Friday, December 30, 2011

Wild Man's Diapers and Goddess' Lingerie -- Charles Fort's Lo!

(NOTE: The quotes below are from the Sacred Texts version of Lo!, by Chalres Fort. A link to a download of the rights-free version of the text is below

Charles Fort's Lo!)

Throughout Charles Fort's previous book, New Lands, the adult baby in me was pleased to see a philosophy which claimed that we were all part of some great cosmic embryo, living in a gigantic womb. I figured that that was about as close to my fetish as Charles Fort was going to get for me.

Then... Charles Fort basically opens his third book of paranormal studies, Lo!, with a naked man actually being put in a diaper! Here's Fort's scenario:

"An unclothed man shocks a crowd -- a moment later, if nobody is generous with an overcoat, someobdy is collecting handkerchiefs to knot around him.

"A naked fact startles a meeting of a scientific society -- and whatever it has for loins is soon diapered with conventional explanations."

Of course, in my mind, I'd be much happier for this naked man not to have received a cloth nappy, but a paper one.

My view nowadays would be that the unclothed man shocks a crowd. But a mommy pushing a stroller in the crowd says, "Hey, don't worry. Just pin him to the ground. I'll get one of my baby's diapers out of my bag and tape it onto him."

Of course, this would have to be a small naked man. Thankfully I'm small enough for baby diapers. I know this for a fact.

But -- why on earth would Charles Fort put a naked man in diapers right at the beginning of the book? Not to get my rocks off, I'm pretty sure.

Fort, as I've said in my earlier posts on him, collects all kinds of data regarding anomalous phenomena. He has found these data in newspapers, scientific journals, and other sources of information. Fort spend decades, in libraries in New York and London, reading articles from all over the world, collecting this data. And much of the evidence he relates to us regarding these strange, unexplained phenomena, include direct quotes from the sources.

However, Fort arranges his data with what I believe is something almost like a narrative structure. Actually, one might think of it more like a poem cycle, or a dream cycle. But poem cycles and dream cycles can be analyzed as if they were telling a story, or as if they had a narrative.

In this sense, even though I do regard the data Fort presents as having a basis in reality, I also look at Fort's works as a kind of narrative of his own psychological processes. These works can be seen as Fort's own search for his self.

And, in the sense that Fort's works share something in common with poetry, I think of Fort as a sort of Outsider Artist, like Joseph Cornell and Henry Darger. I also think of him as something like a found-footage filmmaker.

Thankfully, from Lo!, I was finally able to glean a quote which gives me the idea that Fort feels the same way about himself:

"I confess to a childish liking for making little designs, or arrangements of data, myself."

Now, my idea has been that in Fort's first book, Book of the Damned, Fort was trying to integrate the shadow side of himself, the dark side, or the side of himself he didn't want to admit existed, into his psyche. He may have done this. But what I found was that, as human-like images approached Fort's mental world, they were suddenly shot back -- all the way to the sun! They had to work their way back toward the earth.

But once these elements of Fort's personality returned to earth, they were as huge as planets. My idea changed, from there, to a belief that maybe what Fort was really trying to integrate was the collective unconscious. Fort gave some pieces of evidence that seemed to point to whole planets occasionally approaching the earth, causing an exchange of matter between the two bodies.

But the Book of the Damned ended with Fort still seeming to want to avoid any evidence of human-like creatures approaching the earth. And I believed that the human-like creatures would have to be seen in his second book, New Lands.

The human-like creatures did appear in New Lands. But they were all ghosts, part of a phenomenon Fort described as mirages up in the sky, of cities, forests, troops of soldiers, and so forth. However, finally, at the end of his book, Fort brought an alien creature down to the earth. But this creature wasn't a part of Fort's data -- it was a part of his own imagination -- a story he was telling as the hypothetical result of a space traveler's journeys.

This astronaut had brought back a space-pig with him, and paraded it up Broadway.

The space-pig does come back in Lo!, by the way. Only, in Lo! the space pig is a piece of real evidence. And it's not the grand, ten-foot long being that it was in New Lands. And his parade is not on Broadway, but on the road to the London Aquarium. This space-pig was found in the year 1878.

"Mr. Davy, a naturalist, who was employed at the London Aquarium, took a stroll with a new animal. ... The creature was about two feet high and two feet long, and was formed like nothing known to anatomists -- anyway to anatomists of this earth. It was covered with wiry hair: head like a boar's, and curly tail like a boar's. It was described as 'a living cube.' As if with abdomen missing, its hind legs were close to its forelegs. ... At the Aquarium, Davy told that an acquaintance of his, named Leman, had seen this creature with some peasants, in the South of France, and had bought it, but, unable to speak the patois of the district, had been unable to learn anything of its origin. At the Aquarium the only explanation that could be thought of was that it was a dog-boar hybrid."

Davy was followed back from the Aquarium to his house by a crowd of people who were curious to see the strange animal. But when Davy reached home, his landlord "ran to his room, and from behind closed doors, ordered Davy to take away the monster."

This is one of the cuter monstrosities Fort presents to us in his work Lo! The book is filled with many other instances of monsters -- most of them in the sea, but some of them on the ground. Some of the monsters are, actually, quite dangerous. And Fort gives us a couple grisly chapters regarding these monsters.

So Fort has gone from, in the Book of the Damned, being completely unable to fathom the idea of living beings on this planet, to, in Lo!, showing us quite a few monsters and humans having been here.

Most of these beings show up through teleportation. According to Fort, these beings have been transported from one part of this earth, or one part of our so-called Solar System (which Fort thinks of as a Geo System, since, in his cosmology, the earth is at the center). Human beings are often involved in the teleporation. Fort argues that many missing people may have been victims of teleportation.

Fort gives us whole chapters, toward the middle of his book, regarding teleported individuals. The really central character of these chapters, however, is the "Wild Man": a man who appears naked, sometimes with complete amnesia, in a completely unfamiliar area. Fort gives some cases where the man teleported was obviously from earth. But some instances Fort leaves open, I believe, to the possibility that this person came from another planet.

So finally, after three whole books, Fort is finally allowing human elements, as alien elements, to be a part of his psyche. The "Wild Man" is the really central character of this kind of alien element.

So why does fort have the "Wild Man" wearing a diaper at the beginning of the book?

Well, like I've said before, Fort has a huge imagination. He's liable to get carried away with his imagination. And, since Fort's work is, like the work of the alchemists, about developing the processes of his own psyche, if he gets too carried away with his imagination, he's liable to drive himself insane.

This is why, in my opinion, Fort is so adamant about a cosmology in which the universe is much, much smaller than conventional scientists say, and where the earth is stationary. Fort needs to have a small universe and a stationary world, to give his imagination stable coordinates to work with. If these elements are stable for Fort, then he can allow his imagination to expand into them.

I think some statements that Fort has made in Lo! do a really good job of pointing to this:

"If we can think of our existence as a conceivable-sized formation -- perhaps one of countless things, beings, or formations in the cosmos -- we have graspableness, or we have the outlines or the limits within which to think."

Which is basically Fort's way of saying right out that he's trying to give some grounding to his imagination, so that it can expand with some sort of order. Here's one along similar lines:

"All that is required for thinkableness, instead of bafflement, is to give up attempted notions upon Nature, as Universality, and conceive of one thinkable-sized existence, of shape that is representable in thought, and conceive of an organic orthogenesis within that."

But one of the more telling passages is in the final chapter of the book, when Fort gives us the idea of the great things we could do -- if only our earth were stationary:

"The searchlights of the sun play upon a celebration in the sky. It has been waiting ages to mean something. Just at present known as the Milky Way, it's the Broadway of the Sky, and some day explorers of this earth may parade it --

"If this earth is stationary."

A strange condition for a parade: the parade will only be held if the earth holds still. But this is Fort's condition. Interestingly enough, though, Fort again mentions Broadway. When Fort closed New Lands, he imagined an astronaut, back from the hunt, parading a space-pig down the Broadway of New York. Now, Fort closes Lo! with the imagination of an astronaut parading down the Broadway of the Sky.

But this passage really highlights, I believe, the conflict in Fort's mind between having an incredible expansive imagination and having the need to have his imagination stabilized, so it doesn't carry him away altogether. Psychologically, Fort really needs a solid earth.

But in the third to last chapter of the book, Fort has already stated that he's willing to compromise on the centrality of the concept of a stationary earth to the overall theme of his works. Fort says:

"I am thinking of an abstraction that was noted by Aristotle, and that was taken by Hegel, for the basis of his philosophy: That wherever there is a conflict of extremes, there is an outcome that is not absolute victory on either side, but is a compromise, or what Hegel called 'the union of complementarities.'"

Fort continues:

"The idea of stationariness came first. Then, as a sheer, mechanical reaction -- inasmuch as Copernicus had not one datum that a conventionalist of today would accept as meaning anything -- came the idea of a swiftly moving earth. An intermediate view will probably appear and prevail."

Fort gives us, as a compromise, his idea of this intermediate view:

"This roundish earth is almost central, but is not absolutely stationary, having various slight movements. Perhaps it does rotates, but within a period of a year."

So Fort's earth gets moving in the third to last chapter of the book, then kind of stops moving again, at the end of the book, even though Fort admits that at the end of it all, his concept of a stationary earth, "according to a great deal in this book, ... may be a matter of no importance, or bearing."

It's interesting that he says "bearing," since the stationary earth is what has given him bearing in the past.

But the final passage of the book points, I believe, to why Fort may be willing to let the earth move in his cosmology.

In New Lands, Fort gave us a picture, as well as evidence to back up his picture, for a universe which was small enough so that the sun's light could occasionally bounce off the back wall, so to speak, of this womb-like system, and be seen on earth. At the end of Fort's Lo!, however, the atmosphere of the earth itself has this reflective capability. Fort says:

"According to data collected by the Naval Research Laboratory there is something, somewhere in the sky, that is deflecting electro-magnetic waves of wireless communications, in a way that is similar to the way in which sound waves are sent back by the dome of the Capitol, at Washington. The published explanation is that there is an 'ionized zone' around the earth. These waves are rebounding from something."

