Spolia

A monthly literary magazine, devoted to the strange and to the wise. Edited by Jessa Crispin.

Issue 9--Disappearance Issue
Ander Monson, Mia Gallagher, an essay on Vivian Maier, Olivia Cronk, and others

To purchase this issue, visit www.spoliamag.com

@spoliamag
Tumblr run by Jessa Crispin

The Daphne Awards. Finally.

The Daphne Awards

Lauren Oyler:

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please:

Did you guys know that I am a young person? Yes, it is true; despite my incisive wit and prescient wisdom, I am but a humble millenial, ears forever perking to the sound of bored indie rock bands, nose hyper sensitive to the smell of third-wave coffee that takes 24 minutes to be prepared by a shitty screenwriter whose parents bought her a loft space in Williamsburg in which to take cocaine. And as a millenial, a young person, it is my great pleasure to announce:

There’s going to be a party!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And it is not just any party, ladies and gentlemen, no, but a party at which significant honors will be conferred, at which libations will be consumed, at which we will celebrate authors departed and consider those authors who will one day be. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, after months of anticipation and woeful commiseration about the state of the publishing industry, we finally see a light at the end of this tunnel of two-dimensional characters and unnecessary memoirs: the winners of the first annual Daphne Awards, celebrating the best forgotten, ignored, or otherwise snubbed books of 50 years ago, are soon to be announced, in a live and public forum. Being a millenial, I am also easily distracted by occasions for which I can imagine possible outrageous outfits, so here is where I turn things over to the older and wiser Jessa Crispin, who, since abdicating her Bookslut throne, now speaks in a sagacious omniscient third:

The Daphne Awards

WHAT: BYOB Day of the Literary Dead
WHEN: November 6 (full moon), 7:30 pm
WHERE: Melville House headquarters
145 Plymouth St, DUMBO
Brooklyn, NY 11201
DRESS: “Go crazy”
[Editor’s note: In the run up to the event, watch this space for many-a hairstyle slideshow.]

How does one throw a party for a book award when (almost) all of the writers nominated are dead? Do it on a full moon, round about Samhain/Day of the Dead/All Soul’s Day.

Bookslut is gathering at Melville House headquarters to announce the Daphne Awards, celebrating the best book that should have won a literary prize 50 years ago. But we’ll also be marking the writers lost that year and this, all the writers who have come and gone and yet still feel like our ancestors. There will be readings and wine, conversation and feasting. We will also have an altar.

The Daphne Award was born when, after about a bottle of wine and an argument about this year’s nominees for all of the major prizes, Bookslut founder Jessa Crispin decided to look up who won 50 years ago. It was a great year for literature. Julio Cortazar’s immortal Hopscotch was born. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are both found publication. And yet: the award went to John Updike. A middling John Updike, even! The Centaur took the prize. Nonfiction was no better. Despite Eichmann in Jerusalem changing the way we all think about how the Holocaust could have happened, the award went to some Keats biography.

Acknowledging that occasionally greatness takes time to recognize and understand, the Daphne looks to use its hindsight to good advantage. A shortlist was quickly compiled. For fiction, Sylvia Plath and Julio Cortazar were joined by Heinrich Boll, Jim Thompson, and Tarjei Vesaas. In nonfiction, Arendt is going up against Primo Levi, James Baldwin, and Jessica Mitford. Poetry and children’s book winners will also be announced.

Guests are asked to please bring an offering of spirits for the spirits and the living. There will be a feast, but mostly for the dead. Food for the living can be summed up as “potato chip bar.”

