Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a beautiful work of historical fiction. It is the first book of a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, an important adviser to Henry VIII of England during his reign. Unusually for historical fiction, Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize – an extremely prestigious award in the world of contemporary fiction (Mantel’s second book in the series, Bring Up the Bodies).
Wolf Hall begins chronicling Henry VIII’s reign at the beginning of the downfall of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the rise of his second, Anne Boleyn. It chronicles Henry’s split from the Catholic church, and the threat of the protestant reformation. It also focuses on the political atmosphere of the time. There are so many different issues in play that it makes for such fascinating history. The book ends at the beginning of the fall of Anne Boleyn, after she fails to produce a male heir, and as Henry gets madder and more power hungry. Throughout, we also follow the personal life of Thomas Cromwell, a very smart and cunning man who knows how to run Henry’s court successfully.
This book is truly brilliant. The writing is fantastic – colorful and unbelievably gripping. I was thrilled that it was as long as it was, because I didn’t want it to be over. But what really makes Wolf Hall so interesting is that it paints Thomas Cromwell, a man historically depicted as a villain, in a very likable and sympathetic light. I have so much affection for the fictional Cromwell that I dread his inevitable downfall in the third book – something I know from historical context, so not a spoiler.
I highly recommend this book. It’s not gorgeous, high brow literature, perhaps – not James Joyce – but it is really fun to read, and definitely well written. The subject matter is hard to mess up, because it is so fascinating, and Mantel does a brilliant job with it.
I love religion. I think it’s fascinating, and really, the driving force behind much of history.
I’m certainly not religious, but I was raised Jewish, and I do appreciate the culture and traditions of Judaism. I can read Hebrew, I know most of the prayers, and I go to services on the High Holidays. That’s pretty good.
God is a bit harder. I’m not sure I believe in God, but it’s hard for me to say I for suresies don’t. It’s probably a relic of my (very reform) religious school experience growing up. But it just feels wrong and not totally sure to say “I don’t believe in God. I’m an atheist.” Plus, if there is a God, it’s definitely the Jewish God – our God is a total asshole, completely arbitrary, and without any of that peace-and-love bullshit. The Jewish God will fuck you up, but you’d better believe anyway.
Anyway. Last year was the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (1611). KJB is the primary Bible used throughout America, and much of the rest of the Western Christian world. It’s where the classic formally worded verses come from – “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is a King James affectation, for example. Translations straight from the Greek or Hebrew tend to just use “you.”
The King James Bible was commissioned by King James of England in 1604. It was completed in 1611. Committees of translators were hired for the task. However, this was not the first Bible in English. In the 15th century, John Wycliffe and his followers wrote the first translation of the Bible into English, so that the common Christian man could read it (before, the Bible was just in Latin). In the 16th century, William Tyndale wrote another translation. Tyndale’s version was the first printed bible in circulation. He was a talented linguist, and his translation makes up a lot of today’s KJB. However, his work was interrupted when he was burned at the stake as a heretic. Wah-wah.
Today, the King James Bible has a pretty interesting legacy. It’s generally viewed as the be-all-and-end-all authority of Bible study in the American Christian world. However, it’s a translation – so it really cannot be taken entirely literally for textual analysis. In the more-ancient world, scholars had to be fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to reputably analyze the Scriptures. It was understood that their original languages were important contextual evidence. But today, I often see preachers and ministers quoting from King James as if it were itself the Word of God – which nobody could possibly believe.
BFF**: In England, the right to print, publish, or distribute the King James Bible belongs exclusively to the Crown. So, even though it’s in the public domain in most of the world, Queen Elizabeth II is the only one in England with the right to lay her mitts on KJB.
** – Bonus Fun Fact
Anyone with a half a toe in the fashion world knows that lovers of style anticipate the September issue of Vogue all year long. It’s usually about a hundred pages long, with unbelievable fashion gracing every page. So far this year, my favorites include these coats from Louis Vuitton, along with their spangled bags:
And Chanel’s take on their signature quilted crossbody bag – in jewel-toned velvet, which I couldn’t find a picture of online.
And Marc Jacobs always, always kills me. This dress has been my favorite thing since his runway show last May. I love the orange and the blue together, plus those flowers are just fab.
I’ve also made a list of Things I Need:
1. A military style jacket, preferably in navy or army green or charcoal grey. This I’m hoping H&M or Forever 21 can provide me with. Maybe Topshop. Maybe Asos.com. I’d thrift it, or even army-surplus it, but it needs to be well-fitted, and tailoring tends not to be the military’s great strength.
2. Big buttons to put on all of my wide-lapeled coats (praise Jesus, I already have some gorgeous vintage babies! Otherwise, wide-lapeled jackets and coats would be on the list, too). These will require a stop at M&J Trimmings, on 6th avenue in New York. If you have any sort of love for buttons, appliques, and other fabulous, well, trimmings – you will simply die in M&J. Simply. Die.
3. Some full, pleated, knee- or mid-length skirts. I’m loving accordion pleats right now. This isn’t really a change from what I have always wanted and always worn, but it’s nice to have an excuse to buy more. Maybe in jewel tones. I’m feeling some jewel tones. I kind of lurve this one, at American Apparel:
Or this from Asos.com – a fabulous site that I recently discovered.
