I don’t really like odd numbers–I feel like they are super aggressive? Probably a weird take, I know. Odd numbers just make me feel intensely uncomfortable and itchy in my soul. But somehow a list of four things just doesn’t sound as interesting as a list of five things.
your quarterly madcap on a budget thread: what is the ONE thing you would tell someone to buy to gild or enhance — even SLIGHTLY — their life in lockdown that costs $25 or under. i’m talking something frivolous and silly but that sparks joy.
So here are five gilded good things and life enhancements that are small sources of joy to me right now. Some of them didn’t cost anything at all, but most were under $25.
1.“Rajio taiso” exercises, a program of Japanese morning exercises and gentle calisthenics broadcast in the early mornings on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting company. I’ve read that the first broadcast took place in 1928, and the aim was to improve the health of the general public in Japan. What’s nice about it is that it’s been designed for anyone at any age to do on their own, without any equipment required. Everyone from children to the elderly can join in, and there are even versions that you can do while seated. On mornings when it’s raining outside and I can’t go for a wake-up walk (or maybe I’ve just woken up too late, whoops!) I do ten minutes of Rajio Taiso exercises instead.
Alternately, I’ve been trying my best to follow along with this “yoga for sensitive knees” video, but don’t be fooled. If you, like me, don’t have much in the way of a regular yoga practice, this is not as easy as you think it’s going to be!
2. There are times I can’t commit to sitting in a bathtub full of water and getting my whole body wet. On some days, that seems like a major production and I haven’t got the energy for it. It sounds like an exercise in misery, but at the same time, my bones are are crying out for some sort of relaxing soak.
On those days, I run the tub half full, use all the bath bombs and salts and oils that I have at my disposal…except maybe even more than I might use for a regular bath, and then proceed to roll up my pants, sit on the edge of the tub, and lower my feet in. I bring a book with me and I read for about 10-15 minutes while my toes wiggle under the warm water, and then I use a nice salt or sugar scrub to slough away the barnacles and follow it up with an enthusiastic callous scraping. I dry off with a good towel, slather on a thick, healing foot lotion, and then suit my feet up with a cute pair of socks. I make a weekly ritual of this, and it is so very, very nice!
I thought I had a more illustrative photo of this process, but apparently, I do not. The above imagery is from an Instagram story I posted a few months ago. It’s definitely not that chilly anymore, which is even more reason not to immerse my entire body in a tub of hot juice!
3 . The Faculty of Horror Podcast. I believe I have mentioned before how picky I am when it comes to podcasts. They have to hit me in the right spot (weirdness, witchy tidbits, horror) AND they have to not be obnoxious. There’s nothing I hate more than listening to two people rambling off-topic and amusing themselves with a whole bunch of inside jokes. There’s a fine line between two friends who are having a good time and keeping their audience amused, entertained, and informed, and two friends who record themselves because they think they are hilarious but no one outside of the two of them knows what they are laughing about. So that’s my problem with a lot of buddy-podcasts. I don’t have the patience for them and they embarrass me. Not that you asked.
Andrea Subasatti and Alex West, however! I enjoy the heck out of their discussions in their Faculty of Horror podcast. If you are interested in horror analysis and scholarship through a contemporary, feminist lens, Andrea and Alex’s fabulously insightful, passionate, and incredibly fun chats are such a treat. I believe there’s over seven years worth of content, so if you’re unsure where to start, just pick through and look for some of your favorite films, and dive right in. I find that hearing people talk about a thing you already love is a great way to get a feel for their treatment of and read on a thing.
And I’ve recently been inspired to rewatch so many films due to their commentary and perspective! See Interview with the Vampire, Event Horizon, The Mist, and Hausu, for a few of my favorites. Additionally, they just did a “best of 2020” and I really just gobble up lists like that, so that’s a highly recommended episode, as well. The Faculty of Horror also has a Patreon where one can get access to additional content if one is inclined to support them in that way!
