Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Birth of Love

Day 281 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and today's entry may flail about at things half heard and half seen.

Half seen at Facebook: someone reading and recommending The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna.  It has Ignaz Semmelweis in it, the hand-washing doctor, not the Pontius Pilate kind of hand washing but actual washing of the hands so not to spread germs to women in childbirth, since they used to die so frequently of "childbed fever."  Well, in this novel, maybe it does have a bit of the Pontius Pilate kind, with Semmelweis feeling guilty for not being able to convince his fellow doctors to wash their hands!

The novel weaves history together with the present and the future--the year 2153--which sounds like a formula for popular/commercial success, but perhaps not?  Has anyone read this?  I see she also wrote Inglorious (contemporary fiction) and The Ice Museum (which people call a travelogue but which seems also to be some kind of weaving of history, myth, and sci fi?).  She sounds like a writer with wit, smarts, style, and something wonderfully quirky.

Half heard in the bookstore today: Michy?  Meechie?  Anyway, the boss and I heard it as Nietszche, which made the customer laugh and leads me now to The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, and Friedrich's own witty, smart, quirky, verge-of-insane style.

Half seen a couple days ago: Deirdre, a character in Irish myth, as she appears in a portion of The Hound of Ulster, retold by Rosemary Sutcliff.  This book came in at Babbitt's, and I was flipping through it to check for interior soil or flaws and there she was, Deirdre--aka Deirdre of the Sorrows, her story retold by others as well, such as W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge, including Eileen Favorite in The Heroines, where Deirdre stops for a while in a bed and breakfast (more time weaving), and we don't see her awful ending, but in The Hound of Ulster, we do.

And we hear of the twisting branches of two tall yew trees, grown from their separate graves, where jealous Conchobhar had them buried, to join in love and in defiance of what had kept them apart.

And, of course, I need to send you to Wikipedia for The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli, and Venus on the Half Shell, by Kilgore Trout.  Or is it Philip Jose Farmer?!

7 comments:

Kathleen said...

The buried ones are Deirdre and her lover Naoise, and the yew trees spring from their graves and twist together....

Nancy Devine said...

so much to read, isn't there?

nene said...

Yes, Nancy, there is sooooo much to read. Sometimes I wish I had just a little touch of omniscience toward the reading material that I prefer and still be able to write. Then live life without having to sacrifice the 'living' aspect because of my vicarious existence through reading and writing. Hope that made sense.

SHS said...

I almost nabbed that copy of The Hound of Ulster when I bought it (from Clarence, probably). Frank McCourt talks a lot about the tale of Cuchulainn (Cuh-HOO-lin) in Angela's Ashes. His dad tells him stories about Cuchulainn by the fireside and Frank gets very protective of the Irish hero. He is even convinced at one point that a Jewish boy is out to steal these special stories from him, until Dad explains that Jewish boys have their own stories. I wonder if my Irish forbears sat around the fire and told stories of Cuchulainn . . .? That makes me want The Hound of Ulster more. But I probably don't need 15-dollar jacketed first edition.

Flash of brilliance: Maybe it can be a book I profile during the Babbitt's 30 days of Christmas!

SHS said...

Oops! *forebearers

Not forebears or fourbears.

Kathleen said...

I think I ate the last of the gummi bears...

nene said...

'God' I love gummi bears and juju bees. I love smiling afterwards before someone tells you that you have something stuck in between your teeth (that's fun when your aware of it and not just being 'rednecky'(novel, huh?)