Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bluebeard's Room Is Open For Business

One of my mother's bedtime stories, besides "The Little Engine That Could", was "Bluebeard." She wasn't big on bedtime stories, believing much like Ari on Entourage, that silence is golden. She also believed most made up shit was pointless. Like most things we don't get much of, I had a longing for stories and that's where "Bluebeard" came in, one of the most punishing of the fairy tales. The premise is a great feminist fable, cautionary tale, and rescue fantasy all rolled into one. A girl marries a king without hesitation because he's in a pretty big fricking hurry. This point was pounded home by my mother -- if someone wants to do something fast, that person is hiding something! The king goes away and the girl is told not to go into a particular room in the castle. Let me tell you, my mother would say, everyone has that room. You best not go in. The girl went in, of course, and found all his ex-wives hanged. She can't hide the evidence that she's been in the room -- the blood of the wives can't be washed off the key to the room. The king comes home and knows, even before he sees the evidence. Retard sense, my mother would say. People, even stupid ones, know when something is different. She nearly ends up dead herself, but her brothers come to rescue her. My mother had no brothers, nor did I. My mother made up her own ending, You've messed up that bad, you're probably going to die. She'd end the story by saying, Sleep tight, Shelle. Sweet dreams.

I thought about that story a lot over the years since it had a few more layers than "The Little Engine That Could." Over the years I encountered a lot of those rooms and even developed a writing exercise based on finding a rattlesnake in a dresser drawer, the southern version of Bluebeard's room, nature red in tooth and claw. Some of the best fiction, I believe, comes out of encounters with this shadowy space. If we're not afraid of the dark, we can see all sorts of things about the future. The gothic writer V.C. Andrews once said in an interview that she knew she'd be afflicted with a wasting disease as an adult because she'd looked at her shadow as a child, and that shadow had crutches. Her shadow moved at its own pace, crippled and broken, even when she was still able to run from it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Poets are the masters of the superior secret. Remember that when you write." James Dickey

Cocktail Hour


3 parts vodka
1 part Cointreau
1 part lime juice

Serve over crushed ice.

Benedictions and Maledictions

Halloween suggestion -- pre- Halloween movie night selections: Carrie and The Shining


AP said...

Today's "Quote of the Day" is dedicated to JT: The joy of an artist's great sanity, the power of his adequate vision, is not the less intense because he can lend it to others and has borrowed it from a faithful study of the world.--George Santayana

Codene Morbido said...

The wife of the man who first brought the creative writing program to Macomb hanged herself. True story.

The Cineast said...

I love the movie version of James Dickey's "Deliverance." Burt Reynolds is great in it. I love Burt. Dickey is in the movie, by the way. Plays a sheriff at the end. Tall, kind of hillbilly type of guy. Paunchy. Great film for gruesome death fans.

John Krnacik said...

I once tried to teach "James and the Giant Peach" to a grade school class. I was reading the story to them and to myself for the first time. I couldn't stop laughing and had to move on to other classroom material. Luckily, it was Halloween week and I was dressed as Dracula. I told the children that Dracula doesn't have funny stories is his country and that he just can't take it.

Niccolo Machiavelli said...

Did the Prince turn into a Froggy?

Kinkos said...

Michelle like to swim.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Sometimes writers venture into those dark unknown places by mistake, over and over, again and again.

Sheila said...

My fourth grade class had to read James and the Giant Peach.... I didn't really like it. I mean it was ok, it just didn't capture me. Want to know a really fucked up story to read in grade school? The Phantom Toll Booth. Its like Dr. Suess on crack. Funny shit.

Anonymous said...

We had to read Treasure Island a few years ago in high school, and I nearly died with boredom of it all. I have never, ever read such a dull book.
I have also been forced to read Room 13 so many times (this weird book about Dracula living in a hotel room - room 13-and how a girl on a school trip kills him). School gets you to read some bloody dull books sometimes.
Helen x

Paul said...

Mighty Isis youre cute and Foxy and the Frog is. But the Bluebeard story gives me the willies so do those flicks, make me cold sweat. Rock On little Mama R2 C2!

bonnie said...

Honey, every once in a while there's a prince charming out there. Sometimes they'e frogs waiting to be kissed by the right one, sometimes they're intact and recognize us for who we are. Good that we can cherish the moments and practice discernment. Kiss kiss,