February 24th, 2006

Apollo vs. Dionysius, cont.

Maestro, in full Classical mode, playing Johannes Brahms' Lullaby.

Eve called them "The Diabolical Variations."


Eve suggested Raymond might try thinking of her past love affairs (by his own rough count, he was her 18th) as lessons learned about what she wanted and of course what she didn't want. Raymond saw it otherwise. Nearly every one of those men hurt her deeply, and so she held back from love. She could not fully surrender to it, to him, as he hoped she would. Thus the men in her past not only hurt her, but they hurt Raymond as well.


Like T.S. Eliot, Eve worked in a bank. She produced software documentation for complicated financial programs. About a year into her marriage with Raymond she couldn't take the suffocating corporate climate anymore and, with his encouragement, she became a freelance consultant. She'd sit at the terminal, frowning, cigarette burning in the tray, tapping a rapid staccato. Her lovely, slender fingers were as adroit on a piano as they were on the strings of her guitar. But her strummed chord progressions were a bit eccentric. Her brother always complained about her mistakes, as he called them, and tried many times to correct her, but she ignored him.


Eve had a gift for the language, and also an acute analytical ability. Which she got from her father. From her mother she got a sense of order. She kept track of their finances on ledger paper. It was a strange system that seemed chaotic, understandable only to her, yet was accurate down to the penny.


Richard, Eve's first husband, took a photo of her in the bathtub. In it she has her hands crossed over her breasts and her knees are drawn up. Her eyes are wide and her mouth is set in a grimace. The exposure, she said, was excruciating.


For Christmas one year she wanted to do something for the less fortunate. She called up the shelter. They spent a snowy afternoon in that smelly place, her strumming the guitar and singing "You Made Me Love You," while Raymond, wearing thin plastic gloves, ladled out sliced turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy to the street people. The following Christmas she got watches for some retarded teenagers in a foster care home...six of them, Timexes, with luminous green faces.


An early letter: "Sometimes when I weigh the happiness I have experienced while 'in love' against the pain, I am stunned by the imbalance. And yet, we persist in seeking mates. OK, OK, so pain & disappointment are all part of the human experience. But why is it so disproportionate?"


When she turned 25 she arrived at some semblance of peace with her parents, but they remained capable of making her feel like a rebellious teenager. She told Raymond she had a good friendship with her mother and a sort of non-relationship with the judge. They were never a fighting family, never overtly angry. Everything was always tacit. Tacit! Which engendered in her a fundamental lack of confidence in her instincts, feelings, visceral reactions to things. Raymond told her she should trust what comes from the viscera...it's the ancient part of ourselves that has not yet learned to doubt itself.

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Maestro! I am trying to locate a painting of Vittoria Colonna by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, which presumably is still here on the island at Castello Aragonese.

I read about it in “Enchanted Island,” by Walter Lowrie, an American academic/cleric who lived for a short time in the late 40s in a villa near the top of Punta Caruso. He writes that he got possession of the painting, and arranged for it to be presented as a gift to one “Sacerdote Onofrio Buonocore.” The picture above by Lefebvre of Colonna is the only one I could find on Google. If it’s here on the island, I’d love to go see and photograph it.

Below is a letter to Lowrie that he put in his book. It confirmed that the painting had arrived on Ischia:

Ischia, June 24, 1948.

Distintissimo Signore e Squistissima Signora,

So yesterday, as we had planned, a solemn session in honor of the Lowries was held in the aula Magna of the Antoniana….Monsignore the Bishop could not himself be there….However, he had come to the Antoniana a few days earlier to admire the picture which has filled the island with wonder. Everybody who has come here after that miracle of art was placed in its permanent position has been overwhelmed with admiration—all of them. I believe that as the news of this masterpiece is gradually spread throughout Italy it will not attract the islanders only….

The picture has been hung in the great hall, above the bookcase at the further end, facing every one who enters the roo. It shines there as a solemn monument. It fills all the hall. On the frame of the bookcase which supports the picture is the inscription: THE SPOUSES WALTER AND BARBARA LOWRIE…

My dearest greeting and many of them. I pray the Lord to bestow upon you every good thing and to deliver you from all evil.

Sacerdote Onofrio Buonocore