4. 505 by Elektroforez. I don’t know what to say about these guys, but I sure am enjoying them. I have been listening to them nonstop for the past week. They make me want to dance! Albeit, in a moody, morose, sort of way. A recommendation from my good friend Sonya, who I hear has got an excellent list of these austere, gloomy Russian goth, new-wave, synth-pop, post-punk type musicians that they’re going to share for our ears over at Haute Macabre sometime in the near future. Yay for new music! It’s been a while, but I’m suddenly becoming interested again and that is both a pleasure and a deeply relieving realization.
5. Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God! These little six-minute slice-of-life snippets are just too, too adorable. “This is sudden, but welcome to the world of Egyptian gods, where ancient deities work, have fun, and relax like the rest of us.” These little stories are, as one dour reviewer points out, probably full of inaccuracies, but come on. It’s cute fun.
Some bonus good things!
-We placed an order with Botanical Interests for a gazillion seeds and are so excited for our summer garden possibilities. -This chili crisp oil is, at $17 or so, insanely overpriced (damn you, persuasive Instagram ads!) but SO GOOD. – This addictively trashy book which I am looking forward to finishing while soaking my feet in the tub and enjoying a glass of wine. –This Marshmallow Fireside candle, which is just as amazing as everyone says it is -Twinkle lights for my shelves, seen in the feature photo for this post. Granted there’s only one string of them up now, but they just make the workday so much nicer that I can’t help but to think more lights will make the day even better? Eventually with enough twinkle lights, I will look forward to my 9-5? It’s probably too much to hope for, but I’m going to give it a try.
When I was in community college, I was part of the school’s “literary society.” I’m not quite sure how it happened, but one of my sisters and I, once learning that this small organization existed but was languishing under the slipshod leadership of someone or other (I honestly can’t remember who it was but I think he had sort of a “bro vibe”) well, we somehow ousted all of the members and resurrected the club as something entirely new? I can’t even imagine how that must have come about–and I am fairly certain I couldn’t figure it out even while it was happening!– but when my sister wants to get something done, she gets it done!
So we invited a few friends to join, and began writing and meeting regularly. We scored an excellent advisor, one of the school’s librarians that I admired tremendously, and I am still sort-of friends with, to this day, several decades later. Well, Facebook friends. But still! I’m barely friends with anyone from that time, so that’s quite a feat.
We began taking submissions and planning a literary magazine. We published two or three of them! I had pieces published in them (if we are friends on Instagram, you may have gotten a peep at them in my stories this week!) But I was also the secretary of the club, so we kind of had to include me, ha. We hosted events and invited authors to speak, we held little soirees on campus for writers and poets, we attended local poetry readings and volunteered our time for various causes. I can barely believe I did any of those things. Who was that person? I think those endeavors were made possible because I was part of something. I know I certainly would have been too fearful to attempt a single one of those things on my own. And though it eventually fell apart, it remains an utterly magical time in my life. Despite the fact that it was only community college, and I was poor and broke and in every other respect, I had no idea what to do with myself or my future. I knew for a time, as long as I was writing, I was dreaming things. And that felt like hope.
Right before our holiday break one year, we threw a potluck Yule-gathering and read poetry to children. I shared a few passages from the book A Circle of Seasons by Myra Cohn Livingston, which included wonderful artwork from painter Leonard Everett Fisher. I read aloud the winter portion of the book, which I thought so beautifully evocative, the imagery of which I hoped might catch the fancy of at least one or two small audience members.
Winter etches windowpanes, finger paints in white sculptures strange soft shapes in snow that glister in the night. Filigrees the snowflake, spins icicles of glass, Paints the ground in hoarfrost, its needles sharp with light.
Winter blows a blizzard, rages with a gale, Spews ice crystals through the clouds, pellets earth with hail. Breathes a freezing snowstorm, buries hedge and path, Quiets down in chalky drifts, on mornings bleak and pale.
These many years later (ooof! Too many years to feel comfortable thinking about for too long) I still write poetry. I was never formally educated or trained in writing and I haven’t spent much time honing my craft in that regard… and so I can’t say my efforts have vastly improved. But whatever. I enjoy writing poems anyway! And of course, I also spend a great deal of time reading poetry.
