Commissioned art by Becky Munich

I have been writing for many years, writing whether or not I thought anyone was paying attention (usually not); whether anyone was paying money for it (definitely not) and I never tried to monetize my blog with ads or a paywalll or anything because I was doing it because I wanted to. Not because I was trying to make a buck or make a living off of it. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But it wasn’t something I wanted.

I am still not trying to do either of those things, but I have finally created a Patreon to …support my perfume habit, ha! We just moved and I put every cent I had into this house! Where am I gonna get money for stinks from? So, tell you what, you donate to my habit, and you’ll get exclusive content and whatever else I come up with.

Future donaters, tell me! What would you like to see here? And current Patreon users, anything I should keep in mind with this platform? Tips, tricks, pitfalls, whatever? I appreciate all of your insights and support!

So, what’s this about? For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by fragrance, olfactorily obsessed, spellbound by scent. “Smellbound,” if you will! In the span of an inhalation, an aroma can transport us to fabulous, fantastical realms and deliver us safely back to the familiar comforts of home. Take a deep breath. Sit in the dark. Let’s experience some Midnight Stinks together.

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2 May
2022

Welcome to our new place, our gnome sweet gnome if you will! Here’s a peek into some spaces, some more tidy and interesting than others, as we still have a lot of boxes and moving-related junk cluttering up the place.

We moved about an hour and a half or so north, to be closer to Yvan’s parents, as they’re getting on in years. We’ve been a bit resistant to the idea, locale-wise. We’ve been wanting to move to the Pacific Northwest for quite a while now, but hey, this is just a stop along the way, we’ll get there eventually! In the meanwhile, it’s definitely good to get away from our old place, which was sort of falling apart around us, and our old town, where we’d both, more or less, grown up. Although we didn’t really know each other until we moved away and come back!

Where we are living now is much closer to a bigger city, and has interesting things and groceries and restaurants…for example, there was a Sprouts less than ten minutes away (the closest one before was over an hour’s drive) and a very cool nursery five minutes up the road! We are practically right on the river and this new neighborhood is shaded by lots of enormous old trees, so even though we are still in FL, it definitely feels cooler and breezier, and and just…different.

So, it’s all a work in progress but right now I am making my first loaf of bread in this house and in the three weeks that we have been here I have already read four books, so it’s finally starting to feel like home!

In this video, I mention the Wheatberry Salad from Heidi Swanson’s Supernatural Cooking. This is a lovely cookbook to have at hand, but if you’re just looking for the recipe, The Amateur Gourmet shares it here in a very old blog post. Lordy, 2009. I feel ancient.

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The first time I smelled le Lion de Chanel, I was a little underwhelmed. While it is really nice, I thought it smelled similar to so many opulent amber fragrances already in my collection. Now I am not so sure about that part, and I think I have totally changed my tune overall. It is not just nice, it is extraordinarily beautiful. Alongside what I tend to think of as that lemony-bergamot-musk gold-plated, almost brassy glamorous vintage costume jewelry classic perfumery DNA, there’s velvety rounded patchouli, drifts of leathery balsamic smoke, a dribble of honeyed sweetness, and an intense vision of warm golden resins, like a glittering dragon’s hoard just beyond fluttering veils of vanilla incense. Or imagine…the dragon in question was Kate Bush on the Lionheart album cover. I saw that on the blacknarcissus blog with reference to Le Lion so I can’t take credit for it myself, but I couldn’t not share the imagery either, because it just so perfectly encapsulates this fragrance.

Tonight on Midnight Stinks is Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau and while I typically don’t enjoy rose scents and I never fuck with berry fragrances, this may be one of the exceptions. Perhaps because the rose only just shyly peeps out of the lush, leafy greenery and aromatic botanicals. The berries are bittersweet and biting, rather than overripe and cloying, and pair marvelously with lemony, herbaceous geranium. It feels practical and beautiful, like an artful object that actually serves a useful function, as opposed to a remaining a dusty shelf-turd. This is the sort of perfume that makes me think of how someone said that self-care is doing the things that maybe you don’t feel like doing now, so that you can set future-you up for success. Like making some sort of wellness appointment. I would wear this to visit the chiropractor and think the whole time, “good job you! You are doing your best!”By the way I don’t see a chiropractor, but if I ever did I would try to get on Dr. Brenda Mondragon’s schedule. One, because she has the coolest name ever, but two, well, if you ever watch her YouTube channel, she just seems like so much fun and I want her to crack all of my joints for an ASMR video.

