Sunday, September 16, 2012

How’s your cultural literacy?

Delving my pile of reading one night I passed from Heaney to Meeker:

from “In the Attic” by Seamus Heaney

Like Jim Hawkins aloft in the crosstrees
Of Hispaniola, nothing underneath him
But still green water and clean bottom sand,

The ship aground, the canted mast far out
Above a seafloor where striped fish pass in shoals –
And when they’ve passed, the face of Israel Hands

That rose in the shrouds before Jim shot him dead
Appears to rise again … “But he was dead enough,”
the story says, “being both shot and drowned.”

source: The New Yorker February 9 & 16, 2009
The dunes rose steeply at the back of the cottage with their endless waves of white sand; the paths twisted and climbed through the stunted sprawling pines, half buried in sand – pines that could be climbed, and that, if you sort of squinted your eyes, became very like the crow’s nest of a sailing ship such as the one Jim Hawkins had sailed on. He could imagine his tormenters, in gay pirate costumes (but none so gay as his), toppling one after the other into the sea after some particularly deadly encounter with his trusty blade.
source: Better Angel a novel by Richard Meeker

The Meeker novel was originally published in 1933. I was reading an Alyson Publications paperback reissue. According to the introduction “Better Angel is possibly the first novel published in America to show male homosexuality in a positive light …” The excerpt above is from when the hero was a boy.

I didn’t remember who Jim Hawkins was until I got to the second passage. Oh yeah. Him.

No comments: