Outfit Post: 6/11/15

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Button-front: Thrifted (Ann Klein) — Pants: J.Crew — Shoes: Earthies — Earrings: Freehand Fig Jewelry

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I missed Gracey’s Literary Stylings roundup last month, so to make up for my failing, my June offering is based on two books. TWO.

Well, okay, that would’ve happened anyway. All the pieces just came together so fortuitously! The two books in question happen to be A College of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer, and In the Land of the Long White Cloud, by Sarah Lark. They have some similarities, in that they’re historical novels mainly about women and they feature some great female friendships, but from there they diverge. A College of Magics is a fantasy about a young woman in a slightly-altered Europe who attends, unsurprisingly, a college of magics, and then returns home to the country she one day hopes to rule; In the Land of the Long White Cloud is the epic saga of two young British women who immigrate to New Zealand in the mid-1800s and their families’ lives there.

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The characterization in College of Magics is dense and beautifully done–Faris is so wonderfully and deeply drawn. She’s tall and not particularly pretty, and stubborn and loyal and duty-driven, and I was so sad to leave her when the book was over. (I’m currently reading the sequel, A Scholar of Magics, and was a little disappointed at first to find that it follows her friend Jane, but Jane is written with just as deft a hand and I completely adore her as well.) The characters and plot balance each other well and things clip along. The story is fairly light on magic, actually, until the denouement, so if you’re leery of fantasy novels because of the “sorcery” part of swords n’ sorcery, I urge you to give a go! (There’s not a whole lot of swords, either.)

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Things don’t so much clip as they hurtle in Long White Cloud. I’d originally purchased it (and its two sequels) thinking it would be an interesting historical romance–not sure if that was my mistake or a result of an inaccurate marketing angle–and it turned out to be more of a sweeping generational tale with a fair amount of murder, adultery, attempted and actual rape, and star-crossed lovers. A little bit V.C. Andrews-ish, almost, if slightly less bonkers and featuring better metaphors. I felt for the two main characters, Helen and Gwyneira, as they both went through a rather astonishing series of hardships in their lives as colonists. Not for nothing, it does dedicate a significant number of pages to the Maori people affected by all this bananas white-person drama and also the ways they got fucked over by colonization, which is at least a start. Long White Cloud was originally written in German and I found the translation to be pretty good. There were times when I forgot it was a translation, although there were also times where I was pulled out of reading by a strange turn of phrase or some stilted wording. I can’t speak as to its historical accuracy, as I know nothing about the 1850s OR about New Zealand–some of the dialogue read a little too modern to me–but it did keep my attention and was…fascinating, I guess. I do plan on reading the sequels, for the record.

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As for my outfit: both books feature a lot of dresses and gowns in silk, velvet, and merino; it’s too hot to even think about the last two, so I picked out a silk shirt in a blue shade similar to what the redheaded Gwyneira is forever wearing and paired it with some pants that echoed Faris’ favorite moss-green dress. Both books also feature sizable estates, so what better way to reflect that than with my own “Wisteria Estate” earrings? I think they evoke a sort of grand, sprawling manor, anyway. Rust-colored shoes equal rust-colored hair–Gywn again and also Faris–and my black ring is a little bit witchy-looking, even if the witches of Greenlaw in A College of Magics don’t need jewelry to do their work.

So, here we are! I highly recommend A College of Magics if you enjoy historical fantasy and family politics, and I moderately recommend In the Land of the Long White Cloud if your DRAMA LLAMA needs to be fed. I enjoyed them both in very different ways, and am interested in seeing where the sequels go. (Perhaps they have more in common than I originally thought.)

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Outfit Post: 4/8/15

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Button-front: Thrifted (Penguin) — Skirt: Thrifted (CAbi) — Shoes: Thrifted (Born) — Belt: Macy’s — Earrings: Gift from Katie!

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For this month’s Literary Stylings challenge, I’ve got a love story. (Aw.)

Well, not just. It’s also a story about medical care, ethics, friendship, and really bad cookies: Acute Reactions, by Ruby Lang. [Disclosure: I’m internet friends with the author, but I was not asked to review this book and I did not receive any compensation for talking about it. I just know a lot of amazing writers.]

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I really enjoyed this romance novel–allergist Petra’s professional and personal self-doubt felt very familiar, and her chemistry with former patient Ian was great. I did, however, have to get creative coming up with an outfit for it, seeing as how my one obvious idea (a blue-green dress along the lines of what Petra wears to a wedding later on in the book) was in the laundry basket.

