from the world's big
Valerie Martin on the Mythology of New Orleans
Valerie Martin is the author of three collections of short fiction, most recently The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories, and eight novels, including Trespass; Italian Fever; The Great Divorce; Mary Reilly, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story told from the viewpoint of a housemaid, which was filmed with Julia Roberts and John Malkovich; and the Orange Prize–winning Property. She is also the author of a nonfiction work about St. Francis of Assisi: Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis. She resides in upstate New York.
Valerie Martin: I think from very early on, although I didn’t realize it myself, I was really preoccupied with race relations and with slavery. And I didn’t consciously pursue that as a subject matter, but I was very interesting in equality and injustice, which is built into that system; and power relationships.
So I think that those old stories, which in many ways are dashing and romantic, are also full of horrific violence and just plain cruelty. I think that had a big influence on my writing, which is sometimes pretty gothic I guess, although I never can see it as much as other people seem to. It’s certainly writing that’s preoccupied with relationships of power.
Valerie Martin: Well some years ago, many years ago I wrote a book called “The Great Divorce”, and it has three stories in it. And one of the stories is a story about a woman who murders her husband. And it takes place in antebellum times on a plantation, and she turns into a leopard; very mysterious, and magical, and horrific.
In that story I wrote a little bit about one of her slaves and some things that happened to the slaves, and I described the plantation life a bit. I guess maybe 20 years later in reading about slavery, I thought perhaps I romanticized that a little bit.
One of my great missions as a writer has been to de-romanticize the world, because I think that Americans still receive a romantic education, and that it ill-fits them for life.
In looking back over my own writing thought I have romanticized something as important as important as slavery, I was very upset. So I set about to repair that and de-romanticize it, and that was really how “Property” came about.
Valerie Martin: Well it’s historically accurate that there were slaves that were in pretty bad conditions and then there were women who were maybe a cut above; and then there were White men who were always at the top of every scheme there is to oppress.
But I was not trying to suggest, as has been suggested in reviews and commentary, that this rather brutal woman, __________, is in just as bad condition as her slave, because she isn’t. In fact she can get a divorce. She can own property. Her slave is her property and can own nothing.
I think there is certainly a big difference between those two characters, but I’ve had many people talk about how they felt sympathetic for __________ because she was herself property. Well to some extent that’s true, and I’m glad to hear that they were able to feel that. It’s very hard to get Americans to feel sympathy for each other, really, in fiction.
But I was not consciously trying to suggest that she was in as bad a strait as the slave who she chases clear across the country in order to get her back again. She’s very jealous of the slave because the slave has children by her husband and she has no children.
Basically in setting up a novel like that where we have these degrees of power, and everybody owns something, and some people own people, more or less, I really just wanted to be so complicated that you pull your hair and think, “Where is the end of property?”
And so that’s why I think there is this parallel between degree of ownership: the woman who owns the slave; the slave who owns nothing; the husband who owns the wife, and so forth.
February 11, 2008
Valerie Martin on the mythology of the Big Easy.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.