There exist a handful of black currant and rose scents that are very lovely and unique. Armani Si is the very opposite of that. It feels crass and vulgar and quite common in comparison. It’s a candied floral musk that sours to an offputting fruity cocktail, something with strawberries and cheap sparkling wine and I feel like this is a themed drink served as part of your book club’s annual romance pick, and god why can’t they ever let you pick the smutty selections? There’d be way more explosive body horror and horny devils and raving madwomen in the attic. None of this secret sexy neighbor or coworker enemies-to-friends or surprise baby basic bullshit. So yeah Si is your book club’s most boring member’s spicy pick. It’s probably called Billionaire Daddy or Tempting the Boss or something.

With Oriza Legrand’s Relique d’Amour, I experienced one of my favorite facets of being a writer: encountering unexpected connections and surprise synchronicities with regard to a thing I’m attempting to write. If, say, I am outlining a book review, and I happen to watch a movie exploring similar things. Or if I am piecing together an essay and I hear a new song echoing my inner monologue. As someone for whom translating ideas into words is such a vital aspect of my identity, these snippets of magic from the universe are so special for me. Anyhow, I unearthed a sample of Oriza Legrand’s Relique d’Amour from behind a bookshelf, and while pondering its mysteries I happened upon a March 2022 Vogue Hong Kong editorial with a beautiful Joan of Arc vibe, and these images are the perfect visual representation of this fragrance. Relique d’Amour is lofty, diaphanous incense, ghost particles of lemony woody myrrh, preserved in a reliquary of bitter, brittle quartz. A pale white lily springs impossibly from its crystalline depths, its delicate dewy spice in eerie contrast to the earthy oaken moss which cushions its base. This is a scent evoking visions of the divine, of the ineffable solace of faith, and of knowing to the core of your very soul that you are not afraid. You were born to do this.

I indulged in a lemming, which is to say I picked up a DedCool sampler set. I was seeing other reviewers mention this brand, and I was feeling left out! I was a little bit resistant, though, because I hate the name. Most of the time, anyone who refers to themselves as cool, is probably the opposite of cool. Unless they are being ironic, I suppose. But I also hate irony. So you can’t win with me! I’m fairly certain that these scents are meant to be layered, which I haven’t done yet and I probably shouldn’t make any sort of judgment until I use them the way they are meant to be used. But I will say that my favorite of the bunch so far is Milk. Which is a lot like if you told Glossier’s You, “hey, I don’t want to smell like you, I want to smell like me!” The site lists the notes as amber, bergamot, and white musk, and to my nose this is a creamy sandalwood and delicate milky almond amber musk. I think it shares a lot of these aspects with You, but while You is chillier and a more defined fragrance, Milk is warm and a sort of amorphous scent, I would say it’s perfume for people who don’t wear perfume but who don’t want the sort of non-perfume that smells like soap or clean laundry. That’s a very inelegant way of phrasing it, but then again, there’s not a lot of poetry to work with here. It’s a simple scent that smells cozy and pleasant and it’s the sort of thing I’d probably spritz all over my hair and pajamas before going to bed as part of my goodnight rituals and routines.

Poets of Berlin from Vilhelm Parfumerie is a vile bioluminescent mutant blueberry thing. A blueberry subjected to a sketchy, underfunded experiment in a prototype telepod but there was also a particle of lemon-aloe-bamboo Glade air freshener in the chamber before it was hermetically sealed, as well as, a smashed bedazzle gem that fell off of an intern’s acrylic nail, unnoticed. Torn apart atom by atom, the small jammy fruit merged with the glinting shards of sugary bling and a blisteringly caustic glow-in-the-dark citrus-lily. I don’t think David Bowie ever wrote a song about this monster but there was a movie adaptation with Jeff Goldblum.

