Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself

The Story of Mary Maclane"Napoleon was a man, and though sensitive, his flesh was safely covered"

Yes, but who was Mary MacLane? Mary MacLane was a truly extraordinary nineteen-year old with a "fine young body that is feminine in every fiber" and a brain that is "a conglomeration of aggressive versatility". She is "a fantasy--absurdity--a genius!" with no parallel, "a genius, with a wondrous liver within". But she lives in Butte Montana in 1901, and stuck there, she writes this "Portrayal" of herself, in which she is very honest (though she is also "a liar") about her obsession with the devil, her desire for Fame and Happiness (always the Devil brings Happiness), her seventeen pictures of Napoleon that she stares at daily, her (then, and even now) unconventional views of marriage, her liver, her crush on the "anemone lady" and so on.

Mary MacLane circa 1911It may be tempting find her exaggerated way of phrasing things amusing and quirky, but they also communicate some incredible and unique insights. I do think she was a genius, in her own odd way, and I found myself agreeing to (and feeling deeply with) a lot of what she says. Her repetition bordered on poetic at times, and her mysterious use of certain phrases (her heart is always a "wooden heart" and her philosophy is always "peripatetic", she lives in perpetual "sand and barrenness" and always the "red red line of the sky" is a symbol of Happiness to come). Mostly, she writes about how lonely she is, stuck in Butte Montana, and how she would give anything for 3 days of Happiness. For some more history on Mary MacLane's life before and after this book, visit this website.

"But no matter how ferociously pitiable is the dried up graveyard, the sand and barrenness and the sluggish little stream have their own persistent individual damnation. The world is at least so constructed that its treasures may be damned each in a different manner and degree." p.16


Unknown said...

Thanks for the link to my website. We're going to be following up our 1994 anthology of her work with a new, complete one shortly. Will let you know when it's closer to fruition. :)

Jimmy? said...

Michael, I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for letting me know. Keep up the good work.

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