The week I turned 39, several things happened. None of them were very good.
My 97 year old grandfather was rushed to the hospital the night before my birthday with a blood clot, which they have since successfully dissolved -although from his disoriented state, weakness, and confusion, it’s not likely he will ever be coming home. Only the day before I had been talking with him and he had been making grocery lists for me and planning meals for the week…it’s strange how at that age you’re doing just fine…until suddenly you’re not.
We are currently dealing with some significant decisions that need to be made, provisions that must be put in to place, plans that must ready to be executed at a moment’s notice. It’s terrifying and exhausting and this is all just in relation to one person; an entirely different set of processes and considerations must be worked through with relation to my grandmother, who is still at home and cannot be left alone. All of this should probably be filed away to talk about here some other time: a sort of “what to do with your nearly 100 year old sickly and infirm grandparents when all their kids are dead and only the grandchildren are left and there’s only so much money to go around” for dummies guide.
I also had a flat tire this week. And then something else crazy and awful is happening that I can’t even talk about.
Normally when my birthday rolls around I take a moment to reflect and take stock and I treat it as one might treat the new year; what have I accomplished, what still needs to be done going forward, that sort of thing. It’s not quite a halfway point through the year, but I figure it’s as good a time as any.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect to find anything profound here. I am just going to tick off the books I have read and movies I have seen. The perfumes I have gotten around to trying. Which all may seem quite frivolous in light of recent events, but I maintain that taking a moment for lightness and frivolity is an essential part of self-care in the time of crisis and conflict.
Books read / mid-May 2015
Stand out reads were Revenants, by Daniel Millls, which was an incredibly eerie, atmospheric tale. It reminded me a bit of Blackwood’s The Willows, or The Wendigo in that sense, although I am not sure they are in any other ways similar. Also worth mentioning is Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warnings. Short stories are my favorite kind of reading; my attention span isn’t what it used to be and so the short story format, with limited space to make a maximum impact, is ideal for me. It’s exciting to find authors who thrive in that space. I read Trigger Warning just this week, a time of distress and disquiet, and it provided many lovely, teary, unexpected smiles. Honestly, I was hooked by the introduction, and I mostly never read those, they’re mostly rubbish as far as I can tell.
Films Viewed / mid-May 2015
Age of Ultron is not on this list, although I did just watch it last week. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I found all of the carnage and destruction pretty appalling, actually. The ambivalence continues with regarding to many of these movies, but I will say that A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is everything that everyone is saying it is, Pontypool is brilliant, and The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times (La dama rossa uccide sette volte) is great fun and showcases ridiculously fantastic sartorial escapism. Oh, also worth mentioning, but not pictured because I didn’t quite finish either one of them is Curse of the Crimson Altar and Blood on Satan’s Claw.
Perfumes / mid-May 2015
It probably goes without saying that there are many perfumes I’ve sampled and purchased this year, but the three I was most looking forward to are pictured above. I won’t get into the official descriptions and notes, you can read that in the links provided, along with reviews from other folks.
Oriza L Legrand’s Relique D’amour smells like a watered down slurry of all the Comme des Garçons Incense series, but not as nice as any single one of them. Also sampled The Afternoon of a Faun Eau de Parfum by Etat Libre d’Orange, and it was like the excitement of watching finally watching your favorite band play live… except that they were too perfect, too flawless to enjoy. A beautiful scent, but it’s somehow lacking soul. It’s a chypre, which I think some find too challenging, but this one is somehow too accessible. Like a fruity chypre, maybe? I would have preferred a challenge.
Serge Luten’s Profundis, however – that was no disappointment. A singularly beautiful and unique scent opening with the scent of big, lively chrysanthemums in the fall -brisk, slightly spicy and musty. Delicate, dewy violets and damp loamy earth follow shortly thereafter, along with a cool metallic chill that calls to mind a brief wind, rising from nowhere, a shadow that suddenly falls across your path. This is the scent of a pensive cemetery stroll in late autumn, crushed funeral wreaths beneath your feet, the veil of the sun struggling through the clouds, the lingering wisps of incense from morning mass. It’s probably my favorite discovery in the past few years.
Another entry in my ridiculous “How to wear” category: How to wear your favorite tarot deck.
