Daily mythology: Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

-Heraclito: Everything changes and everything moves, the opposites follow one another in a perpetual cycle and cycles, of which the fire is responsible. “You can not bathe twice in the same river”.

Androgyny

How we are used to the common roles of women and men! The women’s everlasting feelings, the male exemplars of us stuck inside ourselves and inapt to express any emotions… It could remind us of Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo, couldn’t it? It is about time to aproach sex and gender with a fresh mind. It did begin though! Don’t we love the appearance of David Bowie, Brian Molko (the frontman of “Placebo”), Boy George, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stipe, Tanita Tikaram, k.d.lang, Marla Glen, Annie Lennox, Michael Jackson and meanwhile many other singers and actors playing deliberately with genders? Anything seems possible like in the antiques, where nobody was wondering about Hermaphrodites. They were even worshipped as holy people and prophets – see Tiresias, being first a men and changing into woman.

Jeffrey Eugenides’ book is all about this matter. Even the title, “Middlesex”, though mainly an adress of Detroits suburb Grosse Pointe, can be an allusion to the third sex, the gender in the middle of female and male.
Callie Stephanides, our hero, is expieriencing this in her own body, being born as a girl and turning into a boy with 14 years…
She is the teller of our book, sometimes omniscient narrator too, beginning the story even before her birth or conception, telling us about far away Anatolia, the burning inferno of Smyrna, the doings of her parents while away in California or even going inside Father Mike’s head. Actually she/he is 41 years old, living in Berlin, just finding a new girlfriend, doing big flashbacks into the story of her family, her grandparents Desdemona and Lefty, her parents Tessie and Milton, her brother Chapter Eleven, her aunts and uncles.

“Grow up in Detroit and you understand the way of all things. Early on, you are put on close relations with entropy.”

There is but a big life space in between Bursa in Anatolia and Detroit. The unifying motive is the silkworm, doing it’s metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly and doing this by spinning itself into cocoons…. In my opinion this is the hidden motive of the whole book.
The main theme though is sex and gender, and we get aware again, how fluent the borders in between sexes are. At one point it even is said about hermaphrodites: we are the new gender, the one of the future. But even samples of the past are cited: The Oracle of Delphi, Tiresias, Homeros, Heraklit with his “panta rhei”, the nymph Salmakis (whose pool,by the way, is to be found in Bodrum!) turning to Hermaphroditos, the poet Sappho…

Eugenides though is very less didactic but always good for a joke. I like his wry sense of humor:
“She didn’t surrender until after Japan had.”
“The days of the harem were over. Bring on the era of the backseat! Automobiles were the new pleasure domes. They turned the common man into a sultan of the open road.”
“I crossed to the intercom and put my mouth against the speaker and said in a deep voice, ‘I’m not going into that church.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Have you seen what they charge for those goddamn candles?’”
“The slight gracelessness of my walk, which Dr. Luce had commented on, predisposed me to join the graceless sex.”
“Sing, Muse, of Greek ladies and their battle against unsightly hair! Sing of depilatory creams and tweezers! Of bleach and beeswax!”
“On sunny days the lake still managed to look blue. Most of the time, however, it was the color of cold pea soup.”
“By April of 1972, Desdemona’s application to join her husband in heaven was still working its way though a vast celestial bureaucracy.”

1st Encore:

Some have the opinion, only the initial story of the village near Bursa, the war in between Turcs and Greeks, the terrible end of Smyrna and the escape of sister and brother to the New World and finally to Detroit is catching, the rest of the book rather boring. I am not in that opinion: I red this thick book until the last page like a police-novel.

2nd Encore:

The figures emerging all along the plot are quite interesting: Peter Tatakis, Jackie Halas, Father Mike, Sourmelina, Aunt Zo, Dr. Philobosian (“Dr. Philobosian smelled like an old couch, of hair oil and spilled soup, of unscheduled naps. His medical diploma looked as if it were written on parchment.”), the prostitute Irini, Captain Kontoulis, Jimmy Zizmo, Sophie Sassoon, Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes, the Charm Bracelets, the Obscure Object, Maxine Grossinger, Mr. Da Silva, Zora, who doesn’t want to be a woman, Bob Presto, Julie Kikuchi and many others.

3rd Encore

All along the book the thesis of the surroundings, the education being important for the gender of someone against that of the genes (“I try to go back in my mind to a time before genetics, before everyone was in the habit of saying about everything, ‘It’s in the genes.”) are elaborated. But finally the author solves the opposite theories by stating, that everybody has her/his own will.
What’s the reason for studying history? To understand the present or avoid it?”

