My Favorite Authors: An Added Addendum

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Let’s wrap this one up!  I have something like eight authors to go through on this round (and eight is my favorite number) so let’s get started.

Shirley Jackson:
Namely, her hazy and suspenseful fiction.  You may have read The Lottery, an excellent short story.  You may have been introduced to her, as I was, through We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  There’s a cat in that one.  And a character named Connie (more people should be named Connie).  Funnily enough, a friend who actually asks for and heeds my book recommendations tells me that the Connie in this book reminds him a lot of me. And I’m flattered- which says something about the character but possibly more about me because (spoiler) she’s quite possibly poisoned her family.  Also a girl whose nickname is Merricat, which is kind of freaking awesome.  The Haunting of Hillhouse is also really really good.  And the movie is good but diverges from the book regarding some important plot/character developments- but both are enjoyable and gorgeously atmospheric.  I have to admit that I like her nonfiction less (Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages are about her family life and I think her husband and children sound impossible to live with (and she does too, tbh)) (But also I’m a misanthrope so maybe don’t take my word for it?)  If you’ve disentangled my convoluted parentheses, points to you! Continue reading “My Favorite Authors: An Added Addendum”

My Favorite Authors: The Playwrights

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Alright, playwrights; come on down!

Also I’m home this weekend and it’s f’ing awesome (do I not want to swear because I’m in the sanctity of my parents’ kitchen?- Probably not because I swear all the time here too).  But I’m typing this in fuzzy pajamas at the kitchen counter: As I said, f’ing awesome.

So hey, playwrights! Also I finished Play It As It Lays (Hi Joan Didion) on the train yesterday (I kind of accidentally sneaked onto an Acela, but that’s a story for another time) and it was a soul-flattening look at the empty abyss. Good stuff. Probably going to need to read a Cliffnotes summary today so I can order my feelings around someone else’s cut-and-dried academic structure.

PLAYWRIGHTS!
Okay, back on track.  A disclaimer: I really considered including Henrik Ibsen. I really like Henrik Ibsen.  But I fell out of love with him a few years ago and haven’t read anything of his since Peer Gynt (that was weird).  But maybe he’ll join us in the upper echelons of my love someday.  And Eugene O’Neill. I’ve only read Long Day’s Journey into Night.  Gorgeous and sinister.  Do read Eugene O’Neill, even if he’s not on my list yet (because I know you’re just waiting for my recommendation, hahaha).  I also need to read more Moliere. And Racine.  But I like novels better than plays, so who knows when that will happen. I’ve also read a fair amount of Euripides in my life (I don’t know why). They’re pretty good, but not my favorites.
But who is?

