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Incest!

August 12th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

Oh, the things you learn about on Twitter: celebrities, stray thoughts, and this, from one of my former colleagues at Harper’s: “Hume’s mother’s mother was his father’s father’s wife. This, says Baier, may have caused his ‘obsession’ with incest.”

Baier you can look up yourself. I’m too busy. But Hume, for those who don’t read Harper’s, is this guy, which reminds me of this very funny line by Lee Siegel that I read today at Slate: “It was like Herbert Marcuse’s advice to a despairing graduate student who said he had spent days on a sentence in Hegel and still couldn’t understand it: ‘You’re reading too fast,’ Marcuse told him.”

Anyway, it made me think of some old friends in Vietnam (I lived there after college for three years; that’s how I met the formidable Matt Gross—we were both copy editors at an English-language newspaper [ed.: until he got fired]).

This gets tricky, so stick with me: my Vietnamese friend and his wife grew up in a small village in the Mekong Delta. Their parents knew each other, perhaps, in retrospect, a little too well. So, my friend’s father dies, and his wife’s mother dies (or maybe it’s the other way around; I don’t remember). Then, because apparently the village is very small and suitable suitors are suitably scarce: my friend’s still living mother marries his wife’s still living father. They have no children, so the incest joke doesn’t really work, but it’s a slow day, and I always found it interesting, although, I guess, not without biblical precedent.

Don’t believe me? “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.” Deuteronomy 25:5. Not exactly the same, but close.

Or how about this, from the Wikipedia folks, on Levirate marriage:

Levirate marriage is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obligated to marry his brother’s widow, and the widow is obligated to marry her deceased husband’s brother. Levirate marriage has been practiced by societies with a strong clan structure in which exogamous marriage (i.e., that outside the clan) was forbidden. It is or was known in many societies around the world. The practice is similar to widow inheritance, where, for example, the deceased husband’s kin can dictate whom the widow may marry.

Good to know!

Anyway, I’m getting married (again) to Tomoko in a little more than a week. If I die, my brother can’t have her. Sorry, Jason.


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