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It will probably come as a surprise to precisely nobody that I spent a lot of time in the allergist’s office as a kid. Me and my brother both, actually. We spent years, I can’t say how many, getting weekly shots for our various sensitivities; we’re both beyond needing injections now, but I remember those long minutes in the waiting room very clearly. Even though in Acute Reactions Ian’s allergy is to cats, I first-off went with a floral skirt in honor of the really gross plant reproductive matter that makes my mucus membranes swell even today.

My voluminous button-front shirt isn’t particularly conservative-looking, but as a second piece it was the closest thing I had to Petra’s professional, doctor-y workwear. I can’t imagine her wearing something with puffy sleeves under her lab coat, but what can you do?

Finally, I haven’t worn the heavy black belt seen up above in a while. When I pulled it out of the dresser, it reminded me of Petra’s attempts at rigid self-control and the difficult standards she holds herself up to. Her desire to push away her feelings and be a perfectly ethical doctor, and to prove herself in other parts of her life as well, causes a fair amount of tension between her and the potential love interest, Ian, so why not hold things together outfit-wise with a little restriction?

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There are a lot of things to like about Acute Reactions: for one thing, it’s a romance novel where most of the main characters are people of color, which is dismally rare. Admittedly, I’m still a relative newcomer to romance novels, but I can’t think of too many other examples where the heroine is half-Indian, or where the hero is partly Latino–much less both in the same book.

I also really appreciated the amount of story dedicated to Petra’s relationships with her two closest friends Helen and Sarah (also both women of color); between their dynamic and Petra’s professional life, her world had a lot of depth to it. So did Ian’s, for that matter. They both had rounded inner lives that gave the story a lot of realism. Plus, you know, the smooching was pretty great.

So there you have it: Acute Reactions is a dang fine contemporary romance! It certainly inspired me to dig through my closet and put something together. Now then, go check out Gracey’s post on In Zanesville for her own literary style, and also the other folks who linked up. After that, go read a book. Go on, get!

Outfit Post: 3/4/15

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Button-front: Leah’s free pile (Old Navy) — Skirt: ASOS — Shoes: American Rag — Scarf: Gift — Necklace: Lia Sophia — Earrings: Nervous System

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When I looked over my options for this month’s Literary Stylings party (courtesy, as always, of Gracey), there was really only one correct answer: Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia. [Disclosure: I’m Twitter friends with Kate–and she’s a delight–but I was not asked to review this book and I did not receive any compensation for talking about it.]

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See, it all started with the scarf. Bellweather Rhapsody centers around a high school state music conference at an old hotel in upstate New York, and several mysteries, old and new, that make themselves known. Two of the main characters are teenage twins attending the conference–frenetic singer Alice Hatmaker and her shy bassoonist brother Rabbit. Alice’s deck of tarot cards come into play, and it’s noted that she keeps them wrapped in her grandmother’s purple scarf. Purple scarf, meet purple scarf!

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As for the rest of my outfit: top+skirt came as close as I could to my own orchestra outfits of yore, though it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a violin. The necklace was a nod to the important role water plays in the story, the earrings reminded me a bit of Alice’s firecracker energy, and the shoes were…shoes. Not in the least appropriate for a novel set during a snowstorm, but what can you do?

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It’s really a fun book. I don’t want to give too much away since I’ll be writing a proper review over at Nisaba Be Praised (my sheepish return to book-blogging), but the characters are wonderfully well-drawn, the plot is thick and a little bit rompy, and by the end I was as won over by Alice–a bit overbearing compared to, well, just about everyone else–as I had been by Rabbit, my obvious favorite from the start. Forget state, kids, you’re gonna go far.

As per usual, go investigate Gracey’s Literary Stylings post and the other folks linked up therein!

Outfit Post: 7/7/14

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Top and skirt: Thrifted — Flats: American Rag — Earrings: Solano Stroll — Ring: Jewelry shop in Hallstatt, Austria

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Oh boy, Literary Stylings! My favorite! (That sounds sarcastic, but it’s really not.)

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I’ll be up-front with you guys, though; I kind of forgot about Literary Stylings this month, and this outfit isn’t directly based on any of the books I’ve read recently.

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But never worry, I can shoehorn a connection in anyway! To wit: I just finished a slim little anthology that Tia generously sent me, called Bikes In Space Volume II: More Feminist Science Fiction, edited by Elly Blue.

See? I’m a feminist! I have a bike! I’m technically in space! There you go.

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For real, though, I really enjoyed it. Most of the stories are quite short; the longest hits twelve pages, and the rest average something more like seven, and I think a few of them would benefit quite a bit from expansion. I particularly felt this way about the first few pieces–definitely good, but some pacing issues pulled me out of the story–but then I hit E.L. Bangs’ story “From an Interview with the Famed Roller Sara Zephyr Cain,” and my heart was totally won over.

