Kahlil Gibran on Death

Tonight, on Halloween, we will be in our old Victorian house by the graveyard, luring little children with candy so we can put them to work doing Winning Writers tech support. Maybe we’ll even watch “Rocky Horror” on Netflix, because we’re too Brad-and-Janet to go to the theater with all those icky people throwing toast.

Humor, masquerade, song — these things help us face death and even celebrate it (with fingers crossed). All Hallows’ Eve, and tomorrow’s All Saints’ Day, are times when we can throw off the stifling solemnity of grief, but opt for something a little darker and truer than sentimental consolation.

In memory of our friend, Roc Ahrensdorf, who died of cancer this summer at age 57, I’d like to share these reflections from Kahlil Gibran.

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Roc working on our house, April 2008

Friday Non-Random Song: “He Included Me”

This lesser-known hymn from 1909 deserves to be rediscovered by progressive churches. Words by Johnson Oatman Jr., music by Hampton H. Sewell. Sing along at NetHymnal.

I am so happy in Christ today,
That I go singing along my way;
Yes, I’m so happy to know and say,
“Jesus included me, too.”


Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me;
Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me.

Gladly I read, “Whosoever may
Come to the fountain of life today”;
But when I read it I always say,
“Jesus included me, too.”


Ever God’s Spirit is saying, “Come!”
Hear the Bride saying, “No longer roam”;
But I am sure while they’re calling home,
Jesus included me, too.


“Freely come drink,” words the soul to thrill!
O with what joy they my heart do fill!
For when He said, “Whosoever will,”
Jesus included me, too.


Speaking Out Against Gay Suicides

The news this fall has been full of tragic stories about young people who were bullied and driven to suicide because they were, or were perceived to be, gay. Many of you have probably heard of sex columnist Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, in which GLBT adults and allies offer video messages of hope to gay teens. Both celebrities and regular people have contributed hundreds of powerful testimonies in just a few weeks.

I was shocked and moved to learn that “Project Runway” star Tim Gunn had contemplated suicide as a teenager. Tim is the epitome of confident, classic style. On a show where judges often aggrandize themselves by mocking the contestants, he always seems genuinely caring toward the young fashion designers, knowing just how to blend support and critique. Now we know where some of that compassion comes from.

Meanwhile, at Religion Dispatches, progressive Christian theologian Eric Reitan contends that anti-gay religious teachings contributed to the despair and isolation of these young victims. Reitan, a straight ally, says these believers are missing the Bible’s most important message, the law of love:

…Jesus said that we should distinguish true and false teachings by their fruits. And the teaching that homosexuality is a sin—that, in the words of the Southern Baptist Convention, even the desire for homosexual sex is “always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent, and perverted”—this is a teaching that time and again has born poisonous fruits. The shattered promise of Zach Harrington’s life is just one more example in a painful litany.

In the face of that litany defenders of the traditional Christian view dismiss reformers as sell-outs to secular culture. They thump the Bible and quote Leviticus 18:22 or Romans 1:24-27 as if that settled the matter. Of course, that would settle the matter if one blindly accepted the idea that every passage in the Bible, in its most straightforward reading, represents the inerrant word of a perfectly loving God.

But if we accept this idea, either we’ll need to ignore the lessons drawn from sensitive and empathetic attention to our gay and lesbian neighbors, or we’ll need to refrain from practicing such attention at all. After all, when we do attend to gays and lesbians (as love for them calls us to do), it becomes hard to escape the judgment that the supposedly biblical condemnation of homosexuality has been carving a path of destruction through their lives for generations.

And so, if you accept the conservative view about the Bible’s content and its relation to God, either you’ll need to stifle the lessons of compassion and empathy, or you’ll need to refuse to listen with compassion and empathy in the first place.

But can you really have the right theory about a book if the book teaches you to love your neighbors as yourselves, but your theory about it demands that you stifle the character traits most intimately associated with love? If your theory about the Bible leads you to ignore or refuse to hear the suffering cries of your gay and lesbian neighbors, wouldn’t that be a reason to rethink your theory? Put more forcefully, how many gays and lesbians, crushed by the weight of anti-gay teachings, have to kill themselves before we decide that, just maybe, our theory about the Bible isn’t the best fit with the idea that God is love—and hence isn’t the best fit with the content of the Bible itself?

Any theory of the Bible that requires me to ignore my neighbors in favor of teasing out the correct meaning of Romans 1:24-27 seems to do an injustice to the Bible’s heart. If there’s a core message to the Christian Scriptures, it’s that Jesus—a person, not a book—is the fundamental revelation of God. It’s Jesus that John’s Gospel calls the “Word of God,” not the Bible. And in the Gospels, not only does Jesus say nothing about homosexuality, but He is recorded as saying that He comes to us in the form of the neighbor in need—“even the least of these” (Matthew 25:37-40).

Lastly, the Massachusetts chapter of the GLBT activist group Join the Impact hosted a candlelight vigil for the suicide victims earlier this month. Audio recordings from the rally at the State House are now available on their website.

My Chapbook “Barbie at 50” Now Available from Cervena Barva Press

It’s out!

My latest poetry chapbook, once again featuring cover art by the awesome Richard C. Jackson, is now available for the bargain price of $7.00 from Cervena Barva Press. Cheaper than a Barbie doll, and better for your daughter’s self-esteem.

Contest judge Afaa Michael Weaver said about this collection, “These are poems of a life more real than any doll’s, as they point up the grace of having confronted the problematic entanglements that attempt to derail a woman making her way through the puzzles of maturing in the last fifty years, a time studded with all ridiculous matter.”

Enjoy this sample poem, first published in Juked #5 (2007):

The Opposite of Pittsburgh

A garden hose fell in love with a footstool.
It said C’mon baby, opposites attract.
We belong together, like fudge and onions.

The footstool wasn’t happy in the mud.
It settled down, like it had been settling down
   all its life.
Its tapestry skirts got lopsided and wet,
like a Victorian lady visiting the poor
who sits down where there is no chair.

The hose couldn’t stay wound, it was that excited.
Flowers sprouted from the sides of the house
where the water sprayed, and nowhere else.

People whose feet were tired kept coming out
   to the garden
and poking the cabbages, seeing if they’d bear
like a sofa. “Why can’t you be more like a sofa?”
the footstool complained.

The garden hose felt love in all its arteries.
Big spurts of love, knocking over small dogs,
drenching every daddy’s barbecue.
The neighborhood began to eat their hamburgers

Stories like this always end with a garbageman.
The footstool drove away on the junk truck,
   headed for Pittsburgh
or a field that was the opposite of Pittsburgh,
just one long loop of day and night weather
and no one to keep it awake with love
running out the soles of their shoes.

Norbert Hirschhorn: “Lifeline in Thirty-Eight Stations”

Norbert Hirschhorn is a poet and medical doctor living in England. His poem “Lifeline in Thirty-Eight Stations” won first prize in the 2010 Poetry Kit Poetry Competition. We reprinted it this month in the Winning Writers newsletter and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it here on the blog, with his permission. I grew up on New York’s Lower East Side. a historic neighborhood of Jewish immigrants, so this poem brought back a lot of memories of Manhattan’s gritty, vibrant, multiethnic life.

Lifeline in Thirty-Eight Stations

(A Metro-poem, after Jacques Jouet, Oulipo)

242nd Street 12:40 pm.   Open-air northern terminal of Mannahatta, Lenni-Lenape word, meaning “Rocky Place”. The #1 Broadway, 7th Avenue local, the good old IRT, from Van Cortland Park and the Bronx Zoo (where once a caged lion turned his back and arced his pungent piss on me) down to South Ferry.

238th Street    Train yard, resting cars, high-rise apartments nestling on Algonquin burial mounds.

231st Street    Young men in grunge eat hamburgers, french fries from paper bags. I salivate.

225th Street    Riverdale, and high school sweetie Marion Kane kissing with her mouth closed. Razor-wire loops on all rooftops.

