The Velvet Chamber
An Anthology of Revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale

Explore the dark side of the female psyche --A CALL FOR WRITERS supports The Velvet Chamber

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wolfskin by Roberta Lawson

1AM, and the wolf is at the door again. Such a long, long Winter. Mother is flagging. First it was chickens boiled in the pot, herbs and plump potatoes. First it was bacon sizzling on a griddle, splayed eggs and slabs of toast dripping butter. First it was family by the hearth; cosy, lazy evenings. But the Winter just went on and on, and father never returned home. Wolf's at the door. One freezing December day my youngest sister disappeared in the forest and who knew if it was screaming or the wind blowing we heard, mother, who knew? The forest is haunted, mother.

We curl in tighter in our house like a shoe, we wrap around one another and we will never be warm enough. No, we will never last out this Winter. Something dark and probing is eating mother from the inside. The wolf is rattling our windows, the wolf that looks like father. Griddled mice and dregs of whey, daren't leave the house now. Spiders on the grill in our blind, blind house. I sleep with a paring knife under my pillow and say prayers for Summer. The wolf watches my slumber, like he used to watch my sister. Paring knife under my pillow, I dream of skinning so many things...Three mice, a human arm, big bad wolf. Skin falls back like peach-fur. Is that the wind outside, screaming? Mother, mother the wolf is rattling the door-frame! I'm almost ready, though awful-skinny. (Our Mother is haunted. Mother stares only at windows, ceilings, looking for father and our stolen sister.)

The wolf is clawing through the tired door. Don't be frightened, mother! The wolf's breath pours in like carbon monoxide. Mother is shaking like a landslide, and I am lunging for my pillow. Mother, mother, I'm ready, my teeth and nails like sharpened knives, and I'll huff and I'll puff...

The whole house blows black, the colour of wolf-fur. Winter stretches wide as a spider, ready to gobble.

Roberta Lawson lives, breathes and writes in Brighton in the UK. Her writing has appeared in places such as Prick of the Spindle, Sein und Werden and Thirteen Myna Birds. She never grew out of (original) fairytales. This piece appeared in 'Disenthralled.'

Image: Isabella the She Wolf

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Maybe her psyche feels more at home in the shadows

In the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, much is said about his musical genius.  After all he played the lyre so well he eventually brought the devil to his knees.  He was a god walking among mortals. No man was happier when he wed Eurydice.  No man was more heartbroken when she died.  No man worked harder to bring her back to life.  We know that he played so beautifully that Hades changed his mind, said, "Yes, you can have her back again."  And we know that there was one condition:  That Orpheus never look back until they reached earth again. 

We know he looked, we know he lost her.  He was a musician, a lover, a god, a singer. But who was she?  Who was the woman who inspired such passion, such loyalty.  Was she beautiful, was she a seer, a priestess.  What were her gifts?  What is the story of her loss?  When her journey to the underworld begins, what is she thinking?  When Orpheus convinces Hades, is she happy?  Does she in fact even want to return to the land of the living?  Maybe she likes it better in hell.  Maybe its cooler, maybe she can think better.  Maybe her psyche feels more at home in the shadows.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aphrodite in Ruins

It's been five years since my last fuck.

He was a former pilot from the Israeli army, with blue eyes. I met him at a coffee shop on Bleecker Street. It was a Craigslist thing. Not romance. Not initially. He needed an editor for his Yale dissertation; the shifting borders between criminal justice and the Internet. But the sex was inevitable. He was six two. I was blond. I don't think we liked each other very much, but that wasn't important.

I'd spent the last ten yeas of my life as a single woman in New York City. And that is a carnival of sex and love of epic proportions.  Its not recommended for the faint of heart. But I was on a mission. Other people may have bought into the stereotype that I was fragile, slutty, looking for love, looking for marriage. But that was not how I operated. I could be my own person. I could be out to have fun. I could sleep with you, go home that night, and never call you again.  I'm not saying that it wasn't lonely from time to time.

He'd call me in the middle of day. Ask me if I wanted to “get a coffee.” I'd play along and say, “Sure, why not.” He'd jump on a train at NYU, and I'd meet him at my Starbucks. We'd walk back to my place. Fuck from the instant we walked in the door. And then he'd go back to his library carrel on the 5th floor. I'd edit another twenty or so pages, email it to him. Or he'd call and say, “I'm done, you want to get a drink,” which like coffee, was code for fucking, but more insistent. That was my cue to hop in a cab, and meet him in the WestVillage. But also kind of hating him and myself the whole time.

We favored the tiny little dive bars on West Fourth Street.. The one's housed in decrepit 19th century townhouses, painted blue or pink. A little neon sign, almost hidden in the shadows, then, a sharp flight of stairs leading to a lower level. Inside and it was 1955 all over again. Old school cocktail shakers, wooden bar, turquoise banquettes, and place mats with drinks like Tom Collins and the Grasshopper. We stayed at the bar. I drank vodka, but he, a bit of a pussy, drank white wine.

