist book ever, and you find my synopsis overly simplified or missing the point altogether, bear with me and comfort yourself with the knowledge that MY most favouritist book is Go Dog Go.

Part One.

Narrated by Benjy Compson. His narration shifts over a twenty year span.

Caddy smelled like trees until she knocked boots with some guy from town and now she doesn’t smell like trees anymore.

Caddy, by the by, is the main figure in the story or more correctly, the idea of Caddy is the main figure in the story.  She is never met on her own, and is a different person in the eyes of each of the narrators.  She is only shown through the biases of each of her brothers, and ultimately does not exisit as a person, only as an individual’s perception of a person.

Part Two.

Narrated By Quentin Compson.

My sister Caddy is a whore, and I am going to toss myself into the river, from a height, weighted down by irons because of it.

Part Three.

Narrated by Jason Compson.

Money.Money.Money.Money.Money.I Hate Caddy, and myself, but mostly Caddy.Money.Money.Money.

Part Four.

The only chapter that makes any sense as Faulkner uses a more traditional writing style. The focus is the matriarch of the Compson’s servants, Dilsey . Dilsey and her family are used to provide a narrative comparison against the declining Compson family. I didn’t really figure out the story until the last few paragraphs, which is maybe what was intended all along. It illustrates the decay of the wealthy Southern family, and the idiocy that each of the brothers display in turn – Benjy’s mental retardation, Quentin’s declining mental health and obsession with his sister’s sexuality, and Jason’s obsession with wealth (Jason is also really mean).

/synopsis

Faulkner had originally intended to have the story printed with different coloured inks to represent the shifts in time and perspective, but used italics instead. Then he broke his own rules, and stopped using punctuation.

While the story, from what I could glean in the nearly six (six!) weeks it took me to read The Sound and The Fury, is a tragic tale of the downfall of a prominent Southern American family after the Civil War. The type of story, that being full of sadness and melancholy self reflection is right up my alley, but it’s delivery made it nearly incomprehensable. Also, Faulkner was mostly drunk while he wrote it, I tried being mostly drunk while I read it. It didn’t help.

All of that being said. I TOTALLY understand why people will tell you this is their favourite book, or will sing it’s praises as one of the most important pieces of American Literature Ever! Getting through this book is like winning the blue ribbon at a hotdog eating contest. You finish, you feel like you have really accomplished something, but you feel bloated with vague twinges of shame – mostly because you don’t really understand why you ate all those hotdogs in the first place.