4. Leather. Ideally, a rich leather pencil skirt. Probably in black. Definitely thrifted, because I need leather in the 9 dollar range, as opposed to the 900. I’d love a well-fitted leather dress, not only because it would look unbelievably fab, but also because it would be so warm. That I’m not sure I’ll manage, but if anyone has any tips – I’ll be forever grateful. Maybe ebay will come through.
6. A navy blue blazer with gold buttons. I used to have a fabulous boys’ one that was perfect, but I grew out of it.
7. Brogues. Wingtip. I trust that Tani can come through for me on that front.
8. A colored fur stole. Anyone who knows me knows that I adore fur. I have a gorgeous fur coat that I wear in the winter – not only is it fabulous, it keeps me so warm! And I’ve always said that the minks would want me to have it.
9. Embellished everything. There are huge jewels and sequins on everything this season, and I am SO DOWN.
Finally, I intend to blow off whatever I’m doing on September 9th, so I can go into Target early and check out the Shops at Target stuff before it’s all gone.
Fuck, man. If only I had a rich husband to buy me everything I wanted, I would look so damn good.
The best shoe store in America is called Tani. It’s on E. 72nd street, in Manhattan.
The most magical room in America is their sale room.
I bought a gorgeous pair of Kork-Ease sandals there for $30. That’s about 1/4 of the retail price.
Unfortunately, I walk so heavily on my heels that the cork got all misshapen within two months of my owning them. So, I moved onto Summer Shoe Option #2.
I first discovered these fantastically French tennis sneakers when I was 17. I spent a summer au pairing in Brittany, where I first tried oysters, champagne, and, yes, French shoes. Although they’re just flimsy constructions of cotton and rubber, they are somehow incredibly comfortable, incredibly graceful, and incredibly flattering to my skinny ankles. Despite the lack of arch support, I can walk around in them all day. Only the French could pull it off.
Until recently, these shoes were impossible to find in America. I suffered for years without a pair of Bensimons. And then I found them at Tani! What a magical place. And they were on sale.
Finally, my most fabulous purchase there was a pair of purple heels by Coclico.
Ok, so they’re wildly impractical and uncomfortable, but they are perhaps the most fabulous thing I own. I might murder Buckley in cold blood if he ate them.
I’m not even focusing on the unbelievable black leather Gorilla motorcycle boots I got there last year, or the red flannel Creative Recs I found several years ago. Or the mustard Mariana ankle-strap heels. But a lady always leaves some things to the imagination.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and take heart,
And wait for the Lord.
- Psalms 27:14
The sky was full of clouds when Sara woke up. She looked at a series of X’s on her calendar. Her hands started to shake with anticipation. She let out a little scream.
She picked up her phone and called Jeremy.
“Hello?” he said, after the first ring.
“Jeremy!” she said. “It’s today! Today!”
“I know, I know, I know.”
“We’ve been waiting for so long!”
“I know,” he said.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you,” Sara said back.
She hung up the phone. A moment later it rang.
“Hey, it’s me,” Jeremy said. “I forgot. Do you want me to pick you up? We can sit on Indian Hill and watch the storm as it builds. And imagine waiting for Jesus in such a beautiful place.”
“Perfect,” she said. “Should I bring my raincoat?”
“I guess so. But you won’t need it for long.”
Jeremy had met Sara at a party thrown by a secular friend of his. His parents had encouraged him not to go.
“Those people aren’t like us,” they had said. “They don’t have our values. Satan will be all around you.”
But Jeremy had insisted on going. He wanted to test his strength, he said. After all – Jesus had spent forty days tortured by Satan. And Moses, too, was sent to wander in the desert. Why shouldn’t Jeremy put himself to the same test?
So at 10:00 he drove his little green car to his friend’s house. He opened the door and was immediately confronted with debauchery.
Sodom and Gomorrah, he thought. Couples kissed in the living room. People drank and then vomited. Everyone danced too close. They talked too loud. But Jeremy had to admit that the party was exciting, despite its ugliness. It was fresh. And he was proud, too, that he could resist the temptation all around him.
He walked into the kitchen. A beautiful brown-haired girl stood quietly by a bowl of potato chips. Jeremy noticed that she wasn’t holding a drink in her hands. He walked over.
“Can I have some?” he said, pointing to the bowl.
“Sure,” she said, “go for it.”
Jeremy filled a red cup with potato chips. He leaned against the wall, next to the girl.
“I’m Jeremy,” he said.
“Sara.” She covered her mouth with her hand.
“Nice to meet you.”
“I don’t really know anyone here,” she said, opening a can of soda.
“Yeah. I came with a friend but she disappeared. Went upstairs with some guy or something.”
“I don’t really know anyone either. This isn’t exactly my scene.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Jeremy hesitated, unsure whether he should witness to the girl.
“I – I’m a Christian,” he said finally.
Sara looked up from her soda.
“So am I,” she said.
“Wanna go sit outside? Away from these people?”