Lets end with the motto on the flag of Detroit: “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus. ‘We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.’”

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Mythologie des Alltags: Ornellas Grossvater (aus dem Hotel Naipaula)

Muss Euch noch von meinem Grossvater erzählen, Ornella nu wieder, er fuhr mit dem Velo über den Gotthard, wenn die Bremsen nicht mehr zogen hielt er Grasbüschel zwischen Schutzblech und Vorderreifen. In jungen Jahren war er nach New York ausgewandert, aber seine Frau verzehrte sich nach der Heimat; so ging es mitten im Ersten Weltkrieg per Schiff zurück. Das war gefährlich, Mann!
1936 fuhr er zu den Olympischen Spielen nach Berlin. Muss mir den Hitler mal anschauen. Immer wenn später die Tante sagte, aber er habe doch Autobahnen gebaut und überhaupt sei nicht alles schlecht gewesen, herrschte er sie an.
Im hohen Alter verliebte er sich noch in eine vietnamesische Krankenschwester. Das kam so: ein Auto fuhr ihn auf eisiger Strasse über den Haufen, mit Schädelbruch kam er im Koma ins Krankenhaus, als er erwachte, sah er dieses schöne junge Gesicht vor sich. Er konnte lange nicht sterben, 20 Jahre lang stand sein Sarg bereit im Nebenzimmer, aber die Termiten nisteten sich ein, so starben zwei Särge vor ihm. Wir dachten schon, wir müssten ihn töten lassen. Dann aber schaffte er es mit 99 Jahren und elf Monaten doch noch selbst.
Wir fuhren zu seinem Begräbnis. Er sah winzig und vertrocknet aus, da in der Leichenhalle. Nur sein graues Haar war noch büschelig und voll. Das Restaurant, wo wir nachher “etwas zu uns nahmen” sah aus wie aus einem Marthaler-Stück, es gab Würstchen und Kartoffelsalat.

Daily mythology: Silkworm

silkw_cocoons1

“According to an ancient Chinese legend, one day in the year 2640B.C. , Princess Si Ling-chi was sitting under a mulberry tree when a silkworm cocoon fell into her teacup. When she tried to remove it, she noticed that the cocoon had begun to unravel in the hot liquid. She handed the loose end to her maidservant and told her to walk. The servant went out of the princess’s chamber, and into the palace courtyard, and through the palace gates, and out of the Forbidden City, and into the countryside a half mile away before the cocoon ran out. (In the West, this legend would slowly mutate over three millennia, until it became the story of a physicist and an apple. Either way, the meanings are the same: great discoveries, whether of silk or of gravity, are always windfalls. They happen to people loafing under trees.)” (Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex)

Daily mythology: Bloomsday, 16th of June

 

zBloomsday.jpg

Every year throughout the world Bloomsday is celebrated. On June the 15th, 1904  James Joyce met Nora Barnacle and was deeply impressed. He asked for a walk together, she agreed but didn’t appear. So he wrote her a letter with the same demand (By the way: This proves the quality of postal services in those times: Letters were delivered the same day!). This time it worked and they took a walk on Sandymount-Quai. Along tradition she slipped her hand into his trousers and took it back only when it became wet. I don’t believe this: how can you ejaculate and walk in same time? Maybe they stood still, maybe there was a bank nearby, who knows? Nora later stated: “That was the day I made a man out of him!”. Until James’ death in Zürich they never parted again, lived together in Trieste Paris and, yes, Zürich. After James’ end that girl from Galway spoke a perfect Züritüütsch. To remember that first walk Joyce fixed the day, Leopold Bloom wandered through Dublin on the 16th of June 1904. Noras portrait is given in “Ulysses”too, by Molly Bloom, who lays in the bed and meets Blazes Boylan there. In real life they both hardly had affairs, and when, rather Jim himself…

Mainly people celebrating Bloomsday go for a booze afterwards. Isn’t it congenial?

Mythologie des Alltags: Herrliche Namen

“This name has an aura around it, like an amulet, some charm that’s survived from an unimaginably distant past.” (Margaret Atwood)

Nicht zuletzt Heiko Herrlich

“Herr Heinrich sass am Vogelherd, so froh und wohlgemut”

“Von Troyes der Meister Christian, der hat der Mȁre unrecht getan”

Tja, Wolfram von Eschenbach. Und wie er über Kondwiramur schreibt.

Walther von der Vogelweide. Georges Brassens.

Der andere Christian. Der Fletcher. Zuerst so kühn gegen den Tyrannen Kȁptn Bligh auf der Bounty, spȁter auf Pitcairn nach und nach selber Tyrann. Was man liebt, das tötet man, denkt sich der Eingeborene Minarii.

