Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Save the Scrimshanders

Day 121 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and this is one of those entries following up on previous entries, including random coincidii (made up plural of coincidence, which has its own perfectly good plural) and other whimsy.

Like Emily Dickinson, I love words. And, like myself, I love coincidii. Yesterday I told you about Late Wife, a book of poems by Claudia Emerson. Early in the book, in the "Divorce Epistles" section, is a stunning poem called "Photograph: Farm Auction" that focuses on a hayfork that resembles "a plate of baleen / from the mouth of a whale." So today it is the word "baleen" that I love, a synonym for "whalebone" in one of its dictionary meanings, but specifically the plates in the mouth of the "right whale," the kind of whale it was "right" for whalers to catch because of its abundance (and therefore profit potential), baleen being the whalebone of whalebone stays in women's corsets (for which there is a less of a market these days. Save the whales!) They are also called baleen whales, or just whalebone whales.

Also yesterday, in the bookstore, I handled a book called The Yankee Scrimshanders, by Fredericka Alexander Burrows, about the art of scrimshaw, or carving on whalebone, with images of the carvings on whalebone stays for women's corsets! (Save the scrimshanders!)

The coincidii just continue. We got another copy of The Technology of Orgasm, by Rachel P. Maines, a paperback for $5, shelved in Women's Studies, and it sold immediately, as I knew it would, so I didn't even try to talk about it here, or provide a link to our search page.

I had bought the hardcover a while back...then couldn't find it in my house and wondered if I'd hidden it or loaned it out, but it is just that the lettering on the spine is squeezed in such a way as to make it not immediately readable, sort of like camouflage, I think. Anyhoo! I found my home copy. This ties in because the technology of orgasm, those machines doctors could use to relieve the "hysteria" of women, so they didn't have to do it, er, manually, or keep hiring midwives and other female assistants to do it for them, was big in the age of women's corsets! As explored in Sarah Ruhl's new play on Broadway, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play. (Save the orgasm!)

Speaking of hayforks, my little Poetry at Babbitt's workshop will be reading poems about farming implements and the Farmer's Market and statues of Abraham Lincoln, at "Fresh From the Farm," an event Saturday morning, June 26, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., during the Bloomington Farmers Market on the square, in the McLean County Museum of History. (Save the small farms!)

I should stop now.

2 comments:

nene said...

Evidently all copies(The technology of orgasm) were sold because they don't have a copy in the Library near my residence. My curiosity always takes me to those pieces of lit that are 'little known'.
Maybe I could learn something or even share it with my wife. Dang! or as they say in spanish, "caramba".

Kathleen said...

Caramba, nene! I'm sure your wife will tell you anything you need to know!

Really, this book is more historical than self help, and pretty darn interesting, amazing, and humorous...other than the misconceptions about women, not very humorous at the time.

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