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16 Sirens There were three of them or, some authors say, two with bodies of women or else of feathered birds with women’s heads, or sometimes potters had them with bearded faces. One of the versions supposes that if their fatally beautiful singing failed— as of course it did when Odysseus passed by, bound as he was to the mast with the oarsmen’s ears all stopped with beeswax to make them immune—the sirens would perish. A hard rule, but what else can happen to magic after it has been reduced to a mere performance in recital and concert halls? “Breathtaking,” we say, but we still breathe. So artists should die? But, then, alas, they will, every one of them, however gifted. They try (practice, practice) and come close to divine perfection, but we applaud and then go home. For writers it’s less dramatic, but we, too, do our best and, although we do not admit it, dream that the words will live on, that our hold on someone’s attention here or there, may continue at random, blips frequent enough to become a steady low tone, not quite the song the sirens sang, but close. ...


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