Brace yourself, dear reader...I finally finished The Decameron! Woohoo, break out the whiskey! It took me almost (but not quite) a year to read. Not a very good pace for a so-called book blogger. One year closer to death and only one book read and blogged. Maybe I need to start "Blogging the Web", in which I blog about all the time I waste surfing the internet. Of course, that would then mean I would end up spending even more time on the internet. Damn, life is complex.
Once I put my mind to it, and got back into the book reading groove, the Decameron went pretty quickly. Funny, when I started the book A YEAR AGO I wasn't really into it, but in the last few weeks I enjoyed it much more. Well, let me qualify that: I enjoyed most of the stories, but not all of them. The book is divided up into ten sections of ten stories each, with each section representing one day of stories (see my first Decameron post) and with each section having a different theme. In some of the sections I found all the stories to be quite enjoyable. As an example, the stories from Day 8 all have the theme of tricks that men and women play on each other. These range from practical jokes to inspired ways of seeking revenge to ways of getting someone to sleep with someone else (although that was apparently not so difficult in the Renaissance). One of the stories is a great example of the ribald nature of many of the Decameron stories. In the eighth story from the eighth day, there are two great friends, Spinelloccio and Zeppa, who are both married to beautiful women. Spinelloccio starts having an affair with Zeppa's wife. One day Zeppa comes home early and finds out what's going on. He confronts his wife after Spinelloccio leaves, and tells her to invite Spinelloccio over the next day when he's not there. Zeppa will then come home, and when his wife hears him enter the house she is to lock Spinelloccio in a large chest so as to hide from Zeppa. She does so, and when Spinelloccio is locked in the chest Zeppa suggests to his wife that they invite Spinelloccio's wife over to visit. She comes over and Zeppa leads her to the bedroom where he tells her of her husband's affair, and says his revenge will be to make love to her as a form of "compensation". She is reluctant at first, but goes along with it, and they have sex on top of the chest that Spinelloccio is hiding in. When they're done, he tells her she will get a jewel as her reward, and then Zeppa has his wife come in and open the chest. Spinelloccio comes out, and he and his wife are embarrassed, but he admits he had it coming, and they suggest that they all just forgive and forget. So Spinelloccio and Zeppa become even better friends than before, and having already shared their wives they decide to continue to do so. So all four of them happily spouse swap from that day forward. Party in the Renaissance!
That story seems very ribald even to this day, and has stood up well over the past 650 years. But as a contrast, on the tenth day the stories are all about people who perform some kind of munificent or magnanimous deed, and these stories just didn't hold my interest as much as the others. And that's not just because there was not any sex in them. Well, OK, maybe it was partly because there wasn't any sex in them. But also there is something about the theme that just doesn't seem to hold up as well over the centuries. Or at least for me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps we're just more cynical these days, and the stories from the tenth day, tales of generous knights and landowners, just aren't very in synch with these days of robber baron CEOs.
Finally, in the epilogue of the book, Boccaccio addresses the reader directly, and it is here that he explains something I wondered about in my last blog post. As I commented on, he starts off each story with a short paragraph that summarizes the story. In other words, each story begins with a complete spoiler. In the epilogue, Boccaccio explains that he put the summaries in front of each story so that the reader may read only the ones that please him or her, and not those stories which that particular reader might find offensive. The epilogue as a whole is a bit weird...Boccaccio spends his time defending his work...defending his treatment of friars, and his use of humor and wordplay, among other things. I don't know why he does this. Was he afraid of censorship, or condemnation by the clergy? Hmmm. All I know is that after ALMOST A YEAR I have finally put this one to bed. I'm ready to buckle down and read my next book much more quickly. Will I manage to do so, or will I remain a whiskey-sipping blogging slacker? Stay tuned.