10 years ago on September 30th, I rolled into my sister Mary’s driveway in Orlando, after a long drive from New Jersey. My car was packed with everything I owned, my baby sister Melissa, flown out from California to assist me, was driving. I don’t know how I talked her into driving the whole way, but of the two of us, I think I am actually the baby. I can drive, I just hate long stretches of highway driving. But she is so brave. Thank god/s and whoever else for her. Thank god for both of my sisters.
I had lived most of my life in Florida (though I was born in Ohio and spent a few years there as a small child.) But from ages 9-28 I lived in Florida. That’s where most of my small family was, and my friends, all two of them. I packed up and left all of that behind, everything I knew, in February of 2004, to move to New Jersey. That… was a bad idea. And for 7 years I tried to make that bad idea work, but ultimately it failed spectacularly. In February of 2011, over the course of a phone call on a lonely winter afternoon, Mary convinced me to come back home. This was a good idea. It was the Best Idea.
I spent the summer packing and divesting, Melissa flew out at the end of September 2011, we stuffed my car as full as it could be, and I left that place and never looked back. When we finally pulled into Mary’s driveway…that was one of the happiest days, most glorious of my life. And every day since, even the tough ones, even the impossible ones? Have been even better. I am so grateful for both of my incredible sisters, for their fearlessness and wisdom, and for their unflagging support of their eldest sister. I mean it in every way that you could mean such a thing: my life is better because of them.
Today (well, actually yesterday but October 1st sounds more dramatic) marks ten years since I have been back!
I made a cake (Nigella Lawson’s Rosemary Remembrance cake) to celebrate with Yvan, who has been at my side for the majority of the time I have been back in Florida, and he too makes my life better in so many ways. I never thought I would have a partner that I could laugh with and share my secrets with and who will enjoy all of my weird, experimental meals and compliment all of my perfumes and support my wildest dreams…but that’s him. I’m wild about him. Turns out he was a good idea, too. (Thanks, past Sarah for being the aggressor in this matter and asking him out on a date!)
Totally unrelated, but as it is October 1st, the first day of the very best month, I’m going to attempt, in my typical lazy way, to participate in 31 Days of Horror. Now…to be clear here, I’m not going to try and fool you into thinking I’m watching and writing about a new movie every day. I mean, there are some days that I might do that! But I think I will be talking about some books and movies that I’ve watched earlier in the year, too. I’m tired, man. I’m burnt out. I just wrote a book. I may soon be starting another one (this is a thing that is super up in the air and not a sure thing, but it’s a possible thing!) So I haven’t got it in me to do 31 Days of Horror perfectly, but I’m going to do my best!
To start with, I am totally half-assing it, and pointing you to some horror-related things from the past! Hee hee! Classic Sarah! Check back throughout the month of October to see what else I think I can get away with!
Because I am a contrarian and refuse to put together a “cottagecore” playlist (even though I listen to this type of stuff all of the time and have for most of my life and I tremendously enjoy it, ha!) I have compiled an AUTUMNCORE playlist. Which, I am sure you understand, is –totally different–
And of course, should you wish to wear these feelings, you can gather some inspiration from the ensemble below, details here.
Lately, I’ve been meditating on An Offering from dark artist Dylan Garrett Smith’s small batch perfumery, BirthBloomDecay. If you’re not familiar with his art, as it happens, the name Birthbloomdecay perfectly encapsulates its influences of occult lore, memento mori and the nocturnal beauty of the natural world. An Offering is redolent of dry, smoky embers and stiff black leather, the soft eerie rot of autumn leaves, and a shrieking electro-sulfur tang of ozone; it calls to mind a lightning-struck flock of witches tumbling and cackling through the air their burnished brooms now a fizzling and scorched incense amongst the midnight treetops.
