It Happened to Jane

Dear Carla Fran,

I hope that your table at the wedding is surrounded by Viking paraphernalia and flowing with mead. I can’t wait to hear your reflections on marriage and the strange world of weddings.

I watched “It Happened to Jane.” Never before or since, I think, have lobsters–specifically, their delivery and sustenance–played such a pivotal role in a plot. What a bizarre symbol for the average American’s struggle against Big Business. What an odd thing for the public to rally behind. Not the flag, not the bald eagle, but the almighty lobster.

It reminds me, you know, of a weird detail in Conrad’s short story “The Secret Sharer.” It’s a story about a young and anxious ship captain struggling for command over his crew and his ship, who ends up stowing his doppelganger in his cabin. He finds his be-whiskered chief mate’s compulsion to examine and explain everything especially oppressive. To illustrate, he tells about a scorpion the chief mate found drowned in his inkwell. Why would the scorpion go to the chief mate’s rooms intead of the cellar? the chief mate wonders. And why on earth would it climb into an inkwell, and once there, let itself drown?

I’ve never come up with a satisfactory account of what that scorpion means, if anything, but it’s a detail that delights me.




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