215th Street    Spuyten Duyvil, Dutch: “Spitting Devil”, traversing the coupling of waters, Harlem to Hudson.

207th Street    White people, black people, brown, a Tibetan monk; ten-second stop but no one gets on.

200th Street    Dyckman. Fort Tryon Park on Manhattan’s bluffs where oilman John D. assembled a medieval cloister scavenged from France.

191st Street    Underground! The station a tomb, we sail through, a cortege, a ghost-ship; Charon wears a hard hat.

181st Street    Washington Heights. Rats, homeless men bunking in dark recesses between stations. Walks across George Washington Bridge, one foot in New Jersey, one foot in New York, on Shabbos.

168th Street    Memories! I went to medical school here, Columbia. I once jumped into the train track pit and almost couldn’t climb back up. Mother almost died here. Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X assassinated.

157th Street    Memories! I grew up here. I knew every alley, backyard, basement, rooftop; every hand-hold in the rocks; every crazy pavement; boxball, curbball, stickball, “spaldeens” down the sewer.

145th Street    Like an airlock: not quite home, not quite not home.

137th Street    Music & Art High School, City College. My sister went to both, her memories—another universe.

125th Street    Daylight. Harlem. Harlem River to the left, Hudson to the right, New Jersey Palisades, visions of the old amusement park, neon lights quickening the river.
I never got off at 125th Street.

116th Street    Underneath again. Columbia, my college, the happiest unhappy time of my life.

110th Street    Cathedral of St. John the Divine, I made love in its shadow. I realize something:
no one drop-dead lovely ever rides the subway.

103rd Street    What? I’ve dozed off, lost track. Where did 103rd Street go?

96th Street    People eat, drink, read, think, sleep, emerge from cocoons only to get off.

86th Street    I’m exhausted. New York is exhausting. I can’t write so fast, the door closes like a guillotine, “No! Wait!”

79th Street    Upper West Side where fine Jews live. Zabar’s, Fairway Market, first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, six dollars a quart.

72nd Street    Riverside Drive starts here, the old West Side Highway, the old Viennese pastry shop where every Saturday my father met other survivors.

66th Street    A #2 express train glides past, or we’re moving backwards. I look into its windows, people in an alternate universe, perhaps I’ll see myself.

59th Street    Central Park, The Plaza (“Eloise”). Across from me, New York Post front page: “Millionaire X-dresser Chopped Up His Boyfriend’s Body. Bobby, Where’s The Head?”

50th Street    The pretty Latina looks at me. Does she know what I’m doing? I look at her. Do I know what I’m doing?

42nd Street    Cliché station, anus mundi, “Change here for the Shuttle, the A, C, D, Q, W, and R. Stand clear of the closing doors please. STAND CLEAR.” Who remembers an all-night hot dogs and knish stand? Blue balls at 3am.

34th Street    Penn Station! (“Lead us not into…”) Careless: the old one torn down while Caracalla remains. Careless: I rid myself of a wife.

28th Street    Mexican guitar trio, “buskeros”, hop on, sing a song, take money, run. Down here not sunny.

23rd Street    Nothing clever to say. Good. Shuddupaminute.

18th Street    Garment district where one summer I shlepped sample bags for a fat-ass shmatta salesman.

14th Street    Walk east to Union Square, my first pair of long pants at S. Klein-on-the-Square, and men megaphoned Communism.

Christopher Street, Sheridan Square    They called the school “NY Jew”. Greenwich Village, I heard Ted Joans at Village Vanguard recite Beat and Africa. Ted Joans, the poet, is dead. Amato free opera, my first margaritas, Ted Joans is dead. Fifty years later I read my own poems at the Cornelia Street Café.

Houston Street    Call it HOW-ston, land of Katz’s Delicatessen: “Send a salami to your boy in the AH-me”; Yonah Shimmel’s one hundred year old knisheria. Every Sunday: pastrami on rye washed down by Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic. Tea in a glass (“Nu, vat den, in a pail?”) My father’s day off.