“Yes, please,” Jeremy said. “It’s awful in here.”
“I know,” she said, and they both laughed.
They sat down on the back steps of the house, the cup of chips between them. They talked about God, and their stories, and about everyone else. Sara knew a lot of theology. Jeremy noted how graceful her collarbone was, just above the neck of her dress. Her skin was translucent.
“Do you think we’re in the end-times?” Sara asked.
“Absolutely,” Jeremy said.
He pulled out the small notebook that he always carried in his back pocket.
“I’m sort of an amateur prophecy scholar.”
“That’s wonderful!” Sara said.
“I’ve made a list. All the signs, all the biblical prophecies – they point to now. This year, even. I’m pretty sure of it. I have it down to the day, I think.”
“Wow.” Sara rubbed her arms. “That’s really impressive. Really.”
“Thanks,” Jeremy said. His palms were clammy. And a ray of light shot through him, even though the night was dark.
It turned out that they lived only five minutes away from each other. They went on dates – traditional ones – drinking milkshakes and sharing cheeseburgers. They talked a lot. They would take walks in the woods behind Jeremy’s house. There they pointed out birds and tried to mimic their calls. Sometimes they held hands as they picked their way through the twigs and small plants that covered the ground.
One evening, Sara’s father knocked on her bedroom door.
“Sara?” he said.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes,” his daughter answered.
Sara’s father opened the door and sat down on her bed. Sara turned around in her desk chair and looked at him expectantly. Mr. Calvert looked at his beautiful little girl. He and his wife had raised a good daughter. He looked around her room – a poster of Jesus above her bed, her Bible on her nightstand – and he couldn’t help but smile. Sara loved to read and she did well in school. She loved Jesus truly and went faithfully to Bible Study each Wednesday night. But he could not shirk his fatherly duties in discussing the relationship questions that all Christian children struggle with.
He had come to talk to Sara about Jeremy. He liked the kid – a good kid, he thought. He was happy that Sara had found a reputable Christian boy to date.
“Sara,” Mr. Calvert said, “I wanted to talk to you about love.”
“Okay,” Sara said.
“You know that – as Christians – we love Jesus first.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Sara said.
Mr. Calvert shifted his position. This was not an easy conversation for him, although he had practiced it many times in the shower that morning.
“Well” – he cleared his throat – “that kind of love is not just spiritual. It’s corporeal as well. That means ‘of the body.’ And it means that, in loving Christ, we choose not to love anyone else in a way that could dishonor Him.”
“As you know,” he continued, “love of the flesh not only dishonors the Lord, but is Satan’s way of working himself into our souls.”
He paused for Sara’s nod.
“Love – physical love – is a commitment between a man, a woman and God. And God only condones that within – well, within the holy bonds of marriage.”
Mr. Calvert sat back and breathed. His speech was finished.
“Don’t worry, Daddy,” Sara said. “Jesus is in my thoughts always. And my body, soul and mind are His.”
“Good,” Mr. Calvert said. “Good.”
He stood up and kissed his daughter on the head.
“I love you, sweetheart. And Mom does too. And we like Jeremy an awful lot.”
“Love you, Dad,” she said.
Jeremy sat in his room studying prophecy. He had started with Revelation, and then Isaiah, and then interpretations of the books by leading prophecy scholars. He played around with numbers and ideas, interpreting them as he thought wisest – always making sure that he did nothing Satanic. Jeremy loved his prophecy, though. It wasn’t a game to him, but it was his greatest hobby. If you could call it that, that is. He didn’t like to.
First Corinthians ran through his head:
“Love never fails. Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
The greatest of these is love, Jeremy thought. Paul’s own words.
He put down his notebook and lay back in his bed.
“I love you, Sara,” Jeremy whispered. His eyes were open and he looked, through his window, at the moon. It was beautiful behind the trees, and half full.
One Sunday evening Sara and Jeremy were walking through the woods behind his house. Sara held a bunch of red and yellow leaves in one hand. She held Jeremy’s hand in the other. Jeremy was reciting from Romans, and the moment was perfect.
They stopped to rest on a log.
“Look at the sky,” Jeremy said.
Then he leaned in and kissed Sara on the mouth. Sara pulled back and they looked at each other – just for a moment – and then they kissed again.
Sara didn’t feel real. She closed her eyes as his tongue intertwined with hers. Jeremy’s body against hers left her with a sensation that was strong, and intense, and unfamiliar. Their lips held a kiss that both were afraid to break.
Sara closed her eyes and let herself become just a body – just a body on the log, while her soul and her mind sat behind a tree and looked at leaves. The next few minutes coasted hazily over her. She and Jeremy continued to kiss. With her eyes closed, Sara watched her body moving against Jeremy’s. They took each other’s clothes off, ritualistically, and then they were naked. Jeremy’s skin felt soft and his arms were strong as they held her. He kissed her face, her stomach, and Sara watched as her body responded, moving closer to Jeremy’s. Her breasts pressed against his chest as she kissed him. Her hands moved along Jeremy’s back, pulling him closer. She saw his nakedness, and her own. She saw herself lie down and she saw Jeremy climb on top of her – and it was perfect, and it felt so good – and then he was inside of her. It was like Love Meringue Pie or a warm cup of Life and Beauty, mixed with milk.
