Even in Paradise

by Elizabeth Nunez

Elizabeth Nunez’s novel is a modern, post-colonial take on King Lear, and it was decent (I thought the ending was a little where-are-they-now, end-of-documentary summation, and the writing style was, I don’t remember, but something was a little off, okay?), but it really made me remember my whole thing with the King Lear story. First off, King Lear is not the first iteration of that tale; like many Shakespearean plays, its roots are much older, and a story very much like it is told all over the world. The first place I heard it was in Grandfather Tales, a collection of Appalachian folk tales, where the youngest daughter, instead of saying she loves her father as much as is her duty, tells him she loves him As much as meat loves salt. I was thinking about the differences between the two, between duty and salt, and I think I like the second better because I don’t like the power-dynamic implications of words like duty, especially in regards to the machinations of love. Love should be freely given, and accepted as a gift: if someone loves only to fulfill some duty, that is not love, but loyalty. Which is not to say loyalty is trash, of course! But it isn’t love, and I’m not a fan of the idea that love is a thing that can be demanded as fealty. However, the salt thing I like, because as the story bears out, without salt, meat is nothing, meaningless; life without love is the same. Plus it’s a cool metaphor.