You have packed up all your cold-weather clothes and are no doubt simmering with equal parts resentment and bewilderment (also, literally simmering because it’s hot AF outside) as you survey your scant summer wardrobe–for you, a child of bleak and dreary days, are far more content to cloak yourself in layers of darkness during the winter season than you are to strip down in the hot weather to one-piece rompers and accentuating with those dreadful “pops of color” that fashion magazines and beauty bloggers blather on about.
Curse you, evil day star! Why must you shoot your hateful heat-lasers at us? These legs haven’t seen the sun in six months, it’s not safe to wear shorts! Our delicate shoulders prefer wraps and shawls and leather jackets covered with super cool enamel pins! Who can we turn to for advice on building our wardrobe for these heat-blasted days? Where can we find a fashion forecast that won’t leave us feeling disgruntled and stabby?
In our search for more esoteric style inspiration, let us not rule out a more mystical, metaphysical approach. Perhaps through a bit of practical prognostication and pattern prediction we will reveal cosmic trends that resonate with us on a deeper level. In doing so, as universal ideas and corresponding symbols unfold before us, we can interpret intuitively that which speaks to us as sacred and divine and integrate it into our summer capsule wardrobe!
The tarot is brimming with rich, iconic symbolism and gorgeous imagery of the mysterious world of our unconscious, so why not look to the art of your beloved divinatory tools for outfit expansion this season? See below for suggestions from some of my treasured tarot decks, incorporating the old-world, melancholy elegance of David Palladini’s Aquarian tarot, the otherworldly intensity of Lady Frieda Harris and Aleister Crowley’s Thoth tarot, and finally, the neon WTF-ery of Oliver Hibert’s eye-meltingly psychedelic tarot deck.
Fortune-teller fashion? Sybil style? Psychic chic? Oracle aesthetic? Who knows–perhaps we will start a trend of our own. 2016, the summer of visionary vogue.
Well, I know last month I said I was going to put Stitch Fix on hold for a while, but that was obviously a big fat lie because the poor beleaguered FedEx guy dropped off Stitch Fix box #4 today. It was actually a bit early – it was not supposed to show up until Saturday, but it wasn’t a total surprise, as I’d gotten the shipping notification a few days early, as well.
To review, or if you are unfamiliar with Stitch Fix: you pay a $20 a month subscription fee (which can then be applied to the items you purchase); if you don’t like any of it, you can send it back in a prepaid bag, but then you are out $20. If you purchase all of it, you get a 25% discount off the total. You can read more about my first three fixes here:Fix One & Fix Two & Fix Three
I pried open the box and spied nary a hint of those summer brights, huzzah! That’s actually not sarcasm. My stylist (again, Macy) knows me and my colorphobia pretty well, I think. I’d requested a summery feeling dress but in dark (or no) colors and an airy white cardigan, as well as, the Market & Spruce dress. She also included an item I’d pinned and one that I thought about pinning…but never did. The lady is obviously a mind reader.
The Fate Reem knit top, size Large, is the one I thought about pinning but did not, and somehow my stylist picked up on it anyway. Looking at it now, I am not sure what about it I thought I liked, and after trying it on, it would seem I’m too broad shouldered (and maybe just broad everythinged) for this to fit properly. It was just too snug and shows off all of the wrong lumps. It also didn’t seem to be the same quality as the other things I’ve gotten used to receiving from Stitch Fix. The look and feel of the material reminded me of something you might get off the clearance rack at Marshalls or Ross. This one was sent back.
The Daniel Rainn Pelzer tie neck top, size Large, is an item that I had actually pinned. I love that it’s flowy and light, yet dark colored with some interesting embroidery detail. And the fit was OK too, but I guess I keep forgetting I don’t like flouncy ties and bows and drawstrings. They irritate me. What do you do with this floppy shit? How does it not constantly get in the way? This one was sent back, as well.
This Market & Spruce Spencer striped dress, size Large, is one that I had seen several people receive and so I specifically requested. I thought it fit into that simple + cute category that I often turn to when I don’t want to think about what to wear. The dress is totally adorable but it seriously makes me look like Chesty McGee, and aside from that, because I’ve got a rather sizable bum, it ends hiking up several inches in the back and is way too short to be appropriate. If this were just a couple inches longer the butt problem would be solved and I could deal with the boob problem separately, but alas, it is not to be. Will have to sadly send this one back.