Reims L’Eau Gothique is not what I was hoping it would be, but I think I can appreciate it for what it is. The opening notes are a strangely sour iris and bergamot and eerie indolic carnation frankincense musty-dusty-powderiness. A chilly corner full of dank, dripping shadows that hasn’t seen the light of day in centuries. A rotting wood shelf behind which has slipped a secret bit of parchment, once dampened by tears and feverishly scrawled ink, now mouldering for eternity where no one but the scurrying mice and scuttling spiders know of its existence. Do I like this sort of scent? You bet. It reminds me of the dramatic atmosphere and melancholy romanticism of the Bohemian Tarot deck from Baba Studio of Prague. [It’s possible that both the fragrance and the tarot deck are unavailable, so maybe peek at eBay for these things!]

Serge Lutens Datura Noir, as far as noir-anything goes, is not noir at all. This is a milk glass fairy spell, cast in the delicate light of dawn, calling for pale blossoms soaked in milk at midnight. Heady aromas of honeysuckle and heliotrope combine with buttery floral vanilla fantasies, a flittering whimsy of bitter almond dream fuel, and a diaphanous reverie of powdery coconut musk. This datura-inspired fragrance is less deadly devil’s flower-induced euphoric hallucinations and more moonflower pudding for sleepy Thumbelinas.

Scorpio Rising from Eris Perfumes begins as a cool, citrusy pink pepper with rosy nuances, an artful enigma of a spice, more zingy herbal aromatic than the sting and pungent bite than you might expect. This is one of the more restrained Scorpios I’ve known, and while I don’t mean to generalize I can say that in my experience, there are two types of Scorpios: the one that is Very A Lot, they don’t hold back, you always know what they are thinking and they practically flay themselves open for you. They want you to have all of them, even and especially the ugly and scary bits. They wear their shadow side on their sleeve and their shadows aren’t very subtle, either. The other kind of Scorpio is not exactly secretive, silent-type, but their shadows are shrewd and sharp and you might not get to see them right away, but you always recognize they are there and you are inexplicably drawn to them like a moth to flame. While I am absolutely obsessed with pretty much all Scorpios, I think Eris’ Scorpio Rising falls more into the latter category and I wouldn’t automatically mark it as a bombastically passionate although I would say it has a quiet intensity that sort of sneaks up on you. After the cool, dry floral, and discreet fruitiness of the opening, there emerges delicate smoke and soft leather, woody-floral cardamom and immortelle’s elusive burnt sugar musk. This is the Scorpio you follow down shadowy corridors in a dream, following their lingering trail of scent, and when you’ve reached the dead-end abyss, the void at the end of the trail, you find they were behind you all along. This is the Scorpio that takes your hand as you jump into the darkness of the unknown.

I didn’t think it’s possible but I actually now quite over the moon for a chocolate-inspired fragrance. Akro Dark is not decadent, foody chocolate in the least, but rather a dry, dusty, woody interpretation of cocoa. But it’s not some austere, unapproachable thing; it’s somehow both rich and restrained while also being intoxicatingly cozy, like the combination of a bittersweet cocoa nib-speckled cardigan and the earthy musk of a patchouli stitched afghan, while warming your toes in soft, smoky vanilla firelight. This is a composition that exemplifies the elegance to be found in simple pleasures when executed thoughtfully, creatively, and while also holding something back. With chocolate scents, I think perfumers tend toward a hyper-gourmand “more is more” philosophy, throwing every decadent, delectable note at their disposal into the mix, but Dark’s appeal, at least for me, is in its’ pared-down, gorgeous simplicity. You don’t smell like a ridiculous dessert, you just smell like a damn beautiful treat.