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I do enjoy the very particular topic material, though (no surprise there), and some of the stories, like the aforementioned “From an Interview…” and like Maddy Engelfried’s “Midnight Ride,” feature disabled women and trans women as main characters, which is great! Other favorites of mine included “Winning Is Everything,” by Emily June Street, “Grandma Takes Off,” by Elizabeth Buchanan, “Bikes to New Sarjun,” by Jessie Kwak, and “Butt Dial,” by editor Elly Blue. They’re fun stories, and interesting; I recommend the collection if you have any interest in women, science-fiction, bikes, or all three. I’m going to check out volume one and then look forward to the publication of volume three. Who knows? Maybe I’ll submit a little something for the next issue!

Thanks for the book, Tia. You know what I like. ❤

EDIT: How could I have written this article and failed to link to a place where you can purchase Bikes in Space? Terribly neglectful of me. Go here to buy it and to take a look at other Elly Blue Publishing books!

Guest Post: What to Wear to Book Readings

[Hi, folks! I’m off on a little-deserved vacation around Austria and Slovenia, so please enjoy a series of guest posts from my rad internet friends! This one is from Andrea, who is a writer and a book designer in Cambridge, Mass. -Mia]

Spring in Boston is when readings start to pick up again, to my utter delight. The weather breaks, everyone comes out of hibernation, and I go to a reading about an ex-ballerina and a defector from the Soviet Union.

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(Necklace: an artist in the South End Open Market in Boston. Shiny button on jacket: the Southern Review. Other items: probably Urban Outfitters, Target, H&M… who knows.)

Advice for book readings: Wear excellent but comfortable shoes; you cannot predict the popularity of an author and may be forced to stand in the children’s section. And perhaps you want to subtly alert in-the-know authors that you are a Reader and you know about such publications as the Southern Review. Or perhaps you just like trees?

Sometimes, a book might fall into my lap, and I discover the author is giving a reading in a few days. So even though it’s not my usual sort of book, I go in the hopes that a book about oddball book-lovers would mean a good reading.

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(Top, vest, pants: the indistinguishable TJ Maxx/Marshall’s conglomerate. Beat-up boots: Target. Rings: a gift from my mother in high school and their origin is a mystery to me.)

Unfortunately, the reading is not so much a “reading” as it is an “author chatting about publishing and booksellers, reading approximately two paragraphs from her book”; that is not what I signed up for, so I (gasp!) leave during the Q&A.

There’s always another reading next week, after all.

Guest Post: Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy

[Hi, folks! I’m off on a little-deserved vacation around Austria and Slovenia, so please enjoy a series of guest posts from my rad internet friends! This one is from Whitney; she holds a master’s degree in Northern Renaissance art history, but she will respond sincerely to any topic of conversation with, “I’m very interested in that.” -Mia]

I remember the first time I ever saw a piece of taxidermy. I was ten, and my class was visiting the Children’s Museum in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I was standing at the back of the crowd in a dark corridor, listening to our guide describe the next room. One of my classmates looked back, snickered, and pointed behind me. I turned and found myself almost leaning against the knee of a fully-grown, male polar bear reared back on his hind legs, front paws raised, face frozen mid-snarl. He was more than twice my height. For a moment I could not speak or move. Then it hit me: This is real. He was alive, and now he is not. And then: I will never be this close to a polar bear again. I relaxed. I noticed the length of his claws and teeth, his massive height, and how long and shaggy his hair was—not white, like I expected, but a dirty yellow. If I had dared, I could have run my fingers through it.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had experienced why humans began practicing taxidermy as we know it back in the eighteenth century. Taxidermy is intimately associated with natural history. The preservation of animals both exotic and domestic allows for close observation and study not possible with live specimens. It even preserves some species after extinction, such as the Dodo and the Great Auk.

Today we might associate taxidermy with hunting, and perhaps with attendant issues of waste, poaching, extinction, or cruelty. Taxidermy also suggests issues of class, both high and low, from big game hunting and safari to subsistence hunting and American frontier traditions. It typified Norman Bates’ creepiness as early as 1960’s Psycho. Taxidermy almost always inspires strong reactions of either revulsion or fascination. Some people think it’s morally wrong, but many practitioners, collectors, and plain old enthusiasts like me consider it art.