Canal Street    SOHO = SOuth of HOw-ston, once paddled by the Lenni-Lenape.

Franklin Street    Old warehouse district, now condominiums, John Kennedy Jr., R.I.P. TRIBECA, TRI-angle BE-low CA-nal.

Chambers Street    One stop from the World Trade Center at sealed up Cortland Street station.

Cortland Street

Rector Street    Still thinking about this inconstant world; but you know, we’re eager for change, something, like Cavafy’s Barbarians: “They were, those people, a kind of solution.”

South Ferry 1:34 pm.   Ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor…” Ferry to Staten Island, once the cheapest date in New York, nickel each way. I landed here in December 1944, Jewish, refugee, age six. Only the first five cars open doors on the foreshortened platform and I’m in car seven, sealed in. But it’s okay, it’s okay, just another terminal.

Eating Your (Anti-Gay) Words, Paladino-Style

Last Sunday, Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of NY, made a speech to a group of Orthodox rabbis in which he said children shouldn’t be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option”. He also bragged about not marching in the Pride Parade. Well, gay groups rightly objected to this, and Paladino apologized. Today’s paper reports that because of this, the head rabbi has withdrawn his endorsement. And I quote:

Rabbi Levin said that he considered the apology a betrayal, and that he pined for the “old Carl” who spoke from his heart rather than bending to political whims.

Rabbi Levin said he was especially upset that Mr. Paladino gave him no notice that he planned to back away from the comments.

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich,” Rabbi Levin said. “While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

(I’m worried that this is too good to be true. Especially since a Brooklyn rabbi should know the difference between pastrami and salami. Freudian slip, anyone?)

Philosopher Mary Midgley on Darwin Versus the Darwinists

Theos, a UK-based think tank studying religion and culture, conducted an extended interview with British philosopher Mary Midgley last year to commemorate the Darwin bicentennial. (2009 was the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.) Midgley and interviewer Nick Spencer discussed science as a historical enterprise, the political uses and misuses of evolutionary theory, and the “intelligent design” debate. (Hat tip to the Books and Culture newsletter for the link.) A brief excerpt:

Spencer: It’s fascinating isn’t it how, given the number of crises of faith his work catalysed, Darwin himself didn’t have one. The decline of his Christianity was gentle and gradual and it was no real loss. He certainly lived a life remarkably similar to that of the comfortable, liberal, rural Anglican clergyman he would have been had he gone ahead with his ordination.

Midgley: Yes, he did. I think that it was probably not much of a shock to lose his faith because of the kind of faith that he had, and he had not lost faith in the society, therefore, not in the ideals of the society. The thing he was not committed to doing was comforting the dying by telling them that they were going toheaven, wasn’t it?

My father became a pacifist because he was a Chaplain in the First World War for a short time, and he had to tell men in the trenches what they were dying for, and this was a poignant experience. I’m sure that will have been a thought that occurred to Darwin, and he was unwilling to do it. He had a lot of the clerical life, but he didn’t have that bit.

He says somewhere, doesn’t he, that eternal punishment is an abominable doctrine, sothere were enough really off-putting features in Christianity at the time for him not to betoo bothered if he had to put a great deal of it aside.

Spencer: His was a very propositional faith and when some of those propositions got challenged the whole thing collapsed. He was the first person to admit there was no particular emotional commitment; he distrusted the evidential worth of experience, and as [his wife] pointed out to him, your experience and your feelings are a very important element of religious life.

Midgley: Well, of course, it’s not only important in religious life. He wrote in his autobiography that he had lost a lot of the emotional side of life generally, and what he recorded and recognised clearly was already happening then – he lost his appreciation for music, poetry, landscapes, even scenery. He was becoming more and more obsessed by the need for formal proof, and the work of putting together the details of his argument obviously was important. But of course experience is also part of the evidence, of the data. You’ve got to accept what people tell you, and what they tell you is what they’ve experienced.