The funny thing is, when I first looked at my sample of Ambre Nomade from Elisire, it was upside down and I misread it as Amber Malone– and you know what, it smells like a fictional character named Amber Malone, so I am just going with that. This is not what I think of as a typical amber, that powdery balsamic resin. Amber Malone is amber by way of glorious golden ginger and intense, velvety patchouli vanilla, and an unexpected aromatic freshness from sage and lavender and apple. The first time I smelled Amber M. I caught a bit of a youthful-bordering-on-obnoxious-vanilla-apricot fruitiness with a tinge of darkness that made me think she was in high school in the 2002 and had one of those scene queen hairstyles and probably spent a lot of time in serial killer chatrooms. She had the vibe of a kid who was a bit of a loner and was obsessed with true crime novels and at first, I thought maybe she was corresponding with convicted murderers in prison, but I came to the conclusion that she had a good head on her shoulders and ended up going into forensics science and has a podcast where she talks about women’s complicated relationship with true crime. Later, when I tried Amber M. again, the opulent leathery, musky resinous labdanum note is present and I think she’s gotten a book deal to write some brilliant essays regarding true stories about how vicarious interests in violent crime transformed the lives of four women and that’s when I realized Amber Malone exists to some extent– at least as far as writing this book–and her actual name is Rachel Monroe, and Savage Appetites is a great book and you should read it. Ambre Nomade speaks to me of savage appetites for truth, for curiosity, for passion and fascination, and indulging all of these things at every opportunity.

Typically I really love violet scents even though most of them either conjure elegant little tins of traditional violet candies or a powdery floral violet hand-milled bar of fancy soap at a quaint Airbnb, or even the delicate rosy-violet fragrance of an old-fashioned tube of lipstick. And these are all very nice smells but they’re not really complex or interesting. Violet Firefly from TRNP is a violet that gives you a bit more to work with, but I don’t know if I really care for all of the various components. The sweet, romantic blossom is accentuated and nearly overwhelmed by a sort of herbal sagey-cypress stinginess that for a few moments smells distressingly minty. Mint is one of those notes that ruins all fragrances for me. It’s a sort of false freshness that I paradoxically associate with really gross smells as well as the attitudes of people who pretend they never get crusty or farty and think their shit, as they say, don’t stink. Listen, all shit stinks, it’s okay, it’s supposed to. Luckily the minty shitshow subsides and it becomes a subtle mossy leather-violet situation that lays close to the skin and leaves an ozonic coolness trickling down the back of your throat, like a ghostly scrum of misty morning April shower ectoplasm.

Despite the inclusion of my old nemesis, mint (of which I thankfully don’t even detect the slightest whiff) Boysmells’ Tantrum is freaking incredible. It opens with an effervescent, almost incendiary blast of nose-tickling carbonation. There is a gardeny-green aromatic herb garden distilled to a concentrated essence, the tiniest drop of bright, piney-floral jade green peppercorn syrup, and the delicately sour note of bergamot bitters stirred into sparkling cold soda water, swirled with a cedar swizzle stick. I need a full bottle of this immediately and I will spritz with mad abandon all summer long. I also need a cocktail inspired by these notes in which I will attempt to indulge only slightly more judiciously.

I have finally met a fruity-floral that doesn’t make me want to barf. This is not to say that I like it, I mean let’s not get crazy. But I think I can definitely say that I appreciate it. Sadanne from Slumberhouse is described on the website thusly, in the style of my very favorite sort of poetically incoherent word salad absurdity: “Stained glass syrup. Serenades in damascone minor. Allegory obscured / pastel wound. A slurry of subtlety.” It’s definitely a slurry, as in a brandy-fortified sangria, mixed with an entire canister of black cherry Koolaid, a hefty dollop of musky strawberry jam, and a jigger of tart pomegranate liqueur, strewn with the petals from the most obnoxious aggressively blooming red roses in your summer garden. Pastel? No, I think this is a shimmering crimson ruby garnet gemstone bloodbath of a scent. Subtle…yeah…I don’t think so, this is about as subtle as one of the celebrity housewives throwing a glass of Zinfandel in her frenemy’s face. I can see how this might veer into Jolly Rancher territory, like LUSH’s Rose Jam, and yet somehow it doesn’t go there. Maybe it’s the type and quality of damascones used; which I just learned from Google are chemical compounds that add complex profiles of rose, apple, blackcurrant and mint with rich plum undertone to perfumes. My .2 seconds of skimming an internet article, however, does not make me an expert, so who knows. At any rate, Sadanne is happy and joyful and a lot of fun, despite a weird undercurrent of something earthy, violety, green, and bitter. You can barely smell it, it’s almost a sense of it, rather than the scent of it. It makes me wonder what the word Sadanne is supposed to me. It makes me think of the entry in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows for kairosclerosis: “the moment you realize that you’re currently happy—consciously trying to savor the feeling—which prompts your intellect to identify it, pick it apart and put it in context, where it will slowly dissolve until it’s little more than an aftertaste.” I would never wear this fragrance in a million years, but I love knowing that, much like a fleeting moment of happiness, it existed at one point in time.

