Author Archive

Elsa Lanchester, Herself (Interview And Book Giveaway)

by on Apr.16, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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It’s hard to know when imagery so striking, so wonderfully eerie, so utterly iconoclastic as the one presented by Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein, first becomes embedded in one’s memory. When was I not aware of this astonishing creature, this electric-tressed beauty, robed in ghostly whites and the most elegant bandages ever glimpsed on screen? That intensely penetrating gaze, those severe slashes of eyebrows, that exquisite jawline!

Elsa Lanchester the actress, and the human, much like her character in The Bride of Frankenstein, was more than the sum of her extraordinary parts; in her fantastic 1983 autobiography Elsa Lanchester, Herself one beholds the creation of, and rise of this independent, liberated woman from her bohemian upbringing by radical socialist parents, to her life in film, two world wars, stage acting in London, her dance career and her marriage to actor Charles Laughton. Reading the actress’s reminiscences and observations, in her own words, on everything from her hilarious vignettes describing her early family life, to the many profound personalities she met from the first half of the 20th century, is akin to sitting for a coffee with your cattiest, most witty friend, spellbound by their enthralling gossip and stories. Not only are these recollections penned with warmth, wit, and delightful candor–the lady could write, too! I don’t think I’ve ever read a more eloquent, wonderfully worded glimpse into a celebrity’s life. I would have recommended Elsa Lanchester, Herself to everyone I know–but, unfortunately until just a few weeks ago, this fabulous memoir was out of print.

Of course, I didn’t even know the book existed until I began following Tom Blunt’s “Reprint Elsa” campaign a few years ago.  Drawn to the fringes of the odd and the mundane, Tom is a writer, producer, and performer who shares his unique perspectives on culture, history, and LGBTQ issues. With these credentials then, it may not surprise you to learn that Tom is also part of the team over at our dear friends and purveyors of esoteric perfumes and potions, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Tom has been the Lab’s Relationship Coordinator since 2016 or so and assists in terms of marketing, licensing, and event planning.

It is with great joy and sincere congratulations to Tom that I share our interview with you today– for, as of April 2018, Tom’s campaign was an overwhelming success and Elsa Lanchester, Herself was reprinted by the Chicago Review Press. Read on for Tom’s wonderful insights into this striking and unusual Golden Era entertainer and his quest to ensure that so many decades later, she finally finds her people.

Be sure to leave a comment on this post, for the opportunity to win a brand new copy of Elsa Lanchester, Herself–as well as two related scents from the generous folks at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab! A winner will be chosen two weeks from today. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

 

About Elsa Lanchester’s autobiography, and the actress herself, Vincent Price wrote, “A very special person tells a special tale of an extraordinarily special life and she tells it brilliantly in her own special way.” I can’t help but to agree, after having read it for myself. I’d love to hear why this extraordinary person was special to you.

What’s strange is that she wasn’t really special to me before all this happened. Since childhood I’ve always been drawn to Bride of Frankenstein as an icon of ferocious, maligned womanhood, but those were the days before you could look someone up on IMDB and see what else they’d been in. I’d seen some of Elsa’s later movies, but never connected that distinctive face and voice to the hissing Bride, and didn’t know her book even existed until I found a copy in a thrift store.

“If this is any good whatsoever,” I told the friend who was shopping with me, “I’m going to do a whole show about her.” This was back when I was producing and hosting a variety show in New York City, revolving around undersung women in film.

I think I only read about five pages before reaching out to the programmer at our venue, the 92nd Street Y, to pitch a show, which I called “The Elsa Monologues.” The idea was that I’d conscript a bunch of actors and nightlife types to perform excerpts from the book, and we’d share clips from Elsa’s film career, maybe throw in a burlesque number. (By the night of the event, our lineup included a milliner who’d designed a couture hat inspired by The Bride’s hair.)

Toward the end of the book, I began to get funny uncanny tingles about it. More than anything she achieved in film, Elsa felt her true calling was in cabaret singing — funny, character-based songs that were sometimes poignant and often quite filthy. As a teenager she even started her own cabaret nightspot in London, which she called the “Cave of Harmony.” And now here I was a century later, a struggling wannabe artist trying to create my own ridiculous scene, with drag queens and musicians and famous character actresses. She did everything first, and better. I was in awe.

So she became special to me through this book, through all these disarming stories that resonate with tremendous sadness, which she masterfully sows with comedic jolts. There’s nothing better than a book written by someone who’s a born entertainer.

Not to make too big a deal out of it, but the timing of all this felt fateful to me, and I wanted to make sure she finally found her people.

Elsa Lanchester, Herself was originally published, I believe in 1983. What were your thoughts, when reading it for the first time? What was it about the woman– her life, her words, her experiences–that struck you as relevant and compelling and not only worthy of a reprint, but perhaps vital, at that particular point in time?

I read lots of what I like to call Star Lady Memoirs. A lot of them! While nearly all of them are worth reading, it’s not very often that I feel someone’s life force so strongly in their words.

Perhaps it’s because Elsa wrote this book at the end of her life, when she had nothing left to lose. It’s not in her nature to simply complain about all the pain and disappointment in her life — she spins an enthralling story out of every misery, dropping certain details so candidly they just leave you stunned. There’s a rare art to baring your soul to people in a way that actually leaves them wanting more.

I was particularly struck by the torment she weathered as the long-suffering wife of a closeted gay movie star — and Charles Laughton was a much bigger star then she was, so she labored in the shadow of his greatness for decades. On top of that, he seemed genuinely threatened by her success, and sabotaged her in a million ways, large and small.