Heretic India Ink (maybe discontinued?) So this is my pitch for the next season of American Horror Story. So, here goes. It’s about the spooky goings-on that occur during an Adult Film shoot that takes place in an abandoned dentist’s office, and it features India Ink from Heretic Parfum. This fragrance smells overwhelmingly of a mentholated, latex clad hand slowly descending toward your face as a disembodied voice intones OPEN WIDE. But I’m not sure if it’s some sort of mint or or a disinfectant clove oil, or something more camphorous and herbaceous and sour like tea tree oil or cypress. This empty office is located in a run down strip mall, there’s a discount auto store next door and a deserted gas station nearby and a ghostly miasma of carbon, sulfur, and petrol hangs low in the air in this blighted scene of desolation and both urban decay and tooth decay, ruin porn and actual porn. The BDSM Rubber Man has found the laughing gas, and the faint, sweet scent of nitrous oxide fills the studio. As the investors show up to see what their money’s getting them, they are greeted by a chaotic scene too disturbing and gruesome to script and production is shut down within 48 hours. The lead actor is never seen again, but they say you can still see his reflection in a mouth mirror from the set that is currently being sold on eBay.
November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest from For Strange Women is a scent I have worn for years and years and I am only just now attempting to review it. This is the aroma of a mushroom queen surveying their loamy domain on a cool, rainy morning. A soft green fern tickles your gills as your mycelial threads in turn wave at the worms moving through the rich earth beneath you; the ground mist rises through the dense forest canopy as cool trickles of rainwater drip off the oak and beech and fir trees to dampen the velvet, verdant moss carpeting a cropping of stones nearby. Your reverie is interrupted by the scent of expensive leather hiking boots on the breeze, crunching leaf detritus and tiny woodland creatures beneath its self-important tread. You smell the smoke and steam and artisanal resins and tannins of a gourmet flask of tea, and before you can let out a little spore-filled, mushroomy warning, you hear a shrill, nasally human female voice chirp HEY Y’ALL WELCOME BACK TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL. Oh no, you despair, it’s the slow-living mushroom forager YouTube influencers. You sincerely hope they pass you over for your poisonous cousins.
Glossier’s You is a scent I really had no intention of ever buying, but then my curiosity got the best of me. A minor point: I hate this bottle, it’s dreadful. It looks like a small pink lump of quivering flesh. I can, however, get over that, because as it turns out and much to my surprise…I actually really love what’s inside it. It’s possible that I had very low expectations because I don’t like any of Glossier’s other products and also because I am maybe a snob. But I really don’t mind being wrong! Okay, I am a Taurus and I hate being wrong! But I make an exception for perfume. You is wonderful melding of this chilly, ghostly delicate iris musk and a warm, woody, sturdy peachy amber quietly enveloped in a crystalline psychic glow of pink pepper and you kind of wonder how these notes got together but then you think of Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus and it all just makes perfect sense. Yes, this is a queer classic anime power couple of a scent and I absolutely adore it.
Regarding Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Vanille Abricot, I feel like a clever child- villain has dosed me with some sort of pixie-stick poison and they’re skipping away merrily as I sink to the floor, my lungs disintegrating under the assault of Marshallow Meltdown, a bioweapon based on the classic confectionary formula wherein a foam made up of air suspended in a super-saturated liquid sugar mixture is stabilized by gelatin,but in this version some evil scientists whipped in plastic doll parts and expired cans of Del Monte fruit cocktail instead. The resulting vat of goop undergoes a proprietary crystallization process and the lurid glowing shards are then crushed to a dust, which when viewed under a microscope, resembles tiny Barbie-Pink ninja throwing stars. This is the preferred method of dispatchment used by tiny assassins who whisper BYE BOOMER as they toodle away, engrossed in Animal Crossing or whatever. But I’m GEN X you gasp weakly as you lose consciousness.
Fuegia 1833’s Biblioteca de Babel is a fragrance inspired by Jorge Luis Borge’s story describing the universe in terms of an infinite library in which books contain every possible combination of letters, spaces, and punctuation marks. Everything that has been and will be thought can be found in a forsaken corner of the endless library. Some believe this story is an allegorical meditation on the endeavor to live one’s best possible life in a universe that can seem hopelessly confusing and disordered. I think I had hoped for a bit more mystery with this scent, something reminiscent of clandestine quests for esoteric knowledge, sort of like the film The Ninth Gate bottled as a scent.
