A quick post about the dynamic and inhumanly fashionable Diana Vreeland for Columbia University’s fashion magazine: Hoot. Watch her film this Saturday at 6pm at Barnard College’s Athena Film Festival!
Wash — Bon Iver
“I’m telling darkness from lines on you.”
“I’d rather go blind” -Holly Miranda
Even writing is a death wish. Toiling like a ghoulish crooked manic figure, shedding bit by bit the colors of being onto finely structured ink, arranging the pieces like stained glass windows in an over-adorned temple. Light flickers for a moment through and through—and ah, the brilliance, the beams!—then quickly the sun shifts its glance at the other millions, so many millions of windows for others to gaze through for just one shining moment, and your window bare and cold and colorless once more.
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
We Were the Mulvaneys
Sifting through dusty, crumbling books in a bleak corner of a local thrift store, this gem of a novel gleamed brightly, unopened it seemed, or perhaps neglected. Fifty cents for a sweeping, vibrant, and poignant depiction of the unforgettable Mulvaney family. No, not a portrait of life, but rather a living, animated, captivating performance of it. These lasting impressions are just meek depictions of the power of this novel. Pencil in hand, I engrossed myself within the family’s dynamic history, underlining turns of phrases, words craftily placed like minute strokes of a painter’s brush, and wisely-stated philosophical observations.
Memoirs and historic accounts have the lofty goals of accurately depicting a scene, a moment, every spoken and unspoken emotion lost to time and fixated in memory. It is impossible to imagine that this world—characters, events, the storybook barn tormented by the whims of a decaying family—is a mere vision that she deftly conjured. And yet, they are vivid memories, so hauntingly similar to those of our own pasts. She imagined this family, no doubt weaving in traces of her own, and the result is of ingenious clarity so difficult to emulate. It is a novel deeply embedded in the human spirit, which is why it is at once dazzling and disconcerting.
“For what are the words with which to summarize a lifetime, so much crowded confused happiness terminated by such stark slow-motion pain?”
The story itself switched choppily through layers of time, but the order was right in that it carries motifs through the medium of memory. The huntsman and the pilgrim of the mother’s antique collection manifest themselves through the characters, become them in subtle ways. The joyous, picturesque family ties are snipped by one jarring reality, and the novel, at the very least, is a lesson in the core of one’s “nature.”
This is another reason I so enjoyed the novel; Oates has an admirable grasp on evolutionary theory and prolifically details Patrick’s “Pinch-style” observations on it. She does not merely state his intelligence, but rather demonstrates it.
These are but glimpses of the novel’s 454 pages, and all that lies between and within them. You will find that catches of the family resembles your own, through the intimacy of Judd’s objective yet personal narrative. Her words are widely-acclaimed and fervently admired. I finally understand why.
Fiona Apple - Werewolf
“Werewolf” is built around a solitude. Though it is, like most love songs, addressed to a specific “you,” there’s a sonic trick at the beginning of it: A click, creak, and slam that is most likely the lid of a piano, but which sounds exactly like a closing door. No matter how much the song tries to address someone else, or how many other musicians it brings in, the closed door defines it. It always sounds like a woman talking to no-one, all alone.
Not just alone, but lonely. The piano sounds dusty, tinny, more than a little worn-out; you can hear the wood rattle and rumble whenever she lands on the bass. Fiona Apple’s voice, when it comes in, creaks with resignation. And, although we know Apple can write and play riffs that are dazzling in their complexity, most of this particular song is a tired, bare four-note waltz. Not only is she talking to someone who can’t hear her any more, not only is she alone, but there’s something about the song itself that is just bled dry, depleted.
Which is to say: It’s exhausted, this song. It’s been up all night. It’s come home to an empty room. And now, when we meet it, the song is finally at the scraped-raw five-in-the-morning moment when it has to settle down and put itself to bed. Sometimes the truth comes only in that pre-dawn exhaustion; the moment where there’s no fight or filter left, and you finally come to the one conclusion you’ve been trying to avoid. Everything you thought it would kill you to believe:
I could liken you to a werewolf, the way you left me for dead,
But I admit that I provided a full moon.
When this song came out, the shock of that second line was what people responded to, wrote blog posts and FIONA GROWS UP headlines about; the fact that Fiona Apple, the world’s most intimidating and eloquent conveyor of stories about what a dick you have to be to hurt Fiona Apple’s feelings, came up with a first line about how her ex-boyfriend was a monster, and decided not to run with it. Now, it’s worn off a bit.
So it’s important to remember: It can take the hardest work of your life to get from that first line to the second one. When you’ve really lost someone – lost them in the way “Werewolf” describes, the kind of loss where it’s not just that you can’t be together, it’s that you can’t even be in the same room – everything in you argues against it. Every permanent separation is the rehearsal of a death. But losing someone, and blaming yourself, is the rehearsal of a murder. Or of being killed: Someone has looked around, at the world, and decided that it would be a better world if you weren’t in it. To imagine someone thinking that of you at all, let alone someone that you care about, hurts like nothing else. It’s annihilating, it’s humiliating, it’s a trap in which each bit of love you have for that person amplifies and becomes a new means to hate yourself. And in the moment, all you can think is: You left me for dead. You fucking monster. End of line, end of sentence, end of song. The last thing you can do, if you want to hold on to the few precious shreds of self-esteem or survival instinct you’ve got left, is admit that you might have had it coming.
The power of this song is that it spans, in about three seconds, one of the biggest emotional leaps a person can take. And then, it settles down to the infinitely more difficult business of letting go.