Saturday, February 21, 2015

On Hiatus

R and I are running away to America.

For five weeks at least.

We will be travelling from Los Angeles to Vancouver and we have spent the last two months planning our itinerary. Honestly, it doesn't feel real yet but we are flying tomorrow so that should change. There is a very small pile of clothes on my living room floor and a very large pile of books. I am not planning to blog while we are away but should you wish to follow our progress you can do so here:

If you have any recommendations for the west coast do hit me up at Otherwise, I suppose, I will catch you on the flipside (where I will continue to nail youth slang and will also be very fat from the enormous amount of delicious food I have consumed).

California inspiration c/o Ansel Adams.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Issue 24: Nests and Homes

Issue 24 of Oh Comely is out now and I have a piece in it about home making and nesting and my nomadic years. The piece is called 'the more my houses change, the more my bedrooms stay the same' and you can buy the magazine at WH Smith in the UK and from independents internationally. I love my bedroom(s).

Other highlights:
  • Liz Ann Bennett on lostness, love and childhood, and children's literature.
  • Jason Ward interviewing Ana Lily Amirpour about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night which I cannot wait to see. I think it may be getting a UK spring cinematic re-/release and I am happily awaiting the sullen, skate-boarding Iranian teen vampire heroine.
  • Sarah Miller's excellent piece on why not to cook.

Friday, February 6, 2015

What I Read: January 2015

  • The Vanishers - Heidi Julavits: Full post here. Very odd; interesting; excellent on the material world. Not necessarily to my taste - too theoretical/academic, frustratingly pretentious - this was probably intentional but I didn't find it enjoyable. Strange and unsettling.
  • The New York Times 36 Hours: USA & Canada, West Coast: Five weeks - L.A. to Vancouver. BRING IT ON. Any and all recommendations heartily welcomed.
  • Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas: Also pretty odd. I'm interested in the back catalogues of popular/hyped/acclaimed contemporary female writers at the moment. I read Popco when I was maybe fifteen and I remember enjoying it in a mathsy kind of way but I haven't read any of her bigger, more recent books. I think this was her first novel and I picked it up on a whim at the library. It's very of its time (late 90s) and prescient about the rise of Big Brother tv. A bunch of varied and feckless twenty-somethings sit around shooting the breeze + mystery element. It was pleasant enough.
  • Crown of Midnight - Sarah J. Maas: I read a fair amount of YA and will vigorously defend the genre but I'm pretty picky. I didn't necessarily love Throne of Glass (Book 1 of this series) but I liked it enough to read Crown of Midnight (Book 2) and I will probably read Heir of Fire (Book 3) if it shows up at the library. This doesn't sound like (and isn't) a ringing endorsement but, given how rarely I continue a YA series, it is something. The heroine's emotional and physical consistency is very patchy but female assassins + the possibility of magic. I have a sizable soft spot for young women in fantasy kicking arse and taking names.
  • Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures - Emma Straub: Emma Straub and The Vacationers were everywhere last year and that's great, she seems very nice, but every time I picked up the book/read the blurb I felt unenthused. Many people whose opinions I respect rated the book but, in a world of near infinite books, the subject left me flat. There are just other things I would rather read about than a family holiday. Luckily, Straub's earlier novel LL is based around an idea/world/setting that does interest me - Golden Age Hollywood and 1930s-60s L.A. Straub's writing is precise and generous and her characters are so recognisably human despite the glow of nostalgia and glamour. This is a skillful but restrained book about a fascinating time and place.
  • The Lost City of Z: A Legendary British Explorer's Deadly Quest to Uncover the Secrets of the Amazon - David Grann: If you follow me on Twitter you might have caught multiple conversations where I exclaimed about how truly (madly) deeply GROSS this book is. The Amazon is full of disgustingness. I am deeply squeamish and the gleeful descriptions of diseases and insects and decaying bodies had me feeling faint on the bus. Excellent New Yorker writer David Grann investigates the disappearance in the 1920s of Colonel Fawcett's expidition to find a lost city in the Amazon. There is mystery and obsession and colonialism and anthropology and cartography and a lot of maggots. You can read Grann's article on the subject as a taster.
  • Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers - Janet Malcolm: BOOK OF THE MONTH. I can't believe I had never read Janet Malcolm before (I don't think) - she is perfect and I love her! She might disdain this kind of ineloquent, fond worship but I can't help myself. These essays about artists and writers are just impeccable; brilliant, balanced and clever. Despite being devastatingly smart and well read she isn't grandiose or alienating and her considered interest cloaks the reader like a blanket. I read essays about artists I had never encountered (Thomas Strouth, Harriet Stratton-Porter), artists I knew only vaguely (Diane Arbus - photography is clearly an interest and Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston and Irving Penn) and artists I have experienced (Edith Wharton, J. D. Salinger) with almost equal pleasure. Admittedly, the longest chapter in the book, by many pages, is about Artforum and the 80s-90s NY art/art critic scene and I came to loathe the chapter and all the characters involved but you can't have it all. I am interested in many things but not, it turns out, the squabbles of the self-righteous, yuppie modern art world. You live, you learn. The chapter is, at least, a masterclass in allowing subjects to hang themselves with their own rope. Luckily though, most of the essays in the book are excellent and the chapter on the Bloomsbury group is perfection and I want to read it on loop forever. I also want to read every single piece of work referenced in the essay. Such a strange, progressive group of brilliant weirdos! I had a rough knowledge of the group and varying levels of knowledges about its members but my brain feel like it has been blown open. I am inspired and invigorated and curious and what more could you want from a book?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Five Gold Rings