  1. Tennessee Williams
    Someday I will have read all of Tennessee Williams’ oeuvre and I’ll have nothing left to live for (except maybe Eugene O’Neill).  Almost every single one of these plays is deeply affecting, interesting, and beautifully crafted.  The Glass Menagerie, *A Streetcar Named Desire, *Suddenly Last Summer, *Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Clothes for a Summer Hotel. Loved all of them. Except Camino Real. I couldn’t read Camino Real.  Bonus: a lot of these plays were made into equally amazing movies around the 1950s.  I put an asterisk next to ones with excellent movie versions (that I’ve seen, anyway).
  2. Peter Shaffer
    First, I didn’t know that Peter Shaffer had died this year until I stated writing this. May a great writer rest in peace.  Don’t recognize the name?  He wrote Amadeus (speaking of plays with astonishing movie adaptations).  He also wrote Equus, which became famous as the play that Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter stripped naked for.  Yeah, that’s not why I like it. It has horses in it.  Who needs naked Daniel Radcliffe when you have horses.  I haven’t read Shaffer’s other works (yet) (there aren’t many), but both of these really grabbed me.
  3. Arthur Miller
    So I’ve only read The Crucible and Death of a Salesman.  And I’ll start with Death of a Salesman because I have so much to say about The Crucible.  Death of a Salesman has one of my favorite lines: “Life is your oyster, but you’re not going to crack it open on a mattress.”
    The Crucible is one of the most gorgeous things that I’ve ever read and perhaps that has ever been written.  It’s one of those pieces that makes you want to become the devil incarnate (No? Just me?).  Abigail is one of the most interesting and badass women in literature.  The Salem Witch Trials are a fascinating topic, even when fictional (Hi ParaNorman)- and not only to those of us born and raised in New England.  They performed The Crucible at my high school (before I was in high school) but because my Dad was a teacher we went to see it.  I remember it being very well done, riveting even.  The book is like that too. And my memory is that the movie version, with Winona Ryder as Abigail, is fairly good.
  4. Shakespeare
    Very unoriginal, but I’m a fan.  Without getting into whether he wrote the plays or who he was or whatnot…  My favorite is Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It was the first one I read, I think the summer after fifth grade.  Dad and I read it together. I remember being on vacation, he smashed a mosquito with the book (No Fear, Shakespeare- we were reading one side and discussing the meanings) and there was a smudge on it forever after.  It’s funny, but I guess I’ll remember that mosquito forever. I wonder if he would be pleased to know that he was murdered with Shakespeare rather than Twilight or People Magazine or something.  Anyway, Shakespeare is prolific- there’s something for everyone, whether you like romance, tragedy, comedy, war stories, history, what have you.  Just try to erase from your mind all of those times you had to do class readings in high school English. (Now let me shout a few titles: OTHELLO! HAMLET! THE SCOTTISH PLAY (superstitious?)! THE TEMPEST! AS YOU LIKE IT! ROMEO AND JULIET! MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING! THE TAMING OF THE SHREW! KING LEAR!)

My Favorite Authors: An Addendum

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In the few months since I posted a list of my favorite authors (one of my first lists here, incidentally) I haven’t been able to stop thinking of those poor lost souls I didn’t include who rightfully deserved their place on said list.

So today I’m going to remedy some of that by focusing on the nonfiction authors and playwrights I omitted.

As a refresher, an author or playwright is objectively a favorite if they have multiple works, most of which I love/find amazing/enjoy.

So step right up, nonfictioners and theater people!