But with Biblioteca de Babel, what you get is a lot more straightforward and mundane. A cracked and worn leather chair with a threadbare woven blanket tossed over the back, a handmade cedar chest passed down through several generations, the sort of soap you can buy anywhere for less than a dollar, parchment scrawled not in magical inks but rather in the practical strokes of a no. 2 pencil with directions on how to install a washroom faucet. It’s not even parchment, it’s just a crumpled post-it note, thick with dust, the writing so blurry and faded with time you can barely read it anymore, but you know each word as though time has etched them on your heart. Your grandfather has been gone for twelve years now, and he never saw the faucet you eventually installed and you don’t know if he ever read Borge’s story, but you console yourself by thinking that if you had ever conversed with him about it, it might be recorded in an obscure tome tucked away in one of those imaginary rooms.
It’s true, Biblioteca de Babel is not a really exciting scent, but it’s warm and familiar, sweet and safe in the way a hug is when you need it most, even when the arms are frail, even when you suspect the weight of your body is the only thing keeping the person hugging you on their feet. I would do anything to feel that hug again. And even though this cedary, sweetly vanillic, woodsy musked scent smells absolutely nothing like my grandfather, it somehow conjures the most beautiful ghost of those hugs. I’ll take it.
I’m really conflicted about Delina Exclusif from Parfum de Marly for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the actual fragrance. But right off the bat, for those people who don’t want to read a whole ass essay, this is a pillowy parfait of jammy roses and dense vanilla cream doused with raspberry liqueur. I am not a fan.
A big part of me believes that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You’ll never see me popping up in the comments on someone else’s account to say something like “ugh, I hated that.” when they’re talking about a thing they love. That’s the equivalent of showing up uninvited at a stranger’s house uninvited and taking a shit on their floor. It’s rude and also really uncalled for. However, writing my own review of something I hate? That’s where I give myself leeway to say the not nice things that I might be dying to say. However, in this vein, I struggle with ideas of cleverness at the expense of being kind. To soften the snark I often frame my less-than-glowing reviews in whimsical or imaginative scenarios and language so that no one gets too butthurt that I’m hating on their favorite stink. But sometimes there’s an aspect of a scent that’s so connected with something I dislike in real life, that …I kinda have to go there.
I watch a lot of really basic YouTube lifestyle influencers. I don’t know why. Maybe in some weird way, it makes me feel superior. So many of them use a turn of phrase I have been hearing everywhere over the past year or so and I HATE IT. With regard to a rug or a throw blanket or a coffee table book they just acquired they’ll say something like “don’t you just love it? It’s SO AESTHETIC.” And I get that language is always evolving and I don’t want to be a jerk, but people that is not how you use this word. You admire something for it’s aesthetic qualities. For example, you like the coffee table book’s minimalist aesthetic, you appreciate the rug’s rustic, cottagecore aesthetic, you really dig that blanket’s witchy goth aesthetic, you see where I am going with this? Anyway, so many of these YouTubers seem to love this perfume because, and I quote, ‘it’s so aesthetic.” And they don’t even do a proper review for it, they just say it smells nice and it’s like I get that describing fragrance isn’t easy, but why even mention it at all if that’s all you’re going to say? UGH.
My point is that this $350 bottle of a very generic vanilla-rose scent smells like people who buy coffee table books about bland, boring, beige minimalist home decor and sound really dumb when they are talking about them and furthermore, they probably don’t even read them. So if you’ve made it this far you’ve read me at my most unlikeable and I apologize for that. I say this frequently but mine is just one opinion among millions and it ultimately means nothing, but man I really had to vent about this.