The "ionized zone" puts Fort, a man of many traditions, in touch with another tradition -- that of Nikola Tesla. Fort continues:

"A paper read by Prof. E.V. Appleton, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The 'ionized zone' is not satisfactory. 'The subject is as puzzling as it is fascinating, and no decisive answer to the problem can be given at present.' From Norway had been reported experiments upon short-wave transmissions, which had been reflected back to this earth. They had come back, as if from a shell-like formation, around this earth, not unthinkably far away."

Now, ever since Book of the Damned, Fort has imagined solid, gelatinous, or watery patches in the sky, floating over certain areas of the earth. However, this is, I believe, the first time that Fort has spoken of the entire earth as having something like a "shell-like formation."

And, since I believe that part of Fort's real tasks in his psychological development is the integration of the collective unconscious into his psyche (a very advanced task, in my opinion), Fort's earth is really Fort's psyche. So, if Fort is saying that he has enabled his earth to have a shell around it, like his universe was a shell around -- basically his entire existence! --, then, it seems to me that Fort has made a really incredible step.

But the shell which Fort's data has formed around his universe, and then around his earth, has been a container. Diapers are also containers. This idea -- I mean the more subtle aspect of it -- is not my own. My psychiatrist told me that one of the reasons I like wearing diapers is because I like having "emotional containment." She got her idea of containment from the psychological theories of Nathan Schwartz-Salant.

Fort's Wild Man doesn't show up, in the hard evidence of the book, in all his naked glory and confusion, until about a third of the way through the book. But Fort, as if striking the theme for his book, has his Wild Man show up right at the very beginning. The same thing can be seen to happen with themes, say, in the overture of an opera, or the opening poem of a poem cycle, or the first dream of a dream cycle.

But it also seems to me that the step Fort has taken has been pretty brave. This Wild Man is still full of force that Fort isn't yet strong enough to deal with yet. And so the crowd around this man dresses him in a makeshift diaper. They are putting the man into containment, until he can reappear, later in the story, with a bit more continence.

The diaper isn't necessarily put on the Wild Man to prevent the Wild Man from going to the bathroom all over the place, but to cover up the nakedness of the Wild Man. Nevertheless, I believe that what Fort is more worried about, in this case is, if not the flowings of evacuation, then, at least, the flowings of sexuality.

The diaper of the Wild Man is, I believe, a direct parallel to the lingerie that Fort puts on the goddess of destruction. But the goddess of destruction is all water -- her body really is all nothing but churnings and wetness and mud. And the Wild Man is still, for Fort, still so closely identified with the goddess, or the feminine, or Fort's mother-image, that he needs to wear a diaper to contain his force, as -- it seems -- the goddess of destruction wears her lingerie to adorn her force.

Fort describes the lingerie of the goddess as a means of illustrating the havoc created by an earthquake and flood that occurred in Peru, in 1868:

"Vast volumes of water fell from the sky. It was appalling providence: this water was needed. The waters soaked into the needful earth, and surplus beneficences made new rivers. In the streams there was a ghastly frou-frou of torrents of corpses, and the coast of Peru was frilled with fluttering bodies. Almost Ultimate Evil could be stimulated by such a lingerie. These furbelows of dead men, flounced in the waves, were the drapery of Providence."

Fortean lingerie? I could see it in a Pedro Almodovar film.

But, obviously, the feminine is really frightening to Fort. Fort does propose a sort of god all throughout his book. But I believe that Fort doesn't think of this god as a man, but as a woman. Yet Fort is afraid of calling this female god a goddess. So he takes the sexuality out of her name by calling her a "godness."

But I'm pretty sure that Fort thinks of this "godness" actually as a goddess, and that he's rather resentful at the fact that this goddess is feminine. I don't know why, but I'm having trouble finding the passage now -- but I'm almost certain that somewhere near the beginning of the book, Fort describes God as possibly being a female. He gives woman's cruelty and indifference as a reason for God to be a female.

This is just a joke. But Fort's book is full of jokes agains women. Fort claims, for instance, that the only people who don't believe in witches are unmarried men. In another passage, Fort states that Feminism only has to continue its triumph, before female Bluebeards show up in society alongside male Bluebeards.

Fort also has a weird passage in which he claims that, if feminism develops farther, women will likely try to show instances where they were impregnated without men. That's a wonderfully erotic idea, to me -- since it has lesbian overtones. But for Fort it's some kind of nightmare.

But the fact is that Fort still looks at this Geo System as a gigantic womb. And a womb -- other than, I suppose in Zeus' pregnancies -- is in a woman. So if there is a god over this womb, one would assume that this god is a goddess.

So I would argue that Fort's god is a goddess, and that Fort's goddess has so much power that he has to de-sex her. Thus she goes from being a goddess to being a "godness."

But this image of godness is an image of idiocy for Fort. Fort says:

"So many of our data are upon a godness that so much resembles idiocy that to attribute intelligence to it may even be blasphemous."

Fort, when first speaking of his god as a god, also speaks of its capacity for both good and evil:

"Let a god change anything, and there will be reactions of evil as much as of good. Only stupidity can be divine."

Fort eventually describes his god as an "automatic Jehovah": this is a force in the universe that responds to needs. If something is lacking, it will be replaced. But it might not be replaced until there is an extremely great need for the thing. And then, once it is replaced, it might be so overly replaced, that it causes just as much of a disaster as the lack had caused.

The transportation of things needed occurs through what Fort calls teleportation: the moving of things from one place to another. This movement may take place immediately, or it may take place in the conventional sense of things moving from one place to another. However, in this latter, case, things are usually moving from some planet or star near the earth, which has all these elements stock-piled -- so that the conventional concept of movement facilitates the very unconventional, Fortean concept of providence.

Fort says that this kind of teleportation is a "distributive force":

"In every organism, there are, in its governance as a whole, mysterious transportations of substances and forces, sometimes in definite, circulatory paths, and sometimes specially, for special needs. In the organic view, Teleportation is a distributive force that is acting to maintain the balances of a whole; with the seeming wastefulness sometimes, and niggardliness sometimes, of other forces; providing, or sometimes providing, new islands with vegetation, and new ponds with fishes: Edens with Adams, and Adams with Eves; always dwindling when other mechanisms become established, but surviving sporadically."

But this distributive force can be controlled, to a certain degree, by the desires and needs of the beings in the environment. These beings can be human, animal, plant, or even supposedly inanimate. Fort says:

"In the organic sense, I conceive of people and forests and dwindling lakes all expressing a need, and finally compelling an answer."

But Fort believes that the deadly need is often answered as severe as the conditions:

"Down upon monstrous need came relief that was enormous."

The cases Fort speaks of in this context are generally droughts that were so intense that a lot of people were dying. But when the need for water is finally satisfied -- there are usually floods that kill just as many people -- if not more -- than the droughts themselves did! Fort, reflecting on a severe drought, followed by an equally catastrophic flood, in Canton, says:

"At Canton, every pietist proclaimed the efficacy of prayer, and I think he was right about all that: but the problem is to tone down all this efficacy. If we will personify what I consider an organism, what he, or more likely she, has not, is any concept of moderation."

And I think that statement, right there, encapsulates my ideas pretty nicely. Fort then continues with another interesting passage:

"Show me a starving man -- I pay no attention. Show me the starving man -- I can't be bothered. Show me the straving man, on the point of dying -- I grab up groceries and jump on him. I cram bread down his mouth, and stuff his eyes and his ears with potatoes. I rip open his lips to hammer down more food, and bung in his teeth, the better to stuff him. The explanation -- it is the god-like in me."

So, from this angle of Fort's cosmology, there is a goddess that has no concept of moderation, that doesn't feed her children until they are on the point of death, and then overfeeds them, almost to the point of death! This, I would argue, would lead to exactly what Fort is suffering from -- a state of being completely overwhelmed by his passions.

Throughout his books, one of Fort's major arguments against conventional scientists is that, while they claim that the real value of their work lies in their ability to predict phenomena, they actually have not been able to predict any phenomena with a great degree of accuracy. And yet, Fort says, these scientists, who can, for instance, get a solar eclipse wrong by four seconds, have the ability to tell us what specific motions are taking place from particles of two stars that have crashed into each other millions of light years away from us!

So, it seems to me, the last third of Fort's book is entirely devoted to the formulation of a predictive cosmological system of his own. Fort cites very famous volcanoes, such as Vesuvius and Krakatoa. But he also cites less well-known, though extremely disastrous, natural events from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fort claims that, by using his observations, he has formulated a way to predict these disasters.

These disasters are often foretold, Fort says, by the appearance of a new star in the sky. This new star, Fort claims, is actually a volcano igniting in some distant area of our womb-like Geo System. The next thing to happen, usually, is for a great spread of ash or rain of mud-like or ash-like material, to be seen on the earth. After that, Fort says, earth might experience some minor volcanic or seismic activity. And, finally, there is a great catastrophe.

So there seems to be a way to predict these catastrophes, and to save people from being involved in them. Nevertheless, Fort says, the goddess has seen to it that, for all the warnings she gives mankind, she will also put enough stupid people on earth to stop all the smart people from taking action on time. Fort says:

"Often before disasters upon this earth, there have been appearances that were interpretable as warnings.

"But if a godness places kindly lights in the sky, also it is spreading upon the minds of this earth a darkness of scientists. This is about the beneficence of issuing warnings, and also seeing to it that the warnings shall not be heeded. This may not be idiocy. It may be 'divine plan' that surplus populations shall be murdered. In less pious terms we may call this maintenance of equilibrium."

Fort gives a rather powerful instance of this, with one of the distasters he relates to us, of the eruption of the volcano of Mount Pelee, in St. Pierre. Plenty of people in town were certain that they needed to get out. But the officials of the town were so confident in the word of the scientists, who said the volcano wasn't going to occur, that they kept as many citizens in the town as they could -- by military force! But Mount Pelee erupted:

"There was a rush of flames. In the volcanic fires that burned the city, 30,000 persons perished."

Now, it's pretty easy to see that Fort has gone from the concept of a need expressed and an answer compelled -- which one would think would be the thing he would try to predict, if he were going to predict something scientifically -- and has ended up with the eruption of a distant volcano and its ravaging effects upon some part of the earth, regardless (as far as I can tell) of the needs expressed.