Suddenly Sara pulled herself back from behind the tree. She opened her eyes.
“Jeremy,” she said. Her voice was strained and thin.
Jeremy jerked back as if he had been burned. He climbed off of her, turned around to pull on his pants and then crouched in the dirt, shaking.
“Oh my God,” he said. “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.”
He leaned his head against the log.
Sara started to cry.
“I need to go,” Jeremy said. “I – I don’t – one of us should go. I don’t know what to do right now.”
“I know,” Sara said, “It’s not Christian.”
“What do we do, Jem?” she whispered.
Tears dripped into her mouth.
“I don’t know.”
“Do I go now?”
“I don’t know.”
“I guess I should go,” Sara said.
“Ok,” he said. He didn’t look at her.
Sara put her clothes on, and with each item she felt a piercing note of shame. She started walking down the path. As soon as she was out of Jeremy’s sight, she stopped and threw up three times.
“Oh, Lord,” she said, resting her head on the soft ground. “Forgive us, Lord. Please.” She lifted her head off the ground and vomited again.
Sara and Jeremy walked together to Indian Hill, watching the storm gather. The first drops of rain spotted Jeremy’s t-shirt. Sara could feel the energy crackling through her hair.
“Do you think it’s happening?” she said, squeezing his hand.
“I hope so,” he said.
They sat down at the top of the hill. Jeremy held his notebook in his lap. He ran his fingers absently over the words.
“What do you think Heaven will be like?” Sara asked.
“I don’t know. I guess I’ve always pictured Jesus. The feel of His hands on our shoulders, the smell of honey in the air…”
Sara nodded. She tucked her knees to her chest and looked up at the sky. It was dark, and getting darker.
“Look,” she said. “The clouds are edged with red. It’s beautiful.”
“And Heaven will be better. Just imagine. Heaven will be thousands of times better than this.”
Jeremy turned to Sara. He took a strand of her hair in his fingers.
“It’s gonna be so beautiful. And we’ll see it. Tonight. And we’ll finally be surrounded by our Brothers and Sisters.”
Sara looked into Jeremy’s eyes and smiled.
“Everyone will be like us.”
They didn’t talk for a week, overwhelmed by the weight of their mistake. But after eight days, Jeremy called Sara.
“I miss you,” he said.
“I miss you, too,” she said. “What if we prayed together?”
Jeremy agreed, and the two of them developed a new routine. Every day they knelt side by side in the woods behind Jeremy’s house, their Bibles spread across their knees. They read important verses on repentance, on forgiveness, and on sin.
They spoke about living too much in the corporeal world. They recited a simple prayer that both had learned early in their lives, as they came to accept Jesus into their hearts:
I admit that I am a sinner and I know that nothing I can do will save myself. I come to You in faith believing that You died for my sins. I invite You into my heart and accept You as the Savior and Lord of my life. By Your Grace, I will follow and obey You in all that I do.
In Your Name,
Over and over they repeated these words. Jeremy liked having Sara beside him, whispering the same things he did. They were working hard. And, he reminded himself, Our God is a loving God. He is the Good Shepherd, and He will not let His flock stray too far.
But each night, when he was alone, Jeremy was plagued by his weakness. He repeated Psalms to hammer out the images of Sara’s naked body next to his.
“I’m sorry, God,” Jeremy whispered. “I shouldn’t have slept with her. I shouldn’t have touched her. I shouldn’t have let her touch me back.”
But a flame licked at the back of Jeremy’s mind. He couldn’t shake the idea that love – physical love, love not just for God – could be something beautiful. It hadn’t been dirty or lustful – not for them. What they had done – they had made love. And he’d done it with a woman, a Christian woman, who he loved. He wasn’t sure that Jesus hadn’t been with them that evening; that He hadn’t been a player in their lovemaking.
And then Jeremy would turn back to his Bible. He searched for a verse that could offer an explanation of their passion: something that would separate them from the evils of earthly desire. But even as he looked, he knew he wouldn’t find anything.
Lightning cut bright gashes into the dark sky. The rain began to sting Sara’s legs. They had been sitting on the hill for two or three hours, waiting. Sara glanced down at Jeremy’s notebook. The pages were soggy and no longer legible.
“Jeremy?” Sara said.
He opened his eyes.
“What if He doesn’t take us?”
Thunder rocked the sky, the sound resonating through their bodies.
“What did you say?” Jeremy said.
“What if He doesn’t take us?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think we could be left behind? For what we did?”
Jeremy didn’t answer for a few seconds.
“I don’t know,” he said, exhaling. “I’m scared, too.”
Water was falling in rivers onto their heads. Sara and Jeremy continued to sit, watching the sky. Their clothing stuck to their skin. They were quieter than before. They both had their eyes closed. Sara focused on the sound of the rain hitting the grass. Eventually the two sat in complete silence.
Within an hour, the deluge stopped. The sky began to turn blue. The earth smelled damp and rich beneath them.