Spell 125 from Papillon Artisan Perfumes is a scent entwined and imbued with deep magic, history, and ancient mystery. If I understand correctly, it is a fragrance inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and the ritual and ceremony pertaining to the weighing the deceased’s heart against a feather, wherein if one passes this trial, they reach the eternal paradise of the Field of Reeds. If not, well then too bad, I guess. I believe this is meant to be a very atmospheric scent, and while it is, I don’t know that I’m getting what the perfumer intended from it. But who’s to say whether that’s a good or bad thing if one enjoys the result? From Spell 125 I get a strange vanilla salt that’s somehow sweet and savory, bright and dusky, earthy and airy at once, evoking both terrestrial concerns and something lighter and loftier. A sweetly green herbaceous melange conjures imagery of cool aromatic, woodsy marjoram incense, an offering to household gods( such as this scene in a painting by John William Waterhouse) Lit for the afternoon, the smoke cleaning and clearing the domestic spaces, and left to smolder and disperse with the doors open wide, on a cloudless day in early autumn. This is a fragrance which conjures the loveliest peace of mind and sense of well-being, and although I don’t yet know otherwise, I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s splendid to experience such a thing while you’re still above ground
Zdravetz from Bruno Fazzolari. I am not typically someone who likes “crisp” or “fresh” scents. Those concepts and related notes conjure for me ideas of country clubs and corporate culture and sterile, blandly uninteresting environments as well as notions of conformity and impossible standards and expectations. Nope, no thanks. So when I first smell Zdravetz, it does seem like that’s what it’s going for. I believe this is supposed to be a rose scent, but I do not smell any kind of rose here. And Zdravetz is in the geranium family I believe. A sort of aromatic woody herbaceous scent, a little tannic like strong black tea. In the opening, I do smell something vaguely herbal and medicinal and a soft woody floral. But then it gets weird. Imagine fresh but you’ve never smelled what a 21st-century idea of fresh is. You’re just a garden gnome, dirt under your nails, moss behind your ears, sleeping in your earthen burrow, washing your tangled beard every morning in primrose dew. But you want to make your way in the world so you and your brothers spend every cent you have on a nice outfit and you all clean up as best you can with a grain of old-timey laundry powder you’ve been hoarding for 100 years and you interview with some start-up firms but you don’t know what it means to “fungibly innovate leveraged sources” or “synergize team building potentialities.”! And you don’t get any callbacks and you reckon the world of humans isn’t for you anyway and that’s a little depressing but you’d rather be who you’ve always been than three little gnomes standing on each other’s shoulders under a Burberry trenchcoat working on TPS reports.
Stora Skugan’s Moon Milk. The sea, but not the sea. Lemonade and tidepools, bright and brackish, toes digging into the wet sand, palms briefly cupping portions of the sun-warmed infinite and allowing it to sluice through your fingers to wash away because you can’t clutch at moments like that, you have to let the gravity of the tides and tears and the moon take their course. But it’s not the sea. It’s the reflection of the moon in a puddle, a changeling portal to someone else, somewhere else. Another you, another time. The enduring strangeness of where rock meets ocean, viewed through mirrorwater on a stone cavern floor , a finger fluting in soft white calcite and crystalline minerals, a cave painting of the aurora borealis on exposed bedrock, the ghostly carving of footprints that stop suddenly and disappear. There’s a duality in this scent, the soft fall of sunlight tempered by saltwater, earthy cardamom incense, and citrusy floral lime, the bitter chill of petrified moonlight, milky sandalwood, and waxen lily. It’s a strange fragrance that makes me think of encountering countless versions of me across time, and we somehow cross the same path, inevitably make the same choices, wish for the same things under ancient and future stars.
Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, which before you even spray it, like, you just take the cap off, and you get generic ambery miasma wrapped in cloying cotton candy, and not even the thrilling stuff that has the exhilarating tang of the local carnival’s precarious Gravitron. No, this is the stale, sad bottom-shelf cotton candy from Costco. At this stage, it smells exactly like Black Opium, which many folks recommended to me as a “dark, mysterious scent,” and here’s my take on that. Which I hope you will take with a grain of salt. But you know how like…some people think 50 Shades of Gray is sexy erotica? And for them, maybe it is. I’m not here to tell you you’re getting horned up for the wrong things. But it doesn’t do it for me. There’s not enough werewolves or chainsaws or Lament Configurations in that story. 50 Shades of Gray does not even scratch the surface of hot and horny feelings for me. And in this analogy, I suppose, Black Opium feels like putting wet-n-wild eyeliner and a faux leather jacket on a Barbie tutu and calling it dark and mysterious. Good try, I guess? But you gotta work a lot harder to get me on board. But back to Black Orchid, which is what I was actually talking about. Once the pastel goth spun sugar vibe dissipates, it becomes this really understated but perfectly lovely creature of soft velvety musk and dusty woods. I kinda wish this is was the piece of the puzzle they’d focused on, added some other top notes, and connected it via an unexpected heart but I guess that would have been an entirely different scent. If you can sit through the obnoxious opening, you’ll be rewarded with a soft delightful woodland fairytale of a scent, but I don’t know if the journey to get there is worth it
Forest Lungs from The Nue Company is somewhat similar to Dasein’s Winter Nights or Norne from Slumber house in its conjuring of coniferous evergreen midnight splendor. The birch tar and pine sap are present but softer, less sharp and astringent than you might expect, and as a matter of fact, I don’t get any of the camphoraceous herbal medicine chest opening that you find in the other two. It’s the whiff of the woodlands in your hair or clothing after you’re already back inside. It’s expediently atmospheric; you don’t have to brave the forest path to get to the witch’s hut to warm your hands at the softly crackling fire and have a cozy cup of gently spiced cardamom tea. You’re just plopped right at her table, like a witch’s hut holosuite. And then you find out that this person is actually not a witch at all, you’ve made a lot of assumptions based on their haunted cottagecore aesthetic. It’s actually just a local misanthrope fed up with the dumbass yokels in the village so they gathered up their amazing candle collection and moved to a hermitage in the middle of a forest and all of a sudden they’re like,” who even are you and why are you in my house?? GTFO!” And that’s when you realize this wonderful fragrance does not last long at all and the program has ended and you’re back in Quark’s bar and he wants his 2 strips of gold-pressed latinum. I will note that I purchased this from Sephora, and I believe that it is the most interesting fragrance that they are ever likely to carry.