On a particularly chilly day last week, I was reminded for the first time in ages of Myra Cohn Livingston’s wintry word-spells, but could only remember a few words of these poems. I definitely could not recall the name of the book or the author! And no matter how I strung those words together or rearranged them, I could find no instance of the poems on the internet. I kept at it though and eventually was led to and rediscovered the book at archive.org, where you can check it out for an hour and read it in its entirety.
This post is dedicated to Katie, who loves winter so very much, and whose fantastical blog of marvels inspired me to challenge myself to write these daily posts for an entire month.
One of the first pieces of writing for which I was recognized was an essay, of sorts, that I wrote in the first grade, detailing my grandmother’s love for feeding local birds in wintertime. I don’t recall anything of what I wrote, save for a passage that my mother thought was hilarious and my grandmother herself got a little huffy about. “I do NOT do that”, she remarked when she read my passage about her hollering at the squirrels and chipmunks who stole tidbits and treats meant for the birds, as she stamped and swore in front of the kitchen window. Well, it could have happened that way, I thought. A few dramatics certainly made my ruminations more interesting! And my young writerly instincts were correct; this piece of writing won first place for the whole grade level in a contest I hadn’t even realized I had entered into.
The writing portion of this recollection is neither here nor there, really. In my 44th year, and during my little garden’s period of looking crappy and dead, I have recently hung up my first ever bird feeder. Though it took a week or so for the neighborhood avian population to take notice, check it out, and feel safe enough to start poking around, I am now enjoying watching them from my office window all throughout the day. It’s a delightful pastime, and I wish I’d thought to have done it sooner! And it occurred to me, as I ran outside this morning, shaking my spatula at a particularly audacious squirrel and shouting “fuck off into the sun, you thieving little shit!” that perhaps my grandmother is the one who is laughing now.
This is cross-posted from the Haute Macabre blog today, but I think in my effort to post once a day in February, this should count as a post here, too!
I’ve been struggling lately. I know I am not alone; I believe we all encounter this particular phenomenon in the 21st century and I don’t think it necessarily does me any good belaboring the point, if not only to say that yes–I too suffer from this modern-day affliction of social media comparisons. Sometimes when I log into Instagram and see person X, Y, or Z being successful and ambitious and motivated, it just makes me feel like a big, stupid blob in the shape of a human.
And yes, yes, I know, we all know, that Instagram and Facebook, etc., are just highly curated, specific aspects of people’s lives and no one knows what is going on behind the scenes. I have some friends who have written so beautifully and articulately on this subject and of course, it all makes so much sense when you’re reading these thoughts and nodding your head and saying “yes, yes that is SO TRUE!” But…sometimes knowing these things on an intellectual level doesn’t do your sensitive, vulnerable heart an ounce of good when you happen scroll across the accounts of certain individuals and then all of your insecurities and fears are triggered and you begin the lousy-feeling blobular spiral. And so, sometimes, it’s better not to look at all. Or at least…spend a lot less time looking.
I’ve been trying to recall how I spent my time before I was constantly and routinely peeping in on people’s lives and projects and purchases and press events on social media. I think I had some interesting past times and habits, possibly? I finally remembered how I used to be in eternal pursuit of the perfect new album, and would spend hours reading new music reviews and listening to everything that came across my radar. I used to channel my frustrated and untrained artistic inclinations into things like creating little fantasy outfits and stories to go along with them. Oh, yeah. My languishing How To Wears. I forgot about how much I loved them!
So in an effort to remind myself of the things I like to do and the things that I have a knack for, here are a few recent ensembles I have pieced together, and as an extra something, I’ve shared the new (to me) music I was listening to when I created them!
P.S. If you’re looking for the item particulars included in the feature set, you can find them here. Accompanying album: Demonologia by Mala Herba
P.P.S. I have made this disclaimer before but it’s been awhile: sometimes some of these things may be sold out. I’m sorry! It happens! And most of these things are not budget-friendly. I don’t have economical daydreams!
I was upset by something I saw on Facebook this past weekend. I won’t go into any details and I will never confront the individual, but I’m still thinking about it almost 24 hours later. It was just…mean. There’s no other word for it. Mean.