What I believe is happening here, psychologically, is that Fort has recognized a situation where he did express a need from his mother -- a need for nourishment and care. This need may not have been satisfactorily answered. So Fort's psyche now really has no sense of how to modulate his emotions.

So Fort's idea of need for nourishment has developed into an emotional life of what seem to him to be sudden inflows of rather catastrophic passions. These passions seem to be parallel with his needs for nourishment and care. Even if they aren't parallel with his needs, they are the elements of his life that are now of the most import.

When he's invaded by these emotions, he's really terribly frightened. So his idea isn't how to predict a flood by a drought. It's how to stop the distant rumblings in his psyche from creating horrible volcanoes and upheavals in his more immediate life. In order to do this, he needs to see those distant volcanoes, to be vigilant enough about them to recognize that they're occurring as soon as they're occurring.

In order to have this vigilance, Fort brings the character of the schoolboy-amateur into his narrative. For many of the catastrophes Fort lists, Fort also seems to find amateur astronomers, most of them teenage boys, who have found the new stars in the sky that would have, had anybody been thinking about it, heralded the coming disaster.

Fort believes that the amateurs will really be the ones to change astronomy:

"Back in times when little boys were playing hopscotch and marbles, and had not yet taken up the new sport of giving astronomers astronomical information, or in those times when only astronomers were attending somewhat to astronomical matters, and when therefore changes in stars were unheard of, arose the explanation of vast distances, to account for unobserved changes."

Fort, in another passage, ridiculing the astronomers for their use of "old news," gives an indication that what he's really looking for in the sky is a way to predict the emotional overflows of his own childhood:

"If newspaper editors were like astronomers, they'd send out photographers, rather busily, and, perhaps years later, if they could condescend from journalism into doing some newspaper work, they'd examine plates. They'd tell of a fire that had occurred long before. They'd write up some fashion notes upon the modes in their readers' childhood. Like dealers in stale stars, they'd wonder at a lack of public interest."

But in this passage, Fort implies that the astronomers are beaten by the schoolboys:

"We are beguiled by snoozers, who have been beaten time after time by the schoolboys."

Now, of course, in that passage, "beaten" simply means "beaten to the finish line," so to speak. But this idea of the schoolboys beating the "snoozing" astronomers connects this section of the book with the first section of the book.

Lo! is basically divided into two sections. The second section of the book is all about large-scale disasters, which Fort believes are caused by, and so can be predicted by, the eruptions of volcanoes on distant celestial bodies. I would equate this with the more cosmic sections that comprise the second half of Book of the Damned.

The first section is, rather, about visitations of beings to this earth. These beings first visit in the form that most people would think of as poltergeists. Fort gives various examples of stones thrown, loud rapping noises in houses, strange emanations of materials in houses, all of which would be attributalble, by the spiritualists, to poltergeists -- ghosts, in a sense.

Fort, however, claims that these phenomena are the effects of teleportations from one place in the Geo System to another place.

Fort then moves on to a discussion of strange monsters which have appeared in different places in the earth. Fort seems to claim, again, that these monsters are aliens to our planet, and that they have been teleported to our earth.

But from here, Fort begins to discuss the teleportations of human beings, or of human-like beings. From here, Fort moves into human adults (or adolescents, sometimes), who have suffered from amnesia due to their supposed teleportations. Fort also discusses the "Wild Men" and "Wolf Children," who seem to have been so affected by their experiences that everything about them was wiped out.

These people actually were reduced to the infantile state, Fort says. So -- in that case, the diaper image makes even more sense.

But, as a final chapter to all this discussion, Fort discusses the story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who appeared in Germany, naked, barely able to walk, with the mentality of an infant. Hauser (like many of the people in the stories Fort mentions) learned very quickly, and was rather intelligent.

But, after a few years, Hauser began to be pursued by -- something. He ended up getting stabbed on a number of occasions -- rather mysteriously. The final time he was stabbed, he was killed. From this story, Fort moves into the cosmic discussion.

It seems to me that Fort has taken Kaspar Hauser as the alien man -- the Wild Man who has finally appeared on the earth of Fort's psyche. But something continues to attack the man. So the man must die, in my opinion, so that he can have a "cosmic dream" and face whatever it is that has been attacking him, stabbing him.

The result of this "cosmic dream," Kaspar Hauser's attempt to defeat the attacking force in his life, is, I believe, the birth of the schoolboy astronomer, who "beats" or "attacks" the professional astronomers.

But it would seem to me that what the schoolboy astronomer is beating is only one aspect of the conflict in Fort's psyche. He's defeating the astronomers, which have served, through all of Fort's books, as the masculine, conscious side of his personality. The astronomers have always been the observers. The schoolboy, taking on Fort's power, is able to beat his fear of the father, as it is embodied in the father.

But the mother -- the goddess -- the real force -- is still left! He must either reconcile himself to that force or defeat it.

And the schoolboy is, I believe, Fort's conscious answer to characters in the narrative of the first half of his book who eventually kind of dissolved away from his story: the psychic girls. These girls take a lot of abuse from society. They are usually tortured into "confessing" that they were actually just committing some kind of hoax, rather than that they were actually involved in a paranormal event.

In this passage, Fort gives his ideas on the phenomena, as well as an illustration of the tortures that the young girls go through:

"Nobody can investigate the reported phenomena that we're taking up, without noticing the number of cases in which boys and girls, but a great preponderance of girls, appear. An explanation by those who disregard a great deal -- or disregard normally -- is that youngsters are concerned so much, because it is their own mischief. Poltergeist-phenomena, or teleportations of objects, in the house of Mr. Frost, 8 Ferrostone-road, Hornsey, London, for several months, early in the year 1921, cannot be so explained. There were three children. Phenomena so frightened one of them that, in a nervous breakdown, she died. Another, in a similar condition, was taken to the Lewisham Hospital."

Fort gives another example, of a girl in Johannesburg, who was involved with poltergeist phenomena at a house where she served as a maid. She was allegedly beaten -- slapped and punched in the face -- until she "confessed" to having been involved in some kind of hoax. She later took back her confession. But by that time, nobody cared.

So I think that for some time, Fort actually tries to fix his focus, with the phenomena of teleportation, on human beings as agents of this force. He sees young people, mostly young girls, as the real agents of this ability. First he argues that this may be because, in line with his ideas on paranormal phenomena in general, teleportation is something atavistic, that manifests less and less as it is less and less needed in an existence of higher organization:

"My suggestion as to the frequently reported 'agency' of children, is that 'occult forces' were, in earlier times of human affairs, far more prevalent, and far more necessary to the help and maintenance of human communities than they are now, with political and economic mechanisms somewhat well-established, or working, after a fashion; and tht, wherein children are atavistic, they may be in rapport with forces that mostly human beings have outgrown."

But Fort counters his own argument by saying that these powers could be a sign of advance -- of an evolution to come:

"There are, of course, other explanations of the 'occult powers' of children. One is that children, instead of being atavistic, may occasionally be far in advance of adults, foreshadowing coming human powers, because their minds are not stifled by conventions. After that, they go to school and lose their superiority. Few boy-prodigies have survived an education."

I guess that shows that Fort's boy-astronomer was dead, in the first part of the book, and was still trying to be revived.

Interestingly, Fort even mentions a possible commercial use for teleportation:

"If teleportation exists, it may be used. It may be criminally used, or it may be commercially used. Cargoes, without ships, and freights, without trains, may be of the traffics of the future. There may be teleportative voyages from planet to planet."

But this is about as close as Fort can get to paranormal phenomena involving human beings as the actual agents for some time. In fact, from this point forward, Fort deals with his catalog of monsters, then works into basically two chapters worth of discussions of rather gruesome sheep-killings.

Interestingly -- these sheep killings are not very different from the sheep-killings that are mentioned nowadays in connection with UFOs.

But, in the second chapter of the discussion of sheep killings, I believe, Fort brings back the idea of humans as agents of paranormal events. Fort gives a real bloodbath -- tons of sheep killings in the years 1904 and 1905. And he says that, all this time, while these killings were going on, people were in the grip of religious revivalism, to the point of mania. Fort even quotes one paper in Wales as saying that Wales was "in the Grip of Supernatural Forces!"

Fort points out that, while people were in the grip of this religious mania, the sheep-killings were only one kind of paranormal phenomena occurring. There were a whole host of other phenomena, including luminous objects, flying objects, poltergeist-like phenomena, phantom sightings, and animals shape-shifting. "But," says Fort, "the outstanding phenomenon of this period was the revival." The religious revivalism -- the desires of humans -- was what caused this activity. Fort says:

"The grip was a grab by a craze. The excitement was combustion, or psycho-electricity, or almost anything except what it was supposed to be, and perhaps when flowing from human batteries there was a force that was of use to the luminous things that hung around. Maybe they fed upon it, and grew, and glowed, brilliant with nourishing ecstasies. See data upon astonishing growths of plants, when receiving other kinds of radioactive nourishment, or stimulation. If a man can grow drunk on God, he may usefully pass along his exhilarations to other manifestations of godness."

And it's at this point that people start spontaneously combusting.

It's kind of unbelievable how many different instances Fort gives of people spontaneously combusting between 1904 and 1905. But, from the perspective of Fort's narrative, I believe that this shows that Fort, as soon as he has brought that human element of agency back to his concept of teleportation, has found the passions involved in it so strong, that they actually manage to explode the people under their influence.

Fort steps back again, from this point, and begins relating stories that are about humans, but not humans acting as agents of this force, but rather as victims of it. In some of these instances, the human victims simply disappear from the earth altogether, as in the case of the passengers of the ship the Marie Celeste. Fort gives enormous records of significant numbers of people who had gone missing from specific areas in short spans of time.

But there are also the humans who suddenly appear in places. These people don't have to be from this earth. In fact, Fort even gives us this suggestion:

"If there ever have been instances of teleportations of human beings from somewhere else to this earth, an examination of inmates of infirmaries and workhouses and asylums might lead to some marvelous astronomical disclosures."

But these humans, earthly or alien, don't act as agents, either. They act as victims. They are dazed, disoriented. The humans may be very strange. They may speak different languages, like Princess Caraboo and Rinoldo Agostino. Or they may be completely reduced to an infant state. But they don't have the power, say, of the religious revivalists who, in Fort's narrative, transformed Wales and England into a paranormal maelstrom in 1904 and 1905.