These last two are definite keepers. She totally delivered on the airy cardigan and the summer-but-not-summer dress. The La Made Litana cardigan, size Large is slightly oversized, the way I like (and it has pockets!), and Papermoon Alona dress fits perfectly. Didn’t even have to unzip it. These two are staying with me.
This time around I am only keeping 2 out of the 5 items, and that is fine with me. Everything else was actually things I myself had requested, and due to fit issues or my weird quirks, they just don’t work…but that’s really doesn’t reflect poorly on my stylist or Stitch Fix at all. No discount because I didn’t keep all five items, and there were no referral credits, so I didn’t get any extra monies off for that either. I think the items that I kept were between $56 sand $68 or something like that, the total for both of them ended up being $106.
Now this time around I really am waiting a few months before scheduling another box. I am absolutely stocked up by this point and there is truly nothing else I need. As a matter of fact, in the note for my next box, I just told Macy to surprise me, because I am fairly certain she will do an excellent job of it.
Warning: I have been bitten by the subscription box bug, and although this may be the last of the stitch fixes you see for a while, there’s definitely going to be some other reviews coming up. Just bear with me while I get this out of my system. I am pretty sure it is just a phase.
On some business travels last week, I took the path train into New York from New Jersey. Every second after that 15 minute trip has been one of strangeness beneath my feet; literally from the second I stepped off the platform until now- an entire week later – the ground still feels as if it is infinitesimally shifting and churning below me as I navigate through my day.
My equilibrium has obviously been thrown off, and truthfully I am not surprised. If it’s not painfully clear by now – I am not a City Girl. Looking up at the towering buildings with not so much as a hint of space between them, jostled to and fro in crowds teeming with people more sure-footed than I, the babble of voices around me, so many of them that I cannot even distinguish my own language – it all feels completely alien to me. When I think about people who actually enjoy that swarming cityscape I almost start to feel a little uncomfortable that there could be someone out there in the world so radically different than I am.
Isn’t that ridiculous? Of course there’s someone out there who is absolutely nothing like me. There’s a lot of them, I should imagine! And yet, with regard to some subjects -The Big City chiefly among them – I cannot fathom the personality that thrives on this. I honestly cannot even conceive of how these people function.
And on some level – on many levels – I find this really concerning about myself. That I am so small minded when it comes to other people’s experiences and preferences and lifestyles. I mean it’s perfectly fine, isn’t it, if you like a thing that I don’t like? Or perhaps something I am fond of, isn’t quite to your taste? Of course it is, and most of the time, this doesn’t trip me up! But when it comes to big city living, I have to tell you, I just shut down completely. I don’t even want to hear about it. It reminds me of a line from the mob song in Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast:
We don’t like What we don’t understand In fact it scares us!
Unfortunately, all so awfully true. I don’t understand it, so I don’t like it, and it does scare me quite a bit.
This whole trip, by the way, was a lesson in overcoming fear. It will shock no one to know that despite my myriad, weird adventures, I’m a pretty sheltered individual. This was the first time I’ve ever rented a car, it was the first time I’ve ever had a drink my myself in a bar, the first time I have ever spent a week in a hotel room alone, the first time I have ever met a client. And I am going to be 39 next week, for pete’s sake. How have I even gotten this far in life?
And to be honest, it wasn’t just the thought of being in the city, or meeting clients, or how to stick the metro card in the ticket thing correctly (that is seriously the type of thing I worry about), it was much more than that. I haven’t been back to NJ for any lengthy period of time since I left, almost 5 years ago now. I have so many unhappy memories and unresolved issues with regard to that place and I was not keen to be in that environment again.
I could probably go on, but there’s no point to it. I did it, I went and I am back. Did I overcome any fears? Not really. I think the people in my office who work closely with me know that I am a big baby with weird neuroses, and they deal with me accordingly. There’s a lot of hand-holding, basically. I hope that because I am kind and good natured and I get my work done – they just look at it all as lovable quirks, ha!
I was so happy to arrive back in my dumb, redneck swamptown that I nearly kissed the ground. But dang, I am going to miss those bagels. They are the best thing about NJ.
