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219/ Henry & June

Love reduces the complexity of living.

“I feel that you have taken away from me the little confidence I had. I feel humiliated because I have confessed to you, and I so rarely confess.” It is quite mystifying to hear such a confession from someone who writes with sincere candor and poignant rawness. But “Henry & June” is no ordinary diary, it being authored by one hell of an uninhibited woman, Anais Nin.

Anais was not exactly an innocent barrio lass when she first met June and Henry, from whom she learned the bohemian ways during her stay in Paris, but her awakenings with them were of the colossal kind. They were stirrings of amatory splendor.

 The love between women is a refuge and an escape into harmony. In the love between man and woman there is resistance and conflict. Two women do not judge each other, brutalize each other, or find anything to ridicule. They surrender to sentimentality, mutual understanding, romanticism. Such love is death, I’ll admit.

She starts in awe of them: “Henry gives me the world. June gave me madness. God, how grateful I am to find two beings I can love, who are generous to me in a way I cannot explain to Natasha.”

Quickly though she realizes that the weakest way of enjoying life is to let it whip her. “By conquering misery we are creating a future independence of being such as they will never know.” Soon enough she discovers her beauty, her sensuality, her power—and naturally exerts all these beyond Henry and June:

I feel a powerful sense of life unimaginable to either Hugo or Eduardo. My breasts are swollen. I hold my legs wide apart in love-making instead of, as before, closed. I have enjoyed sucking to the point of almost coming to a climax while doing it. I have finally eliminated my childish self.

In no time Henry is now her little puppy. Writes Henry: “I love you. I go to bed now—it is too painful to stay awake. I am insatiable. I will ask you to do the impossible. What it is, I don’t know. You will tell me probably. You are faster than I am. I love your cunt, Anais—it drives me crazy.”

From adoration to bewilderment, Anais sees Henry and June in a stunningly completely different light. Of her: “I thought bitterly of June’s magnificent willfulness, initiative, tyranny. I thought, it isn’t strong women who make men weak, but weak men who make women overstrong.” And of him: “While I tell her [June] I love her I am thinking of how I can save Henry, the child, no longer the lover to me, because his feebleness made him a child. My body remembers a man who has died.”

But what a superb game the three of us are playing. Who is the demon? Who the liar? Who the human being? Who the cleverest? Who the strongest? Who loves the most? Are we three immense egos fighting for domination or for love, or are these things mixed?

Whatever or whoever, I love what becomes of Anais the next time she is reunited with both Henry and June: “I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.”

 

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218/ Sappho’s Leap

People love it when you say that they are good and true and beautiful. They love it even if they don’t believe it.

I wonder how you’d take Sappho of Lesbos. I’m sure you’ll find bits and pieces of yourself in the extraordinary woman who disregarded barriers to live her life as she pleased and as she intended. She was a reckless and fanatical youth. A rebel who knew no fear. Yet, when it came to the people she loved, especially her daughter Cleis, she was soft and pliant and supplicant, even almost apologetic for her own desires.

Birth is a battle to the death between two clinging souls. We come apart so we may come together. If women knew what birth cost, they’d forswear love forever.

Erica Jong used freshly unearthed fragments of Sappho’s poems and songs to create “Sappho’s Leap”. Here she imagines not only a famed songbird but also a female Odysseus. She has her own share of shipwrecks, Gorgons, Amazons, Philosophers, and Centaurs. And like the virile Odysseus, Sappho also has her own share of lovers—boys and girls, men and women:

I have loved men and I have loved women and I can say that men are more transparent to love. Men are ruled only by their pricks, which are simple and blunt—but the moon rules women. And the moon is a body that gives back borrowed light. Bodily lovemaking with women is tender and sweet, but the minds of women are tricky as moonlight. Men do not scheme in love as women do.

It’s not known how Sappho really died. But it is widely believed that, as an old woman, she fell—hard—for a young ferryman. Phaon had the most powerful drugs—the drugs of youth and beauty. He knew his power and he honed it. Sappho’s love supposedly went unrequited and she couldn’t take it. Hence, her fabled leap.

A boy of twenty never tires. The phallus empties and fills again. The phallus stands up, lies down, and stands up again before you know it.

Erica Jong disagrees. Sappho is much too sensible to forfeit her life for lust. Sappho did jump off the Leucadian cliffs, but not for a mere gigolo. She leapt to be with her true loves—the poet Alcaeus, the fabler Aesop, the amazon Praxinoa, and her mother and father.

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217/ Blood Canticle: The Vampire Chronicles

Love. Who knows about another’s love? The more you love, the more you know the burnt out loss of love, the more you heed the silence of unknowing in the face of another’s spiritual bondage.

“Blood Canticle: The Vampire Chronicles” is Lestat the Magnificent’s not-so-secret love song to Rowan the Witch. Here is the centuries-old bloodsucker swooning all over the pages it almost feels like leafing through a YA. When he tries to be coy about it at first like a demure virgin, it’s decidedly a Harlequin.

For a full minute, I fail to recognize Anne Rice. I thought it was Barbra Cartland or Danielle Steele at the helm:

I was in the depths. The pulsing night sang to me of the nothingness. The stars spread out to prove the horror of our universe—bits and pieces of the body of no one flying at monstrous speed away from the meaningless, uncomprehending source.

It’s as if Rice penned “Blood Canticle” in a state of apathetic torpor. There’s mention of blood but you don’t see it dripping from throbbing necks or splattered on alabaster thighs. There’s desire, but no lust. Just not enough violent hysterics, mad anger, or feverish fucks. It’s tepid, “Blood Canticle”.

Good thing there’s the quest for the Taltos, those nonhuman-humanlike creatures. It at least provides adventure, a movement from Lestat’s lovest(r)uck fangs. There’s also Mona, the witch-vampire who comes on strong like a first-rate bitch. Her dark mood thankfully tempers Lestat’s sugary sweetness.Too bad she decides to be meek and mild in the end. Forget beautiful Quin, he’s an angel forever under Mona’s spell.

At times Rice wakes up from stupor, holds the pen, and gives it a real good grip:

Sometimes I think the theologians have got it backwards. The big problem is not How to explain the existence of evil in this world. It’s How to explain the existence of good.

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