However, even this image, the harmless human, in Fort's final narrative form, as Kaspar Hauser, is attacked by passion. The passion is the first half of the force behind Fort's concept of teleportation: it's the force of the religious revival, the force of prayer to a goddess, a mother-figure, to whom the infant or child is looking for nourishment.

Regardless of how Fort may try to disguise the fact, the fact still remains that humans can act as agents for Fort's teleportative force. But if they are so overwhelmed by passions that they associate to the mother-goddess, the teleportative forces will destroy them, rather than helping them.

It could lead to chaos, as in the maelstom of 1904 and 1905. It could even lead to the spontaneous combustion of individuals -- a complete fireball of passion exploding a person. Or it could lead to the mysterious stab wounds sustained by Kaspar Hauser.

It seems to me as if the human side of Fort's story had to end here, so that Fort could drop down into the deeper regions of his unconscious and face the more cosmic conflict. But -- now that he seems to have faced the cosmic conflict, will he rise back up into the realm of the human in his final book, Wild Talents?

Well -- the title seems to indicate that the answer is yes. Also, the little teaser paragraphs I've read from the Sacred Texts website seem to point to magical girls playing some part in the book. So it definitely seems that the answer is yes. Although... I'd be interested to see if the boy-astronomer has any interactions with the magical girls!

But there's also the fact that Fort, at the end of Lo!, gives us another glimpse into the possible constructive uses of teleportation:

"If we accept that Teleportation, as a 'natural force,' exists, and suspect that some human beings have known this and have used it; and, if we think that the culmination of a series of teleportations will be the commercial and recreational teleportation of objects and beings, we are concerned little with other considerations, and conceive of inhabitants of this earth willing themselves -- if that's the way it's done -- to Mars, or the Moon, or Polaris. But I take for a proposition that there is an underlying irony, if not sadism, in our existence, which rejoices in driving the most easily driven beings of this earth into doing, at enormous pains and expenses, the unnecessary -- the building of complicated telegraph systems, with the use of two wires -- then reducing to one wire, then the discovery that the desired effects could be achieved wirelessly."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Leftovers -- Charles Dickens, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Gordon Ramsay

I hope everybody is having a happy holiday.

I wasn't able to get home this year. A friend of mine was in the same situation. So we got tickets to the American Ballet Theatre production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, which was playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. So that was a lot of fun. Then on Christmas we had a homemade dinner and watched some episodes of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

I've been reading a little here and there. I tried to get into a few books after finishing up Moll Flanders, but nothing was really interesting me.

But finally, I managed to get through Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol and The Chimes, though I still didn't follow too well.

The Chimes has a similar plot structure to A Christmas Carol. But The Chimes takes place on New Year's Eve, instead of on Christmas, and the main character of The Chimes, Toby Veck, is a gentle-hearted, poor man, instead of a hard-hearted rich man, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Everybody is pretty familiar with the plot of A Christmas Carol, I suppose. I don't think I've ever actually read Dickens' actual story. To be quite honest, I'm pretty sure all my memories of A Christmas Carol revolve around the Disney version of the story, where Mickey Mouse plays the poor clerk Bob Cratchit, and Scrooge McDuck plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. But the plot of the cartoon is very faithful to the Dickens story.

I would say -- maybe it was just that I wasn't paying attention -- but I would say that I'm not so fond of Dickens' style in these two stories. I find that the plot elements get a bit too jumpy. The scenes shift so quickly in both of the stories, and Dickens sometimes doesn't give a straightforward relation of the elements of the scene.

It's confusing enough to get one's bearings on where one is in the story when the scenes are so jumpy and elliptically described. But then, if there's also some kind of dramatic argument also being made, this is also kind of elliptically described, making the scene even more disorienting.

I understand that there's supposed to be a dream-like element in both of these stories. And in this sense, Dickens' style kind of reminds me of how Jack Kerouac sometimes elliptically remarks on his dreams in his Book of Dreams.

I also got the feeling that, in some way, the plot of A Christmas Carol was -- not an excuse, but an occasion for a couple other things that Dickens wanted to do. I think one thing Dickens wanted to do was describe Christmas dinner scenes in a kind of heroic poetic style, like you might see dinners described in Homer, or in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The tables are filled with food. There are huge dances, great, wonderfully fun parties, and so forth.

Probably my favorite scene of all, though, isn't related to a dinner, but to people buying items for their dinners from the local markets. The passage is filled with color and cheer. But I think it's characteristic of the beauty with which Dickens describes the Christmas dinners.

"The poulterers' shops were still half open and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellined baskets of chesnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner."

But I think the other thing that Dickens wanted to do was describe mystical scenes and mystical figures. He has some really wonderful scenes describing the way ghosts look and act, and the way spirits move through the world.

I think a lot of these scenes are really well-known, through the traditional telling of the story. When Jacob Marley appears on the door-knocker, for instance, or when Marley, again, appears, with the chain tied around his waist, and all the bank-boxes attached to the chain. The three Christmas ghosts are also fairly well-known.

But there was one scene which I didn't remember from A Christmas Carol, which I found rather beautiful. The way that Dickens describes ghosts in this scene almost sounds like he's describing holographic figures. In this scene, ghosts, their presences unknown to the living, are trying to help the humans through their difficulties, but to no effect.

"The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to his ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever."

There is a similar effect regarding phantoms in The Chimes. In The Chimes, Toby Veck, a porter near a church believes that he hears the bells in the church's bell tower speaking to him.

On the night of New Year's Eve, Toby's daughter Meg comes and tells Toby that she's planning to get married to a blacksmith named Richard. In the middle of this, however, a rich alderman and his cohorts come up and give Meg and Richard a hard time about getting married while they're poor. Toby doesn't stand up for Meg and Richard, partly because, deep down inside, he feels like the alderman is right to feel the way he does about poor people.

Toby ends up helping out a man from Ireland, I believe, named Will Fern, and his little niece, Lillian. They were just about to walk into a trap, set by the alderman, to get them delivered to prison. Instead, Toby has Will and Lillian spend the night at his and Meg's house.

That night, however, Toby hears the bells calling to him, stronger than ever. Toby goes to the bells, only to find out that he, too is a spirit -- and that, without his being aware of it, he's been a spirit for ten years! He'd tripped and fallen to his death on his way to the bells. But he now has the ability to travel through time and see what has happened to his family since the day he didn't consent to the marriage of Meg and Richard.

There are a whole bunch of horrible things that have happened for William, Lillian, Richard, and Meg, including Meg ending up having an illegitimate child with Richard, Richard ending up dying, and Meg attempting to commit suicide by throwing herself into a river with her baby! But thankfully Toby realizes that he should consent to the marriage. So the spirits let him go back to the time before he was called by them on New Year's Eve night. He consents to the marriage, and everybody lives happily ever after.

But the scene where Toby first encounters the ghosts of the bell tower is really interesting, like an amplification of the ghost scene from A Christmas Carol. I think A Christmas Carol had been written in 1843 and The Chimes in 1845. So the scene in The Chimes really could be a visual development of the scene in A Christmas Carol.

"He saw the tower, whither his charmed footsteps had brought him, swarming with dwarf phantoms, spirits, elfin creatures of the Bells. He saw them leaping, flying, dropping, pouring from the Bells without a pause. He saw them, round him on the ground; above him, in the air; clambering from him, by the ropes below; looking down upon him, from the massive, iron-girded beams; peeping in upon him, from the massive iron-girded beams; peeping in upon him, through the chinks and loopholes in the walls; spreading away and away from him in enlarging circles, as the water ripples give way to a huge stone that suddenly comes plashing in among them. He saw them, of all aspects and all shapes. ... He saw the air thick with them. ... Stone and brick, and slate, and tile, became transparent to him as to them. He saw them in the houses, busy at the sleepers' beds. He saw them soothing people in their dreams; he saw them beating them with knotted whips; he saw them yelling in their ears; he saw them playing softest music on their pillows; he saw them playing softest music on their pillows; he saw them cheering some with the songs of birds and the perfume of flowers; he saw them flashing awful faces on the troubled rest of others, from enchanted mirrors which they carried in their hands."

Keeping along the lines of the mystical elements of these two stories, I should say that one interesting thing about Dickens' novel Bleak House is also discussed in A Christmas Carol: the concept of spontaneous combustion.

In Bleak House, an old woman knows a secret about the main character. The woman is most likely going to tell the secret. But the night before the old woman has a chance to tell the secret -- she spontaneously combusts! She bursts into flames spontaneously!

Now, I thought that was just an interesting device that Dickens was using for that book. But it turns out that this must be a minor idee fixe of Dickens. Because it pops up in A Christmas Carol. Only, this time, spontaneous combustion is less active -- Scrooge only imagines that he has spontaneously combusted.

As Scrooge is waiting for the Ghost of Christmas Present to visit him, his bed is bathed in an indistinct light, which is so uncanny to Scrooge, that he fears his body might be preparing for spontaneous combustion.

"Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clck proclaimed the hour; and whicch, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion, without having the consolation of knowing it."

This passage got me a little bit excited because it dealt with a phenomenon which is part of Charles Fort's universe of phenomena. Charles Fort is not a big fan of attributing anything to the spirit world. So he wouldn't attribute the lights Scrooge saw to ghosts. Nor would he connect spontaneous combustion with the spiritual world.

Fort's idea of spontaneous combustion is, rather, that it is a result of someone holding so steadfastly to their resolutions, in spite of all the absurdities of holding monomaniacally to an ideal, that they become "translated into the Positive Absolute," which would be Fort's idea of going to Heaven. They can often do this by catching on fire and flying up to the stars. Fort seems to believe that the Prophet Elijah, for instance, was translated into the Positive Absolute, and that people only think he rode on a fiery chariot up into Heaven.

But The Chimes also has a Fortean passage. Spontaneous combustion is a less-discussed topic in Fort's works. But the greatest of all Fortean topics is rains of unusual objects. Fort collected all kinds of instances of rains of blood, rains of frogs, rains of fish, and so forth.

