history and mythology part 2

Friday, December 12th, 2003

I hope that people take my ponderings on this subject as the play that it is.

But I have to say I love Sarina Salemi, whom I hope creates a writing space that we can enjoy. In all seriousness. I love her thoughts on history. She claims that history is in the library. I can go with that. As long as she would agree that history must be “constructed.”

After all we would know nothing of George Washington or Honest Abe if we didn’t read or hear about them.

But my play goes to perception and environment and, of course, memory.

The fact of the matter is that to some people I don’t exist. For not knowing me they will live fine lives, I hope. Some people do know me. When I pass from this world, they will remember some part. “He was a fine chap, with some degree of humor,” they may claim. “He had no sense of fashion. His singing voice could tarnish silver and generate globs of earwax in the listener.” “He was six foot five.” “Really?”

“Who is Sarina Salemi,” I ask.


14 responses to “history and mythology part 2”

  1. gibb says:

    He was, if indeed he did exist at all, a sower and a feeder of the hungry birds. He was one who laughed when dropping books and words like seeds upon the path for those who would follow.

  2. Joanne says:

    I figured that it was time for me to “weigh in” as Tom, who sat behind me in C.F. would refer to my ramblings, on the history / mythology discussion. However, as far as the Civil War goes, when is war ever civil? But as a Yankee, both Connecticut and N.Y. fan breed, I am of the opinion that there remains an air of contempt for us north of the Mason-Dixon line for a war that ended well over a century ago, and let us not forget with a southern culture predisposed to violence. Perhaps that is merely my historical recollection, just as this posting will become momentarily. I think a course in mythology would be interesting, and anything that is “past” falls into some category of history whether it is Greek, medieval or U.S., but documented factual events should be examined under a different light than the interpretations in mythology. Yes, S, I understand that what we currently know to be documented facts may very well contain myth, but without some evidence to the contrary, the songs remain the same. Maybe you should put I.F. on the backburner and write a neo-history book – I’d read it.

  3. ersinghaus says:

    Joanne, give me a fact and I’ll ask: why that fact? I will never claim that the facts are not there. We could discuss Bull Run. Someone else may say, no let’s talk First Manassus.

  4. Rina says:

    For a student, there is wealth of history to be found in a library.We studied the Victorian period this semester. One of the topics that we had to research was Victorian sexuality.It seemed like it would be a simple enough topic.Victorians were prudes, right??? WRONG.Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.I’ve seen Victorian porn. When Daguerre brought images to the masses in 1839, the Victorians immortalized their images through porn. I’ve actually seen naked Victorian people with my own eyes.I can’t believe I didn’t go blind.Henry Spencer Ashbee, who by all accounts was a respectable Victorian business and family man wrote one of the most erotic books I ever read in my life.And lemme tell ya…they used all of the four-letter words that we do. All of them.I was one hour late for my biology class because while I was reading My Secret Life in the Rare Books Room, I lost track of time.All of this information I found in the Elihu Burritt Library.But…history…it’s all around us. This right here is history.Two hundred years from now, when libraries and books no longer exist because everything is digitized…someone on the Starship Enterprise might come across this forum and read our thoughts on literature, history, mythology, and the like.This forum will serve as a snapshot of all of us.It’s kinda cool.My dad is history. Today, during lunch my father gave us an “Old Country” history lesson…he told us about how he had to live with his spinster aunt at eight years old because there were seven other kids back at his house that his parents were trying to accomodate. His aunt used to get him up at the crack of dawn and prop him up on top of the donkey that used to carry him to the farm where he worked…at eight years old.To this day, my father has no idea how the donkey would get him to the farm because he slept the whole way.And in a dreamy sort of way he said: “That was child abuse.” Meaning that…he doesn’t fault his parents for doing what they had to do but that…life REALLY sucked back then. And there was nothing better to compare life to.History is like a jigsaw puzzle…so yeah, it does require construction. I’ll give you that.My only thing is that I personally prefer primary construction of the evidence because then I only have to deal with my bias. I don’t have to try to second guess my own interpretation…I know what my flaws are.Secondary and tertiary sources, for me, have become reference guides but I prefer to read, see and experience the original material for myself.

  5. Rina says:

    That’s funny, Joanne.Being a native Yankee myself, I’ve been of the impression that northerners–northeastern folk, especially, tend to have a very condescending attitude toward our southern cousins.Some of the most gracious people I know are southern.I was under the impression that northerners still thought that southern folk were unsophisticated “cousin-kissin, banjo-pickin” idiots. I specifically remember Rosie O’Donnell making that comment several years back.Didn’t Howard Dean just hurl some ridiculous insult against southerners?

  6. Rina says:

    I can be snotty…I’m pregnant.This excuse always works for my friend Kim.But seriously though, I just realized that in my haste, yesterday, of trying to defend all my southern friends’ honor, I actually confirmed the Yankee stereotype of snottiness.I apologize, Joanne, I usually try to screen my postings for such matters but alas, I was hoisted by my own petard…the Yankee curse.

  7. gibb says:

    It’s hard for me to write anything serious, but honest, this is my attempt:

    For a very long period of time, mythology was indeed the only form of history. What we have found out as civilized societies are contantly developing, is that somewhere along the line the film ribbon of time flipped over and history is in large part, mythology.