People talk about ‘scientific empiricism’, but it isn’t very empirical, it seems to me, because it’s so selective among the experiences that people have. It’s not interested in what you might call strong and positive experiences. The sense that all sorts of things are happening which we don’t understand is a very important element of experience, and anyone who doesn’t take that seriously is not going to get far.

Different approaches have to work together, you see. I’ve used repeatedly the analogy of the senses – we touch things and we also see them and smell them. Now, there’s no continuity between those things, but we use the relation between them to build the full picture. We know that there are optical illusions and also tactile illusions, and we use the one thing to correct the other.

John Ziman used a similar analogy with maps – a political map and a geological map describe the same phenomena but they are doing it in different ways, according to different questions. He highlighted how much we think in terms of diagrams and visua lthings as well. But there’s always a temptation to become wedded to one particular map, and I think the economic map is the one that is currently being taken to represent reality– the bottom line. When you find what the profit and loss is, that’s the reality. And it’s of course the one that’s really under attack at the moment.

Spencer: In Science and Poetry you point out that detailed thinking emerges from imaginative roots, and all science includes philosophic assumptions. I think that’s quite an unfamiliar thought to many people today. Do you want to unpack it a little bit, particularly in relation to Darwinism?

Midgley: Yes, we all have myths through which we explain the world. The word ‘myth’ is a bit awkward because it is sometimes used simply to mean ‘false’, but I find its other meaning very useful. I also talk about dreams and dramas and visions and so forth. Whichever way one talks about it, it’s about an imaginative background, a way of seeing a problem in the world which determines what questions you ask, how you select your questions. The idea that simply, honestly finding the answer to questions is all you need doesn’t work – you’ve got to have the right questions. I think that as the history of science has built up and emerged it’s become clear that this has been a very important factor at every stage.

Why Is It Hard to Feel God’s Love?

(Atheist readers, before you say, “Because He’s not there,” think of a time when you had trouble accepting that another person loved you, and read on.)

Image is a beautiful journal of literature and art that engages with spiritual themes. In a recent post on the Image blog, Kelly Foster explores why it’s so hard to live with an awareness of God’s love:

I do believe in God.

I don’t believe, with any regularity, that God loves me. Or that, whether or not I believe in God, life will necessarily be anything other than the bleak, terror-blanched affair it sometimes appears at three in the morning.

By saying I don’t believe God loves me, I don’t mean that I consciously choose not to believe this—as in I don’t believe the moon landing was a hoax or I don’t believe that drunk driving is a good idea. I am also not saying that I believe that I am so terribly unlovable, that though God loves everyone else, he has somehow singled me out to be damned to a life bereft of comfort. I mean, I’m insecure enough, I’ll grant you, but I’m not that bad.

Instead, I am saying something that is harder to say—which is that if in my bones, I truly believed in a riskier way that the bedrock of my existence was unconditional love, was in fact Love Loving (a term used by David L. Fleming to describe the Divine Vision of St. Ignatius), then I would be different than I am. I would be more generous, more open, more accepting, more free, more at peace—not only with others, but with myself.

Is it bad theology? Bad parents? A hard life? In rejecting these simplistic solutions, Foster ends up counting her blessings, and concludes that the vulnerability of love is just plain hard to bear. It’s a slow, painstaking process of “trying to learn how to open myself just a fraction to a kind of love—a
love that transcends circumstance or condition—that I know has the power
to demolish me.”

To me, that sounds almost like…death. The kind of death Jesus was talking about when he said that we have to lose our lives in order to find them. Love and death are symbolically linked in so many myths and artistic classics because when we trust love, we’re surrendering the defenses that we thought we needed to keep ourselves alive. It’s like walking on water. I believe in Christ’s resurrection chiefly because I need a guarantee from God that love ultimately wins.

Read the whole thing here.

Sabine Huynh: “Weaning” and “On Different Time Planes”

Sabine Huynh is a poet, novelist, linguistics scholar, and literary translator. Born in Saigon in 1972, she was raised in France and has lived in England, Israel, the US, and Canada. Her work came to my attention through Helen Bar-Lev, co-editor of the Israeli literary journal Cyclamens and Swords, where these two poems first appeared. Reprinted by permission.


