That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too --
And angels know the rest.
I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.
There's a fun book out called What the Nose Knows which explores all things smelly in an entertaining and informative way. Written by respected science writer Dr. Avery Gilbert, a section of the book is devoted to smell and creativity. Several paragraphs are about Amherst's Emily Dickinson and her nearly obessional devotion to flowery fragrances.
This near-recluse lived her entire life at the family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was knowledgeable about botany and obsessed with flowers, of which she grew many kinds on the property and in an indoor conservatory. Cultivating flowers was a hobby for many women of her time, but unlike them Dickinson could not have cared less about showy scentless orchids.
Her exclusive passion was scented flowers. Her favorites make an impressive list: French marigold, mignonette, peony, primrose, Sweet Sultan, Sweet William, roses of various kinds, lilac, mock orange, honeysuckle, jasmine, heliotrope, and sweet alyssum. Dickinson was not into subtlety; she preferred the strong perfume of tropical jasmine and ripe "Bourbon" roses. Her conservatory was saturated in scent. Given the Victorian sensibilities of the time, these lush blossoms were considered too suggestive for the drawing room. Instead she placed pots of them in her bedroom and next to her writing desk. Not surprisingly, flowers are a major theme in her work; one in five of her poems refers to flowers in some way.
Too suggestive for the drawing room? You mean the flowers made you horny? He says she kept them by her bed and writing desk so perhaps that helps explain the erotic tension many scholars have noted in her work. Gilbert, however, quoting several passionate passages from Dickinson's poems, goes even further:
This casts a sinister new light on the poet's album of of pressed flowers, lovingly preserved in the Emily Dickinson room of the Houghton Rare Book Library at Harvard. Scholars celebrate it as a beautiful record of her passion for flowers. I think the album is a creepy thing - it houses the trophies of a serial killer.
I think Dr. Gilbert is getting a bit carried away there and reading too much into too little, but it's still an interesting notion. The whole book is full of such unexpected insights about the role of aromas in our lives. I recommend it.
Did you know that in 1987 a flower was named after Emily Dickinson? This website describes it as "One of the few variegated Hostas with fragrant lavender flowers. An irregular creamy margin on a medium green leaf." Here's a photo:
Kesey and Rand
I stumbled upon an interesting essay in the Los Angeles Times that makes comparisons between the work of Ken Kesey and Ayn Rand.
The journals that Kesey kept while composing his books detail how serious he was about the craft of writing, and how good. He poured every chaotic impulse and vision he had into "Cuckoo's Nest" and "Notion" but found ways to keep the basic storylines clear and simple. In "Cuckoo's Nest," the "wild goose" renegade Randle P. McMurphy rolls into the mental ward like Shane coming to town and is at once set in opposition to Big Nurse Ratched who, if not exactly the villain of the fable, is certainly the representative of society's cruel and oppressive forces. In "Notion," our first clue about the logger Hank Stamper is given by an arm that Stamper has affixed to a pole in his yard, a dead man's arm with defiant middle finger sticking upward. Both books are set in Kesey's native Oregon, and both have the same blunt plot motor that served Ayn Rand in "The Fountainhead": the guy who just refuses to give in.
Rand uses the device to tell her favored story about the triumph of the individual will, while Kesey takes it in a diametrically opposed direction. The resistance of McMurphy and Hank Stamper is glorious but destroys them and brings death to others. Thus a dilemma is raised: Does America want brute individualism or the comfort and suffocation of social order? Kesey's life tells us which side he came down on, but in his fiction he didn't answer the question; instead, he explored its ambiguities in dramatic and shattering ways. Kesey's subject was "the great wild American hollow, which is scarier than hell."
Even by Springfield standards it was a terrible and senseless crime - a 20 year old pizza delivery person named Corey Lind was brutally murdered while out on a delivery. Arrested was Alex Morales, who told police three different versions of what happened, each more incriminating than the last. Here's what he looked like when arrested.
Here's a photo by David Molnar of what he looked like when he appeared in court.
However Morales showed up with more than just a haircut and a new suit. He also had a whole new alibi he thought would get him off the hook. According to the Springfield Republican:
Taking the stand in his own defense, Morales testified he had first met Lind, of Chicopee, about 2 1/2 weeks before the day of the slaying. Morales stated he was walking home from work and Lind stopped and asked him if he knew where a certain address was located. Lind, delivering pizza, gave him a ride home that night and four or five other nights, he told the jurors.
Morales testified that he wanted a ride from Truman Circle home to Massasoit Street in the early morning hours of Dec. 8 and that he called Domino's to order a pizza in the hopes that Lind would be the delivery person and would give him a ride.
One of the first questions defense lawyer Alan J. Black posed to Morales was if he had been the victim of sexual abuse as a child. Morales said he had been sexually abused by an older brother for nearly two years when he was 7 years old.
In his testimony, Morales said Lind asked if he wanted to hang out together and Lind drove to Monson in search of a field where Morales said he had gone to with his girlfriend.
Morales said that as they were sitting in Lind's car in the field, Lind moved close to him and put his hand on his leg. He told the jury he then "freaked out" in part because of his childhood sexual abuse.
Morales testified he got out of the car and thought Lind was coming after him and yelling at him, perhaps with a knife, so took his own knife and kept swinging it, cutting Lind.
Asked repeatedly by Black why he didn't tell police that he was acting in self-defense after an unwanted advance, Morales kept saying he was scared and he didn't want to talk about his own childhood sexual abuse or what he alleges were Lind's advances.
So it would be okay for Morales to have killed Lind if it could be proven that the person murdered was gay? I don't know which is more contemptible, that the defense lawyer even allowed his client to take the stand with such a story, or that it was thought that it might work. But of course, it's perfectly acceptable to defend your manhood by killing a queer if he makes a pass at you. Especially if a faggot bothered you when you were young.
To the jury's credit they quickly returned with a guilty verdict, showing they gave the "I only killed a queer" defense little credence. But just the fact that such a defense was even attempted shows that we still live in a society where there are those who feel that even murder is justified as long as the victim is gay.
I don't want to sound mean about it, but I hope that in prison Morales is introduced to gay sex - and not in a gentle way.