Boccaccio, First Day, Story Five

Note: this entry had a photo of hens on it, but I was getting DOZENS of visits every single day from Pakistan from people looking for photos of hens. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I don’t know why Pakistanis are so interested in looking at photos of hens, and perhaps I’ll never know, but this isn’t a petting zoo, it’s a Very Serious Blog. 

It’s another one of those nights. I feel this insatiable sadness that, ultimately, is probably just a fear of death or something like that…I suspect that’s what all sadness is.

I shouldn’t be writing this write now, because I owe Lucy about 10,000 words of a letter. But I was hoping Boccaccio might give me another laugh. He didn’t. And now I need draw something from this story before I can allow myself to jot her a few notes and go to sleep. So, onward, thinking cap…

Philip Augustus, king of France is about to head out on a crusade when someone says “aw, too bad you don’t have a wife, there’s this great chick, she’s great.” And Philip thinks to himself, “sounds good to me, I’ll go seduce her while her husband’s out of town and then have him killed.” So off he goes to have breakfast with her, and she serves an enormous breakfast of nothing but hens. And he’s like “do you have nothing but hens in this city?” and she says “women are pretty much all the same.” And he says “point taken” and heads off to the crusade.

Not funny. Not even a good story.

Here’s the purpose I think it serves, and I find the concept fascinating: storytelling. That’s something we discuss more often when it comes to Beowulf, but in a work of Chaucer or Boccaccio it’s unavoidable. An author writes a work, and is then held accountable for that work. This holds true now just as it did in, say, ancient Greece. How do you, as an author, get around this difficulty? One ancient solution is “inspiration” — if you know me, you know I rarely use the term because of its implications: that the author did not create the work himself, but that it came to him through the ether and he was the vehicle for its transmission. Great idea, but I work fucking hard to be creative and I’m not giving the magic air credit. But, that’s the concept behind the Bible. Was it written by God or divinely inspired and written by man or just plain written by man? That makes all the difference in whether or not you’re going to follow it, right?

But that’s precisely the point. If God wrote it, then of course you need to follow it! If it was inspired, well, you probably need to follow it. Essentially, though, it’s a system of placing blame. No, I didn’t write all this erotic poetry–I was inspired by love of God to do it (Song of Songs). But recall that writing itself was seen as magical for perhaps longer than it hasn’t. Writing, a system of nonsense scrawls that somehow transmit complex concepts. Beyond death. That’s the fucked up thing about it. How do you live forever? You write something down, die, and you’re now living forever. Magic.

So who’s the next one we can place blame on, if not God? Other people. Boccaccio writes whatever he wants for two reasons:

1) Because he can claim that it’s somebody else telling the story.
2) Because he repeatedly comes to deserve telling the dirty stories by telling the clean ones, and being a faithful narrator. And because he does this, he has more evidence for his claim that someone else is telling the story. Consistency.

Phew. Didn’t think I’d be able to draw something out of that waste of time, right? And…now I’m going to sleep instead writing to Lucy. Therefore, I’ve wasted my own time too. Sorry, Lucy.

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