It’s possible that this person’s observations and remarks hit me so hard because I too, can be mean. I’ve tried to reign it in over the years. And I don’t think it’s that I am mean to someone’s face. But I have certainly been known to make a snide or snarky remark, sotto voce, or perhaps internet-dm-voce, to a circle of close friends or sisters, about someone who I think has done something dumb or foolish.
Maybe I thought I was making a funny observation. Maybe I thought I had some sort of point, hinging on some sort of principle. I don’t know. I’m not denying it, though. I can definitely be kinda bitchy, and I am not sure that I always recognize it for what it is when I am doing it, but when I see it in someone else…oooof. It is not a good look. It’s awfully ugly, as a matter of fact. And in seeing this, and drawing parallels with my own behavior, I begin to feel a deep sense of shame. No doubt this is why I can’t stop thinking about this other person. Because that’s been me, as well. More times than I can count.
Bernard Meltzer is credited with having offered the following:
“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
And granted, there’s nothing fun about keeping your mouth shut. The experience of someone laughing at your clever commentary can be a high, and certainly one that I can ride on all day long. And there’s nothing worse than someone pooh-poohing your fun, I know! “That’s not nice,” seems like such a weenie thing to say, or to hear, like having a bucket of water dashed in your face, when you’re being hilarious, or at least you think you are, and on a roll!
But…more and more I realize (and I’m pretty sure I have always known this, deep down, where my heart is supposed to be) that being cutting and contemptuous, disguised as clever, and at the expense of kindness and compassion…well it’s not being clever at all. It’s rude and shitty.
There’s nothing clever or cool about shitting on people who are just enjoying things and living their lives. You’re just mean. And you look like an asshole. And so do I.
Maybe let’s just say nothing next time. Or if we do, let’s be more discreet* about it.
*And here’s where maybe I am the biggest asshole of all. Am I upset because the person was so mean and shitty, or because they were so thoughtless about who might be reading their words? Am I suggesting that we keep our mouths shut, or that we read the room and know our audience if we choose to flap our mean girl mandibles?
As usual, I have no answer. Maybe it’s just best to write about these things, passive-agressively.
You may have noticed that Unquiet Things has a new look. You have a keen eye! After about five years I think it was time for a change, don’t you? Many thanks to the folks at RecSpec for helping to shed our old form and emerge as something new, brimming with moody glooms and midnight blooms, but with an overall look and functionality that remains familiar, because let’s face it, we don’t like change very much.
A lot of blogs that I see recently just don’t look like a blog to me. They look more like a commerce site, like they are trying to sell me something. I suppose I am mentally and emotionally stuck in the look of the 2003-2008 era blog. Maybe before people realized they could monetize their content…they didn’t even view it as “content” yet perhaps, and they were just shouting into the void, hoping to make a connection. When blogs looked like blogs! So that’s my comfort spot. And “when blogs looked like blogs” is also maybe the dumbest sentence I’ve ever typed. Whatever! I know what I like!
Additionally, you have perhaps noticed I am posting more frequently than usual here in this blog space. Indeed, I am. For the month of February, I have challenged myself to create one blog post per day for the entirety of the month. I’ve got a few ideas, and a handful of things already scheduled, some snack-sized, and others more meal-shaped morsels. But you know, with words. Not food. But there might also be food! You know me.
I used to love to share music with friends and would compile playlists on a weekly basis featuring the new, or new-to-me artists that I had uncovered. I both love music and I also love it when someone says, “hey, thanks for introducing me to this new band, I’d never heard of them!” I guess it’s a bit of an ego thing. I always want to be the reason that someone found out about something new and cool. I want credit for something. That’s probably an embarrassing confession, but it’s undeniable. It is also probably something to look at more closely and sit with for awhile, like why is that important to me, and what am I getting from that recognition? I don’t know the answer right now, but it’s a drive that’s compelled me for as long as I can remember.
