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The Oblation

February 14, 2013

Has it ever passed through your mind that there’s a certain amount of irony in the fact that a champion of the aesthetic movement, Oscar Wilde, made a good enough living from his writing to support a wife and two children? He was extraordinary.

Another extraordinary writer is David Sedaris, whose most memorable line, for me, is that he’s the one who makes tinfoil suits of armor for dead bees while his partner does the taxes. I’m a tinfoil suit of armor maker too.

Sometimes I appreciate Oscar Wilde’s wife Constance and David Sedaris’ partner Hugh. They have helped make my pleasure possible. Every once in a while I take a moment to appreciate Ron’s unwavering support in the tangled chain of decisions that have led to making my attempts at art possible. I like to think that my friends who are tinfoil suit of armor makers get a similar level of support, but I know that it’s not easy and some of them don’t. As Thomas Gray put it, “full many a flower is born to blush unseen.” And who can blame Constance for not being constant in her devotion to the person who eventually created what must have been an exquisitely humiliating living situation for her?

What happens to some of the people with wit or a lovely tenor voice or any talent that doesn’t get the right kind of notice at the right time? Nothing. They don’t get a lucky break and a few of them meet their ends like Willy Loman, believing themselves to be failures, possibly not even defended by their wives in a speech like Linda Loman’s: “attention, attention must be paid to such a man.” Few mothers manage to do what the mother of the author of A Confederacy of Dunces accomplished after her son’s death.

So for today let’s all look at life like the aesthetics, appreciating the swath of red that is the floral section of the grocery store, the form of the words our loved ones offer us, the sound of a singing voice. Let’s celebrate the ordinary process of making art and–if we know one–the person who makes it possible for us to keep trying to make our tinfoil suits of armor and other kinds of art.

For Ron, here’s a poem by one of the aesthetics, Algernon Charles Swinburne:

The Oblation

Ask nothing more of me, sweet;
All I can give you I give.
Heart of my heart, were it more,
More would be laid at your feet—
Love that should help you to live,
Song that should spur you to soar.

All things were nothing to give,
Once to have sense of you more,
Touch you and taste of you, sweet,
Think you and breathe you and live,
Swept of your wings as they soar,
Trodden by chance of your feet.

I that have love and no more
Give you but love of you, sweet.
He that hath more, let him give;
He that hath wings, let him soar;
Mine is the heart at your feet
Here, that must love you to live.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Ron permalink
    February 14, 2013 7:42 am

    I’ll put more tinfoil on the grocery list!

  2. February 14, 2013 12:13 pm

    This is such a great post. I have thought often about the long suffering spouses, partners, family members, etc. of authors and artists. It’s such a strange job, to sit alone and try to create something new. You can’t possibly achieve much without some sort of support system, yet it is a thankless job. It’s been interesting to see this latest string of books focusing on the wives or supporting staff of famous men (Loving Frank, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, The Paris Wife, The Aviator’s Wife). It shows just how much goes on behind the scenes in this famous lives.

    • February 15, 2013 5:33 pm

      I think the latest string of books about the support staff for famous men is an effect of feminism–we’re looking at a bigger picture.

  3. February 14, 2013 12:56 pm

    Happy Valentines Day!

  4. February 14, 2013 11:21 pm

    I want to make the tinfoil suits, but yet I do the taxes. Sigh.

    • February 15, 2013 5:34 pm

      I think it’s not enough to want to. You’ve got to get right in there and waste the time.

  5. February 15, 2013 6:31 am

    What a nice Valentine’s Day ode to spouses! I hate insects, even dead ones, so they’re not getting any little suits of armor out of me. I don’t do the taxes either, though, and I definitely appreciate that my spouse does!

    • February 15, 2013 5:35 pm

      Once, before we were married, I made a tinfoil suit of armor costume for myself and went to a party thinking I looked like a torture device, the iron maiden. My friends, however, asked me why I had dressed as a baked potato.

  6. February 15, 2013 1:26 pm

    I wanted to make a tinfoil suit but had to make dinner instead. Also, I keep thinking of the Oblation board in the Golden Compass. Hmm.

    • February 15, 2013 5:36 pm

      I am quite capable of burning or forgetting to start dinner in favor of tinfoil suit-making.

  7. February 17, 2013 12:28 pm

    Poor Constance. She did her best in a crappy situation. She tried to give poor Oscar Wilde money and access to his children, and he was irresponsible and a dope. People are not nice enough about poor Constance. (Although it was very uncool for her to lie and tell her children their father was dead.)

    • February 17, 2013 2:25 pm

      Sometimes our best is not good enough. Also, most good artists are hell to live with.
      The lie about their father being dead is actually one of the things that makes me see why Oscar would have chosen Constance–that ability to sink to the occasion.

  8. February 26, 2013 8:59 pm

    Oh how lovely lovely lovely.

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