 

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Jeffrey Catherine Jones

 

A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past few months or so. From heart-rending to humorous (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful, to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.

💀 After-Loss Tech Wants to Ease the Logistics of Death

💀 Inside the Rise of Green Composting and Other Burial Practices

💀 Good Enough: Chelsea Bieker on Grieving Her Complicated Father

💀 How do you explain death to children – and should they go to the funeral?

💀 How to Leave Your Photos to Someone When You Die

💀 What Impact Do End-of-Life Experiences Have on Grief?

💀  What Apple TV’s ‘Severance’ gets right about grief at work, and why employers should care

💀 What Impact Do End-of-Life Experiences Have on Grief?

💀 The Careless Display of Ill-Gotten Human Remains

💀 The Smell of Death: Interview with Nuri McBride

💀 ‘I imagined black-plumed horses’: Sarah Hughes on planning her own big, fat gothic funeral

💀 Don’t Say You ‘Can’t Imagine’ the Grief of Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones. Ask Them to Tell You Their Stories

💀 Death’s Garden Revisited: Relationships with Cemeteries. An anthology of personal essays about how the authors connect with cemeteries and graveyards.

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27 Apr
2022

 

Below is a gallery of men disturbing a woman’s restful and rehabilitative beauty sleep. Will I die mad about it? Maybe.

 

The Rose Bower by Hans Zatzka

 

Brewtnall, Edward Frederick; Sleeping Beauty; Warrington Museum & Art Gallery; 

 

Duncan, John; The Sleeping Princess; Perth & Kinross Council; 

 

Sleeping Beauty by Roland Risse

 

Sleeping Beauty by Peter Newell

 

Sleeping Beauty. by Edmund Dulac

 

Sleeping Beauty by Richard Eisermann

 

The princess lay fast asleep, Anne Anderson

 

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

 

Sleeping Beauty by Jennie Harbour

 

Sleeping Beauty in the Woods by Gustave Doré

 

The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, Carl Offterdinger

 

 

Sleeping Beauty by Walter Crane

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There was a moment there during which I thought, in our recent move, that I had lost the bottles from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Lupercalia collection that I’d received back at the beginning of March. I had not! They were in a box with our espresso machine manual and some tv remotes. Sure, that makes perfect sense.

See below for my reviews of these fragrant expressions of lust and aromatic interpretations of the wisdom that come with winters. And chocolate!

The Houses At The Back – Frosty Morning (a haze of misted ambers, orris root, and dappled lilac) I am a sucker for landscape art–especially that of the eerie, melancholic variety– and in this scent I really do smell the dull light of the wintry morning as the sun rises above the trees, the frost-topped roof and the backlit branches and chimneys, where you could almost see the marshes if not for the houses in between. A cool, subtle scent of iris and sweet violet, both sweetly airy and damp at once, velvety and diaphonous.

Cameo Chaperone (tulips scattered over silvery musk, ambrette seed, black orchid, and red benzoin) I don’t think you could possibly trust any chaperone more than this paragon of virtue. She’s all gorgeous madonna lilies, soft white musk, and delicate clouds of chantilly cream, and you almost want to give her a chaperone herself because she’s maybe too pure for this world.

Honeyed Mushroom and Incense is the ripe reek of sweet, earthy fungi, which when reducing in a pan, nearly have a simmering mycelial incense of their own that reminds me of the musty jasmine and the warm balsamic woodsiness of nag champa. The honey accord reveals itself as summery, honeysuckle bright and grassy but becomes richer and stickier and more full-bodied with time, all autumnal burnt sugar musk and pungent dried fruits. This is a fragrance that immediately makes me think of the sweet woodland adventurers rendered in watercolors by contemporary artist Lily Seika Jones.

