Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
-001- [From the introduction to the Vintage edition] In response to the first printing: People offered to cure me of my frigidity or to temper my labial appetites; I was promised revelations, in the coarsest terms but in the name of the true, the good and the beautiful, in the name of health and even of poetry.
-002- All that has been written about women by men should be suspect, for the man are at once judge and party to the lawsuit. – Poulain de la Banc
-003- One of the most sustained criticisms has been that Beauvoir is guilty of unconscious misogyny, that having written about women, she has taken great care to separate herself from them.
-004- About the first American translation: …young ladies in places like Smith who can afford the price, which will be high, will be nursing it just as students of my generation managed somehow to get hold of Havelock Ellis-Knopf.
-005- Throughout the composition of the book, when people asked Beauvoir what she was writing she usually said ‘just something about the other sex.’ She had no title until she was almost ready to publish. Then, during a night of friendly drinking and conversation, her friend and Sartre’s, Jacques-Laurent Bost, made a scatalogical joke calling homosexuals ‘the third sex, and that must mean women come in second.’
-006- [From Beauvoir's Introduction] Enough ink has been spilled in the quarrelling over feminism, now practically over, and perhaps we should say no more about it. [1947]
-007- We are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, became women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity.
-008- The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular, separate individual.
-009- The fact that I ask it is in itself significant. A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male.
-010- …it is vexing to hear a man say: ‘You think thus and so because you are a woman.’ …It would be out of the question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary because you are a man,’ for it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity. A man is in the right in being a man.
-011- Woman has ovaries, a uterus; these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of a woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it.
-012- And Benda is most positive in his Rapport d’Vriel: ‘The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of a woman, whereas the latter seems wanting insignificance by itself… Man can think of himself without women. She cannot think of herself without man.’ And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called ‘the sex,’ by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex—absolute sex, no less.
-013- …we find in consciousness, itself a fundamental hostility toward every other consciousness; the subject can be posed only in being opposed—he sets himself up as the essential, as opposed to the other; the inessential, the object.
But the other consciousness, the other ego, sets up a reciprocal claim. The native travelling abroad is shocked to find himself in turn regarded as a ‘stranger’ by the natives of neighbouring countries. As a matter of fact, wars, festivals, trading, treaties, and contests among tribes, nations and classes tend to [deprive?] the concept of Other of its absolute sense and to make manifest it, relativity; willy-nilly, individuals and groups are forced to realise the reciprocity of their relations. How is it, then, that this reciprocity has not been recognised between the sexes, that one of the contrasting terms is set up as the sole essential, denying any relativity in regard to its correlative and defining the latter as pure otherness? Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty?

S The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde  by Neill McKenna
01. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the thing it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.’
02. [After Wilde is released from prison he winds up at Stewart Headley's house in Bloomsbury and it sounds quite like someplace I should like to live.] Burne-James and Rosetti pictures, Morris wallpaper and curtains, in fact an example of the decoration of the early eighties, very beautiful in its way, and very like the Aesthetic rooms Oscar had once loved.’

Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman
-01- Popular punishments of Medievals: hanged until nearly unconscious, cut down, privates cut off and thrown into the fire as he watched; then slit open and disemboweled and finally beheaded.
-02- [Letter from Grand Duchess Marguerite to her husband, Grand Duke Cosimo III, 1675] ‘No hour of the day passes when I do not desire your death and wish that you were hanged…’ she informed Cosimo in what must be one of the nastiest letters ever written. ‘What aggravates me most of all is that we shall both go to the devil and then I shall have the torment of seeing you even there… I swear by what I loathe above all else, that is yourself, that I shall make a pact with the devil to enrage you and to escape your madness. Enough is enough, I shall engage in any extravagance I so wish in order to bring you unhappiness… If you think you can get me to come back to you, this will never happen and if I came back to you, beware! Because you would never die but by my hand.’
When a strict new prioress at the convent prevented her from coming and going at will, Marguerite set fire to the building as an excuse to move out. Servants reported one day seeing the grand duchess of Tuscany chose the prioress around the convent with an axe in one hand and a pistol in the other, swearing that she would kill her.
-03- An English wit quipped, ‘George I could not have been such a bad man, for he never hated but three people: his mother, his wife and his son.’
-04- Peter the Great liked to boast that he spent less on whores than any king in Europe.
-05- But the political meddling of Rasputin, who possessed the tact of a cannonball and the diplomacy of a sledgehammer, was disastrous.
