Vulgar in Velvet

Thursday, 3 March 2016 15:29
songofcopper: (montesquiou by doucet)
It’s World Book Day! We did a roaring trade in the bookshop this morning - there never seems to be any rhyme or reason behind foot traffic/sales in there, but maybe people were aware of the occasion and had book-buying in mind.

Vampires, Velvet and Vulgarity )
songofcopper: (pensées mauves)
I am very glad to be able to tell you that I have recently discovered TWO writers who make me excited about reading. I’m such a picky little thing, it’s not easy to please me when it comes to cultural artefacts. I won’t say my standards are high, but they are exacting. Things have to feel right, hit the right spot. In no area of my life do I like to bother with things that don’t feel right or hit the right spot… if you don’t quite want to make love to it, you may as well abstain entirely, innit. (Self-sufficiency, too, is a canny move. You never appreciate how good someone else is - or how bad they are - if you are not truly conversant with your own capacity! True of writing, music, cooking and… all manner of other very necessary indulgences.)

Anyway (yes, please do change the subject, horrid creature), today at the bookshop I bought a book that I had been mulling over ever since I saw it on the shelf. I was alone on the shop floor today, so I started reading it, and once I did that, I knew it would have to come home with me. It is called ‘The Hawkline Monster - A Gothic Western’ and its author is Richard Brautigan. It’s a short book (I read the whole thing in the shop, between customers), odd, funny, technically brilliant and really a thing of joy. If I had to describe it (and convention suggests that I should), I’d ask you to imagine a fusion of David Lynch and Edward Gorey. It has that same exact glorious combination of the matter-of-fact and literal with the surreal and fantastic. When I saw the tagline ‘A Gothic Western’ I thought of [livejournal.com profile] in_thy_bounty (even more so when I saw the picture of Brautigan posing nonchalantly in a black hat!). And yes, the book’s ease in mingling down-to-earth, turn-of-the-20th-century Americana with hallucinatory weirdness (and that all achieved with a beautifully observational turn of phrase), would appear to be something you might enjoy. I’m also going to recommend it to [livejournal.com profile] breakon87 (this fellow Brautigan is tagged as a ‘post beat writer’, and the story has fantastical elements), [livejournal.com profile] aerodrome1 (it’s whimsical but elegant, sensual and nonchalant) and [livejournal.com profile] decemberthirty (it’s unusual, clever, sparse and feels deeply rooted in American culture).

My other discovery is David Stacton. (I would hazard a guess he too might be of interest to [livejournal.com profile] decemberthirty.) I’m reading his ‘Remember Me’ at the moment - one or two glorious chapters at a time, savoured in bed with breakfast. This novel is about Ludwig II of Bavaria, someone who definitely fascinates me. I usually keep well away from historical novels, even literary ones, but this is a quite remarkable entering-into-the-spirit of that legendary moonstruck tragic prince. I like very much that it’s written in the third person, in a slightly detached, certainly analytical, but very sympathetic way. In his introduction Stacton reveals his own devout fellow-feeling with Ludwig, and this emerges tangibly in the writing. I must admit to a certain fellow-feeling with Ludwig myself, and somehow this book (and its writer) seems to be one of those that ‘understands you back’ as you read it. Stacton is renowned for being an ‘epigrammatic’ writer, and his prose certainly is chock full of phrasey phrases. I really like that (I’m all about the phrasey phrase in my own writing, fer damn sure); it occasionally threatens to get a bit much, but in this book it works, almost as if Mr Stacton is having to defend himself from the rawness of his own emotion by imparting distance stylistically. The narrative voice becomes a character in itself then - or rather, the writer is very present in the writing. I like to feel that when I’m reading; I don’t read for the plot, you see, and perhaps not even for the characters. What I most desire from a writer is to feel not-alone, from the writing’s revealing of a kindred mind out there in the world somewhere.

Both Richard Brautigan and David Stacton died young. Brautigan struggled all his life with alcoholism and depression (living out the tendency for adults to perpetuate the trauma they suffered as children - his own youth was blighted by alcoholic, abusive men, failing at (step-)fatherhood); he eventually committed suicide. Stacton, weakened by cancer and its drastic non-cure (as well as a formidable tobacco habit) dropped dead of what looks to have been sheer bodily exhaustion. Each was idiosyncratic, stubborn, inimitable; each is now an immortal, complete with respective cult.