Sometimes I want to pour my heart out and overshare and talk about every thought that stumbles through my mind over in this little space…and sometimes I just want to present a photo of a thing that I baked or a book that I am reading. This little life update might be more of the latter scenario.
I don’t want to be one of those people who with every breath brings up the book that they’re currently writing (I’m sorry! I get really annoyed about this! But more specifically it’s directed at writer-twitter, where someone is always tweeting about how they should be writing but they’re not. OK? So? You wasted your time typing that out? Sometimes I think I hate writer-twitter. Or course if you made me laugh because you’re a funny writer who is not writing, that’s different. But being boring and wasting my time is unforgivable.) ANYWAY. That was quite an aside. So. I don’t want to be that person, but I am in the midst of trying to finish up the bulk of the text for book number two, tentatively titled The Art of Darkness, so I am just basically spent and drained I don’t have the energy or the words to blamble blargle about blumbs over here on the blorg.
So here’s some pictures of some things and as few words as possible!
I’ve lately been obsessed with making various spreadables for all of the sourdoughs that I have been baking. Pictured above is the vegan cheese spread recipe from Rainbow Plant Life. Made from cashews and fermented for a few days for extra tang, it’s pretty tasty, though I don’t think it tastes anything like cheese. Actually, it tastes primarily of nutritional yeast because I think I went overboard and added too much. Luckily, we like nutritional yeast, so it all works out.
This next one is a recipe all of my own, inspired by the few stubby, impossibly purple eggplants we grew this year. There is no photo because it’s pretty ghastly looking, but trust me–it’s delicious. I don’t have ingredient amounts, but just treat it like it’s a pesto/baba ganoush hybrid and eyeball accordingly. Roast eggplants and tomatoes until they are charred and molten. Fry walnuts til rich and earthen and toasty fragrant. Blitz wildly with a fat clove of garlic, a green fistful of fresh basil, a sour squeeze of lemon, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve room temperature on every damn thing.
This just in: I have two new favorite tee shirts. The first is a Dolly tee which I found through Fine Southern Gentleman (h/t to Angeliska for secretly recommending them to me! They didn’t exactly tell me about them directly, but I saw their post on Instagram with a new shirt and I could tell it was a subliminal message meant just for me!)
The second is a My Neighbor Tortoro tee that I found on eBay. I think it was at one time originally from Hot Topic, so who knows, there may be some more floating around out there on resale sites.
An offering; a heart’s gift (& a bribe) from the dreamer to the do-er. The Face of the Oracle necklace from Atelier Narce via Shop Esqueleto. A treat to myself for completing the bulk of book number two. Or…at least it was meant to be. I thought it would take several weeks to reach me, and by the time it arrived, I will have finished my work and properly earned it. But it showed up a few weeks early. And I am not done.
So…that means that I need another treat, when I actually finish, right? I mentioned this to one of my sisters, and she agrees that this is sound logic.
Current artistic obsession: The disquieting goodnight gazes from these pallid little girls and their uncanny dolls, painted by avant-garde art dandy, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita.
