Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The devil will find work for idle hands to do

When I work upstairs at the bookstore people mostly leave me alone. There is the occasional "Where's yr Vonnegut/Frank O'Hara/Scientology/ public bathroom" query, but the truly bizonkers customer encounters are few and far between. Yesterday, though, kittens, yesterday--a man approaches me blazing a bright white clerical collar and asks for Dante. He is holding a torn paperback of Paradiso but wants more. "Oh," I say, trying desperately not to stare at his collar, and then remember something. "Oh! We actually have a beautiful illustrated copy of the Inferno. Would you like me to get it for you?"

"No," he says firmly. "I am only interested in Paradise."

So I scamper away into the lit section feeling totes the foul temptress, tapping what are surely cloven hooves inside my knockoff New Balances. I find another copy of Paradiso and call after the priest, "Sir!" even though it would really curl my pointy tail to be able to yell out, "Father!"

He takes the second Paradiso and goes downstairs, but my mind is already racing around and away and ahead, thinking back through the history of the priest as fetish and wondering what this is really about, whether it could all be as simple as overripe paternalism and the specter of the flesh renounced. Why do priests get eroticized in ways that rabbis, for example, never do? Is it just the celibacy or is there something uniquely Catholic at work here?

It is a good thing the store will be keeping that illustrated Inferno, though, because one wants to know where one is going to spend eternity. As far as I can tell it's the seventh circle for me, the flaming desert where it rains fire, and it's really not so bad compared with what goes down in circles eight and nine. Chances are I'll see you there, because technically, any non-procreative sex acts comitted outside of Christian marriage are sodomitical. When I get there I'm going to start a four-way checkers tournament with Michelangelo, Colette and Freddie Mercury. I am sure there will be checkers in hell.

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