Fort believed that these rains came from other worlds. He believed that the conventional scientific explanation behind these rains, that they were the result of a whirlwind -- i.e. that a whirlwind lifted frogs or fish out of one location and dropped them in another -- was totally incorrect.

Dickens, however, about seventy-five years before Fort's writings, uses the conventional scientific explanation as part of a sight-gag to point out just how frail the poor porter Toby Veck is, and how violently windy the New Year's Eve night really is. Nevertheless, the passage, in its speaking of the "strange corners" of the world, does have a Fortean kind of undertone to it.

"The wind came tearing round the corner -- especially the east wind -- as if it had salied forth, express, from the confines of the earth, to have a blow at Toby. ... Incontinently [Toby's] little white apron would be caught up over his head like a naughty boy's garments, and his feeble little cane would be seen to wrestle and struggle unavailingly in his hand, and his legs would undergo tremendous agitation, and Toby himself all aslant, and facing now in this direction, and now in that, would be so banged and buffeted, and touzled, and worried, and hustled, and lifted off his feet, as to render it a state of things but one degree removed from a positive miracle, that he wasn't carried bodily into the air as a colony of frogs or snails or other very portable creatures sometimes are, and rained down again, to the great astonishment of the natives, on some strange corner of the world where ticket-porters are unknown."

I think everybody can see a direct line, thematically, from A Christmas Carol to the classic film It's a Wonderful Life. In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, a hard-hearted, rich man, is led, by three ghosts, to see the effects of his life circumstances on his own personality, as well as the effects of his own personality on the life circumstances of the people around him. The Christmas Future, or Christmas Yet To Come, is a Christmas altogether without Scrooge.

It's a Wonderful Life shows the Jimmy Stewart character in trouble with a hard-hearted, rich man. The Jimmy Stewart character actually wonders what life would be like if he had never existed. So an angel comes down from heaven and shows him what life would have been like if had never existed. The Jimmy Stewart character decides he wants to live, after all, and everybody in the community helps him, and he lives happily ever after.

Now, it's interesting to see, from the perspective of different time periods, how a very similar plot theme is explored in two very different ways. A Christmas Carol is a story of sin and redemption. The theme is very Christian, in the sense that Scrooge sees the roots of his error and the effects of his error, and is then brought into a state of absolute penance. From this point forward, he is redeemed, and he can have a good effect on the world.

But in It's a Wonderful Life, the Jimmy Stewart character is already a very good character. He isn't led by an angel to see the error of his ways. He's led by an angel to see that he's done a lot of good things. The error, it turns out, would arise if people like him weren't around.

But I think the difference between A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life is the expression of a loss of innocence.

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge's little sister dies. Scrooge removes himself from the world and becomes more influenced by society, to the point of completely alienating the woman he's in love with. The woman leaves Scrooge. Now Scrooge, loveless, is completely swayed by the money-making, business-like aspect of society.

Scrooge's real moral turning point is when he sees Tiny Tim, who is like a mirror of his little sister. Now that Scrooge sees that there is still innocence in this world, but that, like Tiny Tim, it is ailing, Scrooge begins to understand the importance of preserving this innocence.

It's a Wonderful Life, however, is, in itself a kind of exploration of the simultaneous loss of and preservation of innocence. The Jimmy Stewart character has been beaten down by society: his father has died, he's had to take over the business, he didn't get to be a war-hero like his brother, etc. But, all through this time, he's preserved his sense of idealism, which could be seen as a kind of innocence.

But now he's faced with the prospect of being thrown into jail for something he didn't even do. After fighting over and over again to preserve his ideal of a pure, innocent world, the Jimmy Stewart character is finally overwhelmed by the fact that the world isn't as pure and ideal as he would like to think it is. And, confronted with his own sense of guilt in such a guilty world, he wishes he were dead, that he'd never existed in the world. But, from this point, he's led to see how he's actually preserved innocence and purity within this dirty, guilty world.

The penultimate development of this plot theme was explored in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episode, "Cavender Is Coming." In that episode, comedian Carol Burnett plays a down-on-her-luck woman in New York. She can't hold down a job. She has aspirations to be an artist. But she hasn't gotten a break yet. But she's a generally happy person, and she's well-loved by everybody in her neighborhood.

Up in Heaven, an inept, cigar-smoking angel named Cavender is given one last chance to prove that he's a worthy angel. If he fails, he'll be sent to Hell. If he succeeds, he'll finally get his wings.

Cavender is assigned to help the Carol Burnett character to have a better life. So he practices all this magic to give Carol Burnnett tons of money and a huge mansion and all kinds of glamorous friends. But Carol Burnett ends up being completely miserable with this life, and she wants to go back to her former life. Cavender lets Carol Burnett go back.

Heaven is at first angry that Cavender hasn't seemed to improve Carol Burnett's life. But then Heaven sees that Carol Burnett really is happy with her life, just the way it is. So Cavender is given his wings. His full-time job, now, is doing whatever he'd done for Carol Burnett, for people like Carol Burnett, to show them that they can really be happy in their own lives.

I guess A Christmas Carol, then, is a story about a man who isn't really reflective about his own place in the world. He reflects on his place in the world, and he sees that he needs to change the effect he has on the world. It's a Wonderful Life is about a man who is very aware of the world, but is a little innocent about the world itself. He needs to come to terms with the world as it is. And "Cavender Is Coming" is about a woman who is okay with herself and the world, but is pressured by the glitzy images of society and has to come to terms with herself as she is, compared to those idealized, glitzy, mass-media images.

I think that there is probably another development on this story: the sitcom. There are so many sitcoms that have the "what if I was never born" theme as one of their episodes. I haven't really thought about that.

But I think the ultimate development of this theme is the scene in Back to the Future 2 where Marty McFly travels to a world where the 2010s Biff has, by sneaking a gambling history book back to his 1950s self, managed to make his 1980s self rich. The 1980s sequence which results from this is very much like the film It's a Wonderful Life. Marty has never been born, and Marty's hometown is completely trashed out, some kind of town overrrun with gambling.

But in this case, Marty didn't really have any willful influence on these events. The question which created this alternate reality isn't whether Marty had come to terms with his place in society or the idealized innocence of society. It's fate, really. Marty sees one aspect of fate playing itself out. And, in order to stop it, Marty has to fight against someone who he already knows is bad.

I think that Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker is similar to A Christmas Carol. But it also develops with plot-themes that are more like those of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Charles Kingsley's Water Babies, and Kenji Miyazawa's Milky Way Railroad. These stories are all about trips to the land of the dead. And I believe that The Nutcracker is a trip to the land of the dead.

In this story, on Christmas Eve, a little girl receives a Nutcracker doll from a magician. The little boys pick on the girl, and almost seem to break the doll. The girl is horribly depressed. But later that night, she is spirited away, first to a land of soldier-toys fighting an army of mice, and then to the land of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, who puts on a show for both her and the Nutcracker, who, by this time, has become a little boy in a soldier's uniform.

It seems to me that the real conflict behind this story is that the little girl has to grow up. She may be experiencing her first romantic attraction to a boy. And so she's at the age where she has to give up her dolls.

Or -- I should say -- that that's what society says. Myself, being an adult baby, I don't believe that anybody ever has to give up their dolls. And if a boy wants to play with dolls, even when he's a grown man, he shouldn't feel bad in the slightest for doing it. And if he wants to play with dolls while wearing a diaper and sucking on a pacifier, then more power to him!

But, ever since the times of Ancient Greece, when girls, reaching "maturity," had to sacrifice their dolls to Artemis, I believe, burning them in one of them Artemis' caves, the idea has been that there is an age when girls should give up their dolls. And, even though the magician gives the little girl her Nutcracker doll, it is her last doll, and she will probably have to give it up as well, soon.

The fact that the boys bully the girl and even almost break the Nutcracker doll shows again that the girl's libido is shifting more into the world of romance. But the fact that the girl sees herself as potentially having to deal with the bullying and breaking nature of the world, as it shows itself to her through the boys, is a bit too much for the little girl to have to deal with right away.

Like the Jimmy Stewart character in It's a Wonderful Life, the girl has to deal with the facts of life. She has to deal with the fact that the world isn't as innocent and ideal as she'd like it to be. But she's so conflicted by the difference between her ideal world and the world of reality that she doesn't even want to live anymore.

So the Nutcracker accompanies the girl on the journey she wants to go on -- a journey to the land of the dead. From here, I'm not sure how the development works. It seems like the dance itself must be a kind of mandala. The girl and the boy see dance after dance, each one more beautiful than the next. And finally, the girl and the boy see themselves as adults, dancing beautifully with each other.

I feel like what must be being said here is that we all have to deal with a certain element of meanness in the world. But if we can get through the meanness and hold onto the core aspects of ourselves -- partly by realizing the core goodness and skill of the people around us, and partly by realizing our own core goodness and skill -- then we can achieve very beautiful things and even find love in the world.

The girl, I believe, finding out this truth in the land of the dead, is finally able to return to the land of the living.

The American Ballet Theatre performance of The Nutcracker had, I believe, a new choreography by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. Some of it was really nice.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about dance to discuss the choreography very well. What I found about a lot of the movement in the first Act was that it was a little disorganized and choppy. I also felt that the scene where the marionettes dance for the children was that they didn't produce too much of a marionette kind of feel.

But the end of the first Act, with the snow fairies, was incredibly beautiful. And almost all the dance in the second Act was really lovely. The first scene, where we're introduced to all the different dancers, is great.

The different "national" dancers were all nice. The Spanish dance had a lot of flaring up of skirts, which was visually very lovely. The male Spanish dancers also did a lot of jumping, which I generally tend to like.

There was a scene with, I suppose, an Arab man and his harem. It was pretty entertaining. And there were a lot of lifting and sliding motions, where the man would lift or slide some of the harem women, or the women would lift or slide the man. But there was kind of, as I remember it, a lot of running, too. It was more like running than dancing, which, in my opinion, kind of messed up the rhythm a bit.

The scene with the Chinese man and woman was incredible. It was very dynamic. The man was constantly lifting the woman up into the air or spinning her around vertically. I liked it a lot.

There was a scene with three male dancers who wore red and white suits and big hats almost like inverted cones. Their dance was humorous, with a lot of twisty joint movements and mock-fights. It was pretty fun.