-06- According to the conspirators, after consuming enough poison to kill and elephant on the spot, Rasputin merely cleared his throat and complained of a tickling sensation…
Rasputin began to breathe with difficulty and complained of a burning in his stomach…Yusupov [Prince, cousin of the Imperial family] shot him in the heart… He was examined and declared dead. Then the eyes opened…The bloody body stood up and rushed at Yusupov… Purishkevish took out his gun and fired, hitting Rasputin in the shoulder and then in the head. Rasputin fell to his knees, but still he was not dead and tried to rise again. Yusupov started beating him with a blackjack until he fell over.
They wrapped the body in a rug or drape, threw it in a car and drove it to a bend in the river, and dropped it in… The autopsy revealed water in the lungs. Rasputin had still been alive when he had plunged into the river.

S The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace
-01- As I looked out of the window
There I saw the bird sitting alone.
His feathers ruffled in the snow,
His beak firmly closed to the world.
Just like I was, but who was to know.  –June Gibbons, twin of Jennifer Gibbons
-02-p7 June and Jen emerge, through these diaries, as two human beings who love and hate each other with such intensity that they can neither live together nor apart. Like twin stars, they are caught in the gravitational field between them, doomed to spin round each other for ever. If they come too close or drift apart, both are destroyed. So the girls devised games and strategies and rules to maintain this equilibrium.
The mystery of the twins lies in these childhood games which they cannot relinquish without losing one twin or the other to the real world. Such games and rituals often embody sinister meanings which can lead the players into the darker side of life. There are penalties to be extracted, forfeits to be paid. Failure, punishment, even death await those who play too long.
-03- p12 they tend to be too content to do very little
-04- p13 Private languages used by twins are not unknown. [About Poto and Cabengo] From early childhood these twins had invented a ‘code’ which sounded so foreign that at first people thought they had developed a new language. … [The girls] spoke rapidly in staccato bursts. By slowing down the tapes and analysing them word by word, their secret ‘language’ turned out to be ordinary English mixed with German (their family was bilingual), but spoken fast and with many repetitions and such altered stress on individual syllables that the words took on the opposite emphasis to normal.
-05- p14 The twins took no part in family discussions but bowed their heads, eyes fixed on their plates, their faces without expression, tight and drawn in denial of the world around them.
-06- p15 The headmistress, Beryl Davis, who prides herself on getting through to children, asked them to her office to get their names and ages for the school records. ‘They stood one behind the other, as in a queue,’ she recalls. ‘They would look at your chest, straight through you and would not answer. It was most unnerving. …’ No teacher or pupil ever heard them talk. They were never known to go to the lavatory, did not eat at school and were always together.
Because of the bullying, the twins were allowed to leave school five minutes early. ‘One day I was in with the school secretary, whose window looks out on the playground,’ says Cyril Davis, their headmaster, ‘and there were the twins doing a kind of goose-step, walking ten yards one behind the other, very slowly as though in some strange stately procession. … I jumped in my car to see how long they would keep it up. I followed them through the town, still doing their dead march, one following the other.’
-07- p16 When attacked they would stand facing one another, one arm on the other’s shoulder, huddled together to protect and give strength to one another. ‘…you’d find them huddled together in back corners out of the flow of life. They were always apart from everyone else, trying to be invisible, yet they attracted attention in a way I disliked,’ say Michael John. I’d had 6,ooo children go through my hands in thirty years and  I’ve encountered only four I felt were evil. …The fourth was Jennifer. I felt that June should not be allowed to mix with her or come under her influence. The bad one would not have been so bad had she not been able to draw strength from her twin, and the other would have been normal.’
-08- p18 The present home situation is that the twins mix very little with the family except at meals, preferring to go to their bedroom where they will read and play. Very occasionally they will visit friends’ houses, but not to parties, and one girl of their age will visit them in their home now and again. When the girls talk to each other the parents can only recognize the occasional word, but can make no sense of the conversation. On returning home from school they volunteer nothing, but will answer questions more or less intelligibly.
-09- p19 Elective mutism is a rare condition where a person chooses not to speak, although physically able to do so. It usually occurs in only children of overprotective mothers, or can follow emotional trauma, often only for a short period. Although twins are late in talking, there are only a handful of recorded cases of elective mutism in twins.
