Monday, September 17, 2018

Bagonoun's Wonderful Songbird - a Beauty & the Beast tale in South Pacific

Greetings, commies!
I've been on my Beauty & the Beast binge. Except, sometimes I like to see the roles reversed. What if the female protagonist was ugly? John Rosenman's Bagonoun's Wonderful Songbird came in as a perfect treat.

An old man and a young girl are unlikely lovers, but what happens when a magical bird starts to sing? Bagonoun's Wonderful Songbird is an improbable love story that takes place on the island Nauru in the South Pacific. Sometimes miracles come true.

My thoughts:
I enjoy Rosenman's novellas and short stories because they read like Twilight Zone episodes. You get philosophy and ethics infused into each piece. Most of Rosenman's works take place in space or on another planet. "Bagonoun's Wonderful Songbird" takes place on an island in South Pacific in some ambiguous past. The idea of a much older man and a younger woman has been explored in his previous work "More Stately Mansions". The twist here is that the girl is deemed ugly by the villagers, too ugly to marry. I know it is very posh now to bash "Western beauty standards". Guess what? Non-Western cultures can be even more brutal when it comes to beauty standards. At least in modern America or Europe you cannot be denied employment or medical care if you do not adhere to the beauty standards. What plays in the girl's favor is that Bagonoun, pushing seventy, is past the point of evaluating women based on their looks. He has a "been there, done it" attitude. In his youth he was married to a beautiful girl and fathered six children with her. Now, in the twilight of his life, he starts looking beyond outward beauty. He is one of the few villagers who bother to get to know Emet, the unmarriageable outcast. However, Bagonoun still has not lost his competitive streak. He  still enters his songbird into competitions. He has not denounced all worldly vanities. He still craves recognition. As he spends time with Emet, telling her myths from the island, their friendship morphs into love - the kind that transcends appearances and transform their very bodies. 

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