There was also a dance with five women. The women wore pink tophats, green blouses with pink lacing, and puffy, pink skirts with green zigzag designs along the edge of the skirts. They did moves with a lot of spins in them. The spins were really nice, and the visual aspect of the spins was heightened by the skirts and green zigzag patterns.

There was also a very big scene with, I believe, twenty female dancers and four male dancers. The female dancers were all in colorful, flower-like dresses. The male dancers were all dressed like bees. The dance of the bees and flowers was dazzlingly beautiful. There was a lot of variety to the dance. There were a lot of impressive jumps and throws and interchanges of positions between the dancers. And it all had a good rhytmm.

The dance between the head female and male dancers, who were like adult versions of the girl and the Nutcracker-turned-boy, was pretty great. The dance had two pas de deux, where the two danced together. The pas de deux were really fabulous. They were dynamic and had good structure and rhythm. But there were also solos for the man and woman. Those I liked less. I'm pretty sure it was just because of my own lack of understanding. But I couldn't catch the structure or rhythm of the solos.

I unfortunately don't have a lot of time, now -- but I did want to discuss Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares a little bit. I'd never seen the show before. My friend, not being able to get home for Christmas either, had invited me over for dinner. While eating, my friend showed me a You Tube episode of the United States version of Kitchen Nightmares. My friend, a huge fan of reality shows, is addicted to this show in particular.

The episode was so interesting to me that we watched one more United States episode and then two United Kingdom episodes. The episodes we watched dealt with the SushiKo, Oceana, Walnut Tree Inn, and Curry Lounge restaurants.

I don't want to give plot summaries of these episodes. The U.S. episodes are available on YouTube, and the U.K. episodes are available, in the U.S., on Netflix.

What I like about the U.K. episodes is what they show of local life around the restaurants. The Walnut Tree Inn is located near Abergavenny, in Wales. The landscapes of Abergavenny are incredible. And the town scenes are really nice, as well. It's nice to see the booth-shops and the lovely charm of the old town.

The Curry Lounge is located in Nottingham. This town is also nice. But we get to see a lot of non-tourist aspects of it! We see a cricket-field. We see a local grocery store, where Gordon and the Curry Lounge's head-chef, Khan, go find some ingredients for new dishes. We see a plaza where some Indian dancers perform to promote the re-vamped Curry Lounge.

But what's also interesting about the show is the way that Ramsay explores the way the restaurant is working, in terms of the people at the restaurant. Ramsay sees the manager of the Walnut Tree, for instance, as a very intelligent, very charming person who can "charm the pants off of anybody and sell a really good bottle of wine." Ramsay has a really intelligent argument with the manager, trying to convince him to reduce to prices of his food and work on making money by pushing the manager's personal asset: his ability to sell wine.

Also at the Walnut Tree, Ramsay gets involved with the two sous chefs -- one of whom is a good, creative chef and good at organizing his staff, but who is a bit too cocky and not a really great team player; and the other who is an incredibly talented chef, but who is so shy that when he tries to address the staff he can barely be heard.

The personalities at the Curry Lounge are also very interesting. The head chef is a perfectionist with a real passion for cooking local dishes. But he's hindered by the manager-owner, Raz, who has come into the restaurant business after having been a pharmaceutical salesman, and still has a bit too much of a "pick and mix," "please everybody" kind of outlook to his menu, which leads to a kind of a bland menu.

The United States version of the show is a bit crazier. The SushiKo episode was actually nice. In that episode, a Japanese sushi chef, Akira, who had started up his own restaurant had begun neglecting his duties as a chef and was getting overwhelmed with the manager duties, which his wife was actually a little more geared to take care of. So Ramsay had to get Akira back into the role of chef, where Akira seemed a lot happier.

But the Oceana episode was totally crazy. It was entertaining as hell. But it was just a total Jerry Springer-esque reality-show kind of situation. Violence, ignorance, filth -- they had it all at Oceana. And things eventually got so bad that Ramsay had to walk out, not even halfway through the project. He had to give up. Things were too bad. But it was still pretty entertaining.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Incest and Whoredom" -- Defoe's Moll Flanders

Moll Flanders is like a Le Morte D'Arthur of sex. Given the French colloquialism for an orgasm, one could even think of Moll Flanders as a Le Petite Morte D'Arthur, except that in this case, the Arthur would be a female figure -- Moll herself.

Defoe's style is very plain-spoken and very tightly episodic, just like Thomas Malory's style. And so the comparison between the two can be easily seen.

But there's another easily drawn comparison -- between Moll Flanders and the Marquis de Sade's Juliette. Juliette is a 1,300-page-long novel charting the progress of Juliette through the sadistic world of aristocratic sex, scandal, and murder. It's an incredible book, unbelievably powerful in its scope of imagination, as Camille Paglia points out, and unflinchingly on the side of evil.

Moll Flanders is a bit more balanced between the world of morality and the world of amorality. Defoe moralizes at the beginning of his book, trying to counteract the feelings of excitement that the readers might get from the sex stories or the thieving stories. But he is so plain-spoken in his style, that there's never a sense of total regret in the course of the. Rather, Moll is seen as facing situations of necessity and acting in whatever way she can.

I think there are a lot of differences between Sade's Juliette and Defoe's Moll. The sensuality of both books is very powerful.

The sensuality of Sade eventually works itself up into a truly murderous frenzy. The opening scene of Sade's novel, where Juliette is brought into a room with women and a little girl, and has sex with all of them, is obviously meant to be arousing. But even this first scene is a sex of force -- it's very forward-thrusting. And, eventually the sexuality works its way into murder, which doesn't turn me on so much.

Moll Flanders' sense of sensuality is also overt. Although sex act itself is never expressly described, as far as I can remember, when sex is the subject of a passage, it is very strongly felt. And, in my opinion, it's felt from a woman's point of view -- or, rather, from Defoe's imagination of a woman's point of view. One can really feel Moll's desire -- vaginal desire -- and vaginal satisfaction. When Moll speaks of being pregnant, I (at least) almost feel pregnant along with her.

But another interesting difference between Sade's Juliette and Defoe's Moll Flanders is the social outlook. Sade's Juliette is as bombastic and overwhelming as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. But Defoe's Moll is a product of the pre-Civil War and Civil War years in England. Her attitude toward life seems to match that of the poets Samuel Johnson speaks of in his Lives of the Poets.

Whereas Sade's philosophy takes Machiavellianism beyond an extreme, Defoe's reduces its power by shifting its sphere of influence. The philosophy of Moll is somewhat Machiavellian -- or, what the conventional idea of Machiavellianism is -- except that it is perhaps a Machiavellian philosophy of the middle class. There's the same sense of cold calculation involved that might go into building an empire. But now, the sense of cold calculation, based on necessity, goes into building a household, a life for two people.

It's interesting to see how, in Moll Flanders, there are two distinct halves to this book. In the first half of the book, Moll is consantly getting married and re-married. In the second half of the book, she's too old to have children, and thus, it seems to her, too old to get married again. And so she takes on the life of a thief.

I'd guess that Moll's life as a thief begins around the time of the Restoration -- so that the first half of her life is pre-Civil War, and the second half is post-Civil War. In this sense, there might be a statement made as to the character of England before and after the war.

The key to it might be that the husband Moll eventually ends up with for good is named Jemmy, or is rather nicknamed Jemmy. Jemmy would be a generic name for James. And James could possibly be seen as King James. And now -- forgive me if I get my history all wrong. But I think King James was exiled during the time of Defoe's writing of this book, around 1720. And the book is conceived to have been written by Moll herself, around the age of seventy, in 1683, which, I think, was around the time that King James took the throne from Charles II.

Moll's life of theft follows upon her marrying Jemmy, being gotten with child by him, and then being left by him -- not because he is deserting her, but because he is trying to make his fortune in Ireland. But both Moll (who re-marries, but then loses that husband as well) and Jemmy end up becoming thieves, and are both cast into Newgate prison, where they reunite with each other and begin their efforts at a happier life.

So this seems like it could possibly be a story about England reuniting with King James. But I don't know enough about British history to make a really solid guess at it.

But what really strikes me about the very clearly delineated halves of Moll's life is that they seem to be, at least from a twenty-first century view, two un-integrated halves of a normal life. On the one side of the life is sexuality. On the other side of the life is business.

Granted, in Moll's case the business is thievery. And though it could be assumed that Moll's business life is thievery because that's the only business a woman would be allowed into in her times, it's also possible, given that Moll's final husband Jemmy also lives the life of a thief, that thievery was simply thought of as a profession of the poor in Post-War England.

What I'd rather venture to guess is that Moll, as a woman, was attempting, through the first half of her life, to find a husband. But after all Moll's bad luck with husbands, Moll finally has to take on a profession of her own. So, not desiring to go into prostitution, Moll goes into the business of thievery.

But from the very beginning of the book, or, as soon as Moll, as a little girl, is able to think for herself, Moll wants nothing more than to be able to work for herself. Her first desire is to get a skill by which she can make her own money, so that she doesn't need to answer to anybody else -- man or woman.

Moll is simply socialized, like both men and women are, in her first household experience, to be more interested in the love of men than seeing to her own welfare. And, step by step, she gets herself past an age where she can perform any kind of skill where she may have, had she started at an earlier age, been able to make her own way in life.

So Moll's life, overly based in a love aspect for the first half, becomes overly based in a business aspect in the second half. But, since the business aspect had been neglected all through the first part of her life, Moll is thrown to destiny regarding what career it is that will be her obsession.

Destiny leads Moll into prison. But it also leads her back to her husband Jemmy. And, once Moll has integrated both her love life and her business life, she is able finally to get onto her own to feet. Her story ends with her living in comparative prosperity with her husband.

What is also interesting to me is that Defoe's England (and Moll travels through a decent amount of it) seems to be almost oblivious to the War. Moll is worried about her own life, taking care of herself. Everybody around Moll seems just as insensible of, or de-sensitized to, the War going on around them. They're all just doing what they can to keep their own domestic lives in order.

The setting of America is also interesting in this sense. Moll goes to America twice. And both times, the feeling of America is almost like it's an extension, or, rather, an annexation, of England. Moll doesn't seem to feel too much of the inconvenience or hardship that a lot of people write about when they speak of the people who came to America. Rather, her drama, her struggles, are more related to the same things she had been dealing with in England.