Currently watching: all of the Halloween movies before Halloween Kills is released. I didn’t realize I’d ever seen Halloween 3 before; I think I read the book adaptation when I was a kid, and in my memory that somehow became the same thing. I just looked up the book on amazon and holy moly…folks seem to want an awful lot of money for that little paperback. I wish I still had my copy! I also watched The Abyss this weekend and while I kind of wish they’d amped up the horror elements more (without losing any of the more fantastical bits, somehow?) but overall I really enjoyed it and it made me realize that I really go for tense, claustrophobic movies with a sort of eerie pressurized WOMP WOMP WOMP atmospheric droning score: industrial creaks and groans, the monstrous pressure and eerie whistle of wind through airducts. Strange, hollow sounds reverberating and echoing, a deep bass and unnerving thrum of scenes happening in space, or underwater, Aliens, Event Horizon, Pandorum type movies. Anything else along these lines that I should be watching?
Current miscellaneous things: If you missed it, I was on the inaugural episode of the Fear Is The Mindkiller podcast. Bryan and I talked about favorite books and nightmares and the strange fears that we have and it was such a great conversation. This is my fourth podcast this year and I will say that I was definitely less of a nervous wreck for this one! Speaking of fears, I was quoted a bit over in an article over at Bored Panda this week on the topics of what makes for a good creepy story and why it is that people like to be scared. You have to scroll down to about halfway through the piece to find me, but I am there!
And…I guess that is more or less it for now? I will leave you with this image of me trying on some mid-life crisis hair, via a filter. I think I’m gonna go for it in the next few months or so!
When this time of year hits I either want ominous airy-sigh folk music woodland twinkles or aggressively retro darkwave synth soundtracks to movies that never existed. There’s no in-between. (But whatever exists in that strange in-between, I probably want to listen to it, too.)
So to kick off the autumn season, we’ll start with a playlist composed of the latter, songs to either make you want to dance or fight zombies, or jump into a spaceship to go to a zombie dance planet rave! It’s incredibly cheesy, but whatever–we love what we love.
Bryan and I had such an enjoyable conversation about a lot of interesting stuff: books, and dreams, and Draculas, and the things that scare us. I think I have come to the conclusion that he is maybe my long-lost brother!
Once upon a time, I used to have an informal column of informal guests posts, where friends would contribute a list of ten things. Ten whatever things that they wanted to talk about! That lasted for a few years, and it was so cool! I love reading about what the people I like and admire are into, or what they recommend or suggest for this, that, or the other thing!
Sadly, due to the extremely understandable lack of mental and emotional bandwidth available to all of everyone during the pandemic, as well as a scarcity of time and energy while we are all just scrambling to survive (and maybe just lack of interest in writing and blogs in general, and specifically writing for blogs that aren’t yours) there’s hasn’t been any new Ten Things content in that vein in quite some time. Also, I realize I’m not paying anyone to write, and this certainly isn’t a blog that makes any money, and it doesn’t have a huge audience and I can appreciate there’s not a huge draw for people to be an uncompensated guest poster. I can’t even pay you in “exposure”! I’m sorry!
I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone, warmly and sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, who did volunteer to write something over the years. For the most part, except for maybe one or two exceptions, all of these guests volunteered their writing and ideas, without me having directly asked them to do so. How amazing is that! Firstly, I’m not really keen on saying “hey, will you do a thing for me?” It really feels like an intrusion and a lot to ask. But secondly, that someone came to me with a thought or an idea and wanted to share it on my blog? That just feels so freaking cool. I love that! So thank you, EVERYONE. Your work and your writing are so genuinely valued and I just can’t express that enough.
I thought I’d share a roundup here, in no particular order, of all of the Ten Things articles and essays that have been posted at Unquiet Things over the years, so that you can find them easily, or so that you can re-reread your favorites, or so that you find something entirely new to read or learn or become obsessed with.
I am definitely not saying that a Ten Things guest post won’t appear from time to time in the future. Heck, I might even contribute one myself! And if you’ve got something you want to share here, well, you know where to find me. But please just keep in mind, I’m not going to hunt you down and haunt you for it if you’ve expressed an interest. Just come to me whenever you’re ready and say “here’s a thing!” Otherwise…life’s too short for me to stress out about that, or for me to stress you out about it. Serious inquiries only, friends!
