What Tangled Webs We Weave | Bleader

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Tangled Webs We Weave

Posted By on 10.08.10 at 09:12 AM

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Salt Lake Telegram, June 3, 1922. Why is it that I cannot make heads or tails of what should be a straightforward bit of scandal-mongering?

She fainted while her underwear was on fire?! Sheesh, what a mystery are the autonomous functions of the human body! But how odd that her dainties should catch fire and not the rest of her clothing. (Is silk particularly flammable, compared to other presynthetic fabrics?)
Then again, perhaps she was wearing only her underwear at the time—that would help explain their exclusive and limited combustion.
Or maybe she wasn’t wearing them at the time: She might have built a symbolic bonfire of her knickers on the hotel room floor before shooting the dude and herself.
Or is "undergarments afire" a metaphor? The guy wouldn't put out for her, ergo she shot him, kinda deal?
The questions multiply the mysteries. . .
Anyway, I’m guessing “hotel attaches” are to house dicks as sanitary engineers are to garbagemen. Or maybe “attache” applies only to house dicks small enough to fit through transoms. But now let’s proceed to the intriguing literary dimensions of the story.
The poem is “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” a Victorian chestnut by Francis William Bourdillon, a chunk of which you younger folk may recognize as the chorus to the song “Drawn to Black” by Finnish death metal band Insomnium.
As for the book, it is of course Thuvia, Maid of Mars, the fourth novel of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s 11-volume Barsoom cycle. But here’s what’s really fucked up: The chapter in question, “The Hall of Doom,” does not actually begin with the sentence “The room was empty save for herself and the still form of the jeddak of Lothar lying at her feet.” In fact, that sentence doesn’t appear until nearly two-thirds of the way through the chapter! (You don’t believe me? Check it out yourself.) Man, talk about distorted reporting! Did the Salt Lake City Telegram really think they were going to get away with this in the long run? Especially given that the dead man’s mother was a huge cheese in Esperanto circles? Oh wait: we haven’t come to the Esperanto angle yet. Sorry.
Flaming underwear, Insomnium, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Esperanto—it all fits, see? The Peggy Joyce Hopkins angle is an obvious red herring though.

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