Sweet Hypsithilla (pulsating red musk, thick golden honey, a slap of leather, filthy patchouli, pious frankincense, frothy ambergris, sweet vanilla, gritty cacao, and fiery red tobacco) A roasty, earthy, unsweetened cocoa shadow enveloping amber honeycomb and dried plum-studded fruitcake.

Under The Silvery Moonbeams (rain-spattered, shimmering soft green mosses, mints, matcha, jasmine, cardamom, chestnut, pine needle, and sweet labdanum). This is a beautiful lemon made deeply, profoundly more lemony by the addition of gentle mints and loamy, leathery labdanum. It seems like I’ve been sampling a lot of minty-scents lately, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, mint is one of those notes that ruins all fragrances for me. I wrote this elsewhere, but I will share it here as well: It’s a sort of false freshness that I paradoxically associate with really gross smells as well as the attitudes of people who pretend they never get crusty or farty and think their shit, as they say, don’t stink. Listen, all shit stinks, it’s okay, it’s supposed to. While I wouldn’t call Under the Silvery Moonbeams “mint-forward,” you can definitely tell it’s in there and for me, at least, it’s one of the rare instances of mint done right. It’s refreshing in a mental or emotional way, as opposed to a surface level, “gotta chomp on my gum if I don’t want to smell like the ham sandwich I just ate for lunch” way. It’s the “escape into the cool, wintry midnight and linger alone under a street lamp and breathe in the frosty starlight after being suffocated by small talk and excruciating awkwardness at the new year’s eve party that you didn’t even want to go to in the first place” kind of refreshing. That’s the stuff. That’s a breath of fresh air for your soul and that’s exactly what this fragrance conjures.

Stainless Steel Dildo (gleaming polished steel and a buzzy floral aldehyde) This is a complex floral composition of dazzling brightness, woodsiness, and animalic waxiness, alongside a luxurious triad of  something like rose, jasmine, and lily of the valley floral. It feels “retro” and “perfumey” in all the best ways, and despite its space-age Hajime Sorayama porny implications (nothing wrong with that!) it’s actually a softly classy scent.

Olisbokollike (a shockingly stiff and lightly oiled symmikto proto-baguette with a dribble of sweet cream) hardened breadsticks generously seeded and salted, made with a base of ancient pounded grains, lubed up with sweet, soft unsalted butter and crowned with lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream baked by and shaped by the perviest of Athenian artisans.

White Chocolate, Strawberry Pulp, and Calvados Strawberry milkshake vibes! Or maybe strawberry Nesquick? A chilled, foamy frappé of vine-ripened strawberries and zingy rhubarb nectar, blended with fresh milk, sugar, and cream.

White Chocolate, Pink Carnation, Coconut Cream, and Clove A white chocolate scone with sugar-crisped edges and a drizzle of coconut cream glaze. There’s a bit of spice that comes across as gooey cinnamon chips studded throughout the mild vanilla-floral scented crumb. If these aren’t served at the next high tea that I am invited to, I shall be most put out! Also, please host that specific tea party and add me to your high-priority invite list.

The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab 2022 Lupercalia collection is currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available

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“FOLLOW YOUR BLISS”

 

“Today is your opportunity to build the tomorrow you want.”

 

“She believed she could, so she did.”

 

“Keep your face toward the sunshine, and the shadows will always fall behind you.”

 

“DREAM BIG”

 

“It’s never too late for a new beginning.”

 

“Find joy in the ordinary.”

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

 

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

 

“You didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

 

“Pursuing reckless optimism.”

 

“I am open and receptive to all of the abundance in the universe.”

 

“I am in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”

 

“I AM ENOUGH.”

 

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”

 

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”

 

“I choose happiness.”

 

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15 Apr
2022

Okay, this is a very pretentious blog title, I just couldn’t really think of anything better. And to be fair, there are some very eerie titles on these shelves. And some fairly artful ones! So it kinda works?

So. We are (mostly) moved into our new home! Over the next few weeks I will share some peeks as we get settled, but for now: book porn! And if you have questions about titles included here, I am happy to fill you in.

