Wild Women. Those who go in for “women’s rights” and general topsyturvyism. Some smoke cigars in the streets, some wear knickerbockers, some stump the country as “screaming orators,” all try to be as much like men as possible. Let anyone commend to these female runagates quietness, duty, home-staying, and the whole cohort of wild women is like an angry beehive, which a rough hand has disturbed. —E. Cobham Brewer. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898
You never get nothing by being an angel child.
You better change your ways and get real wild.
I wanna tell you something, I wouldn’t tell you a lie:
Wild women are the only kind that really get by,
’Cause wild women don’t worry,
wild women don’t have their blues. —Ida Cox
L’amo con passione, la Vita, mi spiego? Sono troppo convinta che la Vita sia bella anche quando è brutta, che nascere sia il miracolo dei miracoli, vivere il regalo dei regali. Anche se si tratta d’un regalo molto complicato, molto faticoso. A volte, doloroso. E con la stessa passione odio la Morte. La odio più d’una persona da odiare, e verso chi ne ha il culto provo un profondo disprezzo. Anche per questo ce l’ho tanto coi nostri nemici. Coi tagliatori di teste, coi kamikaze, coi loro estimatori. Il fatto è che pur conoscendola bene, la Morte io non la capisco. Capisco soltanto che fa parte della Vita e che senza lo spreco che chiamo Morte non ci sarebbe la Vita.* —Oriana Fallaci intervista sé stessa (2004)
I left for Italy in rotten shape, all the more so because I knew, in my gut, that Oriana was about to leave us. Her illness was old news, so it wasn’t a question of this or that report. It was the feeling of a blade grown dull, of a flame being smothered, of a bracing winter wind turned tepid and soggy.
The world is full of so-called writers who are eunuchs and old women—flaccid, dithering, lifeless nothings. In Dante’s Commedia, those who refuse to take a stand are rejected by both heaven and hell. Vergil calls such creatures “questi sciaurati, che mai non fur vivi” (these wretched ones, who never were alive) and liquidates them thus: “Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa” (Let us not talk of them, but look and pass). No coincidence: Dante, like Fallaci, was a Florentine.
Fallaci used language like a sword. Her writing grabbed you by the throat and forced you to read on. “Subjectivity and passion are characteristics not always conducive to successful journalism,” snivelled the Times of London obituary, which went on to call Fallaci’s courage and strength “peculiarly Italian directness—what her race [sic] sees as an avoidance of the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy of false politeness.”
You could spit—if such piffle deserved your expectorate. Then you recall that the English, by some accounts, called the author of all evil “Old Nick” in fear and loathing of Machiavelli—another Florentine who spoke unvarnished truths in lean, biting, implacable prose, another revolutionary who confounds milksops on the left and the right. (Dante, again: Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa.)
Fallaci skewered the fiction of objectivity in a magnificent 2003 interview by George Gurley:
I asked about the secret of her huge success as a journalist. She said it had to do with the fact that she never tried to be objective. Objectivity, she said, was “a hypocrisy which has been invented in the West which means nothing. We must take positions. Our weakness in the West is born of the fact of so-called ‘objectivity.’ Objectivity does not exist—it cannot exist!… The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: Sometimes truth stays on one side only.”
Thank you, Oriana, for inspiring me as a woman and a writer. Thank you for having fought Nazifascism as a girl; thank you for the rallying cries of your late years against today’s Nazifascism. Thank you for forcefully speaking your truths even when I disagreed with them (for example, regarding gays and abortion).
Thank you for having been shrill, incoherent, and hysterical (from hustera, “womb”)—for prompting all the epithets traditionally hurled at women who throw off their gags. Thank you for your fire and passion, the very qualities that bloodless mollycoddles invoke with disdain.
Thank you for having lived, in a way that Dante would have recognized as life.
I’m envious only of women who have children. I never managed to have any. They always died before they were born…
It weighs upon me, yes, it weighs upon me not to leave behind at least a child when I die. This is why I always call my books “babies.” My baby, my babies. But my babies are made of paper, not blood. And paper babies don’t give birth to other paper babies. They are a poor illusion of maternity.
Oriana, in my own unworthy way—and as one who shares your sadness—I like to think of myself as a daughter of yours. And I know I’m not alone.
Grazie, Oriana. Ci mancherai.
* [I love Life with a passion, do you understand? I’m too convinced that Life is beautiful even when it’s ugly, that to be born is the miracle of miracles, that to live is the gift of gifts. Even though it’s a very complicated gift, very tiring. Painful, at times. And with the same passion I hate Death. I hate it more than I do a hateful person, and I have profound contempt for those who worship it. It is for this reason, too, that I feel such anger towards our enemies. Towards decapitators, suicide bombers, and their admirers. The fact is, though I know Death well, I don’t understand it. I understand only that it is part of Life, and that without the waste that I call Death there would be no Life.]
For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery… Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness. —D.H. Lawrence
It takes all kinds dear, and the more offensive the behavior, the more civil your response should be. Or ignore them entirely, it’s better for your blood pressure. —The dearly departed mother of the Dora, via the Manolo
The sukkah makes us vulnerable. But, paradoxically, this vulnerability is our greatest power. We were vulnerable when we began our journey out of exile, and we will be vulnerable when we conclude it. But far from making us weak, this vulnerability allows to embrace our unlimited source and unique destiny. In letting go of our dependence on the physical, on the “roof,” we embrace our own true nature. —Shifra Hendrie, “Letting Go of the Roof”
In few, there is no constant existence, neither of our being, nor of the objects. And we and our judgement and all mortall things else do uncessantly rowle, turns and passe away. Thus can nothing be certainely established, nor of the one nor of the other; both the judgeing and the judged being in continuall alteration and motion. We have no communication with being; for every humane nature is ever in the middle betweene being borne and dying; giving nothing of it selfe but an obscure apparence and shadow, and an uncertaine and weake opinion. And if perhaps you fix your thought to take its being, it would be even as if one should go about to graspe the water: for, how much the more he shal close and presse that which by its owne nature is ever gliding, so much the more he shall loose what he would hold and fasten. —Michel de Montaigne, “An Apologie of Raymond Sebond” (trans. John Florio)