The Critics’ Corner
Who Is This Latter-Day Lady Godiva?
Maria Petrova’s “I Have Been Lady Godiva” is a kind of story that is so ambiguous it is very easy to underrate. It illustrates one of our mottoes: “Readers take everything literally unless they know to do otherwise.” Readers’ reactions will be all over the map, for example:
Some female readers will read the story literally. They’ll be horrified at the risks the narrator takes with her exhibitionism, especially if they’ve had or been close to bad experiences, such as with stalkers or worse.
Others, who read the story less literally, may see it as a sad tale of a marriage that has gone stale and sexless on account of a libido-deprived husband whom no amount of enticement can arouse. Or, from another viewpoint, perhaps “Lady Godiva” is bored with her husband and would like to entice someone else.
Art is the communication between artist and audience. Thus, still others, perhaps more esthetically high-flown, may see the story as the allegory of any artist, who needs above all an audience, even if it’s only an imaginary one. And again, the ending is sad, because the audience — “Peeping Tom” — disappears.
“Lady Godiva” will appeal to audiences at a number of levels, but not to those who take it literally.
Copyright © 2012 by Bewildering Stories