I'm going to devote the rest of the post to a summary of the plot. The plot itself, very much like Malory's Arthur plot, is, really, the best thing about the book.

The story begins with Moll telling how, while her mother was pregnant with Moll, she got caught for stealing some skeins of fabric. In those days, in England, stealing was punishable by death. But since Moll's mother was pregnant with Moll, she wasn't sentenced to death. Instead, she was allowed to give birth to Moll. And after she gave birth to Moll, she was "transported," as a prisoner-slave, to America.

Moll is then put into the care of a woman who runs a school for little orphan girls. The woman is very kind. She teaches the kids a little, and puts them to work for her, doing little things to make money.

But Moll, as soon as she becomes old enough to reflect on her situation -- I think when she's around five years old or so -- knows that very soon she'll be put into a home for older girls. She'll be made, at best, into a domestic servant. She feels a terror at this prospect. She would rather do something to take care of herself -- work for her own money, and not be at anybody else's mercy.

But, telling the woman this, Moll says she wants to be a "gentlewoman," thinking being a gentlewoman means, not being a woman of a certain rank in society, but simply being a woman able to take care of herself. The woman, however, thinks the "gentlewoman" statement was incredibly cute. She tells some of the women she does work for, themselves gentlewomen, about this. The gentlewomen all think this is very cute as well, and they wish to see Moll.

Moll is a very pretty little girl. And she becomes something of a little showpiece, a cute, little entertainment, for these gentlewomen. It's like Moll is a toddler in tiaras. And these gentlewomen are all driven wild by her. Just as a side note, if there were any part in the book where I wished I could be Moll Flanders, it would be right here: to be an angelically pretty little girl with all these women in love with me. The only thing I'd ask for in addition would be the ability to wear modern disposable diapers all the time.

Moll manages, through the affection that the gentlewomen show her, to garner some of her own craft-business. She makes a decent amount of money by doing various tasks for the gentlewomen. She gives all this money to the woman taking care of her. Plus, she teaches the little kids how to do the tasks as well. Thus shifting for herself, she makes her situation so that she doesn't have to leave the woman's house after all.

However, when Moll is about fourteen years old, the woman dies. The woman's family disbands the school. The woman had saved all of Moll's money, for Moll to take when she moved out on her own. But the woman's family doesn't give Moll the money. And Moll is basically sent out onto the streets penniless.

But all the gentlewomen remember their affection for Moll. One of the gentlewomen invites Moll into her household. There, Moll becomes great friends with the two daughters of the house, and even begins to take part in all of their lessons. Moll is also reaching the age where she's beginning to turn men's heads. Some even say she's more attractive than the sisters.

However, the family also has two sons. And both sons fall in love with Moll. The older son falls in love with Moll first. He seduces her, and they carry on a sexual relationship for a little while.

But then the younger son, Robin, falls in love with Moll even harder. He insists upon marrying Moll. Moll doesn't want to marry Robin. She's reall in love with the older brother. And, she worries, if she doesn't marry the older brother, she'll be considered a whore, since she had sex with a man without marrying him. And she really doesn't want to be thought of as a whore.

But the older brother himself insists upon Moll marrying Robin. By this time, the gentlewomen and her daughters (who were probably themselves a bit in love with Moll), are very jealous of Moll. But the mother comes back around to loving Moll, and she lets Moll marry Robin.

Moll marries Robin and has a couple kids by him. But Robin dies. And when he dies, his family kicks Moll out of the house, without her kids. Moll is, fortunately, left with a bit of money from her husband.

So Moll goes off. She first spends a brief time partying with all kinds of guys. But she eventually settles on a husband. But the husband ends up getting himself in all kinds of debt. He even manages to use up all the money that Moll's first husband had left her. The husband verbally annuls the marriage -- freeing Moll of any obligation, at least morally -- and makes a run from the law.

But Moll herself is completely destitute. So she goes and lives at the Mint (a name for a poorhouse?). After a while, Moll gets out of the Mint with a female friend of hers. Moll helps the female friend catch a husband -- a captain who had actually tried to weasle his way out of a marriage to the woman, but whom Moll schemes back into marrying the woman. The woman is grateful and works to find Moll herself a husband.

Moll is then courted by a man who, it seems, is looking for a woman with a fortune. Moll eventually makes it plain that she doesn't have a fortune. But the man marries Moll, anyway. Moll is just too irresistible.

Moll's new husband actually has a mother in America. The husband wants to go back to America and work his mother's plantation. He feels like if he can do this, he can make enough money for a really good life for himself and Moll. Moll at first doesn't want to go to America. But she eventually goes.

But, in America, Moll finds that her new mother-in-law is actually -- her own mother! Her mother, after having given birth to Moll, and having been "transported" as a prisoner-slave to America, eventually worked her way to freedom and, I think, got enough land together to take care of herself and her son.

But what all of this means to Moll is that she's married her own brother! Not only has she married her own brother, but she's now pregnant with his child! Moll now thinks of herself as both a whore and a committer of incest. She never married her first lover. And now she's married her own brother!

Moll reveals to her husband that she is his sister. The husband attempts suicide. But he is stopped in time. He verbally, but, again, not legally, annuls his marriage to Moll and allows Moll to go back to England. He gives Moll a little bit of money to take care of herself. But he himself is, mentally, never quite the same.

Moll goes back to England without her son. And with all these unknown sons rambling around England and America, I kept expecting Moll eventually to have sex with one of her own sons. But she never does. Or, at least I never picked up on it.

Moll finds her way to the town of Bath. While at a lodging-house there, she meets another man. This man is married. But his wife is insane, a resident at a nearby mental asylum. The man has a house and business in London. But he lives here so that he can be close to his wife's mental asylum.

Eventually Moll and the man become good friends. The man gives Moll the "job" of seeing to some of his needs, such as cooking his food, and so forth. There is a definite sexual attraction between Moll and the man. But the man keeps from letting the situation get sexual.

But the man eventually gets terribly ill. Moll has to take care of him. She nurses the man back to health. He's terribly grateful to her. But now their love for each other is even stronger. The man plays a weird game with Moll where he proves he can resist temptation by sleeping in Moll's bed at night without touching her. He even ends up sleeping in bed with her while he's naked!

But eventually, one drunk night, Moll and the man let their guard slip. The two finally have sex. They carry on in this sexual relationship until Moll gets pregnant. Once Moll is pregnant, she is sent off to a nice place to live by herself with her child. The man only sees Moll occasionally. But he always sends money to take care of Moll and her child.

But, six years later, the man gets sick again. This time, all by himself, recovering, he renounces his relation with Moll. He gives Moll some money to go live by herself. And he takes Moll's children into his own house.

So now Moll is left all by herself again. By this time she's about forty years old. She goes back to London. She meets a woman from the "North country" who tells Moll that living in the North country is a lot cheaper. The woman apparently has family up in Lancashire. So Moll resolves to go up to Lancashire with this woman.

However, the woman is only after Moll's money. She knows that Moll has received a certain amount of money from the man at Bath. But she doesn't know how much. Because of this money, Moll has become the object of rumor. Soon, the amount of money Moll is rumored to have inflates to an absurd degree. And the woman thinks she is bound to get some of this rumoured money.

But Moll, unsure of what the North country will be like, decides to put her money in the bank for the time being, for safe keeping. But while at the bank, Moll catches the eye of a banker.

The banker is so smitten by Moll that, in the short time before Moll leaves for Lancashire, the banker proposes to Moll. The only problem is that the banker is married -- married to a whore, he says: a woman who, the banker has found, has run around on him with other men. The man, before he'd even seen Moll, was going to divorce this woman. But now he really wants to divorce her -- so he can marry Moll!

But Moll won't even entertain marriage to the banker until the man has obtained a divorce certificate. And so she goes up to Lancashire, promising to marry the banker as soon as he produces a divorce certificate.

In Lancashire, though, Moll meets another man: Jemmy. It turns out that the woman-friend of Moll's has schemed a way for Jemmy and Moll to get married. In this way, Jemmy can come in on Moll's fortune. Then the woman can get a slice of that money.

But it's eventually revealed that Moll doesn't have nearly the amount of money that the woman and Jemmy thought she had. The woman is kicked out of Lancashire by Jemmy and his cohorts. But Jemmy himself has actually fallen in love with Moll for real. And he feels terrible for having mislead Moll. He even tells Moll that, all along, his plan wasn't to steal from Moll. He was only planning to marry her, then use her money and take the both of them to Ireland, where he had a business plan whereby he could make enough money to start a comfortable family with Moll.

Jemmy is so guilty that he leaves Moll, freeing her from his marriage to him. But Moll is so in love that she wants Jemmy back. Jemmy is also so in love with Moll that he wants her back. So Jemmy comes back to Moll in Lancashire.

They go off to some other town to figure out what they're going to do with their lives. Moll tries over and over to convince Jemmy to go to America. She's certain that she and Jemmy could have a good fortune by raising a farm there. But Jemmy abhors the idea of going to America. He'd rather go to Ireland and work on his business scheme.

Eventually Moll lets Jemmy have his way. But she won't go to Ireland with Jemmy. She'll simply wait for Jemmy. Moll assumes, when Jemmy leaves, that she'll probably never see him again.

But it then turns out that Jemmy has gotten Moll pregnant. Moll, all by herself and pregnant, can absolutely not be seen out in the English society of that day. So she finds a governess who runs a house for single, pregnant women. Most of the women in this house are prostitutes who have gotten pregnant. Moll and the governess become really good friends.

But, just before Moll is about to deliver her child, she receives a letter from the banker. The banker has finally gotten a divorce from his wife. Plus, the banker's wife has committed suicide, being so ashamed of what she's done to the man. The banker is now very insistent upon marrying Moll.

Moll would like to marry the banker. But how can she? She's already married to Jemmy. And she's about to have Jemmy's child?

Moll discusses all of this with the governess. The governess tells Moll not to worry about Jemmy, since Jemmy wasn't a "real husband," anyway. As for the child, the governess, an expert in putting kids out of sight, tells Moll that she can find a home for the child. She assures Moll that she can find a home for the child, and that Moll will always be able to check in on the welfare of the child, without anybody knowing that the child is hers.