  1. E.B. White
    So Charlotte’s Web is brilliant. Stuart Little is brilliant.  The Trumpet of the Swan is even better because Boston and Swan Boats and the Public Garden.  But E.B White wrote some really astonishingly good and beautiful essays and I stayed up reading them all night before Thanksgiving my freshman year of college after being introduced to them through English 115 [we read Death of a Pig in class (And to all those people who thought he was mocking the pig and its pain- He wrote fucking Charlotte’s Web! Context people- you really think E.B. White is a pig-hater?! Idiotic)].  Somehow I didn’t get turned on to this when I was made to read Once More to the Lake my senior year of high school.  (Probably because the class, professor, and short story were all of lesser quality).  So White’s farm tales feed my soul.  The New York ones are also quite good.
  2. Joan Didion
    At the moment I’m reading Play It As It Lays, which is lovely and bleak.  Mom recommended it. She likes lovely and bleak (as do I).  She’s also the reason Carson McCullers will be up on a coming installment of this list.  But Play It As It Lays is fiction, you say.  Shut up.  Because she’s also on here for Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking.  That last one. Ouch. Ooof.  All of it in the feels.  I read it shortly after Dad’s rock climbing accident.  I sometimes wonder how much loving a book has to do with serendipitous alignment of mood, circumstance, another factors.  I do sometimes just set a book aside because I know I’m not in the right mindset to properly get it.  Which is another of the benefits of having favorite well-trusted authors.  You can just say, “I’m feeling Steinbeck.” or “Wow, that Thomas Hardy just razed my soul, please find me a Jane Austen before I curl into the fetal position.”  But anyway, Didion: points for naming her daughter Quintana. Pretty awesome.
  3. Antoine de St. Exupery
    Okay, forget about The Little Prince for a minute.  I know it’s hard. Because that book is a lot and because it’s the Expert that’s been shoved down everyone’s throats forever.  I know the fox is wonderful.  I know the rose is a callous, disillusioned, shallow bitch (Like all women, am I right?) (The answer is NO, misogynistic pigs).  FORGET ABOUT IT AND GO READ HIS STORIES ABOUT FLYING. PLANES. Both fiction and nonfiction.  Wind, Sand, and Stars.  Night Flight. Flight to Arras.  His journals of the war years.  I want to include a quote to impress upon you that overwhelming beauty of his writing about planes and flight.  But I can’t pick one. And the quotes, beautiful in and of themselves, are actually glorious when they’re all nested and twined together in a complete story.  They’re not long but the amount of human feeling, profundity, and aspiration they encompass is like filling your lungs fully with air for the first time.  And they’re so little talked about it kills me.
  4. Ernest Hemingway
    Haha, yes okay maybe this is cheating a little bit.  My favorite Hemingway is A Moveable Feast. *Swoon*.  But Hemingway is known for his fiction. Which I also quite like (with exceptions).  Like you’d think To Have and Have Not would be perfect given that I love the movie based on it (Bogie and Bacall, MORE SWOON). But it’s not, one of the few times the movie is head and shoulders above the book (don’t kill me).  But hey, he has some good short stories.  The Sun Also Rises is good. Except ew, bullfighting.  The Old Man and the Sea is definitely good.
    Let’s be honest: Hemingway is holding on by the ends of his nails. I’m even taking into account his love of extra-toed cats.  Without that he probably wouldn’t be on here. (Also he was really attractive.)  The thing is A Moveable Feast is one of my favorite favorite books.  And that’s enough to make up for my more tepid admiration of some of his other works.  They’re not as favorite-y as they could be, but A Moveable Feast is here to make up the difference.
  5. Peter Mayle
    I love Peter Mayle. I love reading about Provence and Provençal culture.  It makes me happy.  And his anecdotes are truly amusing.  A Year in Provence, Encore Provence, and Toujours Provence.  But I’m not very fond of Peter Mayle’s fiction.  But the anecdotes about the mistral? Parisian gastronomic delights? Truffle gangsterdom and swindles? His crazy neighbor (like the French version of a hillbilly?). Such excellent summer reading. Or, you know, also good for chasing away winter blues.  Always is good too.  An important point here being that I’m a bit of a francophile (if you haven’t noticed) so if you’re indifferent to the French (or if, like my Pop Pop, you’ve avoided and disliked them ever since you met some rude ones while in the navy) I don’t know that these will be up your alley.

Okay, I lied! This is long enough- I’m saving playwrights for a separate write up. There are four of them.  Debate who they are in your heads until then.

Fashion Documentaries

It’s Fashion Week around here and I’m feeling in the spirit (despite the fact that I’m running a fever and it’s also memorize your twenty amino acids week [hoped I would make it through this BS/my BS without having to do that, but Biochemistry said “Oh no, huehehehe])
Anyway…

There are trends, which I could talk about.  But maybe later.  Because if I get started ranting about dancewear as a trend (DANCE ISN’T A TREND, IT’S A WAY OF LIFE) it will never end.  (And can someone please tell me what the point is of dancewear being a trend if people still try very hard not to make eye contact with me if I walk to a ballroom performance in a rhinestoned-meshy-purply Latin dress, a full face of stage makeup, and Converse? I need a little leeway here!)

Addendum to my advice regarding not getting harassed on the street: It’s amazing what wearing an obnoxious and scandalous costume and a whole lot of makeup can do for a person. Or you can always take this route.

I told you I would get sidetracked.