2014 Nominees

Fiction
Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Grifters by Jim Thompson
The Clown by Heinrich Böll
Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Nonfiction
Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter
The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford
Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt
The Reawakening by Primo Levi
The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson

Poetry
Burning Perch by Louis MacNeice
Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law by Adrienne Rich
Requiem by Anna Akhmatova
Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Five Senses by Judith Wright
Poems by Gwen Harwood
At the End of the Open Road by Louis Simpson

Children’s Literature
The Dot and the Line by Norton Juster
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Mr. Rabbit by Charlotte Zolotow
Harold’s ABC by Crockett Johnson
Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein
The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

Finally we are putting together our next issue of Spolia. This is what happens when your magazine is dependent on one person only. When that person runs into some things (a death, two months spent waylaid in Central Europe, a family emergency, moving house across an ocean, etc), things don’t go so smoothly.
But soon “Disappearance” will fade into our backlist, so let’s talk about it a bit more before it goes.
Because what is a disappearance without a reappearance? And one of those things that should have stayed gone, only for the earth to move to reveal it again, are the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Today, in 1991, the scrolls were first shown to the public.
Today, in this year, they are digitized and online.
If you want to understand why the Scrolls were so significant, Geza Vermes is your man.

Finally we are putting together our next issue of Spolia. This is what happens when your magazine is dependent on one person only. When that person runs into some things (a death, two months spent waylaid in Central Europe, a family emergency, moving house across an ocean, etc), things don’t go so smoothly.

But soon “Disappearance” will fade into our backlist, so let’s talk about it a bit more before it goes.

Because what is a disappearance without a reappearance? And one of those things that should have stayed gone, only for the earth to move to reveal it again, are the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Today, in 1991, the scrolls were first shown to the public.

Today, in this year, they are digitized and online.

If you want to understand why the Scrolls were so significant, Geza Vermes is your man.

There was Rome…

"There was Rome, and she would like to stay in a hotel by herself. There was just ‘abroad,’ she always wondered how long the feeling lasted. And there was America, but one would have to have introductions or one would get a crick in one’s neck from just always looking up at things. She would like to feel real in London. She had never come out through a pass and looked down on little distinct white cities with no smoke. She had never been in a tunnel for more than five minutes — she had heard there were tunnels in which you could nearly suffocate? She had never seen anything larger than she could imagine. She wanted, she said, to see backgrounds without bits taken out of them by Holy Families, small black trees running up and down white hills. She thought the little things would be important: trees with electric lights growing out of them, she had heard of; coloured syphons. She wanted to go wherever the war hadn’t. She wanted to go somewhere nonchalant where politics bored them, where bands played out of doors in the hot nights and nobody wished to sleep. She wanted to go into cathedrals unadmonished and look up unprepared into the watery deep strangeness. There must be perfect towns where shadows were strong like buildings, towns secret without coldness, unaware without indifference. She liked mountains, but she did not care for views. She did not want adventures, but she would like just once to be nearly killed. She wanted to see something that only she would remember. Could one really float a stone in a glacier stream? She liked unmarried sorts of places. She did not want to see the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower (could one avoid it?) or go to Switzerland or Berlin or any of the colonies. She would like to know people and go to dinner parties on terraces, and she thought it would be a pity to miss love. Could one travel alone? She did not mind being noticed because she was female, she was not tired of being not noticed because she was a lady. She could not imagine ever not wanting someone to talk to about tea time."

Writing about spinsters, and Elizabeth Bowen’s paragraph in The Last September, as a young women tries to decide whether or not to marry her suitor, is helping. There is just so much good in these few lines. “(could one avoid it?)”

Many scholars see the story of Tiamat as a story of the fall of the matriarchy to the patriarchy. Tiamat used to be a goddess, but in the Babylonian stories of her murder, she became a horrible monster whose body is dismembered and strewn about.
Tiamat was originally the goddess of the primordial sea, the mother of chaos and the formlessness from which everything takes shape. She held a very high position in the pantheon. But then later, stories emerge about her being a monster, and the logical, rational hero Marduk conquers her. 
Her body is cut in half, one half becoming the sky, the other the land. Her tears become the rivers, her blood gives form to mankind. 
This is a pattern repeated through several cultures, the demotion of goddess to monster or whore, and her death becomes the way for a world to take shape. Women represent chaos and disaster, men represent order. 
"Marduk armed himself with a bow and arrows, a club, and lightning, and he went in search of Tiamat’s monstrous army. Rolling his thunder and storms in front him, he attacked, and Kingu’s battle plan soon disintegrated. Tiamat was left alone to fight Marduk, and she howled as they closed for battle. They struggled as Marduk caught her in his nets. When she opened her mouth to devour him, he filled it with the evil wind that served him. She could not close her mouth with his gale blasting in it, and he shot an arrow down her throat. It split her heart, and she was slain.”