Idols tend to be oblivious to their worshippers, but the worshippers get something important out of it - something priceless. Very Important Lesson: live as much as you can, while you can, and make what you and you alone were born to make. It may not bring you any advantage during your short life (except the granting of your will), and people may say you wasted your time, or that you were eccentric and not much else. But if you can operate at this level of sincerity, somebody somewhere - today, tomorrow, next century - will be fortified and succoured by what you have made. Being you, at risk to your reputation, and pouring that intensely into what you (only you) can make: this will help someone along the line. Being not-you, nourishing convention, and suppressing your creativity: this will make you dead-while-alive, and will not lessen your sadness… nor will it help your spiritual descendants.

In short: reading is great, especially when it cheers up your thought-injured little brain!! ;-)

Cravattitude

Thursday, 26 March 2015 18:47
songofcopper: (Poste Dalferinin)
Something about today required a dash of vivid red. (I think it’s because I’m very tired: wan, weary and wilting. I really must force myself to go to bed at the proper time, though this is inconvenient to the natural flow of interesting conversation.) Anyway, red certainly does fill in the blank of one’s personality when it is AWOL owing to mental and spiritual fatigue.

BeforeTheGlass
“Would you buy a secondhand book from this person?”

Within: Crimson Silk, Cosy Coffins, Pens In Profusion, Notebooks For Idiots )
songofcopper: (Dalí)
…down at the Roxymoron Casino, presumably.

Slogans, slogans, slogans. You know me: I hate slogans (though I adore Mottoes, Axiomata, Aphorisms!). Who comes up with these things? ‘Please Gamble Responsibly’… that one wants filing next to ‘Please Die Quietly’.

Anyway, the other day I learned via Facebook that North Korea has recently issued a whopping 310 new patriotic slogans. Most have the sinister, hysterical quality that one expects from narcissist parents (which, I suppose, is a befitting label, considering the exploits of the Kim Dynasty).

Some, however, are just… plain… surprising.

Let’s Science Our Vegetables Unstintingly! )

Today I have dipped a toe into the seething, turbid waters of eBay, in search of Cheap Chinese Fountain Pens. Apparently, these can be surprisingly good for the hilariously-low price; I guess I’ll find out how true that is once the ones I’ve ordered arrive. The thing is, you see, I have fallen in love with bottled ink: and I seem to want to pair each hue I acquire with its own pen. (I’m clearly exactly as bad as those pseuds who buy the myriad differently-shaped wine glasses to match their wines! …Well, to be honest, I tend to drink wine - if I drink it at all - out of one of those tumblers that used to be a mustard-pot, but you get the general idea.) The other day I ordered three new bottles of ink in captivating shades, so of course fresh pens must follow. Luckily, I found my old Waterman pen, with accompanying converter, so one new colour will find its billet therein, but the others shall be housed in cheap ’n’ cheerful lodgings.

Sins, Aesthetick )

Today’s post brought me a couple of good things: a silver pendant depicting Hermes-Mercury (a thing of beauty!) and a good, cheap secondhand copy of ‘The Secret Service’ by Wendy Walker, which I have been wanting to acquire ever since I read its description.

A Mauve Decade )
songofcopper: (Christina Autochrome)
A couple of Thursdays ago, I achieved a long-held ambition: I attended a writers' group. I'd known of its existence for ages, but living in my castle on the hill, far from the city, and being a stubborn non-driver, I wasn't in a position to do anything about it. But having gained the city's bounds, there's no excuse now to ignore the opportunity to meet other writers, with the aim of getting and giving useful feedback, moral support, or at the very least a drink and a nice conversation.

Cake May Ensue )

Last week at the bookshop, on the Big Table of Interesting Things, the display included a book with the intriguing title 'Princes of Victorian Bohemia'. Hmm, thinks Cosmé; instructive? The cover shows this photograph:

Anachronauts Ahoy )

Oh Well. I don't have Mr Wynfield at my disposal, but I do have a camera of my own. Also, I wasn't in Renaissance Prince Mode on Thursday; it was more of a Listlessly-Awkard Edwardian Creature moment. Imagine Cosmé, wistfully adrift at some dully-genteel seaside resort, sulkily solitary but very much wanting a cup of tea… if only a kind person would take pity on the poor thing.

In the absence of kind strangers, one takes pity on oneself. (How very sad! And yet: occasional self-indulgence works wonders, I find. Don't you?)

The Lorn Lens )
songofcopper: (Sparks - Big Beat)
[*Really, Dirtbert, not a coyly-implied Human Triskele. Soap well thy mind, pray!] …Amanuensis, dearest! I Am One…! That is to say, I have lately fulfilled a long-held ambition - been paid to type up a manuscript for an author. My author is an eccentric, voluble Welsh fellow who comes into the shop fairly often. He is a mine of stories, and quite the namedropper. Now he is composing his Memoirs of a Welsh Childhood, and on learning that I am an accomplished typist (and liking me as being the Right Sort of Fellow), engaged me on the spot to take care of the tippy-typing. We agreed a price for my labours, he wrote me out a cheque and off I went with the manuscript in its purple folder. Today I returned the purple folder, along with a blue one containing a crisp and lovely typescript, and a memory stick containing All the Wordses.

Commas, Cash and the Suburban Dilettante )
songofcopper: (idiots with guns. (Man from UNCLE))
Egad, I shelved SO much self-help doo-doo today, during my bookshop shift. :-\  You Can Heal This That And T'Other Thing, Fumbling About With Crystals, Pilates for the Infirm, The No-Calorie Diet, The Pig Out On Swill Diet, Sexual Exercises For Women*, Flirt Like A Drunk Aunt, Comprende Jargon Yah?, Pretending To Care, Massage Your Dog, Of Course You're Not a Sociopath, What The Bleedin' Heck Is Wrong With You Anyway, You Sad, Sad Loser?!

[*This one was actually real.  Of course I perused it. XD  It could have kept a 14-year-old amused for hours with all its blurry watercolour diagrams of how to, y'know, amuse oneself!  Currently I am undecided as to whether it will sell tomorrow or be culled in four weeks' time and sent to the Depot Of Doom, where the unwanted books get their last chance to not be pulped...]

The common theme of these publications seems to be to try and make you feel like you're not only living your life all wrong, but thinking your own thoughts wrong and feeling your own feelings wrong!  (Or feelin' yer own undercarriage wrong, in certain cases! XP)  "You can choose whether or not to get angry" says one guy.  "Never suppress anger - express it by sticking pins in a voodoo doll of your ex-wife" says another.  (That one is not made up either - last week I was thumbing through a book of exercises for therapists to hand out to clients, and that one was the first one in the book.  Apparently it allows one to "seperate feelings from actions" and torturing the doll helps one to refrain from torturing one's significant other...  One is not convinced, frankly!)

Some of 'em attempt to disassemble our anxieties by applying logic - always the jolly, unadorned logic of the naturally calm and happy individual.  "Why worry?  What's the worst that could happen?!"  Uh, excuse me while I tell you, in excruciating detail... or not, because I hate to bore. ;-)  I read their optimistic, rosy-fingered statements and still end up with the conclusion that a real champion worrier would demolish their gibbering platitudes in five seconds flat.

Meanwhile, many of these hacks feel we should re-connect with our inner child, soothing its hurts and reassuring it.  Others tut at that and believe we should focus on the here and now, and re-wire our brains for better behaviour rather than constantly asking "Why?"  Personally, I like "Why?"; the answers are always so interesting.  They may not help you towards happiness or better moral fitness, and of course, there can be too much "Why?", but still... to ignore that stuff seems short-sighted to me.  On the other hand, my inner child is a pretty precocious little madam.  As self-reliant and suspicious of outside influence as a feral cat.  Not one for nurturing, really...

I felt rather dizzy when I shelved a book entitled 'EAT FAT' (a sort of embrace-your-lard manifesto) next to 'You Can Drop A Dress Size In Six Weeks!!!'  Well, I suppose my adding that copy of 'Beating Bulimia' to the display may have gone some way towards bridging the doctrinal schism?!

The writers of these pamphlets of piffle are confused.  We are all confused.  Confusion is the natural state of the human.  Without confusion we would never think, say or do anything of note.  We would all be sitting around being serene on cushions.  My (least) favourite self-help moment is the one when the author, playing on this natural confusion, points out how rubbish and valueless all those other self-help books are - how they will have you chasing your own tail for eternity, implausibly seeking enlightenment up yer own sit-upon.  Then, of course, they go on to tell you how their book is better.  Their book is the bestest, the most bestifulously bestificatory bestibular bookling in the bookshop.  (And gosh, don't words like 'bestibular' and 'bestificatory' make it all look so sciencey!)  They have the secret to fulfilment and satisfaction!  Well, yes; yes, they do.  It goes a little something like this: Write yourself a big old self-help book and sell it to numerous chumps.  Make a lot of cash and choose not to acknowledge your niggling conscience (or perhaps just Pretend To Care?).

Anyway, in conclusion I can say without doubt that an out-of-date self-help book is about the most depressing thing you will ever see in a charity bookshop.  Oh... except for when you have in your hand a novelisation of 'Strictly Come Dancing' in which a humble production assistant is thrust into the sequin-speckled limelight (as if that plotline was not old when they filmed '42nd Street'!); you groan and grimace at the pointlessness and tackiness of it (is it better or worse than a Katie Price opus?)... and then realise there is another copy already there on the shelf!!

Well, yes, let's just remind ourselves that the only self-help that works is deciding what you want to do, and then doing it.  Thank you and goodnight...! ;-P
songofcopper: (idiots with guns. (Man from UNCLE))
Egad, I shelved SO much self-help doo-doo today, during my bookshop shift. :-\  You Can Heal This That And T'Other Thing, Fumbling About With Crystals, Pilates for the Infirm, The No-Calorie Diet, The Pig Out On Swill Diet, Sexual Exercises For Women*, Flirt Like A Drunk Aunt, Comprende Jargon Yah?, Pretending To Care, Massage Your Dog, Of Course You're Not a Sociopath, What The Bleedin' Heck Is Wrong With You Anyway, You Sad, Sad Loser?!

[*This one was actually real.  Of course I perused it. XD  It could have kept a 14-year-old amused for hours with all its blurry watercolour diagrams of how to, y'know, amuse oneself!  Currently I am undecided as to whether it will sell tomorrow or be culled in four weeks' time and sent to the Depot Of Doom, where the unwanted books get their last chance to not be pulped...]

The common theme of these publications seems to be to try and make you feel like you're not only living your life all wrong, but thinking your own thoughts wrong and feeling your own feelings wrong!  (Or feelin' yer own undercarriage wrong, in certain cases! XP)  "You can choose whether or not to get angry" says one guy.  "Never suppress anger - express it by sticking pins in a voodoo doll of your ex-wife" says another.  (That one is not made up either - last week I was thumbing through a book of exercises for therapists to hand out to clients, and that one was the first one in the book.  Apparently it allows one to "seperate feelings from actions" and torturing the doll helps one to refrain from torturing one's significant other...  One is not convinced, frankly!)

Some of 'em attempt to disassemble our anxieties by applying logic - always the jolly, unadorned logic of the naturally calm and happy individual.  "Why worry?  What's the worst that could happen?!"  Uh, excuse me while I tell you, in excruciating detail... or not, because I hate to bore. ;-)  I read their optimistic, rosy-fingered statements and still end up with the conclusion that a real champion worrier would demolish their gibbering platitudes in five seconds flat.

Meanwhile, many of these hacks feel we should re-connect with our inner child, soothing its hurts and reassuring it.  Others tut at that and believe we should focus on the here and now, and re-wire our brains for better behaviour rather than constantly asking "Why?"  Personally, I like "Why?"; the answers are always so interesting.  They may not help you towards happiness or better moral fitness, and of course, there can be too much "Why?", but still... to ignore that stuff seems short-sighted to me.  On the other hand, my inner child is a pretty precocious little madam.  As self-reliant and suspicious of outside influence as a feral cat.  Not one for nurturing, really...

I felt rather dizzy when I shelved a book entitled 'EAT FAT' (a sort of embrace-your-lard manifesto) next to 'You Can Drop A Dress Size In Six Weeks!!!'  Well, I suppose my adding that copy of 'Beating Bulimia' to the display may have gone some way towards bridging the doctrinal schism?!

The writers of these pamphlets of piffle are confused.  We are all confused.  Confusion is the natural state of the human.  Without confusion we would never think, say or do anything of note.  We would all be sitting around being serene on cushions.  My (least) favourite self-help moment is the one when the author, playing on this natural confusion, points out how rubbish and valueless all those other self-help books are - how they will have you chasing your own tail for eternity, implausibly seeking enlightenment up yer own sit-upon.  Then, of course, they go on to tell you how their book is better.  Their book is the bestest, the most bestifulously bestificatory bestibular bookling in the bookshop.  (And gosh, don't words like 'bestibular' and 'bestificatory' make it all look so sciencey!)  They have the secret to fulfilment and satisfaction!  Well, yes; yes, they do.  It goes a little something like this: Write yourself a big old self-help book and sell it to numerous chumps.  Make a lot of cash and choose not to acknowledge your niggling conscience (or perhaps just Pretend To Care?).

Anyway, in conclusion I can say without doubt that an out-of-date self-help book is about the most depressing thing you will ever see in a charity bookshop.  Oh... except for when you have in your hand a novelisation of 'Strictly Come Dancing' in which a humble production assistant is thrust into the sequin-speckled limelight (as if that plotline was not old when they filmed '42nd Street'!); you groan and grimace at the pointlessness and tackiness of it (is it better or worse than a Katie Price opus?)... and then realise there is another copy already there on the shelf!!

Well, yes, let's just remind ourselves that the only self-help that works is deciding what you want to do, and then doing it.  Thank you and goodnight...! ;-P

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This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

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