Monday, April 22, 2019
The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week Nine
"Dante and Beatrice", by Henry Holiday. Beatrice is the young woman in the center.
This week, please read page 169 ("Sigismundo did not sleep the rest of that night. He prayed, or tried to pray") to page 186 ("And Maria knew that, whomever Papa married her off to, whatever else happened in her life, her days would not be those of an ordinary Neapolitan contessa."
I thought that Part Four, "The Priestess," was particularly good.
I loved the blunt description of "crushes": "His obsession is annoying because you are intelligent enough to know that it is more or less accidental: if it wasn't you, he would have some other girl to be obsessed with." (Page 177.)
Notice that a famous obsession is referenced in the text: Page 183 mentions "the Portanari girl from Firenze" and on page 184, "Beatrice" is told to run to Via Dante and get the doctor.
Beatrice Portinari is the woman who enthralled Dante and is mentioned in Dante's works. She lived to only age 25 in Florence (e.g., "Firenze.") She is arguably the ancestor of the "Miss Portinari" in Illuminatus!
I have remarked elsewhere on how Wilson's female characters are strong in The Earth Will Shake, and I think the real women referenced on page 179 shows Wilson's explicitly feminist intent: Women such as Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Anara Morandi Mazzolini and Laura Bassi.