Pssssst…! I went through the archives to gather these up because I…uh…didn’t tag them very well. If you’ve shared some 10 Things here and don’t see a link to your contribution listed above, please forgive the oversight, it wasn’t intentional! Let me know and I will fix it straight away!
Be Scared of Everything by Peter Counter is a tremendously thoughtful, smart, funny, book combining essay and memoir celebrating all things horror, from cinema and video games to heavy metal and haunted houses. His writing examines popular horror media from such a wonderfully lively place of vulnerability and curiosity and reads like many conversations I’ve had with myself about horror. Except, he’s a million times more articulate about the meaning-making to be experienced, where in this cauldron of horrifying influences and inspirations, and I’m quoting from somewhere else here, he finds “…poetry in madness, and beauty in annihilation–” I’ve been reading this book a little spooky snippet at a time every morning to get my day started with this very excellent spooky energy
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa was an interesting read for me, because the narrator of the book has four children and there’s a lot of baby making and nurturing and maternal feelings. Which is very uncomfortable for me, So it has been interesting to sit with that. I guess you could say the book is about a poet who becomes obsessed with another poet across time. But there’s also a lot of visceral baby stuff and daily ritual involving homemaking. The latter thing definitely more relatable than the former, but I think to experience this book, you gotta be all-in with all of it. So I’m trying!
The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada An odd little story of mundane strangeness, this story follows the story of Asa, who after her husband’s work transfer, gives up her own job and moves along with him to be close to his employer. This entails living in a house in his hometown, next door to his parents. Both the town and the parents are strange in unsettling, dream-like ways, and Asa spends a sticky, aimless summer bored and adrift, and trying to figure out this weird place and its equally weird inhabitants.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric Larocca. OOOOOF. I saw this book mentioned all over YouTube for the better part of a week and so I thought, ok sure why not. I had some reservations as the title reminded me a bit of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid, a book which I wanted to throw into the ocean after I read it. My review, such as it is, can be found here. Thankfully, these books are nothing alike. Not so thankfully, I did not really enjoy Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. A story of two lost and/or lonely souls meeting through the internet and their developing relationship, which escalates pretty swiftly and in really distressing ways. I personally found it hard to read–and maybe a little bit distasteful– because it felt awfully familiar. I am not trying to kink-shame anyone but the master/slave or sub/dom dynamic is hugely problematic for me because I experienced that to a large degree for a time in a former relationship, the really awful, toxic, and abusive one that I have written about previously on this blog. So…it turned out I was the wrong audience for this book. But while I found that aspect of the story intensely disturbing, I wasn’t disturbed by the details? Maybe I’m jaded or really hard to gross out. I don’t know. It just wasn’t that freaky.
In That Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files. Funny thing. I wrote this review before I wrote the one above it, so I think this is book to follow it with, and a good one to end on until next time. I have been reading horror for a very long time and there just isn’t that much that freaks me out anymore. In the past few years if I want to get freaked out, I’ll go to the /nosleep subreddit for an unsettling dose of writing deeply weird and disturbing yet which still contains a soupçon of those “this happened to a friend of a friend” vibes. Stuff that reads like anecdote or tall tales or urban legend…strange, but not so fantastical you don’t believe it at midnight when the house is settling and the world is silent and the darkness is absolute.
There is always a moment in my dreams where space shudders and what was fine and well is suddenly not. Gemma Files’ stories contained In That Endlessness Our End begin in that shiver just before the nightmare. It’s unnerving how preordained the descent feels, yet how abrupt. The horror is always uncharted and inevitable. Her writing feels like some of the best /nosleep narratives in their eerie inventiveness, their proximity to real life (but really there’s no comparison here, it’s just the best I can offer, is all) but with a precision of language and astonishing detail that comes from someone whose imagination has been guiding her hand for an impressive amount of time, and knows exactly how to take those things that frighten her and unleash them on us.
Honestly, there is no one who scares me like Gemma Files and HOLY SHIT do I love her for it.
I made a little video about getting out of my head when I am feeling bad, and spending time in the kitchen. I hope that you’ll give it a watch! It’s mostly me puttering and clanking spoons, but put me on in the background at a reasonable volume and we can keep each other company while we kitchen witch our crappy feelings away!