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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On the Cover

posted by on February 14 at 14:59 PM

Think of this:

Then imagine these:

3Anna Nicole Smith 006.jpg

Then read this remarkable article on the meaning of the short life of the woman pictured above:

“Courtesan,” which in a different age is probably what she would have been labeled (even though she was married), is a category we don’t have much use for anymore. The woman who makes sexual alliances for money, who was less than a blushing bride but not so fallen as a prostitute, was once a vigorous cultural type, at least through the 19th century. Courtesans were the essential heroines of our greatest operas. They offered up their bodies, in various states of undress, to painters from Caravaggio to Toulouse-Lautrec — and too many others to mention. It was a courtesan who set in motion many of our greatest novels, not least of them Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” — which begins with the love of a man named Swann for a “great courtesan.”

But the idea of the courtesan has all but disappeared, and with it much of the nuance about our analysis of sex and marriage.

Then read one of the greatest passages from the greatest novel, Remembrance of Things Past (the second greatest novel is of course Dream of the Red Room):

[Odette] had in her hand a bunch of cattleyas, and Swann could see, beneath the film of lace that covered her head, more of the same flowers fastened to a swansdown plume. She was wearing, under her cloak, a flowing gown of black velvet, caught up on one side so as to reveal a large triangular patch of her white silk skirt, with an ‘insertion,’ also of white silk, in the cleft of her low-necked bodice, in which were fastened a few more cattleyas. She had scarcely recovered from the shock which the sight of Swann had given her, when some obstacle made the horse start to one side.
They were thrown forward from their seats; she uttered a cry, and fell back quivering and breathless.

“It’s all right,” he assured her, “don’t be frightened.” And he slipped his arm round her shoulder, supporting her body against his own; then went on: “Whatever you do, don’t utter a word; just make a sign, yes or no, or you’ll be out of breath again. You won’t mind if I put the flowers straight on your bodice; the jolt has loosened them. I’m afraid of their dropping out; I’m just going to fasten them a little more securely.”

She was not used to being treated with so much formality by men, and smiled as she answered: “No, not at all; I don’t mind in the least.” But he, chilled a little by her answer, perhaps, also, to bear out the pretence that he had been sincere in adopting the stratagem, or even because he was already beginning to believe that he had been, exclaimed: “No, no; you mustn’t speak. You will be out of breath again. You can easily answer in signs; I shall understand. Really and truly now, you don’t mind my doing this? Look, there is a little—I think it must be pollen, spilt over your dress,—may I brush it off with my hand? That’s not too hard; I’m not hurting you, am I? I’m tickling you, perhaps, a little; but I don’t want to touch the velvet in case I rub it the wrong way. But, don’t you see, I really had to fasten the flowers; they would have fallen out if I hadn’t. Like that, now; if I just push them a little farther down…. Seriously, I’m not annoying you, am I? And if I just sniff them to see whether they’ve really lost all their scent? I don’t believe I ever smelt any before; may I? Tell the truth, now.”

You get the picture.

RSS icon Comments


Thanks Charles. I refreshed this page and the CEO of our company walked past my computer just then. No kidding. The CEO. Anna Nicole's submerged nipple. I'll have plenty of time to read Slog sitting at home unemployed. =(

Posted by MoTown | February 14, 2007 3:33 PM

Um. Charles. Have you *looked* at maney Caravaggios? Not to many courtesans. Mostly rent boys.

Posted by Jonathan | February 14, 2007 3:51 PM

Um. Charles. Have you *looked* at many Caravaggios? Not to many courtesans. Mostly rent boys.

Posted by Jonathan | February 14, 2007 3:51 PM

Fuck. I just can't spell today. "too many" not "to many".

Posted by Jonathan | February 14, 2007 3:52 PM

Tori Spelling is overrated.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 14, 2007 4:08 PM

Another pathetic posting on this subject? The article is from the 9th, other people are moving on with their lives. And again, why does anyone need to butt into the motivations of two consenting adults who are getting married? Isn't that the point of the recently proposed legislation in Washington?

"To see the old category of courtesanship in operation today, you have to travel to poor places around the globe, where sex, love and sometimes marriages are negotiated between wealthy westerners and local girls without either party acknowledging the idea that the exchange is commercial." Oh, those conniving women and the quaintness of the trafficking of women (you know it's possibly more of an issue than whether ANS married for money).

Quite a piece Charles.

Posted by dwb | February 14, 2007 4:09 PM

On that subject, did you see where the clerics in Saudi Arabia have agreed that a father has the right to break up his daughter's marriage, even if she doesn't want to? Forced marriage, now forced divorce.

Posted by Fnarf | February 14, 2007 5:04 PM

Is that the Moncrieff translation?

Posted by David E. | February 14, 2007 7:02 PM

The juxtaposition of Anna Nicole Smith and Proust reaches a new kind of desperate, baby.

Posted by Reverend Foot | February 14, 2007 8:08 PM

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Posted by cqtwdamg xwmsvog | February 25, 2007 12:36 PM

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Posted by cqtwdamg xwmsvog | February 25, 2007 12:40 PM

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