She wrote this book after Laughton’s death, and while she pulls no punches against him, she still manages to profess an enduring love and tenderness for him, and an appreciation for his suffering as a human forced to spend his whole life in hiding. That really broke my heart. Marriages like these are still happening today. People need to hear these stories.

However, back in ’83, there was almost no hope of a book like this finding an audience. People believed women even less than they do now, and it was considered tasteless to “speak ill” of a famous loved one who was no longer alive to tell his side of the story — especially if you appeared to capitalize on it. As you may have noticed, Hollywood is notoriously closed-mouthed about certain things and detests people who blab.

On top of that, women weren’t the major literary marketing target they are now, nor were LGBTQ people. So, telling these stories about her marriage wasn’t seen as an act of bravery among movie buffs. It was more like embarrassing faux pas made by an avowed eccentric… to the extent that anyone cared at all.

As I read the book, I marveled at some of the crucial ways in which the world has changed since Elsa died. If anything, she’s much more famous than Charles now — The Bride’s image still echoes through pop culture, and people will always trace that back to her. Today we find ourselves looking back at everything we took for granted about the 20th century, examining it through the eyes of all the women and queer people whose stories were never told, or amplified so they could actually be heard, and be part of the record. Elsa managed to document the very special sort of hell she and Charles occupied together, and left a record of it for future generations, in case anyone cares.

I think time and history were actually on her side all along. I think we do care, and I decided to make sure the stone got kicked just a little bit further down the road so that a new generation of monster-lovers would find out about her, and older ones would see the bizarre events of her life through fresh eyes.

The book was reprinted by Chicago Press just this year (congrats!), and with your social media coverage and campaigns, you were instrumental to the process. How did you become involved? And how do you even approach something like this? Getting a book back into print can be extremely difficult, especially when the author is no longer alive to promote it. I understand that it was not an an easy road at any point–can you speak to some of the hurdles along the way?

After our Elsa tribute show, I basically picked up the tools I use for producing nightlife events — publicity, creativity, and a high tolerance for rejection — and set out to apply gentle (yet unrelenting) pressure on the powers that be, in hopes of guiding the book back into print.

I’m no expert in this area, but I interned at a publisher in NYC once upon a time, so I knew a thing or two about the challenges involved in reviving someone else’s book. One of the hardest parts is sorting through who really owns it, and that’s an area where you can’t take anything for granted, unless you want to end up in court.

I started out with the original publisher, St. Martins, but was informed the rights had reverted back to Elsa’s estate. I then spent years dealing with the organization that controls her estate, before discovering the rights had never actually reverted at all. They’d been tussling with me over a property they actually didn’t own in the first place.

That’s a great example of another huge challenge in the reprinting process: since no one stands to make a substantial amount of money, the parties involved can actually be so apathetic, they won’t take the time to perform a perfunctory search before answering any of your questions.

Along the way, I was even in touch with Elsa’s original literary agent from the ‘80s, who informed me that he’d been so charmed by the book that he adapted it into a screenplay — this actually exists somewhere, though I have yet to see a copy of it. His only paper copy was destroyed in a fire.

A couple of years into the project, my social media antics caught the eye of the Chicago Review Press, who reached out and ultimately joined the crusade, making an official bid on the rights. Even then, we remained in limbo for additional years.

At some point I basically divested and moved on to other battles. Even when CRP notified me that we’d won, and the book would actually be reprinted, I was still afraid to get my hopes up. It wasn’t until they began asking for input related to the physical book itself, such as who we could get to write a foreword (my friend Mara Wilson did a terrific job!) that I trusted it was a done deal.

Even so, I didn’t share any news with the hundreds of people following our Facebook group until I had an actual pre-sale link. There’s nothing worse than taking a victory lap and then discovering you can’t actually deliver what you promised.

But she’s here! And I did deliver, although credit is owed to the numerous people who participated and pushed alongside me. This is a team victory.

Now that Elsa Lanchester, Herself is in circulation again and new generations are learning of this fascinating, fabulous woman, what is it that you hope people take away from her story?

That nothing anyone thinks or says about you counts more than what you think and say about yourself. While I urged CRP to make sure there was a picture of The Bride on the book’s cover, (for marketing purposes, natch) readers will note that Elsa writes very little about her experience in that film. While she was grateful to have left her mark, she is open about the mixed blessing of being known for one major thing — and The Bride wasn’t her creation at all, she was mainly just a vessel for someone else’s makeup and costume design.

After the book was written, Elsa’s version of events was disputed by some of Laughton’s friends, such as Maureen O’Hara, who commented: “[Elsa] was witty, and down deep, she was decent, but she always seemed to want something outside her reach.” Well, who doesn’t?

You may never end up being known for your best qualities. Hell, you’re lucky if you can even identify them in yourself, or put them to any real use whatsoever, before you’re gone and buried. If Elsa hadn’t written this book, I doubt anyone would think to go back and listen to all the music she released — which is still currently available online, and contains the very essence of her talent and personality. In 1951, The New Yorker described her musical act thusly: “There is a desperate quality about her art; in some curious way, she takes her listeners out of a close, tidy world and into a disquieting place filled with sharp winds and unsteady laughter.”

I think that’s pretty punk rock.

What’s next on the horizon? You enigmatically remarked on your blog that ” …Elsa’s not the only incredible lady we’re interested in.” Any future projects involving extraordinary women that we should be looking out for?

I have schemes, but that’s about it. The next memoirist in my sights is Ann Miller, the tap-dancing starlet who fancied herself psychic, and whose screen career spanned everything from Easter Parade to Mulholland Drive. Her book Miller’s High Life (yes, that’s the real title) is fascinating, and I befriended a relative of hers who wants to help make a reprint happen. Will it happen? Will anyone care as much as I do? I’ve launched a Facebook group to get that ball rolling. Join it!

