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Monday, 7 July 2008

Orlando

Our last book but one for the Nonbelieving Literati was A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Having read that and rather liked it, I pulled Orlando off the library shelves a while back, took it into a cafe and began to read.

I loved it, I swooned over it, I laughed with delight. It's one of my favourite books ever, I think, particularly the first half, where the title character is male. Orlando is known, among other things, for the unabashed lesbianism in the second half. That's all very well, and I appreciated it for the ground-breaking daring that it was, but to me, it was passages like this that really stood out:

The King was walking in Whitehall. Nell Gwyn was on his arm. She was pelting him with hazel nuts. ‘Twas a thousand pities, that amorous lady sighed, that such a pair of legs should leave the country.

Howbeit, the Fates were hard; she could do no more than toss one kiss over her shoulder before Orlando sailed.


Now, really! Oh, some may say that Orlando's legs may only be sighed over because he is somehow androgynous. Some may call the fact that Orlando is an object of desire a mere foreshadowing of his eventual femininity. Not I.

There is no denying it. I'm afraid I'm heterosexual.

***
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . .

There's many a fictional version of Shakespeare who has written that poem to some beautiful leading lady of the story; we love to wonder who could inspire such verse. In truth, however, it's probable that this famous sonnet was written to a young man -- and to me, this is a lovely thought. I've seen a few men I'd love to apply it to, men with sunshine in their smiles and a sloppy grace to their form. Shakespeare's eighteenth sonnet is more than just a superlative love poem. It's a rare literary glimpse of the beauty than men can have.

I'm not sure that I love men in the way that men want to be loved. I wouldn't mind loving women. It might be as much easier in some ways as it would be harder in others. It's just that when it comes down to it, I'd much rather compare a man to a summer's day than a woman. Not every man wants to hear that.

Hush, now, don't say it too loud, but men are beautiful. It's one of the best-kept secrets of all time.

3 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, I don't know that I'd call that a secret. :)

the chaplain said...

Thanks for saying what a lot of us think but don't say aloud.

L.L. Barkat said...

Just stopping in to say hi. :)