A reader (whom I’ve never met in person but with whom I have friends in common) recently pointed out to me that the correct form of “eye candy” in Turkish would be “göz lokumu,” rather than simply “göz lokum.” It’s a subtle, but important distinction, especially since I have a fair amount of Turkish readers.
Anyway, recently Joe and I had some friends over for dinner, and one of them (for reasons that aren’t important) was asking me about Ariadne. In Greek mythology, Ariadne was one of the daughters of King Minos of Crete. She gave Theseus a magical ball of string to help him make his way through the Labyrinth so that he could find and slay the Minotaur and then find his way out again. Theseus rewarded Ariadne’s kindness by abandoning her on Naxos. Typical guy.
Ariadne got the ball of string from the ingenious Daedalus, who had designed the Labyrinth at Minos’ behest to house the Minotaur, which was the monstrous half-man/half-bull borne by Minos’ wife Pasiphae after she succeeded in copulating with a bull by means of a rather elaborate contraption, also designed by Daedalus. Or so the legend goes.
Daedalus was the father of Icarus, shown in this painting by Lord Frederick Leighton (1830 – 1896). In order to safeguard the secrets of the Labyrinth, Minos imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus on Crete. To escape, Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings, one for himself and one for his son. When Icarus grew bold and flew too close to the sun, the wax that held the wings together began to melt, and the boy fell to the earth. Such is the mythological origin of the name Icaria, as the Aegean island where Icarus’ body landed came to be called.
In the painting (oil on canvas, c. 1869, private collection), Icarus’ (black) cloak has blown open, rendering him exposed and emphasizing his beauty, but also his vulnerability. At the same time, he is more sculpture than flesh. It is as if he has been immortalized in stone prior to taking flight and crashing to earth. He is his own funerary statue.
I think in many ways America is like Icarus: child of genius, victim of hubris.