“Bluebeard” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Bluebeard” by Edna St. Vincent Millay—

This door you might not open, and you did;
So enter now, and see for what slight thing
You are betrayed… Here is no treasure hid,
No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring
The sought-for truth, no heads of women slain
For greed like yours, no writhings of distress,
But only what you see… Look yet again—
An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.
Yet this alone out of my life I kept
Unto myself, lest any know me quite;
And you did so profane me when you crept
Unto the threshold of this room to-night
That I must never more behold your face.
This now is yours. I seek another place.

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Read “55 Miles to the Gas Pump,” a Lovely Horrific Short Story by Annie Proulx

“55 Miles to the Gas Pump” is a very short story by Annie Proulx.

Rancher Croom in handmade boots and filthy hat, that walleyed cattleman, stray hairs like the curling fiddle string ends, that warm-handed, quick-foot dancer on splintery boards or down the cellar stairs to a rack of bottles of his own strange beer, yeasty, cloudy, bursting out in garlands of foam, Rancher Croom at night galloping drunk over the dark plain, turning off at a place he knows to arrive at a canyon brink where he dismounts and looks down on tumbled rock, waits, then steps out, parting the air with his last roar, sleeves surging up, windmill arms, jeans riding over boot tops, but before he hits he rises again to the top of the cliff like a cork in a bucket of milk.

Mrs. Croom on the roof with a saw cutting a hole into the attic where she has not been for twelve years thanks to old Croom’s padlocks and warnings, whets to her desire, and the sweat flies as she exchanges the saw for a chisel and hammer until a ragged slab peak is free and she can see inside: just as she thought: the corpses of Mr. Croom’s paramours – she recognizes them from their photographs in the paper: MISSING WOMAN – some desiccated as jerky and much the same color, some moldy from lying beneath roof leaks, and, all of them used hard, covered with tarry handprints, the marks of boot heels, some bright blue with remnants of paint used on the shutters years ago, one wrapped in newspaper nipple to knee.

When you live a long way out you make your own fun.

Bluebeard’s Castle — Béla Bartók (Full Performance)

Charlie Chaplin’s Overlooked Masterpiece, Monsieur Verdoux

Charlie Chaplin’s 1947 film Monsieur Verdoux is rarely mentioned alongside his early classics like The Great Dictator, Modern Times, or City Lights, which is a shame, because it’s easily one of his funniest. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of his rare speaking roles, although that’s hard to believe—Chaplin is just as funny when he opens his mouth as when he’s cutting physical capers. I suspect that the movie is just too dark for some folks. It is, after all, a black comic take on the Bluebeard story, and I guess the story of a man who marries and then murders his wives as a form of careerism might not hold a general appeal. In any case, it’s hilarious. Here’s a compilation of clips that show off Verdoux’s seduction technique; these are some of the funnier moments in the film—

Monsieur Verdoux is hardly a romantic comedy though. Observed closely, it works as an allegorical commentary on the moral response to the horrors of WWII. These observations are made plain at the end of the film, as Verdoux, put on trial, must first account for his crimes—and then pay for them. Here is the extraordinary final scene of the movie, which contains spoilers, although I believe that one can still watch the ending out of context and later enjoy the film—

We see here the major hallmarks of Chaplin’s greatest films: not just comedy, but also genuine pathos and social commentary, all delivered with acerbic bite that nevertheless reveals a real love for humanity. Highly recommended.

“55 Miles to the Gas Pump” — Annie Proulx

“55 Miles to the Gas Pump” is a very short story by Annie Proulx.

Rancher Croom in handmade boots and filthy hat, that walleyed cattleman, stray hairs like the curling fiddle string ends, that warm-handed, quick-foot dancer on splintery boards or down the cellar stairs to a rack of bottles of his own strange beer, yeasty, cloudy, bursting out in garlands of foam, Rancher Coom at night galloping drunk over the dark plain, turning off at a place he knows to arrive at a canyon brink where he dismounts and looks down on tumbled rock, waits, then steps out, parting the air with his last roar, sleeves surging up, windmill arms, jeans riding over boot tops, but before he hits he rises again to the top of the cliff like a cork in a bucket of milk.

Mrs. Croom on the roof with a saw cutting a hole into the attic where she has not been for twelve years thanks to old Croom’s padlocks and warnings, whets to her desire, and the sweat flies as she exchanges the saw for a chisel and hammer until a ragged slab peak is free and she can see inside: just as she thought: the corpses of Mr. Croom’s paramours – she recognizes them from their photographs in the paper: MISSING WOMAN – some desiccated as jerky and much the same color, some moldy from lying beneath roof leaks, and, all of them used hard, covered with tarry handprints, the marks of boot heels, some bright blue with remnants of paint used on the shutters years ago, one wrapped in newspaper nipple to knee.

When you live a long way out you make your own fun.