My dream is to start a literary imprint that revives more of these Star Lady Memoirs — there’s so much history and wisdom in these books, but they’re considered disposable once they go out of print. Shelley Winters, Pearl Bailey, Tallulah Bankhead — they bared their souls to us, and we’re just throwing these stories away.

If you asked me a year ago, I’d have said it was hopeless. But having managed to pull Elsa’s book out of the trash, I’m changing my answer to “anything is possible.”

Are you going to be in Brooklyn at the beginning of May? You’re in luck–there will be a screening at The Alamo Drafthouse to promote the book!  Celebrate the book’s re-release with Tom and friends at this special screening of the The Bride of Frankenstein, flanked by entertaining excerpts from Elsa Lanchester, Herself


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Anouk Wipprecht’s Spider Dress: Robotic Arachnid Guardian Chic

by on Apr.11, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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Today we’re coveting the most recent version of Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht‘s fabulous Spider Dress (here’s the first). We remember when it first debuted back in 2015, but when isn’t reactive robotic futuristic spider couture relevant?

Wipprecht’s arresting 3D-printed mechatronic design reacts to the respiration of its wearer and movements of nearby people using Intel’s Edison module to connect sensors on the bodice with spider-like animatronic limbs on the shoulders (coolest epaulettes ever?). The same sensors also cause eyes in the form of black shells embedded with LEDs to react by either flashing in warning or glowing in welcome.

“The dress provides an extension of the wearers intuition: It uses proximity sensors as well as a respiration sensor to both define and protecting the personal space of the wearer. Approach the wearer to aggressively and the mechanical limbs move up to an attack position. Approach the system under calmer circumstance and the dress just might beckon you to come closer with smooth, suggestive gestures.”

Come to think of it, wearable tech that literally defines and defends its wearer’s personal space is even more relevant right now. If ever there was a garment that both visually and physically promotes the #MeToo movement, this is it.

Find Anouk Wipprecht: Website // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter // YouTube

[via CNET]


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Anouk Wipprecht’s Spider Dress: Robotic Arachnid Guardian Chic

by on Apr.11, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Today we’re coveting the most recent version of Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht‘s fabulous Spider Dress (here’s the first). We remember when it first debuted back in 2015, but when isn’t reactive robotic futuristic spider couture relevant?

Wipprecht’s arresting 3D-printed mechatronic design reacts to the respiration of its wearer and movements of nearby people using Intel’s Edison module to connect sensors on the bodice with spider-like animatronic limbs on the shoulders (coolest epaulettes ever?). The same sensors also cause eyes in the form of black shells embedded with LEDs to react by either flashing in warning or glowing in welcome.

“The dress provides an extension of the wearers intuition: It uses proximity sensors as well as a respiration sensor to both define and protecting the personal space of the wearer. Approach the wearer to aggressively and the mechanical limbs move up to an attack position. Approach the system under calmer circumstance and the dress just might beckon you to come closer with smooth, suggestive gestures.”

Come to think of it, wearable tech that literally defines and defends its wearer’s personal space is even more relevant right now. If ever there was a garment that both visually and physically promotes the #MeToo movement, this is it.

Find Anouk Wipprecht: Website // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter // YouTube

[via CNET]


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Springtime Small Business Sponsors!

by on Apr.09, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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Please welcome our springtime small business sponsors!


Apatico
Apatico is a small accessories brand based out of Seattle, WA designed and handmade by Megan Bishop. Specializing in harnesses, crowns, headpieces, and adornments, her work is inspired by history and fantasy with an emphasis on solid design, unique & quality materials, and a flattering fit. Available in premium leather, vegan leather, and many colors of PVC. Custom sizing is available.
As seen in Elle, Bust, Teen Vogue, and Marie Claire.

Spring sale: 30% off April 9-15th at www.apatico.net

Shop // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter


eidol
I’ve spent almost 15 years creating work with a darkly romantic and vintage sensibility. I temper this darkness with the use of bright accent colors.  I painstakingly hand make everything you see and I pride myself on obsessive attention to the little details that make an item truly special (buttons, antique buckles, unusual leathers and fabrics).  I firmly believe in reclaiming fashion from homogenized mass production by creating and constructing my work myself.

Shop // Facebook


Frighten
My name is Mari Lowery and I’m a photographer and mixed media artist from New York. My work is inspired by Victorian era fashion, Halloween, nature and animals and I draw on these subjects to create my altered antique portraits, mixed media collages and sculptures. My work is sold primarily in my Etsy shop, frighten, where I carry original pieces as well as prints, pendants and note cards that I have made with my art. You can find me at frighten.etsy.com and you’re welcome to use the coupon code “Haute” for 15% off your orders for the month of April.

Shop // Instagram // Facebook


Margot Meanie
Dark fashion doesn’t stop at a size 12, but finding the items can be a hell of a lot harder. Margot Meanie is able to help find you the cool shit you crave in the size you need without compromising style, all while sprinkling self love magic into your life!

Margot focuses on dark fashion finds in extended sizes and witchy lifestyle, she overshares her three cats and loves a hot beverage, you can find her on youtubefacebookinstagram, or her site margotmeanie.com


Witch City Wicks
Witch City Wicks is an independent, artisan candle company based out of Salem, Massachusetts. All candles are made with vegan-friendly soy wax, poured, labeled and packaged by hand with care and attention. Scents and packaging are heavily inspired by alt-subcultures, movies, music, history and life in Salem.

Liz Frazier, a candle-obsessive designer, founded Witch City Wicks in 2011. A former art director in advertising/marketing, she sought to create artfully packaged candles that compliment everyone’s unique home style and expressive fragrances that can fill a room. Anyone planning a trip to Salem can now visit the Witch City Wicks storefront (located near the Witch House), which opened in May 2017.

