Are You Sick of Me Yet? Or: Still More From IN THE DEVIL’S SNARE

Home, surrounded by piles of student papers waiting to be graded. It’s spitting rain outside. Plan for today: to curl up in bed with a book, at least as long as I can manage to do so while ignoring a guilty conscience — house begging to be cleaned, laundry piled up in bathroom … !!

Reading more about Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Village in the grip of mass hysteria, each young girl trying to outdo the other in the outrageousness of her claims, pointing fingers and screaming melodramatically about being “pinched” by occult familiars. The accused: an Indian slave; a woman whose marriage to a third (wealthy) husband put her in conflict with the man’s children from an earlier marriage; a woman who had had a “bastard mulatto child”, and so forth and so on.

Below, a short description of some of the nonsense:

The Lowestoft girl had run around the house saying “hush, hush,” and the Goodwins had waved their arms “like the Wings of a Bird” and had appeared to move “with an incredible Swiftness through the air.” Moreover, like Mercy Lewis and Abigail Williams, Martha Goodwin too had earlier been inexorably drawn toward the fire with so much “violence,” Cotton Mather wrote, that one or two people could hardly prevent her from throwing herself in.

(Today, thank God, we have Ritalin. Also, an understanding of nervous disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, ADD, hysteria, depression, manic depressive disorder, Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, and so forth and so on!)

And, too, this morning I suddenly remember that Anna Nicole Smith has died. Yesterday afternoon, was getting ready for a nap (as, what else do you do when the weather is as rainy and gloomy as it’s been), saw glimpses of her on the TV and thought: Lord, what has she gotten herself into now? Then, heard the word “died”. Shocked. Looked up, and there, running across the bottom of the screen was this news: ANNA NICOLE SMITH, DEAD AT 39. And then a female commentator came on and said that she was “nothing”, her whole life was built around “chasing celebrity.” Which I thought was a terrible thing to say about a woman who was probably as original in her own way as Paris Hilton, who was poor and expected to live her life out as “trailer trash”, but who instead lived it large and in the public eye. Why blame her? Especially now?

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