-10- p21 The twins never spoke to Ann Treharne face to face. ‘I might get a “yes” or “no” or “thank you” our of June. Nothing from Jennifer. There was a sort of game going on. I could see June dying to tell me things. Then something would happen. Jennifer was stopping June. She never moved. I watched and could barely detect the slightest eye movement, but I know she was stopping June. It was strange. Like extrasensory perception. She sat there with an expressionless gaze, but I felt her power. She made all the decisions. The thought entered my mind that June was possessed by her twin.’
-11- p22 The girls visited the Eastgate centre to see whether they would like it. Evan Davies remembers seeing them there sitting side by side on a settee drinking tea. They would cross their legs and lift up the teacup to their mouths in perfect synchrony. …’You have to have tremendous rapport to anticipate that exact timing. I thought there must be some intuitive link that enabled them to do it. Mind you, they did it very slowly. If the tempo had been faster it would have been much more difficult. I think it may have been the desire not to be the initiator of any movement that made them do everything so slowly.’
-12- It was more comfortable just nodding heads. Words seemed too much; if we were suddenly to talk, it would be too much of a surprise.
-13- P25-26 Every morning at 8.45 Cathy drove up to fetch the girls from a bus stop half a mile from their home. They never went into the bus shelter but waited outside, even in the rain, to avoid standing close to other people. They were always there on time but neither would be first to get into the car. The girls often remained standing stiffly on the pavement. Cathy would have to take one twin by the shoulders and fold her knees from behind, then push her in. The other would follow… Once they were in the back seat there was a further hiatus as neither girl would shut the door.
The journey from Haverfordwest to Pembroke was far from jolly. The twins sat stolidly in the back as though riding in a hearse… ‘Look at that horse,’ Cathy exhorted, but there was no reaction. It would take several minutes for them to reach a silent agreement on how to respond. Then she would see in the driving mirror two head turning simultaneously in the direction she had pointed—a mile or so too late.
-14- P26 [on trying to get them to be involved with the world] Cathy Arthur turned her attention to less physical activities. She knew they were excited by anything to do with America, so she asked an American student to give a talk and show slides. The wins, however, say throughout the lecture with their chairs turned to face each other. Neither so much as glanced at the screen.
She then tried to interest them in the theatre…The twins just sat staring ahead, the hoods of their duffle coats still up, like misplaced members of the KKK.
-15- P32-33 [upon trying to separate the twins] At first the girls remained still. Then, slowly, they began to move. Jennifer gave June a menacing glower. The muscles in her hands tightened. Both bodies began to arch and tense, their eyes fixed on each other. There was something malevolent in their postures, like cats about to strike. There was a scream and then a seriesof unintelligible shouts as Jennifer lunged forward and dug her long nails into June’s cheek, just below the eye, drawing blood. June replied by clutching her sister’s head with such ferocity that chunks of wire black hair fell to the floor…. In combat, the girls possessed remarkable strength, but once separatered, that strength fell away, leaving them as limp as two rag dolls in his hands.
-16- You are Jennifer. You are me.
-17- P37 First of all let’s get one thing straight: nobody knows us really. All these things you say about us are all wrong. Nobody really knows what goes on between us two. We both know that we are individuals. We are not trying to tie one another down either. We do not depend on one another. So all the things that people say about us two, they will have to learn to keep it to themselves. It is best not to tell us what you think.
Nobody knows us more than we do. We may be twins but we are different twins. We are exactly alike in everything we do. But some people think that one of us is a troublemaker, and that she is the boss. Boss indeed! None of us two is the boss or the leader. You may think we are different but we still think the same, and we both agree to what I am writing.

S Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by Florence King
001. It has been said that when two Greeks meet they will start a restaurant, two Germans with start and army and two Englishmen with start a silence.
002. Yankees always make the mistake of going home the moment they realize they are going mad, which is why they have never understood the South. They do not grasp the simple fact that losing one’s mind is the most important prerequisite for fitting in with Southerners. Sanity has never held any charms for us in fact, we’re against it. We long ago realized that madness was the only weapon we had: if you’re crazy enough, people will leave you alone.
003. Once you have been through fire, you can never burn again.
004. A lot of Southerners have traditionally been so obsessed by their lineage that they have preferred to marry people to whom they were already related by blood…I have known several Southerners who were kin to themselves.
005. By the time I was twelve, I knew all about ‘that time of life.’ My education began during a performance of MacBeth.
‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say! Hell is murky!’