Sara blinked and wiped her face with her forearm. She reached for Jeremy’s hand.
“I think it’s over,” she said.
“I guess so.”
“He didn’t come.”
“I guess we should go down,” Jeremy said.
Sara nodded. Jeremy gripped her hand. They walked down the hill, marching back to their lives. The storm was over, and they were still waiting.
This is my favorite place in the world.
Or will be, until this Tuesday, when legislation goes into gear in Virginia that means that I can’t smoke inside of Diner 29.
I’m sorry. I like to have my smoke and my coffee after a long trek into Fairfax County.
Seriously, though. With Big Tobacco VA out of the picture, where can I smoke cigarettes?
What? That leaves us happy smokers only twelve states to happily smoke in. This is filthy communism!
Apparently others feel the same way:
Back off my happiness, US of A!
(Props to Daniel K for research and photos)
I’ve recently been alerted to a fascinating new Rectangular Experience.
In New York, on the Upper East Side (on First between 74th and 75th), lives a restaurant intimately connected to our cause:
As my literate readers can see, Rectangles purports to offer “Authentic Yemenite Israeli Cuisine and Bar.” I wonder what an authentic Yemenite Israeli Bar looks like.
It is also officially Kosher. In fact, its Certificate of Kashrut is even available on the website, just in case people were skeptical.
None of the food looks particularly rectangular, unfortunately. There’s a lot of mushy stuff, like hummus, and round stuff, like falafel. However, the interior decor adheres strongly to rectangular principles and values. Unfortunately, you’ll have to visit the website to see pictures, since they’re only available to download as thumbnails.
But here’s the facade to enjoy – also highly rectangular.
I still haven’t figured out why this restaurant is actually called Rectangles, but I’m overjoyed to hear that we’re getting some respek from the food-related community.
On a somewhat sidenote – Rectangles Restaurant advertises itself as Yemenite-Israeli. In fact, Yemenite Jews have a really distinct and interesting culture, pretty distinct from Judaism as we generally see it. For the most part, they have migrated from Yemen into Israel. They are the only modern Jewish community who reads the Torah in both Hebrew and Aramaic, an ancient tradition that is rarely recognized today. Children (as in, those who have not been Bar Mitzvahed) are also often involved in services. Really interesting.
(props to Marcus for the rectangular tip)
“When to be called ‘Virgin’ is an insult, to whom can a unicorn appear?”
Today my friends Joe, Max and Javier started talking about how great unicorn milk would be. (Why? Good question.) They were talking about yogurt, and they decided that unicorn milk would make the purest, daintiest yogurt ever. From there they moved on to Sasquatch milk – the manliest of milks, complete with lots of hair. Ergo, really manly yogurt.
I was sitting on the floor (taking up as little space as possible) and crocheting a rectangular scarf. It’s what I do.
Anyway, the boys’ weirdo conversation reminded me of the best story I ever read on the internet. I don’t even know how to preface it.
Ok, guys. This story is really awesome. Assuming that by “awesome,” you mean “really fucking weird” and also “oddly Christian.” Don’t worry, it also involves furries, and cartoonists, and lots of other good stuff. And unicorns! Real, live unicorns. Who speak French and have heaving bosoms.
Conversation with a Dying Unicorn
by Ken Pick
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The rumble of the garage door closing two floors down vibrated through my bedroom, followed by Steve’s motorcycle fading in the distance. With him gone to work, I could put in a couple hours without distraction before I had to crash for the night and go back to live-action Dilbert in the morning.
March was my month to catch up on my backlog of furry art projects, and I was finishing up the one original amid the xeroxed-and-inked copies of my doodle pile that I was sending off for a try at the conbook for the next AnthroCon. And deadlines for the conbook and at work had to coincide.
AnthroCon’s theme this year was “Join the Furry Revolution!”, and from the imagery on their Web page – Betsy Ross as a raccoon – they obviously were thinking “American Revolution.” As soon as I’d downloaded the detailed solicitation for conbook art, my mind had gone fiendish in a way it hadn’t in a long time. They wanted “Furry Revolution” art? They’ll get a Furry Revolution – just not the one they’re expecting!
I’d forwarded a copy of the conbook page and release form to Eric Blumrich – he drew his “revolutionary imagery” from the First Russian Revolution; that ought to be good for a few fried brains on the conbook staff. Steve had suggested a parody on Latin American banana republics and Clint something based on an Andrew Swann novel, but my neurons were already exploding down another path, prodded by memories of Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Here Comes a Candle. Why should Mary Hanson-Roberts be the only one of us to tap French Revolution imagery?
In all my life, I’ve only had one story, one possible paranormal experience, and two other pictures burst full-honk into my mind like this one – straight into my head, demanding to be drawn. A melodramatic, sort-of-Gothic horror piece – an anthropomorphic unicorn, traditional Western symbol of purity getting the chop during the Reign of Terror. Striking on the surface – the black silhouette of the guillotine looming over the white figure of the unicorn – and symbolic on a couple of levels, my commentary on attitudes both inside and outside the fandom.