Sometime in the past few years I’ve slowed down when it comes to seeking out and sharing new music. I don’t have the time for it that I once did, but aside from that, it’s possible I have become more comfortable with just listening to other people’s suggestions, recommendations or even whole-ass playlists. What a weird and dumb thing to think and write, but it’s like, hey, why not let someone else do all the work and get the credit for once? It doesn’t always have to be ME. And also, I don’t have to know everything, I can’t find or don’t have access to everything, so why not listen to someone else’s offerings now? Think of all that I have been missing while I was trying to do it all on my own!
HOWEVER. as part of something else that I will touch on at a later time (although I will note that it is an initiative having to do with revisiting old activities that I loved as an effort to keep myself off of social media) I kinda miss my eternal quest for fabulous new musicians, every-song-is-perfect new albums, and breathtaking new songs and pieces of music. And so I have slowly been dipping my toe back in, and thought I might include a handful of favorites here today.
But ok, wow. This is super frustrating. Apparently with whatever version of WordPress I am using, I can’t embed bandcamp albums. Boo! Stupid WordPress. Whatever. Anyway!
MALA HERBA is a solo project of a sound artist and queer music activist Zosia Hołubowska. Their sets fluctuate between minimal darkwave, experimental interpretation of Eastern- European traditional music, noise soundscapes, and dark techno. Demonologia “is peppered with allusions to Eastern European music, magic, herbalism, and demonology, combining these references with contemporary electronic music. The results are akin to a disco at a witchy ritual.” (I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing about music, so I realize I am pulling a lot of quotes here. This is from The Quietus.)
Pitchfork describes this duo’s sound as that of “disco extravagance with Old Hollywood glamour” and “lush, shape-shifting glam rock, orchestral pop, and breezy psychedelia.” Sounds about right. I concur,
On weekends my partner and I will often share a bottle (or two, le whoopsie) of wine and stay up til the wee hours of the morning listening to music. We particularly love to find new artists and musicians through KEXP live shows.
Tomo Nakayama is a Seattle musician is and songwriter and his most recent album, Melon Day has been touted as an “exuberant synth-pop spectacular” and we just adore this guy. His offerings, to me, just feel so universally relatable. In “Get to know you,” Nakayama sings:
Tell me stories, tell me rhymes Tell me anything you like Tell me all about the good things That could make you feel alive Could be just one little spark Just two strangers in the dark, honey I’d like to get to know you I’d like to get to know you now
…and this conjures so vividly for me the wonderful, exhilarating nostalgia of a first date wherein we went from coffeeshop, to restaurant, to bar and stayed out until 4 in the morning talking and laughing and learning all about each other the first time. Feels! Lots of them!
Bonus! A BPAL Playlist!
Lastly, the folks over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab polled their fans with the question of what songs make them thing of BPAL scents. The results of this enquiry are reflected in this playlist. I think friends who have been listening to my mixes and playlists for a long time can probably pick out the song that I submitted! Any guesses?
On YouTube this week I shared my Ten Books I will be reading this Winter and Spring, along with various reading habits I’ve picked up over the years. I’m trying to make a habit of a corresponding blog post for these video offerings, for those who would prefer to read rather than watch. See below for all of the things I mentioned in the video!
I thought I might check in today and share with you the books I plan on reading over the next few months. If you caught my post over on Instagram, you may have noticed a stack of ten or so books that I shared, in the last week or so. Most of the titles included in that post are the ones I will be mentioning today, although I did make a few swaps for a book or two that I would prefer to read sooner rather than later.
A few people asked me if I was really reading all ten of them at once and the answer is yes! Sort of! Maybe. I didn’t begin each book on the same day, and I am not reading from all of them every day, but I am at least a chapter into each book on this list and some of them I have already finished.
This juggling several books at once is a habit I picked up while I was spending weekends caring for my grandmother before she died. When she was sleeping–which was most of the time–there wasn’t much that I could do for her, so I ended up bringing various projects and books with me to pass the time. Of course, more often than not, I found myself scrolling on my phone, which, while not only being pretty unproductive, I can also find looking at too much social media to be awfully detrimental. So I promised myself that after I spent half an hour reading a chapter from various books, usually a combination of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels, then I would allow myself a quick few minutes looking at my phone.
