October 11, 2012

Vintergata


Two days before Mo Yan was announced as the 2012 laureate of the Nobel prize in literature, I sat below a high ceiling in a library that dares not utter its name out loud, lest the world should know its location. Hiding behind tall doors and germ-free hallways, one Laputan presented a book of poetry written by another Laputan, published by a Brobdingnagian. And it was not just any Laputan poet, I tell you. It was Seat number 16 of the Nobel literature committee, no less. He had that delicious Swedish cadence to his English, rustique, clique, publique.

 

Suits and ties praised one another, medals and handshakes were exchanged. The poetry was read in three languages, fluid and gentle even at its darkest. Described in the opening accolade as “no young person’s poetry,” it was nonetheless performed by drama students in their late teens, their newly trained diaphragms bravely gloving their quivering hands.

 

My people, and yet I bite my cuticles on your margins. Foreigners to me, and yet I belong to you, for we love the same thing, this art of words. I love you, yet I cannot tolerate you. You beckon me with a promising finger, yet we speak different languages.

 

And they were so delightful, the Laputans. Old school gentlemen with that soft, pleasant, charming kind of male energy that one does not encounter very often anymore. Their peace was of the kind that resides in the eyes of sacred cows; complacent, well-meaning creatures incapable of aggression because they were never victims. Pure enlightenment, unadulterated humanism. Unthreatening, because never threatened. Refreshing in their ignorance of the alpha principle, because the umbrella of their institution did the dirty work for them.

 

So I sat beneath the high ceiling of this public institution, which belongs to me as much as it belongs to the Laputans’ bums occupying it, 145 of them gracefully deciding to welcome 15 representative XX-chromosomes into their protective alpha-not-alpha bosom. I listened to the pretty words recited in three languages, waiting for the only not-suit, not-tie, not-brown, not-tenured member of the festivity to speak.

 

Finally, she was summoned. The translator. The mediator. The arbiter. The nomad. The interpreter. The one without whom those three men would not have ever met. The publisher would have still been the publisher, the academic would have still been the academic, and the Nobel Seat number 16 would have remained nice and warm and occupied. Only the rope-bridge of her multilingualism brought them all together.

 

She was everything they were not. A complete and utter other to their class, gender, voice, energy.

 

And she spoke with her ice-glimmering dress and faux fur, her lioness hair and butterfly hands, as much as with her words. She ignored the officials in the front row and called out to the cubs that oozed fuchsia and red all over the brown and grey, working their way inward from the margins; puppies in training, at that confusing age where commands have been learned but you never know when they might decide to pee on the hallowed steps – out of joy as much as defiance. Readers of her work before it was published, confidantes of an art-in-becoming before it was shared with the publishers and academics.

 

Oh yes, dear, soft, genteel, courteous flying islanders, we just might make you want to become alphas again.
 
 
 
 
 
 

10 comments:

  1. It's funny you write this. I was reading an article earlier on the Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome. It makes me wonder where that point in history is. That one thing, word, scene, act, whatever it was and whenever it was that caused the disconnect between man and woman. Was there ever a time in history when there was no dominant/submissive relationship? Was there ever a time when there was not a foul sense of fear and threat guiding the thoughts and actions of man toward woman? Sadly, I have actually put thought into using an abbreviated name on the SciFi I am writing if it ever sees the light of day. Who would ever want to read a SciFi novel written by a female author, but with no female protag and no romance?

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    1. You mean the Garden of Eden, while Lilith was there? When God made woman and man at the same time and did not pluck ribs from one and grew the other from it like a chia pet? :)

      No, I don't think there was ever a time of dominance-free relations between genders, just like I don't think there was ever a time when power relations did not govern the human race. And I have been really pissed at that assumed male privilege governing today's mainstream. I have written about this before: it's not the extremes that need working on. All decent human beings agree that rape, murder, violence and discrimination are bad things. And societies are working on it. It is the refusal to see the misogyny that surrounds us in our everyday life. Case in point, which got me thinking about this again: http://cratesandribbons.com/2012/09/30/the-kissing-sailor-or-the-selective-blindness-of-rape-culture-vj-day-times-square/

      Read just a few of the comments below and you will see how many people came to the defence of this poor war hero, and totally missed the point of the article. Wow, a woman dared to call it "assault," causing discomfort in our cozy little world which professes freedom of speech and adherence to human rights. "OUR men don't do that," "OUR men are good men!" Ask your men a simple question, and most of them slip into double standards and the cozy privilege of their gender easier than you'd think.

      But I'm not bitter :D Like you mentioned in a previous comment, I too dream of the opposite of regression. I can see how easy, and possible, it would be to turn things around. If I didn't believe in it, I'd probably jump off a bridge. Or turn vigilante.

      As for your novel, I am a total dud when it comes to SciFi - I am familiar with the few famous authors and know they are all male, but are there really no notable women writers in that genre? Well if that's the case, that sucks donkey balls. I am not confrontational, and I would rather live my life below anyone's radar if I possibly can. But sometimes people need to be educated. So I would go with my full name and girly identity, but be prepared for inane questions related to my gender when the novel goes viral :)

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  2. I don't mean to clog your comments, but I found this the other day and thought maybe you'd like it http://other-wordly.tumblr.com/

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    1. My sinuses might be clogged but my blog is wide open :)

      Thanks for this, it will be a frequent rummaging haunt.

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  3. Beautiful post. I read a lot of blogs, but yours is fast becoming one of my favorites. The lyrical quality of your writing is a joy to read. It reads like poetry without being poetry. You transport people to wherever you are, or are writing about. Keep it up!

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    1. Hey Girl,

      Thank you so much for noticing. It was a conscious decision I made when I switched blogs. After the old one had done what it was meant to do, I wanted to keep writing but on a higher level. I'm glad to see it's working out :) I'll hop on over to your place and see what you've been up to.

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  4. Chris, this post is magic. The words are so gentle and potent, sending sights and smells from afar as I sit with my coffee in this cramped kitchen. For a minute there I thought you were going to be the interpreter.
    Although I love your old blog, and will always remember it fondly as the place of purging, and some of the writings were so painful and bloody that I was tempted at times to call an ambulance, I can see that this is a new place for you...and me. You're writing is so multifaceted, a literary stew of you, and so delicious!

    I'm still in Massachusetts. Life is way bigger than me up here...but it's good. When I return to the south I intend to connect with you. Sending love my friend.
    Leah

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    1. Haha Leah,

      I was actually thisclose to volunteering my interpreting skills right then and there, as part of the presentation was held in my native language and the absent-minded academics forgot that their guest was Swedish. My skills only cover English and people soon switched to it spontaneously so I zipped it, and vomited it all up on the blog afterwards :) The translator of the book did her job well and outshone them all with her speech, methinks.

      I struggled for awhile with the pros and cons of setting up a new blog. I did not want it to look like I disowned my old scribblings, but I felt it was time to move on. Revamping the design or fiddling with the name would not do, so I took a clean slate and linked it up to my best from the past.

      Life bigger than you? That's impossible! I'm interested to hear what's new with you and how you have been. Thanks for finding the time to stop by here, you know it's always appreciated.

      Take care,
      Chris

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I thrive on interaction. All comments are welcome and will be replied to.