Sunday, April 29, 2012

Opening EVE'S DIARY



In 1905, Mark Twain published something surprising.  His work in his later years tended more toward the critical and the vitriolic.  This piece was tender, heartfelt, innocent and emotional.  Having suffered the loss of his beloved wife Livy in 1904, Samuel Clemens reflected on his Edenic married existence in Eve’s Diary.

First found in the Christmas issue of Harper’s Magazine, Eve’s Diary was a short companion piece to his earlier comic story Extracts from Adam’s Diary.  A light comic burlesque on the Book of Genesis, Adam’s Diary focused on the grouchy chiselings of the first man vis-à-vis the troublemaker who sprung from his rib.  Eve’s Diary shows the first woman to be more open, honest and, frankly, smarter than her companion, and his life is all the better for her being there.   

It is fitting, then, that The Mark Twain House & Museum in collaboration with the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and the World Affairs Council of Connecticut, welcome another open, honest and smart Eve to our little corner of the globe on May 6th at Manchester’s Cheney Hall.  EVE ENSLER is, in many ways, the Darwinian evolution of the Bible (and Twain’s) Eve. 

Where Twain’s Eve is willing to endure much abuse out of love for her husband, Ensler has become an outstanding advocate for the world to end abuse against women.  Where Twain’s Eve will often sublimate her intelligence to make her male counterpart seem brighter, Ensler fights for women to own their intelligence and rebel against social and political patriarchies.  Where Twain’s Eve relentlessly pursues Adam, one cannot help but feel Ensler would say, “Enough of this!” and move to her own corner of Eden.

There are, however, indicators that Ensler and Twain’s Eve are still soul-sisters.  They both share an inordinate amount of compassion for other living beings.  They both love openly and unashamedly.  Both Eves are incredibly inquisitive and are not afraid to talk about their feelings.  And, they both write.

Maybe the biggest area of evolution comes with the concept of original sin.  Twain, perhaps in deference to his sainted wife, avoids mention of “the fall” in Eve’s Diary. Eve’s consumption of the apple and the subsequent banishment from Eden are skipped over in her diary.  Maybe he is assuming that this topic was adequately covered in Adam’s Diary:

“She says the snake advises her to try the fruit of that tree, and says the result will be a great and fine and noble education.  I told her there would be another result, too – it would introduce death into the world…I advised her to keep away from the tree.  She said she wouldn’t.  I foresee trouble.”

Of course, Eve eats and then tempts Adam, subsequently blaming him for their downfall.  And, of course, they cover up their genitalia with fig leaves out of a nascent sense of shame, something heretofore unknown in the Garden of Eden, a paradise from which they are about to be expelled. 

Ensler has, famously, ripped off the fig leaf covering women’s vaginas with her (in)famous Vagina Monologues.  She cries out against the mutilation of women’s genitalia and forced rape.  She has refuted that eating from the Tree of Knowledge is a bad thing.  She repudiates Adam’s curmudgeonly responses to Eve’s feelings with I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World.  She has sought to eliminate women’s sense of shame regarding their sexuality, their bodies, and, most importantly, their minds.  She has fought to create a better sense of parity between the genders. 

One gets the sense that maybe this Eve wouldn’t have lasted too long in Eden.  Rather than resting on her laurels as an artist, Ensler has become a world-renowned activist, advocate and agitator.   From Adam’s Diary: 

“About an hour after sunup, as I was riding through a flowery plain where thousands of animals were grazing, slumbering, or playing with each other, according to their wont, all of a sudden they broke into a tempest of frightful noises, and in one moment the plain was in a frantic commotion and every beast was destroying its neighbor.  I knew what it meant – Eve had eaten that fruit, and death was come into the world.”


Ensler’s efforts to halt violence against women and to celebrate the female body and spirit have taken her to some of the most war-torn parts of the globe:  Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name a few.  In effect, Ensler chooses to live in the world and change it rather than retreat to a Club Med-style Eden.  Instead of bringing death into those worlds, this Eve seeks to promote peace, life, love and education.  These are goals that, in the end, are shared with Twain’s take on the biblical Eve. 

We welcome both Eves back to the Garden with the quote Twain uses to end Eve’s Diary, tellingly written in the hand of Adam:

“Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”

An Evening with Eve Ensler at Cheney Hall, sponsored by The Mark Twain House & Museum, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and the World Affairs Council of Connecticut is Sunday, May 6th at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $45.  A special ticket with VIP seating and a pre-lecture reception with Eve Ensler is $75.  Tickets can be ordered by calling (860) 647-9824.  There will be a book signing following the lecture.

"I Am an Emotional Creature" is Hartford Public Library's One Book - One Hartford selection for 2012.

1 comment:

Frank said...

I enjoyed every little bit part of it and I will be waiting for the new updates.
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