The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Their Just Reward

September 23, 2014 | by

librarian

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Librarian, 1562.

From The Librarian at Play, a collection of essays by Edmund Lester Pearson, published in 1911. Pearson was a librarian who wrote humor and true-crime books.

I looked and beheld, and there were a vast number of girls standing in rows. Many of them wore pigtails, and most of them chewed gum.

“Who are they?” I asked my guide.

And he said: “They are the girls who wrote ‘Lovely’ or ‘Perfectly sweet’ or ‘Horrid old thing!’ on the fly-leaves of library books. Some of them used to put comments on the margins of the pages—such as ‘Served him right!’ or ‘There! you mean old cat!’”

“What will happen to them?” I inquired.

“They are to stand up to the neck in a lake of ice cream soda for ten years,” he answered.

“That will not be much of a punishment to them,” I suggested.

But he told me that I had never tried it, and I could not dispute him.

“The ones over there,” he remarked, pointing to a detachment of the girls who were chewing gum more vigorously than the others, “are sentenced for fifteen years in the ice cream soda lake, and moreover they will have hot molasses candy dropped on them at intervals. They are the ones who wrote:

If my name you wish to see
Look on page 93,

and then when you had turned to page 93, cursing yourself for a fool as you did it, you only found:

If my name you would discover
Look upon the inside cover,

and so on, and so on, until you were ready to drop from weariness and exasperation. Hang me!” he suddenly exploded, “if I had the say of it, I’d bury ‘em alive in cocoanut taffy—I told the Boss so, myself.”

I agreed with him that they were getting off easy.

“A lot of them are named ‘Gerty,’ too,” he added, as though that made matters worse. Read More »

1 COMMENT

Recapping Dante: Canto 28, or Unseamly Punishments

May 5, 2014 | by

canto 28

Gustave Doré, Canto XXVIII

We’re recapping the Inferno. Read along! This week: Mohammed torn asunder.

Canto 28 opens with a very self-conscious address by Dante. He tells the reader that even if his writing weren’t constrained by the dictates of meter and form, he still would’ve had trouble describing the following scene. But he had no idea what he was talking about: canto 28 is marvelous and harrowing. Canto 28 is perfect.

He begins by listing famous battlefields—if all the mangled bodies and limbs and guts from all these vicious wars were combined, he says, they would pale in comparison to the ninth pit of hell. The first thing he sees here is a man “cleft from the chin right down to where men fart.” What’s remarkable about this line is not that a poet as great as Dante would use the word fart—although, let’s face it, that is sort of funny—but that it’s almost identical to a line that Shakespeare would write many centuries later, in Macbeth: “unseamed … from the nave to th’ chops.”

Our unseamed sinner—with his entrails and “loathsome” “shit” sack torn asunder—is Mohammed, who tells Dante that this pit is reserved for those who “sowed scandal and schism.” The Hollanders point out that Dante must therefore have seen the prophet not as the founder of a new religion, but as the catalyst for the schism that would branch off from Christianity and become Islam.

Mohammed explains how punishment works around here. He and his fellow mangled sinners eventually find that their injuries have healed—but once they’re all closed up, they’re mangled yet again by a demon. The punishment is not simply about pain and suffering, to say nothing of the inconvenience of having to carry your colon in your hands; the indignity of being mangled is equally important. Mohammed believes, for some reason, that Dante and Virgil are dead and simply taking a tour of hell before being punished. Clearly, Mohammed hasn’t quite grasped the way hell works. Read More »

NO COMMENTS

Nick Flynn and ‘The Ticking Is the Bomb’

October 25, 2010 | by

Photograph by Geordie Wood.

The Ticking Is the Bomb, the second memoir by nonfiction writer and poet Nick Flynn, describes his experiences with fatherhood, writing, and the Abu Ghraib torture victims, some of whom he met personally. It also covers territory explored in his first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: addiction in his own and his family’s lives and the ongoing need for a relationship with the past that doesn’t let it off too easily. I recently asked Nick about his book by e-mail.

You’ve mentioned that The Ticking Is the Bomb originally started as poems and evolved into memoir. What was that process like?

That book started as a meditation on the Abu Ghraib photographs; the moment I first saw them, they snagged on something in my subconscious landscape, and I spent the next six years following the thread of it. As I reluctantly dug into the unpleasant topic of state-sponsored torture, specifically America’s long role in it, one thing I noticed was how each element—earth, air, fire, and water—were used to torture. People were buried, suffocated, burned, and waterboarded. The first poems were these element poems, which will now be in a book of poems called The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, coming out in February from Graywolf. The four element poems were the scaffolding of the eventual memoir, which emerged from behind these poems.

Read More »

2 COMMENTS