Robinson und Freitag. Harmlos und Hilflos. Königin Eleonore, die nach dem Turnier nur mit dem blutigen Hemd des für sie gefallenen Ritters bekleidet auf dem Ball erscheint. Jane Birkin, Vanessa Redgrave oder Jeff Beck in “Blow” Up”. Paula Modersohn-Becker. Frida Kahlo. Die schöne Melusine. Die schöne Lau. Lore Lore Loreley. Lale Andersen. Assoziativ, wird Karo Beck sagen.

Mythologie des Alltags: Geissblatt

Geissblatt, Honeysuckle/Woodbine, Hanımeli

hanımeli

Zettel ist in einen Esel verwandelt, Titania, die Pucks Liebestrank genoss, ist blind verliebt in ihn:

Titania.
Komm, laß uns hier auf Blumenbetten kosen!
Beut, Holder, mir die zarte Wange dar:
Den glatten Kopf besteck ich dir mit Rosen
Und küsse dir dein schönes Ohrenpaar.

Zettel.
Wo ist Bohnenblüte?

Bohnenblüte.
Hier.

Zettel.
Kratz mir den Kopf, Bohnenblüte. – Wo ist Musje Spinnweb?

Spinnweb.
Hier.

Zettel.
Musje Spinnweb, lieber Musje, kriegen Sie Ihre Waffen zurhand und schlagen Sie mir eine rotbeinige Biene auf einem Distelkopfe tot, und, lieber Musje, bringen Sie mir den Honigbeutel. Tummeln Sie sich nicht allzusehr bei dieser Verrichtung, Musje; und, lieber Musje, haben Sie acht, daß der Honigbeutel nicht entzwei geht; es würde mir leid tun, Signor, wenn Sie sich mit einem Honigbeutel beschütteten. Wo ist Musje Senfsamen?

Senfsamen.
Hier.

Zettel.
Geben Sie die Pfote, Musje Senfsamen; ich bitte Sie, lassen Sie die Reverenzen, lieber Musje.

Senfsamen.
Was befehlen Sie?

Zettel.
Nichts, lieber Musje, als daß Sie dem Kavalier Bohnenblüte kratzen helfen. Ich muß zum Balbier, Musje; denn mir ist, als wär ich gewaltig haarig ums Gesicht herum, und ich bin ein so zärtlicher Esel: wenn mein Haar mich nur ein bißchen kitzelt, gleich muß ich kratzen.

Titania.
Willst du Musik vernehmen, süßer Freund?

Zettel.
Ich hab ein räsonabel gutes Ohr für Musik; spielt mir ein Stück auf der Maultrommel.

Titania.
Sag, süßer Freund, was hast du Lust zu essen?

Zettel.
Ja, meiner Seel! Eine Krippe voll Futter. Ich könnte auch guten, trocknen Hafer käuen. Mir ist, als hätte ich großen Appetit nach einem Bunde Heu; gutes Heu, süßes Heu hat seinesgleichen auf der Welt nicht.

Titania.
Ich hab ‘nen dreisten Elfen, der nach Nüssen
Im Magazin des Eichhorns suchen soll.

Zettel.
Ich hätte lieber ein oder zwei Hand voll trockner Erbsen. Aber ich bitt Euch, laßt keinen von Euren Leuten mich stören. Es kommt mir eine Exposition zum Schlaf an.

Titania.
Schlaf du! Dich soll indes mein Arm umwinden.
Ihr Elfen, weg! Nach allen Seiten fort! –
So lind umflicht mit süßen Blütenranken
Das Geißblatt; so umzingelt, weiblich zart,
Das Efeu seines Ulmbaums rauhe Finger:
Wie ich dich liebe! wie ich dich vergöttre!

William Shakespeare, Ein Sommernachtstraum)

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over – canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk – roses and with eglantine.

(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Daily mythology: Gender

Dylan3

(to Bob Dylan’s birthday the 24.5.)

Oh Mama, can this really be the end, to be stuck inside my gender with the sexual blues again?

It is not the end! Because we all know, that old men look more and more like women and old ladies sometimes like Charles Bukowski.

We all have a gender. We just have to look in between our legs (we think). Alas, some are born into the wrong one and try later to correct that.

But just watch portraits of the young Bob Dylan: doesn’t he look sweet and tender like a girl? No wonder Cate Blanchett could play him easily… And I am sure everybody has other examples for this fact.

Well, I don’t mean that Bob should become a woman (he took about 70 years to look mannish), I mean: we all have both – and even more – genders in us, more or less. We could live it, we could play with it. We could sing it out.