I am never going to be a City Girl, one of those poised, slender, on the go women I see rushing about on the streets of NY (or wherever). I run around barefoot all day, I never brush my hair, and it takes me 10 years to tell a story. I just don’t fit in with that impossibly chic, fast-paced, 24 hour everything city and its inhabitants. But that doesn’t mean that I need to be afraid of them, I suppose. That really is dumb.
Are you a city person? A country mouse? Are you even from this planet? What are your thoughts on other places and those who live there, as opposed to where you are from? Do you have the same troubles I do? Or do you have other weird dislikes based on the things you don’t quite “get” or understand?
It’s a little unfair, and even presumptuous I suppose, to speak on matters in which one is not even a semi- or quasi- expert, but I am prefacing this now by declaring there’s a lot I still don’t quite get about Gwynnie Bee.
Gwynnie Bee bills themselves as a clothing rental subscription service for women sizes 10-32. Which really, sounds pretty fantastic for people who are looking for services which cater to a wider range of sizes. Depending on the brand, I can wear anywhere from a size 10 to a size 14, so I fall at the lower end of this spectrum, but in perusing the selections on the site, I still found a lot of pieces that might work for me, fit wise.
I think how it is supposed to work is that:
1. You open an account. Either by invite or referral? I am not certain. I got an invite. It might be the same thing, and I think either way the person who invites/refers you gets some kind of credit. This post, by the way, is liberally peppered with referral links, so if you decide to sign up, I may get some kind of credit.
2. You choose what sort of plan you’d like -one at a time/two at a time/ three at a time – it’s sort of like netflix, I guess. And then start browsing through their selection and adding things you like to your “closet”.
3. As I understood it, once your closet hit 25 items, Gwynnie Bee starts shipping things to you according to your plan… but I hit a snag when I couldn’t even find 25 things on the site that I liked all that much. So after playing around with it for 15 minutes or so, I promptly forgot it.
4. They send you the stuff, you wear it for as long as you want, you either send it back for more stuff, or you buy it.
Imagine my surprise when, a week later, I received a shipping confirmation! I wasn’t overly concerned because the first month is free and I figured well, ok, they’ll send me some stuff, I will check it out and send it back, and there’s really nothing at all to lose here, right? Alright, then.
Right off the bat I like that although you’re guaranteed that what is being sent to you is something you’ve already expressed interest in, you don’t really know exactly what is being sent to you, so there is still an element of surprise. I mean otherwise, it’s just regular online shopping and while that’s fun, it sort of loses the element of novelty that these services really capitalize on.
The box arrives via FedEx, neatly packed with several cards that I did not bother to read, a return envelope, and the three dresses are contained within.
The IGIGI Francine Dress In Mulberry Tapestry is pretty much exactly the sort of thing I like to wear, even though I do suffer from extreme rhodophobia. There’s something about this particular red that is lush and opulent and I really quite love it. The ornate, scroll-y pattern is right up my alley and the dress is very flattering. It’s long enough that I wouldn’t have to wear it with leggings or tights, although that would look quite nice, too. The tie/sash thing, however, is really long. How are you supposed to tie this? In the front? In the back? Hm. On the model they’ve somehow made it look like an obi, and I’d like to figure out how they’ve done this. They are calling this size a 14-16 and I am not sure why I didn’t just go with the 12, because I think I could definitely afford to size down. It is $53.50 to purchase outright.
When I saw the shipping email listing the SPRUCE & SAGE Eclipse Sketch Fit & Flare Dress I thought to myself “…um, why did I think I liked this?” but in person it’s really great. I love the print, I feel like some manic toddler really went to town on it with some ill-advised Sharpies. The fit is absolutely perfect and I think it’s the first time that a dress waist hits my actual waist, as opposed to right up under my boobs, which is what usually happens. It’s just a smidge away from being slightly snug, but since movement is not hampered and there’s no weird stretching or puckering, I think it is probably fine. I also think I am probably just not used to having things actually fit me. For reference, this is the size 10-12 and $30 to purchase. Which seems like a fantastic deal, since I didn’t have to pay the box fee during this free trial month (otherwise it would be $80 +$30?)
