Portrait of a Woman, or The Music, by Neapolitan painter Giuseppe Bonito c. 1750-1765
Week Ten (pg. 139-160 Hilaritas edition Part Two, Chapters 3 & 4 all editions)
By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger
I believe the letter to Mother Ursula from Maria shows why Tom Jackson considers her to be the roundest female character in RAW’s oeuvre; despite the not-so-great-time-to-be-a-woman she still sparkles and demonstrates that she has her attention on the events that would become history. She’s intelligent enough that she is able to surprise Benjamin Franklin with her acumen, overcoming his prejudice towards southern Europeans; her meeting with Franklin and the corresponding footnote that brings up de Selby’s allegedly freehanded nature with women in interesting to read in the years after #metoo and the continuing cultural dialogue.
I’d have to say that I have found myself becoming fond of Jean Jacques Jeder. RAW uses Jeder’s appearance to inject some bitter irony into his internal celebration over finding such a “nice” job. Like Armand, we can see that Jeder did not choose to be a ruffian and dreads the occupation. The idea that someone would celebrate a 14 hour job increases the sense of how maladapted Jeder is through no fault of his own, as many people at different points in history assuredly are. Today I think of the rather draconian views that society has towards the homeless and ex-convicts with no consideration of how hard it is to become, and remain, socio-economically stable.
In The Earth Will Shake Sigismundo often appears as a damned fool whereas in this novel he appears increasingly capable; his Masonic training has given him emotional discipline that readers should envy.
Chapter 4 is another initiation pageant that combines accurate depictions of “mainstream” Masonry with more esoteric flavor added in as well as RAW’s own confabulations. For the record, the only true degrees of Masonry, at least according to the US Grand Lodge, are the first three. The remaining thirty are found in Scotch Rite Masonry which is considered a concordant rite. The other popular concordant rite is the York Rite, where the Rosicrucian degree is found. Babcock’s initiation goes all in on the recurring symbol of the cornerstone that the builders rejected and shows, once again, that occultists are much better at displaying the richness of Biblical texts than any orthodox Christian.
The final part of Sir John’s initiation as a Mark Mason is a direct parallel to Sigismundo’s attitude as he dangles from a window in the Bastille: a Mason, or illuminated person, should not give in to despair. Fear is Failure and the Forerunner of Failure.
The De Selby footnotes have incorporated what must have been one of RAW’s favorite conspiracies, the P2 scandal that he wrote extensively about since the details were published in the early eighties.
From Eric Wagner: “Reading about sexism in Maria ’s world, I thought something by Francesca LeBrun might work this week.”