I’d never done a unicorn before, but this one came out surprisingly well – sort of a Stephanie Peregrine style, with a facial expression mixing shock and dread that had come about completely by accident I’d dressed her in some simple generic period garb I remembered from my SCA days, and (after a hurried e-mail warning from Blumrich) given her enough points of difference from Vicky Woman’s “Empress Alicia” that no one could possibly confuse the two. Which, of course, guaranteed that some fanboy would. Even more striking when traced and cleaned-up, late at night on that light table at Kinko’s with nobody else in the store, afraid someone would see it and get the wrong idea.
And now, I was puffing the final touches on the piece. Actually, two pieces – an inked black-and-white version, Victim of the Furry Revolution, for the conbook and a color version, The Age of Reason Has No Need of Unicorns (L’Age de Raison n’a pas Besoin de Licornes), for the art show. I had just put my signet and date on the former – dated using the French Revolutionary Calendar – and was getting the release forms ready when the Reality Barrier broke.
“Why?” The voice was female, sweet and musical – and coming from inside the room, behind and to the left, from the direction of my bed.
“HUH?” I spun the desk-chair around, homing on the voice.
She was sitting on my bed. The unicornette, exactly as I had drawn her – white fur, disheveled golden mane, liquid golden eyes, petite cloven hooves, white peasant-blouse top and coarse white skirt soiled with prison dirt, hands/forehooves/whatever lashed behind her back and a large cork stuck on the end of her golden horn.
“If I am to be executed, Monsieur, I should at least know why.”
“You – You’re real?”
“Non, Monsieur.” She shook her head, golden mane falling half-over her eyes. “I live only in your mind, and there -” She angled her horn toward my drawing table and the artworks. “- I am about to die.”
A tulpa – an imaginary construct that somehow jumps over Planck’s Wall into reality? Or just my neurons gang-firing from sleep deprivation and stress? Or subconscious storytelling making the jump into consciousness, like Clint’s characters telling him “how it really happened”? But in a full-sensory hallucination? The last time anything remotely resembling this had happened – “Thirty Seconds Over Narnia”, that possible paranormal experience – it had come in the form of a vivid mental image, not an apparently-solid critter materializing in front of me.
“You created me, Monsieur, and in creating me you condemn me to death,” she continued. “What crime have I committed to deserve la guillotine, to ‘sneeze into the sack’ before a cheering mob?”
“N-none; you’re – innocent.” Like so many others, from Paris to Phnom Penh, in the two centuries of revolutions patterned after the French.
“But of course I am innocent, Monsieur,” she said, getting the hair out of her eyes with a toss of her head. “I am a unicorn, Non?” She rose off my bed, the futon mattress rising as her imaginary weight left it, and stepped over to my drawing table, her hooves sounding daintily on the carpet. Eyes wide with wonder; she looked over the furry art hanging on the wall; then bending down, she pulled the lamp around with her horn and studied both unicorn-and-guillotine pictures intently.
After a moment she spoke again. “So why must I die unjustly? Do I represent something or someone you hate? Am I a martyr for some cause I know not what? Or do you simply wish to see a unicorn beheaded?”
“No, unicorn – I’m not completely sure myself.” I reached out to touch her on the shoulder; she felt solid, and warm. “If there’s any reason, you’re there because you’re a unicorn and what unicorns represent.”
“Explain, s’il vous plait?”
Great Where do I start? I tried to tell her how she first came to be, how the image of a unicorn going to the guillotine had come out of nowhere into my head and wouldn’t let go, how everything had just fallen into place when I’d gotten the details on AnthroCon’s theme and conbook.
How I’d poured myself into a picture for the first time in years, and how it had drained me afterwards, and how anything that could have that effect had to have power in it.
About causes gone lunatic, from Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité! to Prohibition to militant anti-smoking to Save the Fill-in-the-Blank to whatever was the latest Important Cause of the week, and how the perfect Utopian omelet always required smashing more and more eggs.
About my hyperactive, runaway imagination that had spaced me out until I was well into my twenties, and how that awe and wonder had worn down over the years – like my father; who had lost his ability to dream by the time I was old enough to notice.
How imaginary critters like her had been a part of that imagination as far back as I could remember -classic Poul Anderson and Andre Norton “aliens” with fur and tails, mythical critters like herself, a noble young white lion, a one-shot skunkette glamor-actress, two-legged talking beasts of every species. Then my own critters; imaginary playmates becoming safe rehearsals for how to act on dates which never came, finally growing into full-fledged characters and stories and art as I aged, all expressing what C. S. Lewis had expressed the best:
You had an animal with everything an animal ought to have – glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath, and whitest teeth; and added to all that, as though Paradise had never been lost and earliest dreams were true, the charm of speech and reason.
And how those “earliest dreams” had become “adult” nightmares – like that “furban legend” of a Blumrich rant, the one everybody claimed to have seen but nobody could produce a copy of, the one that goes on and on about all that these creatures of the imagination could do or be and ends with “And all you can think of doing with them is to draw them with their clothes off.”