It’s in hunger
that I write best
about you, mother
when you don’t look
above my shoulder
presentable you are absent
or else you appear
your mad gaze searching
for my readiness to admire
but I was not born
to approve of you, mother.

It’s in hunger
that I remember best
how your love lacked
milk, mother
my mother so called
my property, so proper
beautifully groomed girl
who eyed my teacher after
school hoping he would think
I was your sister
or even your mother.

It’s in hunger
that you wove best
mother, I wish you were
an otter, short-legged
mustached, anything but
this sleek hysterical hyena
who couldn’t swim
only catwalked, no fish
remains for me
you relinquished mother
masked my pleas with a hood.

It’s in hunger you taught me
that less is best
how to sever
love for ever.

(published in Cyclamens and Swords, July 2008)


On different time planes

For a week I went to bed
knowing she’d called
forgetting she’d left
her voice in that space
between us.

“I’m calling randomly
not knowing the time difference
ignoring where you are.”

When I was ten you bought me a piano
you played it so well
while what I wanted the most
was an old bicycle
like my brothers’.

Did you know that
the dog you got yourself
dressed up and never fed
became my best friend?

Every night I brushed off
from your broken veins and split ends
burning lies, diamonds, and secrets
that tripped me off in my sleep.

(published in Cyclamens and Swords, April 2010)

Evangelicals, “Twilight”, and the Suppression of Female Desire

A teenage friend who shares my interest in shirtless hunks introduced me to the Twilight phenomenon, the insanely popular saga for young adults about a love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf, and a young woman with low self-esteem. I confess that I did enjoy the books and movies, mostly for the eye candy but also because the plotting is pretty good. I consider it a guilty pleasure, though, since the relationships and characterization are decidedly anti-feminist. Bella feels completely unworthy of her two superhuman squeezes, and has no interests in life except her romantic obsession. The guys’ treatment of her is also controlling and patriarchal.

The Other Journal , an online journal of theology and culture published by Mars Hill Graduate School, has posted an incisive series of articles by Kj Swanson about evangelicals’ embrace of Twilight. In contrast to Harry Potter, which Christian conservatives denounced for its supernatural themes, Twilight gets approval from evangelical commentators for its promotion of abstinence until marriage.

However, Swanson argues that the common ground between Twilight and evangelical culture is the more disturbing message that good women have no sexual desire, and that it is our responsibility to tame men’s uncontrollable lust by suppressing our own. The series also reflects complementarian gender stereotypes that often pop up in evangelical self-help books about relationships. Men are “naturally” protectors and women are “naturally” victims in need of rescue by a white knight (or sparkly white vampire). Swanson notes how this can lead to an abusive or self-destructive dynamic:

With Edward’s hypervigilance comes Bella’s understanding that aggressive control is an act of care and that protection is conveyed through anger. Consequently, when love is given primarily through protection, being in danger becomes a necessary scenario for receiving love.

For instance, in one distressing scene from New Moon, when Edward has temporarily broken up with Bella, she seeks out a group of men who had previously tried to assault her, so that Edward will telepathically sense her danger and reappear.

This impulse toward self-annihilation recurs at several other points in the book, driven by Bella’s sense that she has nothing else worthwhile to offer her loved ones except the sacrifice of her life. Noting similar themes in evangelical advice guides for young women, Swanson argues that Christian readers of Twilight are too quick to analogize Bella’s sacrifice to Christ’s, when hers comes from a place of shame rather than love. Swanson contrasts this to feminist theologian Phyllis Trible’s view that “the ‘self-effacing woman’ [in Bible stories] is not held up as a Christlike
model to emulate, but as a symbol of what Christ’s death called to an

Meanwhile, my teenage friend most definitely wears the pants in her relationship with her sweet quiet boyfriend, and has never been shy about declaring that she’d like to “bang” Orlando Bloom. Literature is received in complex ways.