I found this very helpful with not only curtailing my screen time and making the day go a bit faster, I was also making headway with my TBR stacks and even getting into those books which had been sitting on my shelves and gathering dust for the longest time! And it’s a habit that I practice to this very day; when I set aside a portion of time for reading, unless it’s some sort of really riveting mystery or horror novel that I am compelled to read straight through, I typically do read a few chapters from a stack of 4-5 books. I find that keeps your mind constantly engaged and thinking and making connections, and as a writer, it’s the discovering and digging into those connections (which usually adds additional titles to your stack) which I find so fascinating and really, just an eternal source of inspiration.
It’s difficult to say what these strange slice-of-life snippets are about, the characters are often fearful of something nameless, or if their dread and paranoia does appear to focus on something concrete, whatever that is, it probably won’t make any sense. I would suggest these ominous visions are best experienced in the lull of liminal hours for people keen on terse tales of unease and unidentifiable weirdness.
Strangers is an exploration of the world and our relationship with nature through a series of essays linking the environmental, the political, the folkloric and the historical. It felt like a deeply necessary, urgent read for all human people anywhere along their their journey, who wish to experience life and living in a profoundly intimate and compassionate way. There is one particular essay about a cockroach that I highly recommend. And that is a sentence I never could have foreseen myself typing out.
HABIT NO.2 This second habit that relates to my reading is that I always keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I’m engrossed in a book. Whether it’s to jot down an unfamiliar word or turn of phrase, to capture a phrase or sentiment that particularly ensnared my heart or set my imagination alight, or make notes on this, that or the other interesting tidbit or topic for further research, I have found my booknotes absolutely essential to deepening my experience of and engagement a story while I’m reading it. Equally as important, I revisit the thoughts and words I’ve recorded there for inspiration in my own writing when I am working on various projects.
I was reminded of having rented from Blockbuster (!!) and watched Perfect Blue many many years ago when I recently spied it on someone’s goodreads list and realized that the film I had seen was either originally based on a book, or that there was a book adaptation of the film. Intrigued, I found a copy online and probably paid too much for it, because it is not easily available. For those unfamiliar, the basic premise is that there is a cute Japanese pop idol, Mima who is working to transform her image to something a little more mature and risque, and this does not sit well with an obsessed fan who desperately wants her to remain “pure” and thinks he has a plan to save her soul. After finishing the book I immediately had to rewatch the movie because aside from the very basic plot I just gave you, they are handled so differently. The movie (directed by Satoshi Kon, who also did the fantastically bizarre Paprika) was a surreal psychological thriller in which there are actually several characters who are experiencing unraveling mental states or are losing/have lost their grip on reality. It’s not just got an eerie vibe, it’s downright sinister feeling in certain scenes. The book itself is much more straight-forward in terms of being a stalker/slasher story. If you like twisty and thinky and strange, go for the movie. If you like twisted and gruesome served straight up, then go for the book.
Though I am not very far into this book by essayist, social critic, and culture buff Sady Doyle, I can tell you two things. A history and examination of the patriarchal and misogynistic fear of “monstrous” women, covering everything from literature and cinema to mythology, religion, history and current events through the lens of a brilliant –and funny!– writer is right up my alley and two, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has created an incredible collection of scents inspired by this book and the monstrous feminine archetypes which perpetually recur in storytelling. They are all really incredibly interesting fragrances and they are still available for purchase.
HABIT NO.3 So, I was at one time what you might consider an absolute and utter monster, and I used to dog-ear my books to mark my page! But no more! I have become a major bookmark enthusiast and I have an entire box on my shelf devoted to them. As I’ve mentioned in previous videos, I am a passionate art collector, and when any of my favorite artists releases a version of their work in a bookmark format, I will always grab one. Aside from that, I recycle the postcards and notecards and greeting cards sent from friends and use them to mark my place in a book as well. I’ve got quite a surplus at this point and whenever I gift a book I always slip one of these tiny pieces of art in the pages to accompany it. Oh! And if you have an instax camera, those snaps make great little gifts.