The Karen Kane stripe uneven hem dress is the one that I thought I might like the most and surprisingly it’s the one I am least happy with. I love the white stripes against the black, the asymmetric hem, all of it…but it just doesn’t add up to a very flattering picture. I got the smallest size they offered (0X) and unfortunately, it’s still pretty baggy on me. Which is makes me a little sad, because it really is adorable and it is so soft and comfortable. I checked on the pricing and apparently I can purchase it for $50 which seems kind of strange to me, as this seems to be the most casual of the lot, with the least bells and whistles. Ah well, you can’t win ’em all. And this is not really an unusual style, so I can probably find it elsewhere. Or else gain 20 lbs so that it fits better. Hey, I like pizza and bagels, I can make that work.
So…I am still not sure what I think about this, and at this point I am not even sure what to do? Pack up the one that didn’t work, send it back, and continue to wear the others? During this free trial month will they send me something else from my closet right away? Or do I have to send the other two back/purchase them first?
And I see that a lot of people write on site reviews of the pieces they have received – do you receive some sort of credit for doing this? I mean, I’d be all over that – I have stuff to say about things, and I can go on at length, believe you me! I mean have you read my yelp reviews? I’m just saying – I have opinions and I like to share them.
Needless to say, I still have a few questions that need answering before I would fully recommend this to anyone, but I will say so far that the two dresses I have received in this shipment are some of the most flattering I have ever owned…for what it’s worth.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Gwynnie Bee tips and tricks? Enlighten me – I am all ears!
And hips and bosoms, if you go by the pictures above! Sorry to subject you to that, by the way.
As I am currently traveling, one of my wonderful sisters has been kind enough to write a thoughtful guest post for Unquiet Things. Read more about this brave, sweet, sensitive soul over at Under The Shadow Of The Mountain.
“You’ve haunted me all my life
You’re always out of reach when I’m in pursuit
Long winded then suddenly mute
And there’s a flaw in my heart’s design
For I keep trying to make you mine…”
-Death Cab for Cutie
“Where do you come from?”
It’s a common enough question, and simple enough, too. So why don’t I have a simple answer? “I live in California,” I tell people. “But I was born in Ohio, and I grew up in Florida. But I’m FROM Indiana.” Why do I tell people that, when I only lived in Indiana for two years; when really, it’s my mother and her father and his father and so on, back to 1820, who are from there? How can I be from there?
I’m from there because, quite simply, Indiana has haunted me since I was a child. It haunted me each time I asked my grandparents to tell me about the “olden days” growing up on the farm in the Depression. It haunted me when I looked out at the humidity-choked Florida summers and wondered what it was like to experience seasons. It haunted me when I gazed up at at the popcorn ceiling in our 3 bedroom-2-bath Florida ranch-house, and imagined what it would be like to live in an old farmhouse or bungalow. It haunted me as I told people we came from “Good Midwestern farmer stock.” It haunted me and it never quit, until, when I was 24, I made the decision to move to Indiana for grad school and to stop wondering, dammit, and start living. And of course, I fell in love.
What wasn’t to love? I was besotted with a Hoosier boy, who was agreeably besotted back. I was enchanted by the silent, eerie glow of fireflies on summer nights. I got excited by cornfields, for god’s sake. I dragged Hoosier Boy around to just gawk at old houses. The often-dilapidated barns–hundreds, maybe even thousands of them–across the state never failed to impress me, the way they endured neglect for decades and still stood, quietly dignified. The unreal, vivid green of springtime dazzled me, even as the thunderclouds from potentially deadly spring storms roiled overhead and the tornado sirens wailed their weird warble across the countryside. The absurd county fairs, notorious for deep-fried anything, bemused and beguiled me in equal portions. Our family history began to intrigue me, especially when I found out that my great-great grandparents were buried one county over. I eventually made the cheesy remark to Hoosier Boy that I was “exploring the land of my past with the man of my future.”
But of course, love is complicated. And there has always been enough of the academe-trained liberal in me to know that there were parts of Indiana that would never, will never, sit well with me. The work ethic and the courtesy of Middle Americans are no myth, but neither is their stoic reserve–and for an in-your-face, say-everything kinda gal like me, I never felt like I fit in. There are strong conservative elements (I’ll avoid other, more judge-y terms) in Indiana that have definitely presented themselves on an embarrassingly national stage recently, that made and make me feel uncomfortable at best and ashamed at worst.