Shop // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter


Wormwood & Rue
Wormwood & Rue is a small pin company in NYC, inspired by the wonders of nature, mythology, folklore and all that thrives within dark forests.

Shop // Instagram


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Springtime Small Business Sponsors!

by on Apr.09, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Please welcome our springtime small business sponsors!


Apatico
Apatico is a small accessories brand based out of Seattle, WA designed and handmade by Megan Bishop. Specializing in harnesses, crowns, headpieces, and adornments, her work is inspired by history and fantasy with an emphasis on solid design, unique & quality materials, and a flattering fit. Available in premium leather, vegan leather, and many colors of PVC. Custom sizing is available.
As seen in Elle, Bust, Teen Vogue, and Marie Claire.

Spring sale: 30% off April 9-15th at www.apatico.net

Shop // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter


eidol
I’ve spent almost 15 years creating work with a darkly romantic and vintage sensibility. I temper this darkness with the use of bright accent colors.  I painstakingly hand make everything you see and I pride myself on obsessive attention to the little details that make an item truly special (buttons, antique buckles, unusual leathers and fabrics).  I firmly believe in reclaiming fashion from homogenized mass production by creating and constructing my work myself.

Shop // Facebook


Frighten
My name is Mari Lowery and I’m a photographer and mixed media artist from New York. My work is inspired by Victorian era fashion, Halloween, nature and animals and I draw on these subjects to create my altered antique portraits, mixed media collages and sculptures. My work is sold primarily in my Etsy shop, frighten, where I carry original pieces as well as prints, pendants and note cards that I have made with my art. You can find me at frighten.etsy.com and you’re welcome to use the coupon code “Haute” for 15% off your orders for the month of April.

Shop // Instagram // Facebook


Margot Meanie
Dark fashion doesn’t stop at a size 12, but finding the items can be a hell of a lot harder. Margot Meanie is able to help find you the cool shit you crave in the size you need without compromising style, all while sprinkling self love magic into your life!

Margot focuses on dark fashion finds in extended sizes and witchy lifestyle, she overshares her three cats and loves a hot beverage, you can find her on youtubefacebookinstagram, or her site margotmeanie.com


Witch City Wicks
Witch City Wicks is an independent, artisan candle company based out of Salem, Massachusetts. All candles are made with vegan-friendly soy wax, poured, labeled and packaged by hand with care and attention. Scents and packaging are heavily inspired by alt-subcultures, movies, music, history and life in Salem.

Liz Frazier, a candle-obsessive designer, founded Witch City Wicks in 2011. A former art director in advertising/marketing, she sought to create artfully packaged candles that compliment everyone’s unique home style and expressive fragrances that can fill a room. Anyone planning a trip to Salem can now visit the Witch City Wicks storefront (located near the Witch House), which opened in May 2017.

Shop // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter


Wormwood & Rue
Wormwood & Rue is a small pin company in NYC, inspired by the wonders of nature, mythology, folklore and all that thrives within dark forests.

Shop // Instagram


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BloodMilk Semi-Annual Sale

by on Apr.06, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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Tomorrow, Saturday April 7 at noon EST, the BloodMilk semi-annual sale will launch, where you may enjoy 20% off a large selection of treasures in the collection with code “TaxDeath18” at checkout. The sale will extend through the end of day on Tuesday, April 10.

This year, many new designs have been included in the sale that were not previously available at the discounted price: the Hecate ring will be eligible in all three stones, the Swan Song ring, the Messenger Claw in both obsidian and quartz, all designs featuring a magnifying glass, along with many familiar favorites such as the Belonging Ring series and all solid silver designs.

A special sale section will be added to the BloodMilk Shop tomorrow so that you may see all items included in the category, and add items to your a cart alongside regularly priced jewels. Sale pricing will also be honored at the BloodMilk booth this weekend’s Oddities Flea Market in Brooklyn should be lucky enough to be in attendance!

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Aural Fixation: March 2018

by on Apr.04, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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S. Elizabeth

Dead Magic by Anna Von Hausswolff 
Anna Von Hausswolff’s music, has, to me at least, always sounded like the decadent pipe organs from Catholic mass that have somehow gone a bit weird and spacey and menacing. There’s more of of that sort of thing on Dead Magic, along with gloomy incantations, raw, rapturous wails, and guttural groans–intimate and extreme human passions penetrating the infinite and unknown silences of our short, pathetic human existences. Dead Magic is a nocturnal, candle-lit, ritualistic listen for invoking beings beyond our realm, but whether you’ll wind up with angelic energies or demonic entities, who can know?

Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten by Ionnalee 
If I had to sum up Swedish singer, songwriter, producer and filmmaker, Jonna Lee’s offerings in a succinct, digestible nugget for a new listener, I might call it, overall, “enigmatic electropop” but I think that might do a deep disservice to her music, a beguiling mixture of the irrepressibly catchy and the otherworldly-eccentric. I first became aware of her through her electronic music and audiovisual project, iamamiwhoami, which began as a series of mysterious, dream-like music videos in 2009, went massively viral, and which quickly gained a cult following. Her unconventional structures paired with irresistible beat and bass combinations and anthemic choruses, and that eerie soaring nightbird of a voice drew me in from the very start, and I’ve been breathlessly following her each successive release with feverish glee. Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten is a work encompassing new compositions, while hearkening back to her earlier sounds– marking both a connection with the artist’s beginnings and the evolution she’s been through since. An evocative album that raises questions about what drives an artist to create in a milieu brimming with people fighting to be heard and to express themselves in ways that would single them out from others, it “is a collection that concerns itself with what is the artist’s residual footprint, paralleled with people’s fear of oblivion.”