Granny stirred beside me and sighed, “She’s havin’ the change.’
006. Like the French concierge and the cockney costermonger, the Good Ole Boy is such a recognizable phenomenon that he almost defies definition, but to say that he is simply a bigoted, uneducated Southern white male is comparable to summing up Genghis Kan with the statement: ‘He rode horseback well.’
007. Southerners use ‘just’ very often out of an unconscious free-floating guilt, [???] this [???] also appears in their general conversation, and in mind-boggling ways such as: ‘Raiford just chased Sally Ann with a hatchet, ain’t like he [???] any real harm,’ or ‘Darcy just shot that nigger in the ass, he didn’t kill him.
008. For a long time I did not realise that he was staring at my in lust because on Good Old Boy faces there is no discernible difference between expressions of desire and expressions of hatred.
009. Sexually threatened men must find or create as many differences between the sexes as possible…
010. A Good Ole Boy is not simple a man who makes a to do out of his masculinity—most men do a little of that. He makes such an incessant fetish out if it that he becomes [???] , or pitiful, or both.
011. Like many mannish women, The Child is very easy to get along with. She puts everyone at ease and poses no threats…Men like her because she’s such a relief from [all the other psychos] . They do not have to flirt with her, compliment her, wait on her hand and foot…
Women like her because she is no competition in the popularity stakes…Possessing her own kind of dignity, she is perhaps the most invulnerable Southerner of all. She deflect Southern cattiness and disarms all but the most determined female misogynists simply be being herself.
012. The Irish old maid has much old-maid-power thanks to the status that Catholicism bestows on virginity, it does not matter what she looks like; the uglier she is, the more she is respected—and feared—because if she is truly hideous, she will be credited with hex power in addition to old-maid-power. She thus becomes ‘Nora the Witch’ and her fellow villagers walk a wide path around her, crossing themselves as she goes by. This is status indeed.
013. This is Town Fairy…and is universally considered to be nobody’s fault: the Lord did it. Town Fairy’s problems are blamed on the fact that he was—are you ready for this?
A change-of-life baby.
This is perhaps the South’s neatest sleight of mind, one that cheers both men and women. It strikes a blow of revenge against the all-powerful womb and at the same time credits that infernal organ with even more power—Town Fairy is such that only a magic uterus could produce him.
014. … she reeks of expensive perfume, always one of those morbidly voluptuous scents that, like Salome, will not give up until something awful happens.
015. Gauzy descriptions abound, and everyone has so much insight that they’re all half mad. A dying butterfly on the lawn or a fly feasting on manure can hurl all the characters into a Southern version of the Proustian agony…
016. On the title page you will find something that has absolutely nothing to do with anything in or out of the book: Forsooth, good Lord Phickly, the question’s naught but sworn ere birds do send the stickie nectar of mead to trickle down the gullet of [???] postillion by the morrow. –James Hamilton—Crickie, Fourth Viscount of the Fenwick Manor, From My Gleanings.
017.If something intolerable simply cannot be changed, driven away, or shot, they will not only tolerate it but take pride in it as well.
018. Someone at the [hen] party is certain to complain about being either horny or sore and by the time the evening is over there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Wife of Bath is alive and well and living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
019. [About a Yankee's experience in the South—at a dinner party thrown by a belle.] The picture she made as she sat at the head of the table deepened his reverence. His hostess, he decided, was the last of the great ladies, an untouchable yet infinitely alluring ice maiden.
Three hours later, watching her sip daintily at her tenth bourbon, Latham was certain he felt a stroke coming on. She still looked beautifully aristocratic, she had yet to slu a single word; yet a startling change had come over her personality. Latham;s pristine goddess had turned into Tugboat Annie.
‘He’s a Friday turd at a Saturday market,’ she was saying. ‘As for that fartless wonder he married–‘
Blessedly, she was interrupted by a male guest who had just arrived—and who, of course, hastened to do the proper Southern thing: pay his respects to his hostess.
Latham watched as the man put his arm around her waist.
‘Honey, I sure would like a little pussy,’
‘So would I,’ she said, laughing. ‘Mine’s as big as a bucket.’
Seeing Latham’s horrified expression, she was kind enough to explain: ‘We went to school together.’
What in God’s name did that have to do with anything?
020. The Dear Old Thing is a little old lady, the Rock is a big old lady and the Dowager is a huge old lady.
021. If you can’t be pretty, you might as well cause trouble.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress