Sunday, October 18, 2009

I’ve blogged before about the passage in the Malleus Maleficarum (the witch hunting bible written by medieval German friars) in which witches gather up men’s stolen penises and store them in a bird’s nest. But recently another nuance to this story occurred to me. Bird’s nests usually contain eggs, right? Once again, witchcraft circles around the concepts of fertility and growth.

Here’s the actual quote:

Witches…sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as 20 or 30 members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many, and is a matter of common report.

A subsequent anecdote talks about a man who was a victim of penis theft. He approached a “known witch” for advice on what to do. She suggested he climb a certain tree and “take which he liked out a nest in which there were several members.” He (can we blame him?) tried to take a big one, and she said he couldn’t take that one since it belonged to the parish priest.

It’d be nice to insert here a platitude about how lucky we are not to live in the Middle Ages…except that “penis theft” is still happening, and people are still being killed for this absurd crime.
Google “penis theft” (or enter the term in the search box above to scan my archives) and blow your mind.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Reading Recommendations

As part of a literary community, I love the fact that I can recommend books written by people I know. I hope as the weather turns, you will sit by the window with a glass of warm apple cider and read each of these books (why not?).

1. The Widow's Husband by Tamim Ansary. I loved this book. A beautiful, literary look at Afghanistan in the 1800s, with tribal life lovingly rendered. Tamim is also the author of West of Kabul, East of New York, and the recently-released Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

2. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. I have to confess, this is still in my TBR pile...but I love Michelle's writing and so can confidently make the recommendation. Michelle does Egypt (and now Rome) like nobody else!

3. Flow Down Like Silver by Ki Longfellow. Another one I have yet to read but can wholly recommend on the basis of her previous novel The Secret Magdalene.

4. The Gatekeeper by Michelle Gagnon. Not available until next month, this thriller follows Kelly Jones in her third installment of serial killer trackdowns. Michelle is so personable in real life, you'd never guess her mind is so dark.

5. Exult by Joe Quirk. I loved this novel. Joe is amazing at action scenes that literally make your pulse race. His first novel The Ultimate Rush was well-named for that reason. Joe also writes nonfiction about the differences between the genders: Sperm Are From Men, Eggs Are From Women is a witty read.

6. Remedies by Kate Ledger. I went to grad school with Kate, who made me jog with her in Arizona's brutal heat. She's gotten great reviews for her debut novel, and I can't wait to read it.

7. The God Patent by Ransom Stephens. Could there be a better title? Ransom has published through I also hear there's an audiobook in the works. That's the one I'll be buying; I'm a big car listener.

8. The Sower by Kemble Scott. This book got lots of noise (including NYT noise!) for Scott's alternative publishing method. His first novel, SoMa, was a finalist for the Lambda award.

All right, those oughta keep you busy for a while. And if you haven't read The Witch's Trinity, that would be a perfect fit for this time of year.

Happy reading!

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