This sentiment is (for me) most clearly heard in “Samaritan”, in which she decries:
“I don’t believe in a god, let’s leave religion out of all this
I don’t remember promising my life and soul to bring you all bliss
If I am what you say, I expect to be hanging from a wooden cross
When all this is done, it’s done”

Intense, complex, and triumphant, but never dark, or heavy–even on my favorite track, “Harvest”:

“Come closer, my love.
Let’s drown in misery.
There is an ocean of possibilities”.

–one feels more hopeful than hopeless, and senses they may again float back ashore, if only to dance for a while longer in the euphoric dreams of ionnalee.


Maika

Every 4-5 weeks I drive from Portland to Seattle in pilgrimage to visit my hairstylist. When it’s just right, the relationship with one’s hairstylist is a sacred thing, something not easily surrendered, not even when one moves 3 hours away. I usually make these drives alone and I spend that time listening to audiobooks. So, while I haven’t any new music to share for Aural Fixation this month, I do have a few wonderful audiobooks to tell you about:

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard
I was already a devoted Eddie Izzard fan before listening to this memoir, so it was highly unlikely that I wouldn’t enjoy listening to him simply talk about his life. But I wasn’t prepared for how very, well, Izzardish this audio book is. The thing is, there’s no “simply” when it comes to Eddie Izzard. I specifically seek out autobiographies and memoirs as audiobooks when they’re read by their authors because the experience of listening to them is like having these people sitting right beside you, telling you stories about their lives. When Eddie Izzard does this it means he doesn’t just read his book, it means he frequently launches into additional material, footnotes that often themselves have footnotes. Their numerousness reminded me of the 330+ endnotes in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I’ve never listened to another audio book that was anything like this. On at least two or three occasions, Izzard stops reading (or extra footnoting) to switch on his phone so he can use Google or Wikipedia to look up the details of something he’s talking about. He also interacts with his sound engineers from time to time. In my experience, these things are unheard of in the audiobook world or at least get edited out in post-production. All these delightful occurrences are why the unabridged version of this audiobook clocks in at 14 hours, 39 minutes, but who would ever dare abridge Eddie Izzard? Granted, it took me two trips to Seattle and back to finish this book, but I loved it. It was fascinating, funny, inspiring, and very moving. I hope in 10 or 20 years he writes another one.

 

The Princess Diarist and Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
I listened to these two books in succession because after the first I was hungry to spend more time with Carrie Fisher and her unique combination of candor, razor wit, and literary skill. The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s memoir of her life in 1976, the year she spent filming Star Wars: A New Hope, and an exploration of how being involved in what quickly become a legendary film franchise and becoming a pop culture icon impacted her life. For a taste of the latter, Fisher describes participating in autograph signings as celebrity lap dancing:

“I don’t remember exactly when I started referring to signing autographs for money as a celebrity lap dance, but I’m sure it didn’t take me long to come up with it. It’s a lap dance with out cash being placed in any underwear, and there’s no pole — or is the pole represented by the pen?”

Fisher was moved to write this book upon discovering the journals she’d kept in 1976. She describes the experience of auditioning and landing the role of Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, reflects on being 19 years old while participating in the making of a movie that no one then knew would eventually become legendary, and falling in love and having a secret affair with her co-star, Harrison Ford. The journals themselves are read by Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and are very raw and vulnerable, full of heartache, poetry, and word play, and demonstrate that Fisher was already a gifted writer in her teens. It’s no wonder this audiobook won a Grammy. I can’t imagine how reading it from the page could possibly compare to listening to Fisher and Lourd’s respective readings.

Wishful Drinking was written 8 years before The Princess Diarist, but I read them out of order so I’m reviewing them that way too. This book is a broader autobiography of Fisher’s life and based on her one-woman stage show of the same name, which I’m now sorry I never experienced. After undergoing ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to treat her crippling depression, the resultant memory loss found Fisher needing to reacquaint herself with her own life, to get to know herself again. With her trademark self-deprecating frankness and wit she talks about everything from growing up as the child of a beloved and later scandalized celebrity couple (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), a phenomenon she describes as “Hollywood in-breeding,” her close relationship with her mother (who lived next-door to her), her marriages, her daughter, making the Star Wars movies, struggling with addiction and depression, and being a heavily merchandised pop culture icon.

Much like the experience of listening to Eddie Izzard’s memoirs, I was already very fond of and full of admiration for Carrie Fisher before listening to these audiobooks, but damn, did they make me miss her even more.


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Aural Fixation: March 2018

by on Apr.04, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

S. Elizabeth

Dead Magic by Anna Von Hausswolff 
Anna Von Hausswolff’s music, has, to me at least, always sounded like the decadent pipe organs from Catholic mass that have somehow gone a bit weird and spacey and menacing. There’s more of of that sort of thing on Dead Magic, along with gloomy incantations, raw, rapturous wails, and guttural groans–intimate and extreme human passions penetrating the infinite and unknown silences of our short, pathetic human existences. Dead Magic is a nocturnal, candle-lit, ritualistic listen for invoking beings beyond our realm, but whether you’ll wind up with angelic energies or demonic entities, who can know?

Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten by Ionnalee 
If I had to sum up Swedish singer, songwriter, producer and filmmaker, Jonna Lee’s offerings in a succinct, digestible nugget for a new listener, I might call it, overall, “enigmatic electropop” but I think that might do a deep disservice to her music, a beguiling mixture of the irrepressibly catchy and the otherworldly-eccentric. I first became aware of her through her electronic music and audiovisual project, iamamiwhoami, which began as a series of mysterious, dream-like music videos in 2009, went massively viral, and which quickly gained a cult following. Her unconventional structures paired with irresistible beat and bass combinations and anthemic choruses, and that eerie soaring nightbird of a voice drew me in from the very start, and I’ve been breathlessly following her each successive release with feverish glee. Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten is a work encompassing new compositions, while hearkening back to her earlier sounds– marking both a connection with the artist’s beginnings and the evolution she’s been through since. An evocative album that raises questions about what drives an artist to create in a milieu brimming with people fighting to be heard and to express themselves in ways that would single them out from others, it “is a collection that concerns itself with what is the artist’s residual footprint, paralleled with people’s fear of oblivion.”

This sentiment is (for me) most clearly heard in “Samaritan”, in which she decries:
“I don’t believe in a god, let’s leave religion out of all this
I don’t remember promising my life and soul to bring you all bliss
If I am what you say, I expect to be hanging from a wooden cross
When all this is done, it’s done”

Intense, complex, and triumphant, but never dark, or heavy–even on my favorite track, “Harvest”:

“Come closer, my love.
Let’s drown in misery.
There is an ocean of possibilities”.

–one feels more hopeful than hopeless, and senses they may again float back ashore, if only to dance for a while longer in the euphoric dreams of ionnalee.


Maika

Every 4-5 weeks I drive from Portland to Seattle in pilgrimage to visit my hairstylist. When it’s just right, the relationship with one’s hairstylist is a sacred thing, something not easily surrendered, not even when one moves 3 hours away. I usually make these drives alone and I spend that time listening to audiobooks. So, while I haven’t any new music to share for Aural Fixation this month, I do have a few wonderful audiobooks to tell you about:

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard
I was already a devoted Eddie Izzard fan before listening to this memoir, so it was highly unlikely that I wouldn’t enjoy listening to him simply talk about his life. But I wasn’t prepared for how very, well, Izzardish this audio book is. The thing is, there’s no “simply” when it comes to Eddie Izzard. I specifically seek out autobiographies and memoirs as audiobooks when they’re read by their authors because the experience of listening to them is like having these people sitting right beside you, telling you stories about their lives. When Eddie Izzard does this it means he doesn’t just read his book, it means he frequently launches into additional material, footnotes that often themselves have footnotes. Their numerousness reminded me of the 330+ endnotes in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I’ve never listened to another audio book that was anything like this. On at least two or three occasions, Izzard stops reading (or extra footnoting) to switch on his phone so he can use Google or Wikipedia to look up the details of something he’s talking about. He also interacts with his sound engineers from time to time. In my experience, these things are unheard of in the audiobook world or at least get edited out in post-production. All these delightful occurrences are why the unabridged version of this audiobook clocks in at 14 hours, 39 minutes, but who would ever dare abridge Eddie Izzard? Granted, it took me two trips to Seattle and back to finish this book, but I loved it. It was fascinating, funny, inspiring, and very moving. I hope in 10 or 20 years he writes another one.

 

The Princess Diarist and Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
I listened to these two books in succession because after the first I was hungry to spend more time with Carrie Fisher and her unique combination of candor, razor wit, and literary skill. The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s memoir of her life in 1976, the year she spent filming Star Wars: A New Hope, and an exploration of how being involved in what quickly become a legendary film franchise and becoming a pop culture icon impacted her life. For a taste of the latter, Fisher describes participating in autograph signings as celebrity lap dancing:

“I don’t remember exactly when I started referring to signing autographs for money as a celebrity lap dance, but I’m sure it didn’t take me long to come up with it. It’s a lap dance with out cash being placed in any underwear, and there’s no pole — or is the pole represented by the pen?”

Fisher was moved to write this book upon discovering the journals she’d kept in 1976. She describes the experience of auditioning and landing the role of Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, reflects on being 19 years old while participating in the making of a movie that no one then knew would eventually become legendary, and falling in love and having a secret affair with her co-star, Harrison Ford. The journals themselves are read by Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and are very raw and vulnerable, full of heartache, poetry, and word play, and demonstrate that Fisher was already a gifted writer in her teens. It’s no wonder this audiobook won a Grammy. I can’t imagine how reading it from the page could possibly compare to listening to Fisher and Lourd’s respective readings.

Wishful Drinking was written 8 years before The Princess Diarist, but I read them out of order so I’m reviewing them that way too. This book is a broader autobiography of Fisher’s life and based on her one-woman stage show of the same name, which I’m now sorry I never experienced. After undergoing ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to treat her crippling depression, the resultant memory loss found Fisher needing to reacquaint herself with her own life, to get to know herself again. With her trademark self-deprecating frankness and wit she talks about everything from growing up as the child of a beloved and later scandalized celebrity couple (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), a phenomenon she describes as “Hollywood in-breeding,” her close relationship with her mother (who lived next-door to her), her marriages, her daughter, making the Star Wars movies, struggling with addiction and depression, and being a heavily merchandised pop culture icon.

Much like the experience of listening to Eddie Izzard’s memoirs, I was already very fond of and full of admiration for Carrie Fisher before listening to these audiobooks, but damn, did they make me miss her even more.


