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Friday, January 13, 2012


Ersilia and Romulus; from here
In Ersilia we have another web, though there's nothing necessarily spidery about it, as was the case in Octavia.  I don't know if Calvino meant it (I was more sure that he didn't mean a connection to Shelob, of course), but this chapter reminds me of something I read about in Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union.  In the book, the protagonist has a scuffle with the "Black Hats" -- a sect of a particularly strict observers of Judaism.  Now, I'm the first to admit that I know practically nothing about Judaism.  Really pretty much only what I've gotten from Chabon's books and a few read-throughs of the Old Testament.  It's been long enough since my last read of The YPU that I don't remember the details, but somewhere along the line, the protagonist has to speak to the guy who manages all the string.  Yeah.  Anyway, this guy is a master of all the boundaries put upon strict observers of Jewish law and marks them all on hundreds of maps and uses dozens of types and countless lengths of string to run throughout the town and demarcate the boundaries (how many steps one may take on the Sabbath, for example) for observers.  Anyway, the webs in Ersilia remind me of this, and I'm very interested in what you might make of it.

A few other things I find interesting, and about which I invite your thoughts:
  • that the strings remain when the inhabitants leave;
  • use of the word "refugee" and how it connects not only to the story of Ersilia itself, but also to the meta-story of the empire;
  • that the bones don't remain, victims of the rolling wind, and in the same sentence of the mention, finally, of a spider (as if the spider ate the bodies whose bones are gone);
  • lastly, Ersilia was the wife of Romulus -- you know, of Remus and Romulus, founders of Rome, another empire and also stretched particularly thin.

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