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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beauty and the Beast

I'm reading Hayden Herrera's life-changingly awesome biography of Frida Kahlo for the second time. The first time around, I was struck by Frida's resilience in the face of her horrific health problems. I feel equally struck this time around--perhaps more struck. It's just shocking to read the description of Frida's terrible accident on the public bus:

"The steel handrail had literally skewered her body at the level of the abdomen; entering on the left side, it had come out through the vagina."

Herrera writes of the aftermath of this accident:

"Frida's life from 1925 on was a grueling battle against slow decay. She had a continuous feeling of fatigue, and almost constant pain in her spine and in her right leg. There were periods when she felt more or less well and her limp was almost unnoticeable, but gradually her frame disintegrated. A lifelong friend, Olga Campos, who has Frida's medical records from childhood to 1951 says that Friday had at least thirty-two surgical operations, most of them on her spine and her right foot, before she succumbed twenty-nine years after the accident. 'She lived dying,' said writer Andrés Henestrosa, another close friend for many years."

This time around, I'm also struck, again, by just how ugly Diego Rivera was.

Diego, Herrera, writes, was "undeniably ugly."

Yet, she continues: "Part of his appeal was his monstrous appearance--his ugliness made a perfect foil for the type of woman who likes to play beauty to a beast..."

He is so ugly

I've always found Frida's self-portraits and photos disarming: even in reproduction her gaze is magnetic. And the fact that she so clearly reveled in the look of her famous unibrow and her light mustache inspires within me an expanded sense of feminine beauty.

To me, Frida was one of the most beautiful women of all time:

Taken by her father after the death of her mother

But Diego, by all objective standards of beauty,was just plain ugly. That's fine, of course. I'm sure he had a lot to offer. But really, does history offer a more glaringly obvious case of beauty and the beast? Arthur Miller and Marylin? Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts? I think Diego and Frida are the archetype of this fairy tale.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Letter to My Wife on the Eve of the Rapture

I've posted a new piece on The Nervous Breakdown:

My wife,

I would've liked to meet you at eighty. Our busy lives behind us, perhaps we could've watched all those movies we missed. I would've liked to see Hangover II. I would've liked to watch JAWS one last time. I miss you already. I know, we don't believe in Heaven, but tell me, please, when we meet again, somewhere, even if we're just two amoebas sailing over the waters of some new world-promise me you'll notice me. Forgive, my wife, it was I who lost our wedding rings. We never did make that trip to Jeweler's Row. It was I who never had the money. I had hoped to take care of you. I had hoped to buy you a ring. I had hoped to buy you an entire house. I had hoped we might sit in perfect stillness and wait for the good news. I had hoped to take you to Barcelona. We will never see Barcelona again. We will never share ice cream again. Forgive me, I let my illness make me crazy.

Read the rest of the post here...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Drunk in Some Serious Way: On Hearts, Poets, and Poetry

I've posted a new piece on The Nervous Breakdown:

When I recently received the good news that my uncle Deano, a poet, had undergone a successful heart transplant, I celebrated by re-reading some of his books. At the time, I hadn't read any poetry for months; and, though I began writing, at sixteen, with the ambition of following my uncle, I hadn't written a poem in six or seven years.

This experience-the joy (relief!) I felt for my uncle, coupled with my reading-initiated a new season for me.

Since then, I've devoured poems in the way, post-diagnosis, I've devoured medical information: with an obsessive, indiscriminate mania; as if in pursuit of some transformative antidote.

Read the rest of the post here...