Many scholars see the story of Tiamat as a story of the fall of the matriarchy to the patriarchy. Tiamat used to be a goddess, but in the Babylonian stories of her murder, she became a horrible monster whose body is dismembered and strewn about.

Tiamat was originally the goddess of the primordial sea, the mother of chaos and the formlessness from which everything takes shape. She held a very high position in the pantheon. But then later, stories emerge about her being a monster, and the logical, rational hero Marduk conquers her. 

Her body is cut in half, one half becoming the sky, the other the land. Her tears become the rivers, her blood gives form to mankind. 

This is a pattern repeated through several cultures, the demotion of goddess to monster or whore, and her death becomes the way for a world to take shape. Women represent chaos and disaster, men represent order. 

"Marduk armed himself with a bow and arrows, a club, and lightning, and he went in search of Tiamat’s monstrous army. Rolling his thunder and storms in front him, he attacked, and Kingu’s battle plan soon disintegrated. Tiamat was left alone to fight Marduk, and she howled as they closed for battle. They struggled as Marduk caught her in his nets. When she opened her mouth to devour him, he filled it with the evil wind that served him. She could not close her mouth with his gale blasting in it, and he shot an arrow down her throat. It split her heart, and she was slain.”

Before and behind us are rows and rows of scraggly old women, swishing their fan wings, trying to cool down from the heat that before long will be as unforgivable as a mortal sin. But all their fanning achieves is to irritate the flames of the candles on the altar, make the flames angry, make the heat worse, while the priest sings away to the statue of our lady holding the world in her outstretched palm.

The Apsara was a kind of female spirit, found in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They were celestial beings, shapeshifters, who could move between dimensions and take any form they wished.

One of the most beautiful depictions of the apsara can be found in the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia, but there they are often mis-labeled. The “dancing girls” are often described as whores, and the stories told about them are as nymphs who sexually serviced the King. But recent scholarship found older stories of fertility and artistic inspiration. (Jacobsen’s Lost Goddesses is an interesting book on this topic.)

Which does bring up an interesting question, about goddesses getting downgraded to prostitutes. It’s a common problem in fantasy, (male) writers using goddesses in the real world so often put them in the role of sex workers. (Neil Gaiman did this, what, twice?) 

Top image: apsara from India. Bottom image: from the Angkor-Wat temple in Cambodia

Let’s do another disappeared goddess, shall we?
Meretseger is the Egyptian serpent goddess of punishment and mercy. Her name means “She who loves silence.”
The Egyptians had no concept of sin, so that was not the basis of her punishment. It was chaos and disorder that displeased her, and that displeased Egyptian society. 
Meretseger ruled over the Valley of the Kings, and it was her poison that would fell you if you disturbed the tombs. (The curse that ruled over King Tut’s tomb was “Death Shall Come on Swift Wings to Him That Toucheth the Tomb of the Pharoah.” The discoverer of the tomb, Lord Carnarvon, died from a mosquito bite, falling ill only three weeks after his intrusion.)
Meretseger was a local diety, meaning that when her area de-populated and became less important, she ceased to be worshiped and slowly faded away.

Let’s do another disappeared goddess, shall we?

Meretseger is the Egyptian serpent goddess of punishment and mercy. Her name means “She who loves silence.”

The Egyptians had no concept of sin, so that was not the basis of her punishment. It was chaos and disorder that displeased her, and that displeased Egyptian society. 

Meretseger ruled over the Valley of the Kings, and it was her poison that would fell you if you disturbed the tombs. (The curse that ruled over King Tut’s tomb was “Death Shall Come on Swift Wings to Him That Toucheth the Tomb of the Pharoah.” The discoverer of the tomb, Lord Carnarvon, died from a mosquito bite, falling ill only three weeks after his intrusion.)

Meretseger was a local diety, meaning that when her area de-populated and became less important, she ceased to be worshiped and slowly faded away.