But I never stopped loving Indiana.
Not even when I had to leave to nurture my career and nurse a broken heart. That was almost ten years ago now, and believe it or not, my heart is still broken. Or perhaps it just yearns for what it can’t have–a settled, anonymous kind of life, in Middle America, in an Indianapolis suburb.
The late and great David Foster Wallace once said, Every love story is a ghost story. And in its most basic, broken-down form, this is truth. When you love someone, you give them the power to haunt you, should you ever lose them. And if the people we love can haunt us, can linger and haunt places, I think it stands to reason that places can haunt people, too. Indiana certainly haunts me.
Do you know your tikbalangs from your duwendes? Says Mikey Bustos ““We Filipinos have some really crazy mythical beings. Imagine they were all rap stars!” I have seriously watched this video, like 20 times in the past 12 hours. It’s fantastic.
(h/t Madeleine Spencer)
Though I stumbled across Evi Vine only today, I am fairly certain just from this stunning teaser-trailer alone, that debut album, Give Your Heart To The Hawks, is going to quickly become a favorite.
This Sunday, April 26 2015, be certain to head out to Brooklyn Zine Fest from 11am to 6pm at the Brooklyn Historical Society and visit the Heretical Sexts booth, manned by brilliant mastermind, Tenebrous Kate. Copies of all HS zines plus buttons, stickers, and exclusive mini zines will be available! Also -debuting at the fest is the Witch Women zine, in which I am honored to have been a contributor. (Images via Kate’s instagram)
How to be polite. An extremely worthwhile read. This piece really resonated with me, on so many levels. I have felt this way since always. (h/t Amit)
The soundtrack that made Twin Peaks. I was just trying to explain to someone yesterday that while I love the music for this show, the main theme in the opening credits literally, *literally* made me want to puke. It was such a visceral reaction. I love the rest of the music in the show, and I appreciate the different character’s themes, but there’s just something about the track for the opening credits that plucks uneasily at my guts. I can’t even describe it without sounding like a dummy, but it hits me right in the dummy feels, I think. Not something I can articulate on a higher-brain level. It’s like…bland, benign…yet blighted (?) hold music. And you’re on hold forever. It speaks to some fear I have of waiting forever for the other shoe to drop. The big, doom-filled shoe in the sky that you can’t even see but somehow you know it’s there and it’s a cloudless, sunny day…and you are just waiting…waiting…waiting…to be stomped into oblivion. (h/t Drax)
A role playing game about ghosts, in just 150 words. You and your friends play spirits of the dead, each with something holding you back from crossing over. With a brief, structured question and answer set and a single die, you discover and resolve your unfinished business. That’s it. (h/t John H.)
A new mix, inspired Roland Topor’s psychological thriller, The Tenant.
Equilibrium, Kammerflimmer Kollektief | Undefined Black Hole, Low Orbit Drift | Hearing Weird Noises In The Back Room, Joel Fausto & The Illusion Orchestra | The Lady In The Lake/Killer In The Rain, Low Light Situations | Lucidity: Awakening (Nineteen 20 II), Somnambulist Quintet | Constant Fear, Bohren & Der Club Of Gore | Loops Haunt, Howl | ID Situation, Laica | Circumstances Quickly Became Questioned, Vatican Shadow | Roteano, Andrea Belfi | In Dreams I Offend Myself, Heroin and Your Veins| Being Human Being, Erik Truffaz & Murcof
Recently one of my sisters and I, along with our significant others, embarked on a road trip that involved a lot of car time. This was of course much different than the journeys of our youth where we relied on coloring books and sticker albums for entertainment; no, in present day we instead spent most of the time staring at our phones and ignoring each other. My sister, however, rediscovered a website she had found ages ago, Cliquey Pizza – a blog focused on 80’s YA books series & pop culture – and we took turns scrolling through the blog, getting more and more excited as we unearthed beloved gems from when we were younger.
My reading was never censored as a child; I was encouraged to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. By 5th and 6th grade I was reading Stephen King and Clive Barker and HP Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein and Richard Matheson. In retrospect…did I understand the nuances of the stories I was reading? Was I able to digest the philosophies or relate to the characters? Probably not fully, but I certainly related to these stories more closely than I did to blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from the Sweet Valley High books that most other girls my age were reading, that’s for sure.
