Monday, November 17, 2008

Abigail on the Classics

My name is Abigail Josephine Renata Boyles. I am an 83-year-old retired librarian and the former owner of Mercy Hayworth's diary. Mercy was my cousin, eight times removed.

Some might call me eccentric; it is a word widely used to describe old women who aren't afraid to loudly express an opinion. I've seen many a three-year-old loudly express his or her opinion and no one whispers that the pint-sized troublemaker is eccentric. No, we are told they need a nap.

Call me what you will. What is an opinion for if not to be shared? What is an opinion's impact if it is not defended?

I've a library bursting with books, so Lauren tells me, and I've read everyone of them. I've an opinion on every one of them. I've been invited to share them with you. And I shall do it. Let this be my legacy then, since I no longer own the diary. I will share with you my vast wealth of loud opinions on books you should be reading. Now then. Shall we begin?

I've a handful of friends, not many, who prefer movies over reading a book. Slightly less than a handful, actually, and I guess they really aren't bonafide friends. They are people I know and wonder about.

Take Audrey. She loves the movie My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Adores it. A stuffy London professor (eccentric maybe?) transforms a Cockney-voiced seller of flowers into a beautiful woman who speaks like the queen. Surely you've seen it.

Did you know the movie is based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion? I mentioned this to Audrey once and she told me I certainly had my facts mixed up. There are no pigs in My Fair Lady. Perhaps I was thinking of Animal Farm, instead?

Dear Audrey, I said, Pygmalion gets its name from Ovid's Metamorphosis. When disenchanted Pygmalion finds himself fed up with real women with real flaws, he sculpts a statue of the perfect woman and falls in love with it. The goddess Venus smiles down on Pygmailion and brings the statue to life.

But tell me what happens when you take something square and make it round to fit in a round hole? All you've done is made transportation possible. When the square thing arrives on the other side of the round hole, and it is lying here on a vast plain of open space, it suddenly has no need of its newly rounded edges. It begins to grow its points again.

What? said Audrey

There is a line from Pygmalion that goes like this. Eliza says it after her outward transformation is complete and inside, she is still the same girl . . .

Eliza! That's the same name! Audrey interrupted.

Yes it is. It goes like this. Eliza says, "I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me I'm not fit to sell anything else. I wish you'd left me where you found me."

But she and the professor fall in love at the end.

Do they? I said.

Abigail, you haven't seen the movie, Audrey said.

Oh but I have.

Then you've forgotten. Audrey smiled sweetly.

Audrey is 60-something. Younger than me.
She thinks I am eccentric.

Who can really say that all is well at the end. Who can really say Eliza stayed round. Learned to be round. Inside, where no one can see. Who can say?

No comments: