a semi-critique of Love Letters from Satan by Paul Eugene Paul
Thesis: don't forget your tummy
This is a semi-critique of The Love Letters from Satan (my understanding and analysis of them based on several readings--the first letter can be read below):
Satan took a trip on a plane once and fell asleep. He believed that he felt a crash while he slept and that he was, in fact, now dead--his charred and rented body having fallen in chunks somewhere over the Caribbean Sea. He believed that the only reason he felt he was alive at all had something to do with quantum physics.
He had heard of those two words before and although he had no idea what quantum physics was, somewhere in his unconsciousness the fact that he had died above the Caribbean Sea and those two words formed an inseparable bond. Satan knew there were others out there who understood quantum physics and death. Possibly vast groups of people who had gone to university and who understood--truly understood--what it meant to be dead. But Satan did not understand. He only felt death just as he felt life with no real explanation for it. In rare moments, the thought that he may have already died hundreds of times or that he was being born and dying at the same time over and over again occurred to him but he could never remember that he had this thought so that each time it occurred to him it was as if he was experiencing the thought for the first time. Such forgetfulness provided the benefit of Satan always being able to see the world with wonder. So for us (the readers) Satan always seems to have a certain innocence about him.
His room’s previous tenant (an Austrian) had painted the words ‘filled with possibilities’ above the doorway of the room and Satan liked to look at those words as a sign. The letters hint ominously that it was as if the room had chosen him. The three words had become his mantra and whenever he crossed over the threshold of his sacre boudoir, he would read those words, inhale the sweet air of a new day, and be filled with hope.
From the letters we know that Satan had other feelings, but hope was his favorite. Hope made him think that he might be interesting and capable. There was a whole world spinning above him. A world where interesting and capable people debated the characteristics of his soul or the enigmatic and barely graspable origins of his consciousness. He was desperate to be a part of those conversations but believed that his desperation would leave him at a desperate loss for words.
The letters also make it clear that he felt slightly conspiratorial about the thought that he was neither interesting nor capable because “He” had said that as a child Satan was bursting with both qualities. The “He” pretended things with him that Satan believed would one day be true--that he was a special child and that he had an intangible quality that would sparkle under the right circumstances. It was the more noble part of that sometimes awkward entanglement between adult and child that engenders encouragement or humiliation. Certainly, a close reading of the letters will show that Satan was encouraged. But they also suggest that his human body and all that it was already filled with--extraneous of any encouragement or humiliation--went its own way.
Note: on a sidenote...Lilibeth Spato reminds me of Maria, the girl who works at the bookstore not far from me. I've spoken to Maria a few times but never had a real conversation with her unless quoting passages from the books I borrow from the bookstore count as conversation. The first time I spoke to her I said: logic is doubtless unshakeable but it cannot withstand a man who wants to go on living. To which she replied: doubtless. Strange huh?
-- Paul Eugene Paul
“The Unknowed Things”
Love Letters from Satan (Letter 1)
It would have better for me if I had been a dairy farmer instead of Satan but my selflessness was ingrained in me at an early age. How could I allow another to suffer the humiliation and ostracism I have suffered? You might think it difficult for me to find a pleasant little nook to settle into but I have found a small room to live in above a tobacco shop across from the University Hospital where I was born Tundey Abikinaba. You would be surprised to know that despite my lack of formal education or military training I still manage to pay the two-hundred and fifty dollars rent each month, which conveniently enough, includes all the washing of my dirty linens and a once a month shining of the old boots worn by my father.
I apologize I could not meet with you last week but I did hear the news that Roger Spato insulted you while at the theatre. Don't worry my friend. I assure you that I am Roger Spato. I am also Spato's wife Penelope and Lilibeth, their darling daughter. I write letters to her of a startling clarity. I can send a copy of one to you if you like for I make copies of all my letters, including this one. It is, with all humility, an endeavor of a historical nature.
I write to tell you I bring the world a new way. Or rather a new perspective of an old and calamitous philosophy. By the way, if while reading this letter you happen to hear music, do not be surprised. Twice a week, a quartet plays outside my window and they arrive punctually and in tune. At the moment, they are applying themselves to a vivacious adaptation of a Janacek concerto.
Speaking of music, dear friend, the grocery store is not far and I would like to invite you for a little bite of supper one of these good nights. I am on very good footing with the grocers and I doubly assure you that they put aside all the best legumes for me. Is it not bizarre how France, Germany, and England are claimed to be the fashionable legume countries now when everyone knows the best legumes are to be found here? Imagine my surprise when I picked up the newspaper this morning to read of this. It is such a tedious endeavor to appease the Europeans but appease them I will. Only in the French language is it even possible to subscribe to such flighty notions so I will assume they were the ring leaders of this malfeasance.
As to our supper and my explanation of the new way, I urge you to accept my generous invitation. We are both free men, unencumbered by career or family concerns and one night away from all the mind-numbing festivities of this time of year might do you well. Do not be troubled that only I will be talking. You will certainly have events to relate to me as it pertains to the new opera I am writing. You did hear did you not? A liberating account of the dog races played out on a bifurcated stage where the upper half represents--what else?--heaven, and the lower half, my little room. Wear panties. The new way is rather warm.