The Library of Maria Callas: short fiction

 

Some time after her death, it came to me to explore the archive which Miss Callas had assembled over the course of her life.  The library, a room in her apartment at 36 Avenue Georges Mandel, documented Maria’s attempt to internalize the musical world for the sake of her art.  It was required of Callas, she believed, to swallow the world entire in order to emit Norma or Medea.

Her archive was not yet picked over.  It looked mad, crooked, and it contained many of her possessions, her letters and scores, which would later disappear.

Everything stopped abruptly

Over the wide room, a hologram of Aristotle Onassis sprang up here and there, recommending spy fiction and a catalogue from Van Cleef  & Arpels. He addressed the camera, and thus me, in a “get a load of this” tone.  He blew me a kiss.

A glance took in her collection of scores and a stack of 8-track tapes for language acquisition (Introductions to Turkish, Persian, German).  She spoke Greek, French, English and the Italian dialect of Veronese, usually in a blend, multidimensionally, rising and falling like the keys of a typewriter.  I saw copies of Macbeth and a biography of Nicholas and Alexandra, dog-eared, which she had carried around for a while, moving from one carry-on bag to another.

This is disgusting, said Ari, looking around.

This is a disgrace, said Ari.  (In the end, I would find several mummified poodles who were lost in the stacks.) Ha, Ari said suddenly.  He held up a trashy biography of Jackie Kennedy mid-1970s, mincing, and raffishly  kissed Jackie’s paper cheek. His head is the head of the minotaur, and people whisper how can she sleep with him?

Jackie Kennedy is a bag of bones, he once not only told Maria, but told her in front of guests.  An incalculable gift.

My assistant asked if we might come across some special map of Greece to lead us to hidden archeological treasures.  Of course not, you idiot, I said.  He and I congratulated each other on the significant finds, like a purple metal garbage can sporting a silkscreened picture of Jackie at JFK’s funeral. Should I throw out the inevitable junk?   I wondered if the word theft could be applied, as we shuttled away piles of hotel room stationery, covered in notes and lists and letters.

Jackie Kennedy bled into the real Kennedys, Jack and Bobby, JFK and RFK

And everything was confidential

(FBI agents burst through a tear in time)

And life was lived like something snapped off

The other woman was more interesting than Ari himself.  This is for whom he would leave me, wrote Callas on Excelsior Hotel paper.  This is my weight in gold.  This is my value in couture. This is my bag of secrets.

This is our Hisarlik, I tell my assistant.  This is our Hisarlik, this is our Troy, this is our flaming library, Alexandria under our feet, this Knossos, this is our old religion.

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6 Responses to “The Library of Maria Callas: short fiction”

  1. The Other EOB says:

    Gosh, you write beautifully, Erin. And I can see why: You have a keyboard warmer.

  2. Muffy says:

    This is beautiful. I love the typewriter keys image. And the approach you are taking. Funny, witty, sharp.

    The whole topic upsets me — the ditching of Callas.

    I don’t have changes. You just need to keep writing. You write in your OWN voice. Which is distinctive. And not many people have their own voice… Do a series of short accounts of women you know a lot about? Jackie O, Callas, Hillary, ect?

  3. Daphne Guinness says:

    Feralpost.com
    Read this brilliant article on my heroine Maria Callas xx
    14 May 2014

    13 retweet 14 favourites

  4. Stefania Briccola says:

    It’s really great. I would like to send [Daphne Guinness] something I wrote about Visconti and Callas.

    @Stebric

  5. Katja Anderson says:

    @katya_anderson

    I don’t retweet many articles on Twitter, but this one was what you said, brilliant!

  6. Millie Stanisic says:

    Erin, you write beautifully. You should write again. The world is missing something like this.

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