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Stacked March 2018

by on Apr.03, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post


shelfie via @samanthamacabre

S. Elizabeth

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
I’m interested by Roxane Gay’s choice of words with regard to the titular “difficult” women. These are stories of complex, complicated women, for sure. Traumatized women in most, cases, if not all. Violence, abuse, betrayal; agony, anger, helplessness, hopelessness–these themes weave throughout the stories, a rope thick at your throat, strangling. You literally cannot breathe when inhabiting the skins of Gay’s characters, you find yourself laying the book down frequently, harshly panting in rage and fury, your eyes wet with heartbreak. Perhaps to call them “difficult” then, gives breath and power back to the victim. To utter the phrase, “I’m difficult,” is, to me, an act of defiance. There is a streak of defiance, or a scintilla of unpredictability, or a spark (or even a raging fire) of wildness in each of these characters, and it’s both emboldening and utterly, terribly gut-wrenching. In “Break All the Way Down,” a mother grieving the accidental death of her son begs her husband to hit her; when he won’t, she finds a man at a bar who will. “You’re stronger than I thought,” her husband says at one point. “You have no idea,” she replies. Even as a massive fan of Roxane Gay, I had no idea what I was getting into with this collection; readings like these often trigger your own personal past traumas (which are generally not far on any given day, just simmering below the surface, on the verge of a boil, not far from a burn, awaiting a change in pressure, in temperature, the wrong hand jiggling the handle at just the right angle or degree for a spill, and upset, an explosion or total obliteration.) Difficult Woman reminded me how close to that explosion I am every day of my life, and to hold compassion for myself, as someone who reigns in my difficult feelings; to display even greater kindness and understanding for those whose difficulty has evolved into a shell, a shield, an armor for which to save themselves from a brutal, killing world.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
A rich, beautiful saga spanning four generations of a Korean immigrant family struggling to belong and striving to build a life for themselves in Japan. I have a soft spot in my heart with regard to reading about folks eking out a meager, hardscrabble existence; stretching meals, collecting crusts and crumbs for survival, eating roots and berries (see also The Road by Cormack McCarthy which I just read, but am still at a loss to talk about.) It recalls for me reading books like The Boxcar Children when I was younger, or maybe Island Of The Blue Dolphins. Young people in precarious living situations who had to learn how to fend for, and feed themselves. I guess it’s pretty awful that penniless, starving characters populate the plots of my comfort reading, but I suppose it’s the resource gathering that I enjoy (which is kind of funny, because I hate resource gathering board games. Don’t even get me started on Settlers of Catan, ugh.) Pachinko is brimming with sacrifices and suffering and tragedy, but it’s also beautiful, all of the small victories along the way of this life the family is building for itself. This book was recommended by Roxane Gay, who if you don’t know by now, I love with my whole heart and soul. And now I am recommending it to you.

We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nahesi Coates
For years and years I have read for entertainment as opposed to education or enlightenment, but since 2016 I’ve made diligent attempts to rectify that. In doing so, I’ve realized the well of my ignorance is so deep I can’t even see the bottom. I don’t even know what I don’t know, and that’s a daunting place to start. We Were Eight Years in Power is a dense, urgent book that’s left me with more questions than answers, but at the same time it’s illuminated a great deal of things for me. A collection of essays on race and our collective failure to confront the history and legacy of White Supremacy, Barack Obama’s presidency (the before, during, and after) and the author’s personal reflections and revelations regarding the election of our 45th president–there is nothing in this book that is not deeply thought-provoking and desperately troubling.

The Strange Case Of The Alchemist’s Daughter by Theresa Goss
This is a charming character mash-up novel that pays homage to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works of speculative fiction; the story is a collaborative effort between “sisters”–Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein, the daughters of monstrous men who have been brought together by extraordinary circumstances and are investigating a murderous cabal of power-crazed mad scientists. I found the story’s structure a bit peculiar and a little annoying at first–one of the women is penning their adventure and the others are continuously chiming in and interrupting and talking over one another to ensure that both they–and their tale of danger and intrigue–are portrayed accurately, but as a woman with outspoken sisters of my own, I realize that this, too, is an uncanny accuracy. If you enjoy books along the line of Kim Newman’s Angels Of Music (which I reviewed in last January’s Stacked) wherein fictional and historical characters are thrown together in a name-dropping brew of supernatural mystery, then The Strange Case Of The Alchemist’s Daughter is definitely up your dark, grimy, gaslamp-lit murder alley-and if it is, there’s already a sequel slated for release in July, 2018! Bonus info: if you love the wonderful cover art and want to see more from this artist, it is illustrator and designer Kate Forrester, and you can find her here.


Maika

Burial Rites by Hanna Kent
Sonya wrote about Burial Rites in their 2017 staff favorites roundup, so this little review might be redundant, but that’s okay. I’m happy to simply emphasize how wonderful this book is. Not only is Burial Rites impressive as Kent’s first book and as a “speculative biography,” this tale of the final year in the 19th century life of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman excuted in Iceland, is one of the most thoroughly haunting and atmospheric books I’ve ever read. As the readers, we go into this story completely aware of how it’s going to end, there’s no changing history with this sort of book. But by the time that ending arrives, the vivid journey we’ve undertaken with Agnes and the feeling of Iceland that now permeates our bones and feels tangible behind our eyes even if we’ve never set foot there, means we’re as unprepared, distraught, and full of disbelief as Agnes herself. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s heartbreaking. It’s also completely worth it. And now I want to travel to Iceland even more than I already did.

The Strange Bird: A Borne Story by Jeff VanderMeer
Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Borne was one of my favorite books from 2017 and The Strange Bird is a novella set in the very same world. So allow me to begin by reminding you about my impressions of Borne:

“Some books read too quickly. Or is it that some books end too soon? One hopes that an author gives us only as much story as they need to tell their tale, simply because extra might detract from the quality of the plot. But with my favorite books I wish I could pause the tale to spend more time with the characters and explore their world like the sandbox of a video game. Such was the case with Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy.  That spellbinding series was very much about an uncanny place and how the people who encountered it were affected by it. And now the same is true for me once again with VanderMeer’s latest novel, Borne, which is instead about people, animals, personhood, and how one’s identity is affected by trauma. It’s about survival in a post-apocalyptic world forever altered by advancements in biotechnology. Here all survivors have become scavengers among the ruins of a city now ruled by a tyrant in the form of a gigantic flying bear named Mord (which sounds incredibly silly but is actually anything but). Here technology masquerades as life and the line between technology and life increasingly blurs. Borne is a post-apocalyptic, weird, science fiction fable. It’s relentlessly creative, fascinating, and poignant. I kept trying to slow down while I read it, but the end arrived all the same. And just like it did for me, Borne will break your heart, as only the best books can: beautifully.”

