Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reading Moby Dick is a subversive act...

What does a whale represent to us?  In the 1850's the whale was a leviathan, a creature of massive proportions that inhabited a hidden universe and provided products of beauty and necessity (oil and ambergris).  For us, it's one more being in danger of extinction that "sings" and is part of a controlled world that holds little mystery.  Imagine confronting this huge being with small boats and harpoons.
   Two elements make Moby Dick subversive.  For the reader to understand the novel, Melville provides all the possible background information available to him in his day.  From a treatsie on the color white across cultures to classification and anatomy of the whale, this novel educates the reader.  And all of this requires DESCRIPTION and Melville is a master.
    Description has fallen out of favor.  Writers are routinely instructed to eliminate adverbs and all excess words.  Are we all victims of Hemingway's terse prose?  Or is it a lack of attention span?  Take the 6 word story as an example.  6 words are used to express an entire story and there are contests to do this.  Yes, it can be done.  But why?  We have a glorious vocabulary in English, one I particularly appreciate since English wasn't my first language.  A literary magazine I recently contacted now only publishes flash fiction.  Is this the path literature is taking?
    The other  subversion is that man is not the measure of all things as we've been led to believe.  What I liked best about Moby Dick was the ending.  Despite all foreshadowing and warnings, I was surprises by the ending.  Decades of the perfect Walt Disney type ending left me aghast and then thrilled by the last line of this novel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

On this beautiful spring day I am reading about human trafficking triggered by watching “The Whistleblower”, a film based on true events about a female police officer in postwar Bosnia who uncovers a trafficking ring involving UN officials and contractors.  The conditions of the young women who are lured abroad with tales of money and excitement (one can only hope that doesn’t happen as much now) are worse than we can even imagine. 
Mostly trafficking equates to female slavery.  Woman are still chattel in many parts of the world.  Even Turkey, a modern country, reports many cases of honor killings.  But let’s examine those UN officials and contractors.  What did they tell themselves to  make their actions possible?  Don’t men have sisters, wives, and daughters? Is it just another case of the brutality of humankind?  Woman is the other, and once you turn any being into someone separate from yourself, or even different, anything is possible.  Humans will never evolve until women regain a place of value in all societies.  It is precisely the femaleness, the feminine that our culture has deplored and tried over and over to eradicate, even to the point of making our own mother earth unable to sustain life.

The Whistleblower
Purge- the wonderful novel by Oksanen

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Motherhood May 12th and a poem

The first love of anyone's life (reciprocated or not) is the mother.  These days mothers are called tiger moms and are expected to be perfect.  The very archetype of mother is so potent as to obliterate all other identities a woman can have.
  It's a role I didn't choose in this lifetime but motherhood is something I can visit on this day, May 12th, the birthday of my mother.  This was my first love and one that hasn't diminished in the years of her absence, now more than 30.
   Here's a poem:

Ma-Ya  (Not That)

No one will ever say -she’s the mother of my children, head bowed in homage.  Yet, I am the mother of many dreams and a few scattered kindnesses.

I have been the bitch of a litter of seven puppies, the taker of portrait photographs with the requisite puff of air, and a maple tree sending forth a seedling borne on air that settled in a small patch of earth and lived 100 years.