Obviously this should have been a pre-Christmas post but Three Gold Rings did have quite the same, well, ring to it.

I used to wear quite a lot of jewellery. As a young teen I styled myself rigorously against the unexpectedly conservative environment I found myself in. I would hazily describe my 'look' as Pre-Emo/Pop-Goth/Rainbow-Tween/Weirdo and I accessorised with enthusiasm. It was a strange mishmash of skulls, plastic children's jewellery and craft supplies. Really I pioneered the 'arm party' with half-foot wrist guards of rubber bracelets, boiled sweet plastic beads and Claire's Accessories tat. I used weird clothes and cheap jewellery as a defense against the barrage of pashminas.

Either the twinsets wore me down or my new found sense of mid-teen sophistication demanded that I eventually put aside such childish delights. I traveled without my family to Mongolia and, briefly, Beijing when I was fifteen and returned with a pound of red jasper beads and a string of cheap black pearls. They were a bounteous haul and kicked off what I would laughingly describe as my 'world traveler' jewellery phase. To be fair, I stand by the jewellery but not by the neck ache or the tediously beige and adult clothes I thought appropriate to pair with it. I don't regret the neon pink fishnet socks of my thirteen year old self but I do regret the camel coloured v-neck of my sixteen year old self, even if it was both more sane and more flattering. Sixteen year olds, no matter how many Penguin Classics they've read or countries they've visited, deserve better than camel coloured v-necks. Sixteen year olds deserve Rookie. Most of us, those of us destined for office jobs and suburban mundanity, only have a short window in which you can truly embrace looking like a weirdo and it is a crying shame to squander that window on anything camel coloured, no matter how enthusiastic the necklaces.

I have a tendency to fixate upon objects/aesthetics and I find that the duration of these obsessions is stretching as I grow older. After I spent three months in India I spent three years wearing Rajhastani earrings and regretting only buying half a dozen pairs. They were beautiful and interesting and I might still be wearing them now if they hadn't slowly fallen apart one by one. It was probably India that finally won me around to gold. At some point, while I was wearing beige, I decided that gold didn't suit me. That may be true, I do tend towards the pasty and pallid, but I don't think camel really suited me either and I just powered straight ahead with that one. I would say that it is more likely that gold was out of fashion in the early-mid 00s. Whatever the cause, I only wore silver for years. But eventually yellow gold caught and kept my attention. It is very shiny after all. I received two gold rings for my 21st birthday and I have worn them together every day since then.

