I just received Jewly Hight’s Right by Her Roots in the mail! I know Jewly some and she’s very lovely and down to earth, but I am completely fan-girl excited about this book anyway. Which just goes to show something.
Weirdly enough, I also think I’m back on track with the novel. I had hoped to have everything second-drafted except for the Watseka material before I went to Watseka and here it is mere days before I head north and everything is second-drafted except for the Watseka material. I am up almost 10,000 words, just over 61,000 now.
Last night I was working on the part where the Satanists fuck up Hannah’s sacrifice (Did I tell you that there are Satanists? Lord, I am kind of tickled to hear different people’s ideas of what the book is about, just based on the half-assed ways I’ve been describing it. But yes, there are Satanists. They fuck up. They go to jail. The Devil loses a finger. And Hannah learns the hard way that people are not lying when they warn you against fucking around with the Devil.) and so the gist of this section is that, in order for the Devil’s daughter to go live with her aunt, some living person has to go to Hell to take her place. Hannah. So, the Devil is blessing or cursing or whatever the Devil does his daughter and Hannah, because of her Midwestern boobs, is able to steal said blessing.
Long story short, obviously.
Anyway, for being a book full of genuinely religious people, there’s no Bible quoting in it. But I thought, if ever there was a moment, when you are face to face with the Devil and you have just, hopefully, fucked him over, this is the moment when you’re going to throw a good gotcha Bible verse in his face, right?
So, I’m trying to think of a time in the Bible when a gal outsmarts someone evil or does something kind of the same or steals a blessing… Oh, right? So, I’m flipping through Genesis and there’s Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing with the help of his Ma, Rebbecca, and, when Jacob’s all “I don’t know. What if Dad figures out it’s me and curses me,” Rebbecca says “Let the curse fall on me.”
Which is exactly right on the one hand. Except that no curse comes. They do fool Isaac. And Rebbecca, though she does all this shit, is not the focus of the story at all. She makes the story possible but isn’t central to it (though, please understand, I mean from the perspective of how this story was taught to me as a Protestant woman at the end of the 20th century, which does not reflect how the people who told the story may have understood it).
Which made it perfect again.
So, that pleases me. I think that’s just right.
My plan is to, you know, go to Watseka, see if I want to say something more or different about it once I’ve been there (though it occurs to me that I’ve been to Watseka plenty. I just didn’t have a reason to give a shit.) and get that part fixed up. Then I want to give it a good read-through to make sure it’s as good as what I can see.
Then I’m going to ask some folks to read it, hoping that their feedback–what makes sense to them, what doesn’t, what comes too late, what comes too soon, what’s boring, what’s weird–will help me give it it’s final shape.
And then I’m going to try to find an agent.
Which means I’ve been working on pitches in my head–“It’s the story of a Methodist minister’s daughter who is slowly turning into a flock of birds. And there’s a threesome with the Devil. And a discussion of the merits of “Am I Human?” both Danzig’s version and Will Oldham’s. And some people are maybe turning into dogs. And a woman is possessed by the spirit of a woman who never was actually possessed herself. It’s kind of about what happens when Midwesterners move south and stop going to church.”
As you can see, it needs some work.
Okay, I’ll admit, upon rereading my elevator pitch, I laughed so hard at the last sentence I pissed off the sleeping dog.
Does the Book of Esther work for you? The main traditional point is that she thwarts evil power, and is tricky, in a good way, about getting it done.
Barry, it’s funny. I had to look just now and see if Esther was in the Protestant Bible, because I NEVER ever, even once, heard anyone preach on it or quote from it and I don’t remember ever reading it myself and we, obviously, had lots of Bibles around the house and were given Bibles of our own when we learned to read.
Man, that hits me right in the gut. I mean, I consider myself a curious person, but…
Wow. This is kind of creeping me out. I mean, at least when you’re told “Oh, Eve fucked things up for everyone,” you go look for yourself, you know? Or when they say “Well, the Bible says homosexuality is wrong,” you get curious and go see what it says.
But if they say nothing?
Then I didn’t even think to look myself.
Well, shit, I guess I got the message nice and loud that there wasn’t anything worth worrying about there, huh?
Damn, that grosses me out.
I have to speak up for Rebecca, though. That woman got what she wanted. Want to talk to strangers? She talks to strangers. Want to steal your family’s household idols and good fortune? She takes them with her on her way to be married. Want to use men’s ideas that women are unclean against them? She keeps her father from searching her tent to find what she’s stolen by telling him it’s her period. Want to keep your favorite son from hanging out with Hittite women? She sends him off to marry his cousin. Etc. And there’s no kickback, no bad repercussions. And this is all told kind of admiringly. She doesn’t need curses, because no one gets the upper hand of her.
There’s much mucking with the text in different versions of this one, but there’s definitely a King james version:
Esther’s a non-mention in Catholic liturgy. Because she’s not a saint or a martyr, she has no day dedicated to her. It’s one of those “it’s in the book, but we aren’t going to talk about it” stories. Honestly, I never knew anything about Esther until I went to college and a Jewish girl down the hall named Esther joined the discussion one has about “what does your name mean?”
I had a Catholic friend in grad school who asked me what the 25-word explanation of Purim was. I told her that was actually easy, it celebrates the events in the Book of Esther. She said, “the book of who?”
Nevertheless, she is considered a saint in Spain and has a Day. I forget when it is. Every single person ever mentioned in Jewish scriptures is a saint in Spain, so far as I could figure out from the pocket calendar I bought when I was living there.
Janet Jacobs’ work suggests that Esther is a saint in Spain because of the Anusim/New Christians — the story of how “St. Esther” winds up in the American Southwest in the 19th century being venerated by Christianized Pueblans is wild. (I was going to add in my first comment that it’s not unusual that Old Testament actors are not saints or martyrs — Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, for example, don’t make the canon either.)
Barry: and was apparently looked hot while doing it.
B: We were taught about Esther quite a bit. And Ruth. But in a lot of people’s experiences it was, “Oh, they were women and did cool stuff but they aren’t all that central to other stories.”
Well, some places we make a whole megillah out of it..
A) Rebekah has always been my girl. That story about the household gods is an all-time favorite. I think of Rebekah’s example almost as often as the one in Proverbs.
B) Esther is most definitely in the Bible used by Protestants and Anabaptists. Her book has a complete Flannelgraph set, too. We spent a whole month in Bible class in 3rdgradeon her.
Although I was freaked out that my teacher said “More-decay-EYE” when I had always before heard it said “MORD
This is the very one ms. Wehnes used, I believe. I can tell by the way all the Middle Eastern Jewish people look like the 1950s idea of ancient royalty.