Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oh, Eudorable thing

We have a bookshelf in the master bedroom CRAMMED with books I can't bear to or simply won't get rid of.  The copies of all the "Little House" books I've had since I was a girl are there, as are copies of "Jitterbug Perfume," "Another Roadside Attraction," "Things Fall Apart," "The Silmarillion,"  several Harry Potter books, and you get the idea.  There's a wide range of stuff in there, from all different periods of my life, and all kept safe in case they ever come in handy.

I think maybe Biff has a couple of books in there, but I can't be sure.  Most of them are ones I've read, loved, and want to, someday, read again.

Recently, on one of those 'some days,' I pulled a slim-ish volume from the shelf, thinking a collection of short stories would be the way to re-start my re-reading.  Ah, Eudora Welty!  A fortuitous find!  I remember reading Eudora Welty when I was 30 years younger than I am now, and loving how she spools words out so effortlessly (or so I recall it seeming).  The language, more than the stories, was what got my attention.  I've always been a fool for well-used words, and so eagerly anticipated reading these short stories again to become reacquainted with the flow and cadence of her languid Southern prose.

makes sense, trust me.
And what I got, right off the bat, was "Livvie."

I chose this story not because I had any particular affiliation with it, in fact it's almost certain I'd never read it before. No, I chose it because it's SHORT and I was in bed and needed something I could finish before falling off to sleep.  It's not a BAD way to pick something to read, really, and sometimes it's rewarding.

So, "Livvie" it was.  This is the story of a young woman who marries a much older man who had been very powerful and still was wealthy enough to run a farm, mostly, as time wears on, from his bed.  She is married to him for 9 years until, at last, he spends his days sleeping and she spends her days being quiet and trying to feed him.  Not exactly riveting material, right?  Until Miss Baby Marie shows up, that is, and Livvie has to deal with an intrusion from a world with which she is almost entirely unfamiliar.  Baby Maire peddles cosmetics, and had to practically hunt down Livvie, who lives very far away from almost everything.  She is a pushy thing, foisting all kinds of wares onto Livvie, who can't pay for anything by herself unless the payment can be made in eggs.  Baby Marie doesn't need eggs, and so leaves abruptly. 


I KNOW.  Confusing.

Then a young man makes the scene, a vibrant strong feller who captures her attention, accompanies her home, smashes some of the old man's precious bottles on his precious bottle trees, then witnesses the old man's death and of course winds up kissing Livvie.

The end.

Right then.

Words mean more than stories it is, as I was unable to make much of the plot line.  Don't get me wrong, it's a gorgeous read, with descriptions and phraseology so lush it'll make your head sweat, but I wasn't really getting a great vibe from it.  Until I did a little research on it and found THIS exploration from the 1940's, which totally makes sense and totally makes me appreciate what Miss Welty was trying to do.  Livvie as Persephone!  Of course!  Naturally, anyone in any way, no matter how small, versed in ancient texts would have recognized that right off the bat, but I am not versed in any real sense in ancient texts and so was left with a nagging sense that I'd missed something.

Indeed I had.  Just a little something about the life/death cycle and how a young girl is captured by Satan (or similar) and has to have a periodic spell of 'death' before being rescued by a vigorous re-representation of the dead husband and brought back to Mother Life.  How very clear it all is now, and how much have our basic stories not changed from 'boy meets girl.'  I supposed I 'got' that circle of life idea from my reading of the story, but in some ways the plot is somewhat staid and plodding and predictable, except for that whole Miss Baby Marie thing.  Left to my own interpretations, I'd be pretty sure that one was a red herring for the eventual climax.

Hey, nobody ever accused me of being the sharpest crayon in the box, and I'm OK with that.  But watch out, if I keep on reading and researching and looking for 'meaning' when I don't undestand, someday I might, just MIGHT, have a point.

Which this post does not.

Tiff out.

PS - if you'd like another, less thickly-worded, take on 'Livvie,' go read this.  Genius work by a highly thoughtful scholar, boiled down to 1 paragraph of nothing but meaning and insight.

PPS - that was sarcasm, mostly.

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