We loved to talk about why we shouldn't be fucking because we worked together. That his dissertation was serious business. One night at Lucky's, he said, “What if you don't do as good a job because you're pissed at me? And I said, “What if you're overly critical of my edits because you're pissed at me?” Then he pulled my bar stool closer, and tried to kiss me. I pushed it back, said, “I'm serious. It's unprofessional.” He'd say, “Ok, ok. No more fucking until we're done.” That was the end of it. Until we stood on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street , and he shoved me up against a store window, and kissed me.

But sometimes, I'd meet him, and he would be all moody and  sullen and not wanting to fuck for real. And I'd be very charming and flirtatious, and try to get him to smile, but I never could. And other times, we'd meet, and I'd be all moody and sullen, and not wanting to fuck for real. And he'd try the same tactics which also which also never worked. There wasn't too much I liked about him except his body and his brain, and I think he would say the same about me. 

And of course I had no idea that this was going to be my last fuck for five years. I might've done things a bit differently. The last time, in particular, he was zipping up, on his way back to the library. The same daytime routine. I lay there on the bed, the white sheets draped over my body, the bright afternoon, as he talked about the particular intricacies of using real time policing methods with online crime. And as he was talking, for no apparent reason, I didn't hate him anymore. I just hated myself.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Minerva Gets Pierced by Love by George LaCas

Note:  Minerva  is the Roman goddess equated with the Greek goddess Athena. Loved poetry, was a virgin, often seen with an owl; her familiar and symbol of wisdom.

Her hand on the pill bottle, thought of endless sleep lulling her, Minerva one night had a change of plans, for Mr. Wright knocked on her door in the form of a potbellied perv with a Vaseline mustache. Through the open door she could see his Corvette was ruby red. She tried to see through his greasy sunglasses and waited to hear what he wanted.

“Feel like a date?” he asked her.

“Well,” she said, hiding the pill bottle behind her back. Her cat hid under the TV and watched all that transpired. “I don't see why not,” she said.

So she jumped in his car and away they went to the Adult Superstore, and to show his good intentions Mr. Wright treated Minerva to dinner and a movie. He swung into the McDonald's drive-thru and ordered two cheeseburgers while Minerva watched trailers on his sticky laptop.

Browsing arm-in-arm down the lanes of the Superstore, Minerva fell in love with Mr. Wright and he with her. She bought him a thick rubbery ring with suckers on it like something cut from an octopus. He bought her a piercing, a bright golden hoop for her hood. She thanked him with tears in her eyes. He smoothed down his mustache and smiled.

He kept his sunglasses on all through that motel-room night, as if anticipating the white-hot dawn that would pour through the curtains next morning. When morning came he was snoring, and the sunlight lay upon Minerva's buttocks in bright curves. She twisted round with new flexibility and watched her white body in the mirror. The light on her ass looked like a smile.

She wondered what her cat would do for breakfast, for she wouldn't be there to fix him Vienna sausages with jam. But as she fell asleep against her fiancée's pot belly she remembered she had left her front door open, in the haste of her flight. At some point her cat would realize he was free.

George LaCas is the author of The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, forthcoming in July 2011, a novel that re-imagines the Odyssey from the point of view of a young Appalachian pool hustler. He is an associate member of PEN American Center, and his recent short fiction appears in Metazen. LaCas currently lives and writes in Florida.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Who is there?

"The quest for female identity seems to be a soap opera, endless and never advancing, that plays the matinees of women's souls.  A central question of feminist literary criticism is, who is there when a woman says, "I am?"

Nancy A. Walker, Feminist Alternatives, Irony and Fantasy in the Contemporary Novel by Women

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Women need to name themselves and their experience, and determine their own connection to cultural myth and revision them, in the words of Thelma Shin,“as the cultural myths of patriarchy are questioned, researchers and creative writers alike begin to reread the old myths and to reexamine old and new discoveries in their efforts to uncover the ancient myth behind the surface stories.

If we do this Carol Pearson asserts, “we have the potential to step off the edge and fall into ourselves and into an alternative utopian world by moving outside of concepts of linear time and casualty into the elliptical present of infinite potentiality" (35). That is, out of the straight jacket, and into a world where storytelling and mythmaking, could fall back into the hands and voices of women as a corrective to the all encompassing paradigm of male homogeneity. Out of the straight jacket into a liminal space, where time is not linear, where women are not punished for their agency, or silenced for their sexuality.

Hecate for example becomes not an ugly old witch, but a wise woman. The story of Camelot told for centuries through King Arthur, then Marion Zimmer Bradley, tells the story through Arthur’s sister, Morgaine, in The Mists of Avalon: “Bradley has chosen to examine the internal rather the external struggles of Arthur (Shinn 35). Not only the psychology but the powerful aspects of the Goddess as well. In Zimmer’s version, a whole new element is added; the waning of a female centric ideology, a polytheistic belief system and replaced by the monotheistic, male driven, Western Christian tradition.

Here are women to emulate; Morgaine isn’t evil, instead she is a wise priestess collaborating with the Merlin and with Arthur. It is her story as much as his story, the feminine and the male principle are intact. It is dynamic and fluid. Even the island of Avalon, where the old ways are worshipped, is a liminal and evanescent place. In the hands of male authors perpetuating the male paradigm, “goddesses don’t come down to us in their pure ambiguous form, but in a static dualistic fashion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More new mythology

Female protagonists who are empowering and powerful are written by female authors, who are aware of their relationship to the tradition, who do not adhere to male myths, who do not merely reverse the terms, but create new apatriarchal spaces for their stories. It is in these stories that women can go to literature to define themselves, to find female protagonists, heroes, myths that contain archetypes that are repositories of strength for women. In these fictive worlds, a woman can engage in sexuality outside of the marriage and not be labeled as fallen, abnormal or a whore. These women possess Eros, a goddess like quality of self determination.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The new mythology

In the new mythology, the female protagonist’s control of the narrative is sharp, unmistakable. She has author-ity, knowingness, and her control of the language is as finely tuned as her sense of self; they are one and the same thing. She is very aware of her agency, and one of the ways she exhibits this agency is by the precision of her narrative and her imagery; it is self consciously dense, romantic and even perhaps pornographic. It is her story, the engine of the plot rest firmly in her hands, as she takes us back to when the story originated. She then self consciously and simultaneously evokes the other versions of the story, bringing them into a sharp focus, and then revises them. She is EROS personified. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A creation myth

In the beginning, in the darkness, there was the word. In the beginning, in the darkness, the word said, "light" and a blue glow appeared on the horizon. Then the word said, "Brighter light," and it got brighter, brasher, cocky. It fact it just about killed the darkness, but it didn't. Soon after, it began to rain, and an umbrella appeared on the horizon. At the same time a path came into view, and then a man and a woman walking on that path underneath the umbrella in the rain. They were naked and wet, and the word said, “This is good.”

This is very good.

The woman held the umbrella over the man's head, already in love with his black wet hair, and he in love with her lips. And since there were no other words, except “light” they kissed instead, in the rain, underneath the black umbrella. They kissed for so long that small green vines grew which quickly became young trees,  swaying in the wind until a forest appeared and then a lake.

He kissed her lips, the lobes of her ears. She wound her arms around his neck, his waist. She dropped the umbrella, it skittered down the road, and a sudden gust of wind, threw it up in the air, where it became entangled in a tree branch. The sun came out, and they lay down in the green grass, the vines now caressing every part of their bodies.

Soon poppies, violently red, sprang up out of the warm earth. A turtle appeared in a mud puddle, a lizard darted between the yellow dandelions, his fingers entered her, and she sighed and said, “Love.” The first spoken word. The man thought, “This is good, this is very good.” As they lay there together, electricity was invented, and then the telephone. By then there were millions of men and women, who kissed each other every day.

There were other things, too, like science, math and money and language as well as eagles, devils, and gods. A multitude and a multiplicity of gods. And words, millions of words, Some words had more weight, more beauty, more color. But all of them told stories including the one about the man and the woman in the rain underneath a black umbrella.

Image:  Tamara de Lempicka

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

We can use the master's tools to rebuild our house

James Hillman, a myth scholar, incorporates a vision of archetypes that is more flexible, less patriarchal than Jung's.  His operational understanding of the archetype is not a fixed Platonic essence, such as anima and animus, but an image.  He writes,“‘by attaching archetypal to an image, we ennoble or empower the image with the wildest, richest and deepest possible significance." I would like this anthology to reveal this significance in the bad women archetypes, in transgressive and crazy women, because despite their negative connotations, they exhibit Eros which in its purest sense, is the drive for authenticity, for power, and the capacity of self actualization. 

Goddesses like Brigid in Briton, Sarasvati in India and Nidaba in Sumer were credited with the invention of the alphabet and the creation of language and writing.  They exhibited Eros, they re-drew the shape of the world around them. Yet, according to Annis Pratt, today “women like words have been considered symbolic objects of use in a masculine structure, linguistic tokens rather than wielders of words in our own right.”  Some feminist scholars have claimed its necessary to reinvent language to get the feminine back into the world, into literature.  I would disagree.  In the words of  Audre Lord, we can use the master's tools to rebuild our house.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What is her story?

Here is the outline; the typology of one version of Beauty and the Beast.  Of course, there are many others, but this is one of the earliest.  Note that the girl, unlike later versions, saves herself.  Jung says that folk tales are a map or a guide on the treacherous and tricky road to maturation. From this typology, what is her story?

-The wealthy bride groom is a wizard in disguise.

-Three daughters, two die at his hand

-The youngest daughter is imprisoned by the wizard.

- A key motif, and a test

-The youngest daughter, who is Innocent Incarnate, passes the test

-Miraculously, she saves her two sisters

-She frees all the slaughtered women who have come before her.

-She rolls herself in honey, then feathers, and disguised as a bird, she escapes

-The wizard dies when his castle is set on fire.