The Strange Bird is no less heartbreaking and every bit as beautiful as Borne, but in its own unique way. This tale doesn’t simply drop us back into Borne’s world, it enable us to experience it anew through the eyes of a startlingly strange and beautiful character. If you’ve been reading my book reviews long enough, you might be wondering what my deal is with heartbreaking books. What can I say, there’s something wonderful about completely surrendering yourself to a well-written story and vicariously experiencing emotional highs and lows that have nothing to do with yourself, yet, because of the magic of reading, feel as though they’re part of your life too.

Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer
I’ve had an unusual amount of trouble lately finding a book that holds my attention. I’ve started at least 4 novels as well as collections of short stories and poetry in recent weeks and can’t seem to stick with any of them. Nothing feels like what I want to be reading. So, after watching the Annihilation movie and reading The Strange Bird I decided to delve into some of VanderMeer’s older work, which I’ve been meaning to catch up on for ages. Veniss Underground hearkens back to Orpheus & Eurydice and Danté’s Inferno as VanderMeer takes us on a harrowing journey through the eyes of three distinct yet powerfully connected characters in a vividly realized weird fiction world. Here “Living Artists,” with one in particular one venerated as a neo-god, treat human and animal bodies alike as their chosen medium for remaking existing beings or creating entirely new ones. This wasn’t my favorite VanderMeer novel, but it was thoroughly engaging from the start and is easily one of the strangest and most grotesque stories I’ve read in a long long time. It’s also very interesting to see how VanderMeer has grown as a writer, developing and refining his style since he published this debut novel in 2003.


 

Sam

I’m playing a little bit of catchup with my contributions here, as I realize it’s been months since I’ve participated.

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
This was the first book I’ve read in one sitting in ages. Fast paced, immensely readable, and a perfect Sunday night bathtub companion. The basic synopsis is that a couple, trying to save their marriage, moved from the Big City to a Small Town into a House-of-Leaves-esque house (yes, the author’s influences are obvious throughout the story, but who cares?), and a haunting – for lack of better word – ensues. I’ve been having a difficult time the last few months finding fiction that holds my attention, but this kept me rapt for 2-3 hours.

Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics by Selah Saterstrom
This was the perfect balance to sitting in a jury pool waiting room: it removed me completely from the windowless, basement room I was awake much to early for, and for that I am exceptionally grateful. My attention at the time was too fragmented to have been able to absorb anything more than its poignant stand-alone sentences and paragraphs, each constructed perfectly.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville
In retrospect, I adored this novella. In practice while reading, I kept getting distracted and would forget about it for weeks at a time. I’m not entirely sure where the disconnect occurred, as this book read like a dream you don’t want to wake from: A surrealist historical fiction, where exquisite corpse composures come to life, the Nazis are working with the legions of Hell, set against a Parisian cityscape in the ruins of an occult war. It’s composed of everything I love in a story, and one day I’ll revisit it with the attention it deserves.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
I feel slightly left out for not falling in love with this collection of stories. Did I hate it? No, not at all, but I also didn’t feel compelled to finish it. One story that struck me was a tale of unfolding apocalypse told via the narrator’s sexual encounters & partners, and the 60 page ode to Law and Order SVU was a fun, supernatural fan-fic, but truthfully, I feel the collection had a better overall response than it was worth.

Sam’s Honorable (and other) Mentions :
Karyn Crisis’s Italy’s Witches and Medicine Women : I’ve been slowly meandering through this the last few months, as it is incredibly interesting but also incredibly heavy material, something I’d rather slowly digest than swallow whole.
• The Chick and the Dead by Carla Valentine : Three chapters in, I completely abandoned this, finally acknowledging to myself that just because I start a book, doesn’t mean I’m obligated to finish it if I’m not enjoying it.
• Gilles & Jeanne by Michel Tournier : A fast (fictional) read primarily focusing on how the devotion of Joan of Arc impacted Gilles de Rais. I honestly don’t remember the book very well, even though I only read it a few weeks ago.
• Everyday Psychokillers : Sonya recommended this over the summer, and she’s spot on with her description.
Ravenous Zine Vol 1: Craft  : I truthfully didn’t read this cover to cover, skipping some of the more Home-Ec articles, but especially enjoyed the interview with Kier-La Janisse, author of “House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films” (and promptly added that to my to-read list). The zine is basically a smarter Bust magazine,  minus the celebs and Brooklyn.
Many Moons Workbook  : This lives on my nightstand for reference a few times a month. Read the in-depth interview with author Sarah Faith Gottesdienner that Sarah Elizabeth posted and you’ll see why.
Cutting the Cord by Marcella Kroll  : a zine describing “how to radically reset your whole psyche, using baseline magic”. Glad to pull this off the shelf right now, I need to add it to my bedside table for a revisit. I was introduced to Marcella Kroll via this publication, and love the message she puts forth into the world.
RitualCravt School’s The Serpent & The Crow zine issue 1: Cave   : a zine dedicated to the dark spaces within us all. Absolutely looking forward to issue 2.
• Delta of Venus by Anais Nin : I remember this being much more subversive when I read it at 16.

What have you been reading lately?


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