Friday, June 25, 2010

Hello dearest. Up in the aerie. Hot and sunny today but not humid. I took advantage of a reserve of energy and scrubbed the upstairs bath. Which knocked me out so I took a short nap. Feel better and am glad for clean bath. Also did laundry and made a pasta dish for lunch, with turkey sausage, chicken stock, plum tomatoes, and organic swiss chard. Received text message from D: "chicken on porch." Neighbor's chickens met their butcher the other day and neighbor dropped one off for us (D chicken-sat once or twice, making sure they were in enough feed & water while neighbors were in the city). A nearly 7-pound bird. Wow. Will roast tomorrow. The birds were free-range in neighbor's backyard, ran all over the place. Plenty of exercise. Might meat be tough as a result? Perhaps should cut up and stew. Let's see, Sicilian Spiced Chicken, or lemon chicken, or chicken with Indian spices and spinach and basmati, or...

Have been reading more of Lives Like Loaded Guns. I can hardly put it down. It's one of the most engrossing and unblinkered biographical treatments I've ever read. I just finished two chapters, "Emily's Stand" and "Lady Macbeth of Amherst," that center on a young, attractive woman, Mabel Loomis Todd, who is married to David Todd, her devoted albeit serially philandering husband. They move to Amherst, where David takes an astronomy position, which takes him "chasing eclipses" and sporting with whomever. Mabel sets her sights on the Dickinsons. Emily rebuffs Mabel's overtures with poetic riddles, sheathed blades worthy of Hamlet. But Austin, Emily's brother, then in his 50s, long married to Sue, crumbles before Mabel's charm offensive. Before long they have assignations in the house where Emily with caretaking sister Lavinia lives, which rather cramps Emily's freeranging about the house while Austin and Mabel are locked for hours of a morning or afternoon in the dining room. Austin, treasurer of Amherst College, is in a position to assist David Todd professionally (he's invented a precursor of a motion picture camera and is forever trying to record solar eclipses - but clouds and even the ash cover of a Mount Fuji eruption thwart him!). Austin is also instrumental in having built a nearby house for Mr. and Mrs. Todd. The house is designed and built with exterior stairs to the second floor. Messrs. Todd and Dickinson come & go freely. It's a ménage à trois, replete with (in Gordon's terms) voyeurism and group sex. t in reporting this in breathless fashion. What I'm really appreciating is the unblinkered description of exceedingly complicated adult lives, not to say messy, full of pain, maybe even madness (Mabel - "Lady Macbeth" - sounds unhinged in her mad obsession to replace Sue on this earth - by any means necessary - as Mrs. Dickinson). It reads like a great novel, such as by Edith Wharton or Henry James, or because the setting is unified (the houses are in close proximity in Amherst), a play by, say, Ibsen or Shakespeare.

Would such an arrangement be possible today? I don't know. Funny, I'm watching Season 3 of Big Love now, which is reminiscent (wonderful HBO comedy-drama series about a Mormon polygamous family in the Utah 'burbs; each wife has her own house, all on the same street, and share their husband according to a scheduled rotation). Well, I don't know what to say. It just seems that Victorian architecture (warrens of rooms, many with multiple means of access & egress; front & back staircases, and the like) along with Victorian town planning (houses in close proximity) made such pre-nuclear family arrangements and assignations discreet and doable.

Darling, I have no big finish on this. It's feeling more humid again, and I just can't seem to get my thoughts quite straight today. The beauty of a blog. I try, but I remind myself - it doesn't have to be perfect. Ah, I will let you go for now Mr. "United States." Love you.


Experiencing weird glitches as I try to edit this post. Much of the story of Mabel & David & Austin keeps disappearing as I do minor edits. I've had to reconstruct the paragraph a couple of times now. What's going on? Am I not supposed to include this content? Should I take the hint? But why should I have to? I don't get it. But if by the time you're reading this the gremlins have had their way again and you're not quite getting what I was writing about...

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