Despite the fact that I could roam where ever I wished within the library, I often found my way back to the young adult section when I was that age – and I am glad that I did. I was born in 1976 and the mid-80’s was rife with really phenomenal young adult writers – Ellen Conford, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume – these ladies knew how to tell a story … and they didn’t need a werewolf or a vampire to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my blood-thirsty supernatural creatures, but if I had discovered them in the “Paranormal Romance” section of Barnes and Noble, I might have an entirely different relationship with the creatures of the night than I do now.
Ellen Conford wrote YA in just a twisted enough way that you felt like more of an adult while reading it. The writing is sharp and sophisticated, and you really wanted to be friends with her heroines -they always had such a clever wit and a sly sense of humor. The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial Highschool Handbook Of Rules And Regulations is a prime example of Ellen Conford at the height of her hilarity. I remember reading some passages and not being able to breathe because I laughing so hard. If you’ve ever used Zoroaster’s birthday as an excuse to get out of gym class or penned shitty poetry just so you can get published in the school paper, then I really think you will appreciate the main character, Julie, who is just trying to muddle through her freshman year of high school. I suppose it’s a little dated – I don’t think teenagers had crushes on Robert Redford even when I was reading it – but I don’t think those details really detract from the story. To be honest, I am fairly certain teens are facing entirely different problems today than Julie did at AGGMH – but the story is so much fun that this is easily overlooked. I am pretty sure that I don’t even want to know what teenagers have to deal with today. I doubt hilarity often ensues.
I don’t quite recall the other books I’ve read by Conford other than And This Is Laura, which was also pretty great, but I don’t think anything can ever top The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial Highschool Handbook Of Rules And Regulations. I was very sorry to read just today that Ellen Conford passed away last month.
The title of this post is taken from a poem written by one of the characters, and I can’t find it now because I no longer have my copy of the book, otherwise I would post it in its entirety. It’s awful and pretty batshit left-wing teen angsty, and the last line is “…that’s progress sugar.”
For all the Stephen King on my young person’s shelf, no author gave me such intense shivers as Lois Duncan. Twenty five years later, I still try to pinpoint precisely why that is. Perhaps while King’s characters were often older teenagers or adults dealing with jobs and children (along with rabid dogs and killer cars) Duncan’s heroines were young women closer to my age and who shared my concerns.
In Down A Dark Hall, Kit is a young woman who is shipped off to a sinister boarding school while her mother and stepfather are away on their honeymoon. That’s already a significant change for a young adult to process, in addition to the internal changes she is experiencing as well. Adding to the mix a strange, new environment and eerie goings-on that literally made my hair stand on end as I read it – this became a book I would read again and again because I could picture myself so well as Kit with her myriad, mundane problems in the midst of a growing supernatural mystery.
It’s strange to admit, that other than Stranger With My Face, I’ve not read anything else by Lois Duncan, which is crazy when you consider that she is the lady who wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer! I think I am going to make this upcoming June/July The Summer of Lois Duncan, wherein I read everything she’s ever written.
There are so many more of these books that I treasure for their humor and insight and wonderfully creepy suspense sans gore, and some of them which really gutted me on an emotional level as well… but Ellen Conford’s Alfred G. Graebner Memorial Highschool Handbook Of Rules And Regulations and Lois Duncan’s Down A Dark Hall are without a doubt, my forever favorites.
Tell me of the books and stories that you loved as a young adult. Are they stories that still resonate with you? Would you still feel that frisson of excitement flipping through those pages? Are those books still on your shelves?
I wonder if I have read them, too, and remember them just as fondly.
The Royal Dress-Maker game by sarriathmoonghost is inspired by old dressup stickers and paperdolls and features influences from historical clothing during the Medieval, Renaissance, Rococo and Victorian era. It is too much addictive fun. My creation (above) is just one of many that I spent an obscene amount of time playing around with.
The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2015, by Bess Lovejoy over at the smithsonian.com, featuring haunting hotels, whaling museums, burial grounds and crystal caves seems like the perfect guide for a summer roadtrip.
Have you ever wondered what the play poster for Hellraiser would have looked in Victorian times? Ari Pramagioulis certainly has and his vision is really quite wonderful.