Thursday, December 15, 2011


From the bear section of "Flaubert's Bestiary," in F's Parrot by Julian Barnes:
From the chef to Their Majesties of Prussia Dumas obtained a recipe for bear's paws, Moscow style. Buy the paws skinned. Wash, salt, and marinade for three days. Casserole with bacon and vegetables for seven or eight hours; drain, wipe, sprinkle with pepper, and turn in melted lard. Roll in breadcrumbs and grill for half an hour. Serve with a piquant sauce and two spoonfuls of redcurrant jelly.

It is not known whether Flaubear ever ate his namesake. He ate dromedary in Damascus in 1850. It seems a reasonable guess that if he had eaten bear he would have commented on such ipsophagy. 
From a fascinating LRB piece (prob. gated) on the medicinal properties attributed to human remains:
[Richard Sugg] makes disturbing revelations about the eagerness of the English to see the numerous bodies littering the war-torn countryside of Stuart Ireland as ‘a reservoir of profitable corpse materials’ – especially the usnea moss that grew on unburied skulls. As his account of the popularity of skull moss indicates, Sugg’s interest in corpse medicine reaches well beyond mumia to inspect all those strange concoctions of human tissue and waste favoured by early modern pharmacology: blood, ground skulls, crushed brains and human fat, not to mention ‘hair, nails, lice, sperm, saliva, milk, sweat, tapeworms, stones, urine and excrement’, ingredients which suggest that the potions contrived by the Earl of Rochester in his notorious impersonation of a quack – as Dr Bendo – may not have had the purely satiric intention usually attributed to them. By the same token, Sugg’s vivid accounts of epilepsy sufferers rushing to consume the blood gushing from the bodies of executed felons gives an unexpectedly literal twist to Hamlet’s ‘now could I drink hot blood.’

The health-giving virtues widely attributed to such sanguinary draughts suggest, he writes, ‘an uncertain but intriguing link with the most successful demon of postmodern culture, the vampire’. This is a connection Sugg follows through the prescriptions of the 18th-century Irish clergyman and amateur physician John Keogh, whom he calls ‘the cannibal priest’, to Bram Stoker. As well as mummy for green wounds, distillation of brains for epilepsy, and pulverised heart for apoplexy, Keogh recommended warm blood as a tonic for the falling sickness. In folk-belief Keogh’s prowess seems to have endowed the blood of all his descendants with mysterious properties, so that in 1883 William George Black recorded that Dubliners regarded Keogh blood as a proven remedy for the toothache, while an acquaintance claimed to know of a Belfast Keogh ‘whose flesh had actually been punctured scores of times to procure his blood’. Black does not explain to what use the dour bloodsuckers of Ulster might have put his vital fluid, but such rumours may have provided additional inspiration for the Dublin-born Bram Stoker.
Flaubert, of course, was epileptic, and is also reported to have said that "People are like food."

Two recent poems that are worth reading but have nothing to do with ipsophagy: "The World's Arm" by Brenda Shaughnessy and "Not Beyond All Conjecture" by John Ashbery.

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