On to the main event: My favorite (and therefore objectively the best) fashion documentaries!
(So maybe I lied when I said I would stop posting about clothes for a while.)
(Also really abusing the parentheses this post)

In no particular order:

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  1. Vogue: The September Issue
    Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, and Hamish Bowles are great characters, and this is essentially a film starring Grace’s hair, Hamish’s accent, and Anna’s… well, everything.  It’s very interesting to see how a Vogue issue (particularly the gargantuan September issue) gets put together. Lots of guest appearances by fashion people and lots of guest appearances by fashion people’s crotchets and issues (celebrities, they’re just like us!)
    An aside: Grace Coddington draws pictures of cats and she just released a perfume in a cat-inspired bottle.  And the fragrance is passable!9cc4339cea0866bdb2bd448e2932081f
  2. Valentino: The Last Emperor
    Do it for the pugs. Do it for Martha Stewart.  And you know, Valentino too.  He’s a funny little piece of peach pie, I like him. And his pugs.  Again with the amusing dropping of the famous names and faces.  And the unveiling of their little persnickets.  Martha Stewart goes off investigating the kitchens when she’s invited to Valentino’s house party- LOVE.  Less about the brand, this is more of an investigation of Valentino as a person.
    Quote: “Apres moi, le deluge” (Yep, I still refuse to use proper French accents)bill-cunningham1
  3. Bill Cunningham New York
    Bill Cunningham died on June 25th this year.  This movie captures a sense of his abundantly cheerful good nature and sense of joy at capturing the looks and combinations he saw on the street.  He lived very simply, with his eternal blue smock and smile.  Did he live and breathe fashion? Maybe. But I think it would be more accurate to say that he lived and breathed the spirit of New York City.
    A bit maudlin? Maybe so, but watch the movie and you too will want to ooze love all over Bill.film4-2-4f8fff2497a5a97f
  4. Dior et Moi/ Dior and I
    Back in 2012 Raf Simons was announced as the new artistic director of an already well established fashion house- Maison Dior (he has since resigned).  Dior et Moi tells the story of the mad dash to his first haute couture show.  While ostensibly a film about the struggles Raf Simons overcomes to unite his generally minimalist aesthetic with the ornate and ‘designed’ look of haute couture and Dior’s haute couture history, the film is much more about the timeless foundations of Dior’s look and brand: the part that stays concrete and unperturbed beneath the fluid exchange of artistic directors (Sorry, Raf).  This would be the house’s atelier of seamstresses, many of whom have been working there for decades.  Their pride in their craft and sense of community is beautiful to watch, but the most perfect moments come when they let it slip that they think Raf needs to step off, because he’s a babe in the woods and it’s time to let the real pros handle things.

Meh: Vidal Sassoon, L’Amour Fou, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Must Travel, Lagerfeld Confidential, Vogue: The Editor’s Eye

Remaining to see: Iris, Advanced Style, Just for Kicks, McQueen and I, The True Cost.

In BOLD are movies I have since watched. In RED are ones that are joining the favorites list.

Some Shameless Self Promotion

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At the moment, I’m sitting and typing in Principles of Biochemistry.  It’s okay though, I’m very familiar with Gibbs free energy.

And I want to familiarize any readers with something that I’m extremely excited and enthused about.  That’s right: it’s time for some shameless self promotion.

No, I haven’t written a book. Or a screenplay.  I haven’t even run a marathon.

But my first perfume was released today for preorder online in partnership with the 100% natural and sustainable startup, Saint d’Ici. Continue reading “Some Shameless Self Promotion”

Seven Favorite Movies

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I’ve decided I’m going to write this post after feeling challenged by this youtube video from Shmoes Know, one of my favorite movie-related youtube channels.  Which should be another list.

The idea of writing a list of my top seven movies is horrifying to me.  But it’s also an oddly exciting challenge.  But I’m sure I can’t do it without regret and self-blame (because of those poor sad rejected favorites- how will they forgive me?!)

You know I love making lists, right? Yes, I know it’s the whole point of this blog, but I’m just checking.  I have an Excel spreadsheet of movie ratings.  From 1-5.  It’s been a while since I went through and edited to reflect current preferences, but as it stands now, there are 81 ‘5-star’ movies and 312 ‘4-star’ movies. Continue reading “Seven Favorite Movies”