An idea that’s become a way of life for me (though it’s been a long journey in becoming so) is that there are potential portals to magic that permeate every instant of our lives if we slow down, take notice of them, and actively choose to think of them as such. Our everyday routines are more than just rote habit, they can truly be sacred rituals, full of pleasure and meaning. In Making Magic, Briana Saussy speaks directly to this belief and writes of how magic is found at the very roots of our experience. Magic doesn’t have to be this arcane, abstract thing– belongs to everyone, and it is a part of everyone’s actual lineage. Filled with exercises, hands-on work, and guided journaling, it helps us to remember and reimagine how to engage with the extraordinary in your everyday life.
I originally learned of this author on an episode of the Faculty of Horror podcast in which hosts Andrea Subasatti and Alex West were the 2007 Steven King adaptation movie, The Mist. Which I don’t know about you, but that’s a bleak masterpiece and it’s probably one of my top ten favorite films of all time. I’ve not read any of Mark Fisher’s works, nor had I heard of him before this podcast, but I believe he was an academic, a theorist and philosopher, who often wrote on dark and difficult subjects, and I am sad to learn is no longer with us, as he passed in 2017. The Weird and the Eerie offers discussion of the literary styles that one might describe as ‘weird’ or ‘eerie’ and which can be found in forms of fantastic fiction. I am not very far along into it and I have a suspicion that this is going to be one of those difficult reads that is even more of a struggle to discuss (especially if you are someone, like me, who is lacking in an academic background), but for purposes of clarification and because I found it interesting, here’s something I read in an article about Fisher’s differentiation of these two terms: “…..the weird should be understood as that ‘which does not belong’, most commonly finding expression in ‘the conjoining of two or more things which do not belong together’ (10–11). The eerie, on the other hand, indicates a different type of affect – one that is not so much about the terrifying intrusion of something that does not belong, but more often with a frightening absence where one would expect a presence.” (Source)
If you have read this wondrously knowledgeable scholar, historian, and second-generation witch’s previous offerings,Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive, and Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine, then no doubt you were over the moon to learn of her most recent title, Witch Hunt. A hybrid travel guide and memoir which at points dips into the realms of historical fiction, Witch Hunt reflects research gleaned from travels to seven countries, forty-five cities, towns, and villages. Through her intrepid adventures across Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom Sollee explores the fraught and fascinating history of these haunting figures from the past and uncovers how the archetype of the witch has been rehabilitated as a symbol of power.
HABIT NO.4 I don’t think we can talk about cozying up with a book–or at least I can’t anyway–without the very important discussion of what snacks accompany your stories. When I was young I used to pilfer oyster crackers or saltines from the kitchen cupboard and stuff them under my pillow to nibble on when I was rereading Harriet the Spy for the umpteenth time. When I was old enough to buy my own snacks I would pour a combination of various snack sized baggies of cheetos and doritos and funyuns into a bowl and munch on what my sisters called a “Sarah Special,” while I read Stephen King, and sure, mock all you like, but to this very day I maintain it’s a delightful treat!
As an adult who is more concerned with appearances than I was as a teenager, I’m too embarrassed to be seen shopping for things that coat your fingers in orange dust, so instead I make a big batch of popcorn, drizzle it in butter, and sprinkle it with salt, nutritional yeast and nori for a savory, salty, crunch snack that is only slightly less embarrassing and if you saw how much of it I can put away in one sitting you’d see what I mean by this.
Editor Emily X.R. Pan shares in the book’s introduction that Foreshadow is an ode to the short story, and that what makes this medium of story-telling so remarkable, is how the author must sharpen the experience of a story, condense it into something powerful. They must take all of the things that make a good novel and compress it into a neat little package. She further reveals that when we “tell the blank page a story…. it will tell you who you are.” and that “always, there is something of the author preserved like a fossil in amber –you can see it so much more clearly because the story is sliced so thin.” If this sounds like the editors of this collection are excited at the opportunity to celebrate unique young adult short stories and showcase underrepresented voices in the genre, and if that is getting you excited too, I think that excitement pays off in the luminous and fantastical stories they’ve chosen to include. What makes this book even more special is that after each offering the editors take a closer look at the techniques employed in the story, highlighting different aspects of the craft, and in addition to that, there are writing prompts and interviews with the authors about their processes and inspiration.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet – To Science” the poet’s laments the dangers of scientific development and its negative implications for poetry and creativity. Illingsworth, an expert at the forefront of the intersections of science and poetry disagrees with these sentiments, noting that the more we find out about science, the more we realize what a beautiful and incredible world we live in. With this book and its accounts of six groundbreaking scientists who also write poetry, he is attempting to determine whether these disciplines are complementary, whether scientists who embrace poetry were also increasing their understanding of the world, expanding their language and thereby their capacity to communicate their science to others.