So Moll has and leaves her child and goes off to marry the banker. She's married to the banker for another five or so years. But the banker gets involved with a really terrible business deal and loses all of his money. The sudden loss of fortune puts the banker into such a state of depression that he actually withers away and dies. And Moll is left all on her own again -- but this time with two children she'd had with the banker.

Moll lives for about a year on the very small funds that the husband was able to leave her. As those funds run out, Moll, I believe, manages to find a way for her children to live with some other people. But Moll herself is in a lot of trouble. She believes herself really past the age of childbirth -- she's in her fifties by now, I think. And she, therefore, also sees herself as being past the age of marriage.

After a brief period of excruciating poverty, Moll is finally driven to thievery. She first steals a bundle of goods that is left unattended.

Moll's first theft involves a pretty, little girl who has just finished up with her dancing class. The little girl is drawn to Moll, and allows Moll to lead her into a side street. In a scene with undertones of the opening scene of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale, Moll manages to mesmerize the little girl so much that when Moll takes a gold necklace off the girl's neck, the girl doesn't even notice.

Moll then manages to be nearby when two male thieves are running off with some skeins of expensive fabric. They drop some skeins near Moll in their panic to get away from a crowd. Once the crowd gets away, Moll takes the skeins of fabric for herself.

Moll now has a lot of stuff. But she needs to sell it. She doesn't know how she can do so safely. In order to get some sort of advice, she writes to the governess of the house where she'd stayed while she was pregnant with Jemmy's baby.

It turns out that the governess had to shut down her house for pregnant women, after one of the women sued her for some reason or another. Now the governess runs a pawn shop, which is basically where thieves in the town bring stuff that they've stolen from around town.

The governess takes Moll's stuff. But she also loves Moll very much. Moll and the governess are still very good friends. And so the governess allows Moll to stay at her house and work for her.

Moll figures she is finished with her life of stealing. She takes up some small-time crafts work: the kind we could easily imagine her having done when she was a little girl. But this is barely paying for her food. Moll is desparate for some way to make sufficient money.

Then, one day, while Moll is in a public house, a boy forgets that he's already brought Moll a tankard of ale. He brings Moll a second tankard, forgetting the first. Moll steals the first tankard. She brings it to the governess. The tankard is silver -- it can bring Moll a good amount of money.

The governess tells Moll she'd actually be a pretty good thief. Moll is at first shocked by this proposition. But the governess insists. She even connects Moll with a woman who serves as Moll's "schoolmistress" for thievery.

Moll is generally taught how to pick pockets and perform petty thefts from stores. But, after an unlucky theft, Moll's teacher is picked up and thrown in prison. She's later hanged for theft.

Moll regrets her teacher's death, and she resolves never to steal again. But the governess tells Moll to keep stealing. So Moll does. Moll manages to go out during a great fire in town. During the fire, people are packing up whatever goods they can move out of their houses and running out of their houses. Other people are helping these people.

But in the midst of this panic, Moll rushes into a house and grabs a sack of somebody's possessions. She then acts like she's running the possessions to whatever house the person is taking refuge in. But she skips out of the line of running people and runs back to the governess' house. This haul again brings Moll in a decent amount of money.

Moll does a little more thieving by herself. But the governess then again tries to set Moll up with another female partner-thief. Moll's partner again gets caught in the act, is taken to prison, and is hanged for theft.

The governess again tries to get Moll hooked up with a partner. This time the partner is a man. But Moll, in order to work with this partner, has, for reasons I can't remember, also to dress as a man. Moll calls herself, in this guise, "Gabriel Spencer." The man and Moll share quarters and even sleep in the same bed.

Two men in bed. And one is a woman. I thought there might have been some enjoyable sex scene here. But there wasn't. Oh, well.

And, personally, I think that these attempts of the governess are attempts to "match-make," sexually, for Moll. I think the female partners are supposed to be female love-partners for Moll. But Moll doesn't take to them. So the governess tries to attach Moll to a man as a love-partner. But the governess can only think in terms, it seems, of homoeroticism. So, in order to "match-make" with a man, the governess must think of Moll as a man.

By this time, Moll has lived with the governess for a few years. And I think of the governess and Moll almost as two wives themselves. But the governess is also a mother-figure for Moll.

Anyhow, not longer after this partnership starts up, Moll's male partner gets himself caught for theft. He tries to implicate Moll, as Gabriel Spencer, in the theft. But nobody can find this man Gabriel Spencer. So Moll is free. The man goes to prison, then is hung for theft.

Later on, Moll tries again to steal a sack of goods during a housefire. But as she's rushing up toward the house, somebody throws a bed mattress out the window. Moll is flattened. But she's not majorly hurt.

After this, Moll meets a drunken gentleman who takes a drunken liking to her. Moll seduces the man and gets the man even more drunk than he already is. Later, when the man passes out in the carriage, Moll steals everything of value off the man. This stuff, altogether, is, again, worth quite a bit to Moll.

But the governess, hearing Moll's story, has an idea of who this man is. In order to secure Moll's freedom from legal injury, the governess goes and meets with the man.

The man is actually very kind. He's married, and he's never had an affair on his wife before the night with Moll. But Moll was just too irresistible, even in her mid-fifties. The man had to be with her.

The man, it turns out, feels like he got what he deserved, having let his guard down by getting as drunk as he got. He has no desire, as well, to make the case public by making charges against Moll as a thief. In fact, he likes Moll very much. He would like to meet her again.

The governess, in hopes of something nice happening for Moll, arranges a meeting between Moll and the man. Moll and the man have an affair for a little while, and the man does give Moll some money. But the man eventually loses interest.

So Moll goes back to a life of thieving. But one day, while out, in the guise of a widow, looking for some opportunity for stealing, she's mistaken for another thief who, in the guise of a widow, had stolen from a store.

Moll, as well as a lot of the crowd who had seen the actual thief, insists that she was not the thief. But the shop-owner won't listen. He insists the constable take her to jail. But then the real thief is found.

With the help of the governess, who finds Moll a good lawyer, Moll sues the shop-owner for wrongfully accusing Moll of theft. This brings Moll in a bit of money.

Moll then decides to go out for theft in the guise of a beggar-woman. In this guise she steals a horse. But Moll finds that, as a beggar-woman, she's a target for other people, like sadistic murderers. So she ditches the beggar-woman guise.

During the procession of the Queen one day, Moll steals some goods that a woman has left by the way so that she could press into the crowd and get a better look at the Queen. On the same day, Moll goes to Covent Gardens and gambles, at the behest of a man at the table who likes Moll, using the man's money. Moll makes a decent amount of money, and the man gives Moll a good amount of it. But Moll decides never to do any gambling again.

Next, I believe, Moll has been implicated in some crime involving another woman. In order to get out of the public view, Moll goes on a trip. While on her trip, she goes to Colchester, where she'd grown up, and where she'd married her first husband. She finds out that the older brother, Moll's first real love, has died.

Moll comes back down to town. On Christmas Day, she goes out again to steal. She goes into a silver shop, the owner of which has, unbelievably, left unattended, with a bunch of silver just laying out. But just as Moll is about to steal the unattended silver, a man from across the street runs into the store.

Moll is composed enough to play convincingly like she had only been in the store to buy something. But she has to buy six silver spoons in order to prove that she really had been in the store for legitimate reasons.

Moll seems to be addicted -- she has no sense of when it's time to quit. She goes straight from almost getting caught -- to another place, where she tries again to steal. But this time she's caught outright.

Moll is sent to Newgate prison -- the same prison she was born in. At Newgate, Moll sees Jemmy, who's also been caught in an act of theft.

The governess gets Moll as much help as she can. But it's no use. Moll was reall caught outright in her theft. She's convicted of theft, and sentenced to death by hanging.

The governess is so distraught by Moll's plight that she falls into a terrible depression and becomes so ill that she almost dies. Even once she's well, she spends the rest of her days in penance for the life she's lead.

But, in the midst of her search for penance, the governess has also met a really kind minister. The governess sends the minister to comfort Moll. But when the minister meets Moll, he likes her so much that he decides he's going to try to save her.

The minister actually does manage to save Moll. However, instead of Moll being let free, she is sentenced to be "transported" to America, to work on the plantations as a prisoner-slave. This is fine enough for Moll, who, it seems, has wanted to go back to America for a long time.

Moll also manages to scheme her way into meeting with her husband, Jemmy. Jemmy, it turns out, wasn't caught in the thick of the theft he'd been brought in for. Jemmy's partners were sentenced to death. But Jemmy himself was given a choice -- I think -- between death by hanging and transportation to America. Even in America, though, Jemmy wouldn't have to be a prisoner-slave. He just had to stay in America.

But Jemmy dislikes so much the thought of going to America that he's seriously thinking of taking death by hanging as an option! Moll has to convince Jemmy to come to America with him. And she eventually manages it so that she and Jemmy head to America on the same ship together.

The governess makes sure that Moll and Jemmy are well cared for on their journey to America. Transported prisoners get to take their money and possessions with them, to make a start in America. And Jemmy and Moll have enough money to get a good start in life in America -- once Moll buys back her freedom from prisoner-slavery.

Moll and Jemmy get to America, and, through the kindness of the ship's captain, find a person to buy Moll and sell her back to herself. Moll and Jemmy are now ready to start their new life.

Moll discovers that her mother has died and has left her some land. So she goes to find out to figure how she can claim this land.

Moll meets the son she'd had by her brother. The son is incredibly nice and incredibly happy to see his mother -- who, for all these years, he thought was dead. It turns out that Moll's brother-husband was so affected by his act of incest that he basically went insane, and, nowadays, couldn't even recognize anybody.

Moll gets her mother's land, as well as a huge lavishment of gifts and love from her son. She is sent back to Jemmy. The next year, Moll's brother-husband dies, and Moll forms an even stronger relationship with her son.

Moll and Jemmy work hard out in America and make a really good amount of money. Finally, Moll and Jemmy decide to move back to England with the money they've made. Apparently it's now okay for Jemmy to come back to England. And Moll and Jemmy live happily -- and in penance for their sinful lives -- ever after.