by Keith Miller
“‘I’m a fire,’ said Adevi, ‘fires burn brightest at night,’ but her voice was small and she didn’t look at him” (Miller, 59).
Now here’s where the story began to feel familiar. When Pico and Adevi got to the bridge and the quaint little setting it described, I felt as if I had read it already and I suspected what was going to happen. Everything would be chummy but it would end sadly. Of course, I also knew Pico couldn’t stay with Balquo, the minotaur because – quest.
Before I get into my biggest critique of this chapter, let’s talk about Balquo. He’s the guardian of a bridge and duels anyone who crosses. He’s also an excellent cook, enjoys fishing, and is very gentle and social. So, yeah, he’s a pretty nice minotaur. But the really best part is how his mother and father (the bull) met and how the love story about them was a sweeter interpretation than in the Greek myth.
His mother’s name was Yani and she loved going off into the wilderness. Everyone told her not to, but she always escaped. While out, she was rescued from a nest of brambles by a magnificent bull. Once she became acquainted with him,
“she slipped her nurses’ clutches once again and the bull was waiting at the edge of the forest. He showed her secret places in the woods and they frolicked and made love and napped til late afternoon, her head on his flank, hand on his horn” (48).
But their happiness is short-lived for
“On the third-day, alerted by the nurses, Yani’s father allowed her to escape but followed at a distance. When he saw a bull emerge from the trees he pulled the bow from his shoulder and loosed a arrow into the beast’s heart. The bull fell, his blood making black flowers on his coat, his eyes never leaving Yani’s face, and she clutched his massive neck, sobbing as the contents of his heart soaked her heart. Her father had to fetch assistance to pry her from the dead beast’s body” (48).
She was actually sad about the bull’s death. I like that. And that’s very different from the myth.
This makes the whole conception bittersweet. At first, I was touched to read that when
“she learned she was pregnant… she capered around the house clapping her hands and would have shouted the tidings in the streets but her irate father battened her in the highest tower where she stayed, gleeful as a dolphin, for nine months while her belly swelled” (48-9).
Her absolute delight in knowing she’ll have a baby with the bull is really sweet. But I knew she was going to die because of the horns. Humans aren’t designed for that.
So her father lets go of his anger and raises the baby minotaur (Balquo) with the best tutors, sworn to secrecy. But since there weren’t a lot of job options for a bull-headed man, his grandfather obtained a position for him as guardian of the bridge. And now we’ve come back to the plot.
Okay. I really disliked how Pico treated Adevi.
The night they arrived, she comes to sleep beside him and he tells her to go to Balquo. He says that the minotaur is more the kind of man she would want as a lover, for Balquo is “beast enough to satisfy [her] desires, sufficiently gentle to tame [her] waywardness'” (56).
First, how the heck do you know want she needs? Second, what right do you have to tell her what she needs? Why should her waywardness be tamed? Damn it, Pico, you can’t tell women what they should do and then feel proud of yourself. Because he does, that jerk.
And what’s really disgusting is after he says Balquo will tame her “waywardness”, our protagonists uses this terrible logic as to why Adevi should listen to him — “‘I saw how his eyes hung on your body. Go to him, Adevi'” (56).
Seriously, what kind of reasoning is that? Why should it matter that some other male was ogling her? That should not predispose her to be obligated to go have sex with him. That’s just manipulative and disgusting. And Pico thinks he’s doing her a favor. Gagh!
Oh, but it gets worse. The next morning Pico is alarmed to find that “Adevi’s thirsty stare was unquenched, her eyes stayed not on the minotaur’s bulk but on himself, reproachful, and she did not finish her plate” (56). Clearly she did not enjoy herself nor does she seem to want to have a relationship with Balquo (who is in excellent spirits).
But when Pico sees that she is unhappy and unsatisfied, he does nothing. He doesn’t try to understand or help her. But he does chat with Balquo and says that if anyone can tame her, the minotaur can.
Adevi finally confronts him and wants to know why he’s forsaken her. She tells him she can “‘change…can leave off killing,…learn to cook,…wear dresses'” (59). But Pico apparently doesn’t “‘want [her] to change'” (59). He likes her as she is – strong. Ookay. So why did you pressure her to have sex with Balquo?
- A woman doesn’t have to be tamed. Adevi was find as herself (despite the possibility of sexism against her artistic desires)
- A woman doesn’t have to have sex to be happy. Nor does she have to have sex with a man/male. Adevi especially does not show much interest in the emotional attachment of sexual monogamy and that’s okay.
- Providing someone with sex does not equal happiness. Love is a separate function from sexual desire. Adevi may have sex with Balquo but that doesn’t erase that she loves Pico (for some reason).
I do wonder a bit about Adevi. I can’t help thinking men of all kinds have just treated her like crap, so she doesn’t put much value in sex, except as something that is done. And hence why she derives more pleasure from killing her lovers:
“‘I too have murdered every man I loved,’ said Adevi complacently. ‘Because in the end the pleasure of entering flesh was greater than that of being entered, and there was always more men'” (56).
I just dislike Pico’s complete lack of trying to help Adevi and his misunderstanding of her desires by equating sex with love and happiness. He doesn’t seem to realize that there’s a difference between sex and love. You don’t have to love someone you have sex with. Society ideally thinks it’s normal, but it’s not. Some people experience the two together, but having one will not allow the other to grow. That’s absurd (and dismissive of difference kinds of romantic and sexual orientations).
Additionally, I dislike Pico’s lack of comprehension on how she wants to love someone who is strong — a fighter with a stomach for blood, someone who isn’t him — but how strength does not have to mean toughness. One can be strong without being fierce. Such as having strength in a dream or a conviction. Adevi actually indicates this view when she dies.
As was inevitable Pico declares one morning that it’s time for him to cross the bridge, which means he’ll have to fight Balquo. But Adevi starts across first and battles Balquo instead. They both die in the end, but before she does, Adevi tells him that “‘I believe you, Pico, I believe in the morning town, I believe you’ll get your wings, I believe…'” (62).
This indicates that the strength that attracted her to Pico was his quiet determination. He wasn’t a raging warrior or a comptent killer or anything like Adevi. But he had a strength that she admired and loved.
And he was a jerk. Augh!
come next week for fairy tales, science, and art. Oh, and a rabbit.
- cruets: n.
Balquo: “‘Once, in the city by the sea,’ he began, ‘lived a girl called Yani, gorgeous as fire, and she loved to wander'” (47).
I love the metaphors of women to fire.
Miller, Keith. The Book of Flying: A Novel. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2004. Print.