And how dealing with the fandom – the Muckers, the yiffy-boys, the Spandex Commandoes, the way over-the-top lifestylers, with only the occasional thinker amid the droolers and foamers and wankers – had worn me down.
“But they’re not human! They’re Furry!” The cry of the fanboy always used to justify sick and twisted behavior of or towards the critters they’ve created – just like “But I was only role-playing my character” always justified any sort of treachery in D&D. Never uplifting the critters to their level and beyond - transcending the animal – instead of seeing how low they could go with them. Evenanimals eat, sleep, and play as well as rut.
If insanity was part of these times, we’d embraced the madness as thoroughly as Paris 207 years ago. Our mobs of fanboys howling for spooge, up to and including stuff that would make the Marquis de Sade vomit. Our factions and denunciations, our Girondists and Jacobins, our high-sounding Robespierres, our gloating Heberts, our vicious Marats.
And me? I’d come into this like Lafayette only to wind up with a rep like Dr. Guillotin, the part of me that could dream those “earliest dreams” slowly dying in writer’s block, artist’s block, stories sitting half-complete and art commissions sitting unsaturated for years. Until her.
Vive la Revolution de Pelage.
She listened quietly, with an occasional flick of her tail. When I finally finished rambling, she spoke again, thoughtfully.
“I believe I understand. I am the innocent who finds herself in the path of a cause so ‘righteous’ as to justify any evil. I am a creature of imagination, who cannot possibly exist in an ‘Age of Reason’, so I cannot be permitted to live. And to you, mon createur, who can see virtue only when embodied in such creatures of imagination, I am something else.”
“I represent what was worn away in you, what these - pelagists - throw away when they make of their creations less than animals.” She shrugged against her bonds. “You do not kill me, they do; your art but records the fact, and my – execution – mirrors what they have done and what they have become.” Her voice softened, turned even more thoughtful. “When to be called ‘Virgin’ is an insult, to whom can a unicorn appear?”
“Oui, and you know why.” Oh, I knew – all the years of embarrassment and ridicule, direct and indirect. The biggest continuing failure in my life; blindsided by another revolution, saving myself for a marriage that never came.
“Unicorn, I might be able to spare you. I’m no Scarlet Pimpernel, but -” I was babbling now, my stomach doing slow sick backflips. “- I can shred the pictures – or at least not submit them or show them. Nobody will ever see them, and you’ll keep your head.” I didn’t like destroying artwork, any artwork, especially my own – but ink on paper and Prismacolors on illustration board was one thing, but to actually take a living, breathing unicorn-girl – even in imagination – and slice off her head “NON!” A hoof stamped against the carpet, sounding through the room. She shook her head like a stallion in triumph, eyes flashing golden fire; I remembered the earliest tales of unicorns, and how they could vanquish elephants in a one-on-one fight.
“Mon createur, I now know I die for a reason, not just amusement or titillation.” She paused, seemed to shrink a bit. “You may take my head.”
Anything I said now was going to sound really stupid – especially so to an imaginary critter about to die an imaginary death – but I said it anyway. “I don’t want your head, unicorn. I don’t want you to die – not after actually meeting you.”
“Neither do I, but we both know I must. You drew me for a purpose, and I fulfill that purpose by giving up my life. And with that life you drive home your point” – she tapped my head with the corked tip of her horn – “to the mob. Perhaps some will listen.”
“They won’t.” I had enough experience along those lines – Clint quitting in disgust halfway through his grand story arc, Canuss gone to ground, Blumrich’s on-target rants, the pros who’d bailed because of “one fanboy too many”, the career-killing reputation of being “one of them!” More eggs cracked for the perfect Furry omelet. Vive la Revolution? Vive la Terreur.
“You don’t know that” She shrugged again. “The draw of the card, the roll of the dice – you never know the results before you make the attempt.” She took a deep breath, stretching the ropes that bound her; and power entered her voice. “And for whatever purity and virtue remains in you, and by my blood about to be spilled, YOU MUST MAKE THE ATTEMPT.”
She stood tall, head high, nostrils wide and eyes blazing. “And I shall be part of that attempt, sealed with the lifeblood of a unicorn. Perhaps my death will bring that part of you back to life.”
“Now, mon createur,” her voice returned to normal, “I ask one last favor from you, before I go.”
“What?” I had learned long ago never to answer “anything” to an open-ended favor – especially when magic was afoot – and physical courage was never one of my strong points. What could she want? She’d refused my offer to spare her; she was a classic unicorn of pre-mass-market Western Christian tradition, not some fanboy spooge-i-corn…
“I know I am not ‘real’, and do not die ‘for real’, yet still -” Her voice started to quiver; her expression changing to the one in the picture. “-I am afraid. Embrace me - s’il vous plait?”
I gathered her in my arms, crushing her against me until she stopped shaking, her heart hammering faster than mine at my father’s funeral; her breasts pressed against my ribs, her ear and mane tickled my nose and her snout rubbed against my cheek, her tail flicked against my thighs. So unicorns must have lain in the laps of other virgins, so long ago…
“I am honored to have spoken with you, as if I were real.” She pulled her head off my cheek and looked at me with great golden eyes. “I came from you, and I am always a part of you. You know Who we unicorns – at least our males – have symbolized in every Medieval Bestiary. You once wrote Stauros how much you ‘longed to romp and play with the furries in Aslan’s Land’. If and when you do, I pray that I shall be one of them – given substance in reality instead of imagination.”