These days, although plenty of beautiful statement jewellery catches my eye, I find that all I really want to wear is a little interesting but relatively inconspicuous gold. It is probably another phase, my chic young urbanite phase (hah), but it has been nearly four years and it shows no sign of diminishing quite yet so I roll with it. I have three fixed points - the two rings and a small, emotionally significant necklace. That leaves a few fingers, my wrists and ears to play with. This is jewellery I wear almost every day, jewellery I live in.

Zoe and Morgan / Lasso Love Ring : This was also a birthday present and is also never removed but it lacks the permanence of my other two rings. I mean this quite literally. I love it and I've worn it every day for three or four years but I won't and can't wear it forever. It is gold fill and it is on its third iteration - I have had to send it back to the shop for replating and repair twice already. I own a couple of bits of Zoe & Morgan and I love their style, there's always a bunch of stuff on their site that I fancy, but it doesn't last. It falls apart and I get that they're making fashion jewellery not heritage jewellery but it is a pity. Luckily their customer service is really excellent.

Maria Francesca Pepe / Hoops with Spikes : I bought my first pair of these MFP earrings on eBay and wore them to death. Or, rather, I wore them until one came loose and fell out. I don't know how that happened since they have a good, tight clasp but accidents and all that. I lived without these earrings for a while and it was rough. They are perfect earrings, for me. They go with everything. They're gold and they're spiky but they're not too invasive. They're tough and a bit weird/unexpected but they're still relatively discreet. I don't want my jewellery to be pretty. I don't really want anything associated with me to be pretty. I appreciate pretty things but I don't identify with them and I don't want to wear them. R bought me a replacement pair of these earrings one Christmas and now I'm back to wearing them a handful of times each week. It is a great relief.

Dominic Jones : It makes me very happy that I own and can wear jewellery from Zoe & Morgan, MFP and Dominic Jones. These are jewellers with clear, specific styles/aesthetics that I really admire. I would happily wear barrels of each. I mean, I can't afford much of their jewellery full price but they each have some more affordable pieces and they all show up on eBay occasionally. Like the first pair of my MFP earrings, these were eBay and they appeal to the exact same part of me. They're gold and a bit sharp and not quite expected. They go with everything and I love them.

Ottoman Hands : Sometime, around when I was wearing v-necks and deciding that gold didn't suit me, I decided that hoop earrings didn't suit me. And now look - all three of my earrings are gold and hoop-adjacent. Suck it, sixteen year old me! You can't tell me what to do, you sensible young person who cares about what is flattering! I mean, I stand by your judgement, hoop earrings don't suit me (I presume it is something to do with my big round face? Circles emphasise my moon face?) but I find that I do not care. Also, small, hoop-ish things aren't quite so noticeable. These were a Christmas present from my soeur and I've worn them a lot in the last month. I think they go with my haircut. The stones complicate any lipstick decisions but they have a rough/unpolished tomboyishness that I enjoy.

Accessorize / Aztec Geo Triangle Ring : This was £10 from Accessorize! Everything about that statement is surprising. Obviously the extreme cheapness is surprising for any/all passable jewellery but, also, I don't have a particularly high opinion of Accessorize and I think this ring looks very Etsy/indie. It's super cute. Sure, the fake gold colouring wore off in about a fortnight of light wear and it is too big for the little finger that I'm wearing it on so I'll definitely lose it soon but it is very jolly. Fun origin story: this ring was purchased as part of a Christmas exchange. My grandparents very sweetly bought me two pairs of black S/M leggings and I managed to exchange them for a fine haul - this ring, a ponyhair leopard print clutch and a pair of socks covered in sloths! And the greatest present of all, of course, was their unwavering belief that I could fit into a sized S/M anything...