Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guenevere, Bobby McGee, and James Baldwin

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm doing it again. I'm doing it again. I was chased out of school at 5:00 p.m. because some janitor saw a flake of snow. There, I was grading papers. Here at home, I'm blogging. With the papers sitting neatly beside me.

Oh well, la di dah. Blogging is fun! (Not that I'm complaining about grading the papers. My students tried hard and are earning good grades. Yowsa!)

I just finished a novel about Guenevere called Queen of the Summer Country. Can't recommend it, even though it's definitely Pagan-friendly. The reason I can't recommend it is because I have trouble picturing the mighty characters from the Arthurian saga weeping, moaning, and groaning as much as they do in this book. Yes, there's tragedy aplenty in this classic revealed Scripture, but moaning and weeping on nearly every page? Oh please.

All of us ladies have a little bit of Guenevere in us. Married, dutifully, and loving our husbands, we are nevertheless bowled over by Lancelot.

You are one of my readers, and you say, "Wait a minute. There's no Lancelot in my life." Well, then, I'll bet you've got a Bobby McGee. You know who I'm talking about if you ever turn on classic rock. You can't miss Janis Joplin's heart-wrenching take on the one who got away. She would trade all her tomorrows for a single yesterday of holding Bobby's body next to hers.

My three male readers are now thinking, "Oh, this is chick stuff." Okay, no they're not. Because flip the gender, and you're in the same troubled waters, right, dudes? Maybe your Bobby McGee is a Bobbi McGee, but she's there in your memory, isn't she?

Whenever I read about Guenevere, the story fills me with melancholy. Even in the hands of an inferior writer, this is powerful stuff. The infamous love triangle, gilded with royal trappings. Likewise, "Bobby McGee." When I hear that song I just want to cry. We've all been there. Otherwise Janis wouldn't have had a hit with the doggone song. (By the way, it was written by Kris Kristofferson, a dude of the first stripe.)

Forbidden love. Lost love. Why does this appeal?

It happens that, long ago, I wrote a reference book entry on the author James Baldwin. I read a few of his books, and I also read some magazine pieces he wrote. James Baldwin thought that unrequited love was the most powerful kind of love that people could feel. (One could certainly argue that F. Scott Fitzgerald felt the same way.)

What is it about people that makes us want what we can't have, or what we had and lost? You could seriously look at our species and call this a major failing.

To me, this is not a failing. It's just one more thing that makes us want to create poetry, songs, and stories. Unrequited love makes us passionate. It informs our vision of everything around us. It makes us want to howl at the moon and shoot out the lights ... but that's a damn sight better than sitting in a chair watching the Weather Channel.

I could write a sonnet, or a saga, on this particular theme. Oh, but speaking of themes ... I've got that grading to do! My friends, I wish for you an evening of sweet dreams about your Bobby /Bobbi McGee, because in dreams everything is always so doggone beautiful, it just makes you want to cry.


Maebius said...

Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "In Memoriam":27, 1850 says it just as well in poetic form, but damn but doesn't Janis sing it much more viscerally True.

kimc said...

Unrequited love is powerful because the love we actually experience is our own -- others' love for us is just hearsay.

chefloveshiking said...

Bobby Mcgee was written by Kris Kristofferson most likely about a woman. I think of Bobbi more often than I should. Here is a link to Kris.



I always think of the one that got away...Steve..er, Larry..yeah, that's right Larry..