I squeezed her tighter, kissed her on her snout, between the nostrils; her breath smelled like fresh roses mixed with cinnamon. She pulled back, blinked once in astonishment, then raised her head to where our mouths met – para-equine to human – and reciprocated with a long, gentle kiss. Just like my only girlfriend had, on our first date, all those years ago…
“Merci – and adieu.” She stepped back, radiant despite the bonds and prison dirt; I brushed her mane back from her eyes. “And now, if you will excuse me, I must go. La guillotine is waiting.”
And turning around, with head held high and tail flicking, she walked through the wall and was gone.
I told you it was fucking sweet. I told you there were furries. And also Christians ‘n’ virgins ‘n’ shit.
How is it rectangular, you ask? Duh! We’re all seeing it on a rectangular webpage! Whether that’s on the original angelfire page (seriously? that still exists?) or right here at Things That Are Rectangles - the rectangliest place around.
Also, the cartoon. Obvs a rectangle.
So, virgins, good luck with those unicorns. I’ma go fuck some dudes. And it’s gonna be great.
Bikes – not rectangles. Not even close. Bike are some lines and some circles…basically this:
But a simple car? A car is a rectangle, maybe two rectangles, with some circley wheels. Check it:
Even the windows in cars are rectangles, or mostly. Once again, a simple rendition:
And EVEN THE GAS TANK COVER is a rectangle. Phew, that makes me feel so much better about buying gas. It’s like God is telling me to.
And now a simple syllogism.
1. God Loves Things That Are Rectangles
2. Cars Are Rectangles
3. God Loves Cars.
And one more.
1. God Don’t Like Things That Aren’t Rectangles
2. Bikes Ain’t Rectangles
3. God Don’t Like Bikes (and neither do I)
Wow, that makes me feel so much better for hating the people who bike down Connecticut Avenue. Not only do they ignore traffic laws, forget that there are other people on the road, and hog the lanes – also, God don’t like ‘em.
(Props to Sasha on this one.)
The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in North Carolina is celebrating Halloween in a slightly different way – they’re burning all “perversions of God’s word.”
According to their website, there will be:
“Great Preaching and Singing”
and lots of burning!
Unfortunately, the website makes it very clear that this event is invitation only. So, if you wanna, you can recreate it on your own.
Here’s a list of what to burn, thanks to the AGBC:
“We are burning Satan’s bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect. These are perversions of God’s Word the King James Bible.
We will also be burning Satan’s music such ascountry , rap , rock, pop, heavy metal,western, soft and easy, southern gospel ,contemporary Christian , jazz, soul, oldies butgoldies, etc.
We will also be burning Satan’s popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort, Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, Will Graham, and many more.”
However, these are the books they are not burning – just to keep you straight:
“We are not burning Bibles written in other languages that are based on the TR. We are not burning the Wycliffe, Tyndale, Geneva or other translations that are based on the TR.”
Also, the website says that they will be serving “fried chicken, and all the sides.”
There are a couple factors that make this particular book burning really interesting.
First, they have a long list of scriptural reasons to burn these books. I won’t list them here, but check it out (scroll down). The first explanation, however, is a Bible verse:
“And many that believe came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them beofer all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:18-20).”
But let’s look at the books they’re burning. First, they’re burning my bud Tim LaHaye, author of the bestselling Left Behind Series. This pulls at my heartstrings, I must admit. However, this is the opposite of the evangelical fundamentalist worldview that America has lately been exposed to – a great effort to expose Megachurch culture as a positive phenomenon and an attempt to spread “the Word” in any way possible.
The folks at AGBC, however, are also burning works by Mother Teresa and the Pope. This seems like a really interesting split in the church – a rejection both of modern evangelical theology and also traditional Catholicism. In a sense, this is an old-fashioned Protestant church – King James is the only option, and no other writings or interpretations are either valid or necessary. The AGBC sees this questioning as Satan’s way into God’s world.
“The first step of Satan,” the author writes, is to “try and get man to question God’s word.” The questioning, here, is what is threatening. How fascinating. Seriously. How can you study the Bible and ask no questions? I’d love to sit in on one of their Bible Studies. I’m not being facetious, this seems really interesting.
This is a short explanation, from their website, on what they stand for:
“We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and it is our final authority in all matters. We believe in teaching “no other doctrine”, like Paul told Timothy, and that is our stand. We stand on God’s Word and not man ideas or “scholarship.” We make no apology for our stand. We are an old fashion Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. To read in more detail of what we believe go to the “What we Believe” tab. Thanks.”
Salvation is also a big part of their focus, and the website encourages readers to admit their sins and accept Jesus, much like my experience reading Tim LaHaye. Anyway, I would highly recommend checking out the website and reading through – it’s a great look into a world we don’t see much.
(Props to Aaron for the tip-off)