    I’m not sure they can ever be separated. We only attempt to splice them together to roll the movie.

  8. Joanne says:

    I believe I may have been misunderstood – my comment with regard to violence in the southern culture was actually a reply to the post regarding the War of Northern Aggression (or something of that nature, I am not quoting!) and I was actually referring to the pre-Civil War era south, which I do believe was a violent culture. Writers such as Dorothy Allison, a South Carolina native, might just concur, although her opinions may be based on a time more recent. I, too, have friends who live in the south, they just didn’t live in 1850 and own slaves.

    No offense taken. J.

  9. Joanne says:

    I believe I may have been misunderstood – my comment with regard to violence in the southern culture was actually a reply to the post regarding the War of Northern Aggression (or something of that nature, I am not quoting!) and I was actually referring to the pre-Civil War era south, which I do believe was a violent culture. Writers such as Dorothy Allison, a South Carolina native, might just concur, although her opinions may be based on a time more recent. I, too, have friends who live in the south, they just didn’t live in 1850 and own slaves.

    No offense taken. J.

  10. gibb says:

    By the way, Rina, I never thought anyone else would admit they’ve read “My Secret Life.” Must be your pregnancy hormones acting up.

  11. Rina says:

    Greetings, Susan.Oh my goodness…I’m actually not pregnant.But if I am, I shall name him Jesus.My friend Kim is pregnant…she uses that excuse all the time and I just love it, so I thought I’d borrow it.Ooops.Well, that’s the most exciting rumor I ever started about myself.I apologize for misleading you.Is there anyone else I need to apologize to?Susan, would you agree that Ashbee’s My Secret Life, is actually “readable” for it being as disturbing as it was? On one hand, it is a story of a boy’s sexual rite of passage but on the other hand, some of the stuff he did would be considered criminal by today’s standards.

  12. gibb says:

    Hi Rina! Readable? Well, I wouldn’t suggest it for discussion at a Reading Group.

    It was then considered porn and was banned, and although I read it a long time ago, I was surprised to find it readily available to read on the internet today. This quick scan confirmed my memories of it being pretty jam-packed with constant coupling (and tripling) in every which way, and the only thing I have seen lately that might be considered hard-core but classic literature would be by Ann-something or other and it’s a trilogy about some princess named Beauty. This is more shocking in our times because it is masochisism and subservience, which to our modern eye is possibly what the shock value has risen to be. It’s hard to see the story for the sex in “My Secret Life”, but then I don’t think that was the author’s intention. I believe it was a Victorian writer’s idea to write what was going on in a society that was outwardly fairly stodgy, and therefore reveal to later generations that the people of this era were not so terribly prudish–at least not some of them.

    Am glad to hear you’re not pregnant. Had this horrible image of the librarians whispering about the angelic looking young pregnant woman totally losing all sense of time in the back room with a dirty book.

  13. Rina says:

    I don’t know any particular stories about My Secret Life having been banned…? I’ve actually read quite the opposite. Pornographic literature was not to be found shrink-wrapped in the local 7-11 of Victorian times however, it was readily available for anyone who was interested in such things.If anyone is interested in having every Victorian myth shattered, I highly suggest reading Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians.And ummm…Steven Marcus’ The Other Victorians was pretty enlightening as well, I found.All the independent research that my class did on the matter seemed to coincide with these two gentlemen’s assessments.According to Sweet, “Pornography was one of the major textual industries of Victorian Britain. It first came to be a mass-market product in the 1830s and 1840s, when Chartist activists used profits from the production of erotic prints and fiction to subsidise their political pamphleteering…When in 1848, the Chartist movement collapsed…this lucrative sideline became a central business: a business which grew and grew.”Had this horrible image of librarians whispering…Hahaha! The two ladies in the Rare Books Room finally took the book off the shelf for my class because everyone streamed in to read it at some point during that little project.I think it’s highly discussable. Once I picked my jaw up off the table, from the initial shock, I found My Secret Life fascinating.As you probably know Susan…there was no age of consent back then…I’ve read some disturbing letters that Wilkie Collins wrote to a little girl of twelve.There were no laws against homosexuality until the Criminal Law Act of 1852(?)…and even then, Queen Victoria would not sign it until lesbianism was deleted from it because she could not understand how a woman could be homosexual.Prostitution was a THRIVING industry…the main patrons were actually seasonal workers and sailors in port towns rather than middle class men, as one might assume.Syphillis to the Victorians is today’s AIDS epidemic…something like eight out of every ten children who died in their first year of life died as the result of syphillis.My Secret Life addresses pedophilia, homosexuality, and every other sexual matter in a VERY candid manner.It just really helped, for me at least, to really appreciate the Victorians. It was SUCH a dynamic period and they were SUCH a dynamic people…and rather than embrace this transitional period in all its madness, I find it sort of bittersweet that controls were tightened by them as a result of fear.Thank God for cotton underwear…BUT PLEASE! No more laissez faire!It’s just fascinating.

  14. Spinning says:

    REALITY?: Imagination

    Hi folks. Ibm back. Just in case I scared some of you with my posting about being non-existent, please let me assure you that even if in fact I am a figment of my imagination, I still produce Spinning in