For those who are unfamiliar with this individual, Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th century mystic, scientist, composer, herbalist and inventor of one of the earliest known constructed languages by a woman. Educated from the age of eight at a Benedictine monastery at and later becoming an Abbess, Hildegard experienced prophetic visions since childhood and spent many years writing the visionary works. She is a truly fascinating human in many respects but I’ll be honest here– I am a few pages into this into this “mutant fiction of speculative mysticism” wherein the works of Hildegard von Bingen have been reimagined in a novel format and I have got no clue as to what the heck is going on. So I am going to cheat and read to you the back of the book. I’m also going to link to a very interesting interview with Lemmey if you’re interested in reading more about this author’s “collaboration” with Hildegard von Bingen.
“In this story of survival and miracles, Hildegard encounters love, both queer and divine, and great peril. As the visionary healer travels through the unfamiliar landscape following a great cataclysm, she discovers the mythic quantum energy of viriditas in the natural world around her. Her journey becomes one of return, to the sacred truth of her own being.”
I am going to further cheat by sharing with you what I messaged a friend, shortly after beginning this book: “I am reading this and getting spectacularly excited and emotional and I don’t know why because I don’t understand any of it! But it’s like my little cells and atoms are all crowding together and jumping over each other in a frenzy, shouting I KNOW THIS I KNOW THIS! I feel them bubbling and boiling in my blood because I bet they DO know something and my brain just hasn’t figured it out yet!”
HABIT NO.5 I suppose this last habit is more of a compulsion, really. When I finish a book, I IMMEDIATELY have to begin a new one. No waiting! I get antsy and irritable and weird if I don’t have my next read lined up and ready to go after the final page of the previous book has turned.
So what are you reading now and over these next few chilly winter months? What are your reading habits–good, bad, weird or otherwise?
I have written poetry for most of my life, but I don’t always share it. I used to actually attend and participate in poetry readings in my twenties, if you can believe that! Since that time I’ve gotten more shy and squirrelly and self-conscious and I can’t imagine doing that now, but if I can’t share my efforts on my blog, then what is this space even for?
This first one is something that I actually had submitted somewhere, but I don’t think they are going to use it, so oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The second one is just something I’ve been thinking about for years and years–it’s actually something that happened at a poetry reading!
Something about the moon but it is always my mother
This moon how it drips and pools and you— these many years gone.
Will I weep when the looking glass dims and your reflection clouds and a moon is just a moon and mourning is only night mist soaking the pads of cat feet and there are no more mirrors on the cusp of a night in autumn when on the morning your photograph has finally begun to fade.
Untitled; a sandwich; my heart
I recall an old woman, on stage, a local poet’s society meeting. A line she spoke aloud aloud from her recent writings, an ode to her husband. Her beloved’s face likened to a smear of yellow mustard trimming a sandwich she’d eaten in a deli in Brooklyn long before I was born.
Long before I knew there were places like Brooklyn and a world of sandwiches. Long before I knew how good a sandwich could be in a space where you felt safe with someone you loved.
I recall the kiss he gave her after our gathering dispersed– in the strip mall parking lot, under the sodium lamps. A tender thing. Lingering. Soft. In the grainy warmth of those yellow lights, he did look a bit mustardy.
And I envied the many sandwiches between them.
I should have been embarrassed by my hungry gaze but could not look away, and as he held her wobbling elbow slowly searching for their parking spot. I wondered then, at the heat in my face, and who might one day sigh and smile and describe my cheeks in terms of cured meat and blushing salami.