Posts From Author: library of congress

Plays with Matches: A Brief Meditation on Fire & Literature

This coming Monday, the House of SpeakEasy’s inaugural special guests — Andy Borowitz, Uma Thurman, Adam Gopnik, Susan Orlean, Simon Winchester and Dar Williams — will be stepping onto the stage at City Winery to ruminate on the theme “Plays with Matches”. I don’t know what they’re going to say. But it’s a fantastically potent theme — fiery metaphors abound in world literature, and fire has played a major role in the history of literature. So, in advance of gala night, I thought I’d share some of my own thoughts and a few excerpts from my reading notes. To start with, fire is of course the metaphor of choice for all kinds of passion, noble or ig-: “Love is a spirit all compact of fire, Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.” Venus attempting to sway the passions of Adonis in William Shakespeare’s┬áVenus and Adonis “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” Humbert Humbert in the opening lines of Vladimir Nabokov’s┬áLolita Even when said passions turn out […]
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