 

As for what I am reading now. HOLY CATS. I got an advanced copy of MOTHERTHING by Ainsley Hogarth from NetGalley.* And wow. WOW. I am putting this book at the top of the list of the best things I have ever read. It’s sad and funny and disturbing and weird as hell. I love authors who can capture and articulate the disjointed strangeness and disconcerting intimacies of our inner monologues, those thoughts we’d never say aloud, and yet we recognize so much of ourselves in them when we get to listen in on someone else’s interior conversations. Hogarth also does a tremendous job of navigating and revealing the aching weirdness of relationships–both in the heartburstingly good and fun ways and the heartrendingly tragic and traumatizing ways. Dead moms and complicated mothers are a huge theme in this book, so if that’s a triggering topic, be wary. What is a mother’s love? Who deserves it and who does not? What happens when we’re deprived of it and in striving to be everything our mother was not, are we not also becoming that shadow, as well? In this story, Abby has found her true-love soulmate in Ralph and hopes to create a family with him, giving their child everything positive and good as a parent that neither she nor Ralph experienced as children. In the wake of Ralph’s cruel and emotionally controlling mother’s suicide, Ralph is succumbing to a deep depression and is also insisting that he is seeing his mother’s ghost. More troubling still, Abby is beginning to sense a presence as well. Feeling her dreams threatened and her fragile sense of self crumbling, Abby becomes …quite desperate.

Abby is quite possibly my favorite character ever and oh my lord people, I am begging you to read this book when it becomes available. With regard to NetGalley, I found out about it when I saw that some reviewers had acquired copies of The Art of the Occult through it. It’s a site that’s free to use where once you have set up an account you can request, read, and recommend books before they are published, and this provides essential reviews and feedback to publishers and other readers. You’re not always going to get every book you request, especially the really popular ones, but I received copies of Alma Katsu’s The Fervor and Catriona Ward’s Sundial (this is another really good one, don’t sleep on it!) so I guess I’ve gotten lucky so far. The only downside that I can see is that there is an expectation level for reviews; your eligibility to receive more titles is somewhat dependent upon it. So if that’s too much of a commitment or if that makes you a little anxious, you may want to keep that in mind. I’m not judging…it actually makes me a little anxious, too!

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So, about this wonderfully atmospheric image. This is a painting that I desperately wanted for the cover of The Art of Darkness when I first started plotting and planning for the book. The artist is Ludwik de Laveaux and it is a work from 1890 is called “Przestrach” or “Fear”. I have seen some blogs refer to it as Lady Macbeth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough information on the work to merit it a viable inclusion in any manner, let alone to feature on the cover, and also, not being a book designer, what do I know about what works in terms of cover art? Oh well. I hear that authors should share things that for whatever reason, didn’t end up in their book, and this is one of those things. I’m sharing!

I’m trying not to overwhelm everyone with a massive flood of barely-restrained-bordering-on-maniacal enthusiasm for The Art of Darkness, but you guys. This is the book I have always wanted to write (except for a book about perfume and jewelry and flowers! just putting it out there!) Ever since I learned as a child that we all at some point experience unpleasant feelings or behaviors or conditions, whether that be fright or fury, melancholy or misery, sadness or sickness, I have been fascinated by how we describe and communicate these things, these darker aspects of the human condition–especially as it relates to language and visuals, and in particular the way these things are depicted in art.

We all experience darkness. We can’t avoid it, and I don’t think we should. If we’re eternally trying to live the light where it’s always bright and happy, where we ignore or evade our distressing, uncomfortable feelings, then we are starved of shadows, of nuance, and risk an existence robbed of the richness of contrast. When we only validate our positive feelings, we vastly restrict our tools for looking at the world. We are neither dealing with reality as it is nor adequately readying ourselves for the random pains and struggles that life has in store for us. We deny our inner darkness at our own peril. Because tragedies and calamities are inevitable and darkness will descend at some point in your life, no matter what sort of mindset you have. Despite what you may have heard, good things don’t only happen to good people, and bad things don’t only happen to bad people, and whatever it is, your positive or negative thoughts did not make it happen. Shit happens. Pain is pain, feelings are feelings. And as humans, for our emotional health, it is important that we experience and embody the full spectrum of feelings and emotions.

Uh…so, what was my point? If you’re into any of that, preorder my forthcoming book, The Art of Darkness, I guess!

 

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