Monday, April 19, 2010

Owls Are Back and Bigger Than Ever

To quote myself, "It is always awesome to include an owl in all your short stories." I was reminded of the great truth of my own words as I read tomorrow's story for my ghost class (You didn't know I teach a ghost class? Well, maybe you don't know everything about me after all!): "The Familiar" by Sheridan Le Fanu. Like all good fiction, it has an owl in it. Do I practice what I preach? You bet I do! The title novella of my book YOUR BODY IS CHANGING has an owl in the first sentence, and I liked it so much that I put owls in some of the other stories in that book, I forget how many, at least two others. Were I to compose a book of advice for aspiring writers, which I never will, the first rule would be: "Writer's block? Why not put an owl in your story? Works like a charm!" After I read "The Familiar," I looked up owls in my various dictionaries of symbols, because that is a fun thing to do. A couple of them mention a belief from ancient China that baby owls peck out their parents' eyes. Shame on them! The DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLISM by Hans Biedermann pinpoints "a fable according to which owls learn to fly only when they have irreverently pecked out the eyes of their parents." Ha ha! Irreverently! Oh, Hans Biedermann. I recall that in her book THE WOMAN WARRIOR, Maxine Hong Kingston claims that her mother once cooked some owls. This brings everything together, because an elaborate banquet featuring owl is alluded to in one of my own aforementioned short stories. Don't worry, I didn't eat an owl in New Orleans. I like them too much! Even I have to draw the line somewhere. Plus they are never on the menu. There is no "owl" entry in THE OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD. Photo by McNeil.