Whatever your personal opinion on taxidermy may be, there’s no denying that from the Saatchi Gallery to the hipster bars of East Nashville, taxidermy is undergoing a renaissance. For a new generation of fans just discovering its historical appeal, it’s wonderful to celebrate the release of a book on an exceptional artist, Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy by Dr. Pat Morris and Joanna Ebenstein. Walter Potter (1835-1918) was an amateur taxidermist in Sussex, England, who created a collection of truly delightful, bizarre, and completely unique anthropomorphic tableaux, or scenes of animals acting like humans. His collection of tableaux, “freaks,” and local fauna became a museum in his hometown, and after Mr. Potter’s death his son ran the museum until his own death in the late sixties. I could describe the collection, but it’s really better if you see it for yourself. Here’s a British Pathé newsreel on the museum from 1955:

 

The museum and its contents were sold and moved from Bramber to Brighton and Arundel for many years before finally being sold again and reestablished in Cornwall. Though the museum remained fairly popular, its owners sold the individual pieces at auction in 2003, disassembling the collection forever. In 2008, Dr. Pat Morris, a biologist and taxidermy collector, published his first work on Walter Potter’s museum. In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the auction, his book has been rereleased in a newly illustrated and expanded edition. The front matter sketches biographical information on Walter Potter and traces the journey of the museum. There is a wealth of information on the changing attitudes toward taxidermy throughout the museum’s history, which no doubt led to the museum’s (relegation) as a historical oddity and its eventual closure. Fans of Victorian culture will find plenty to interest them in the literary inspirations for the tableaux as well as the slice of life they preserve. The tableaux of social gatherings are especially fascinating as records of Victorian life embodied in an ideal Victorian medium.

The real heart of the book is its gorgeous full-page photographs of the collection’s finest pieces. Potter’s tableaux, like the Renaissance cabinets of curiosity they’re meant to evoke, require close viewing for full appreciation. You’re meant to walk around their cases, interact with them, and put your nose up to the glass. How else could you appreciate the painstaking effort of Mr. Potter’s hand-crafted musical instruments in the guinea pig band, the utensils at the Kittens’ Tea Party, or the brocade gowns of the Kittens’ Wedding, carefully stitched by Mr. Potter’s daughter? You are meant to quietly discover the subtleties of the Rabbits’ School, to delight and marvel in their fabricated society. Now that the collection is scattered in private holdings, most of us will never experience that joy in person. Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy is the next best thing.

 

Further Exploration

+ As of last week, the book is now available for purchase on Amazon.com

+ The book’s official website (with a great blog filled with behind-the-scenes production anecdotes and many, many guest posts by artists inspired by Potter’s work)

+ Morbid Anatomy blog (run by Joanna Ebenstein, co-author of the new edition)

+ Info on the Morbid Anatomy Library, in case you’re ever up Brooklyn way

+ A list of upcoming Morbid Anatomy lectures, most the New York City area

 

 Image Galleries

+ Taxidermy4cash.com’s image archive, lots of less popular works

Acaseofcuriosities.com’s image archive, not great quality but lots of supplementary info

Guest Post: DAR & Drinking at the Movies

[Hi, folks! I’m off on a little-deserved vacation around Austria and Slovenia, so please enjoy a series of guest posts from my rad internet friends! This one is from Margo; she is a London-based waster of time who believes in internet friends, a well-stocked pantry, and the medicinal power of celluloid and print. -Mia]

I’ve just finished up reading four volumes of comic book memoirs by two American twenty-something ladies who draw dealing with the stuff of life through ink, paper, pixels, and punch lines. Both of them work out identity and life issues through clothing, and I related to both of them from different corners of my messy closet.

When I started planning this post I didn’t realise that Erika Moen had immortalised Reading In Skirts in a blog post. That really tickled me, as I have an outfit that I always secretly think of as my Erika Might Wear This ensemble.

Erika Moen’s DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Diary (volumes one and two) takes us through her University years until her mid-twenties. She works through a lot of stuff about who she is and what she wants, in between adventures with cops on Segways, Miracle Fruit parties, and strip club etiquette. There’s a lot of slice of life stuff – awkward conversations with friends, ear wax issues (oh god, me too), and jokes based around genitalia being inherently hilarious. Which, of course it is. She nails the dirty joke told with clean lines. If it didn’t read so sincere, it’d be cloying, but Moen has a knack of presenting stories about sex and desire with a gloriously wide-eyed joy.

For my DAR outfit to be really canon-compliant, I’d be wearing a tank top with wide-legged trews and flats. But my epic vision is based more on the Erika Moen I know from the Strip Search reality tv show and her outfits in her current web comic Oh Joy, Sex Toy! (Which is NSFW, my peeps.)

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Dropping the graphical and modelling standards at Reading In Skirts

I love People Tree’s ‘ethical’ clothing as it wears well and always fits me nicely. Probably the most ethical clothing choice would be knitting my own unitards out of locally-sourced root systems, but I figure they’re a step up from the Fast Fashion outlets all over my local high street. I usually hunt their casual dresses across eBay, which is where I got my ‘high school art teacher sweatshirt dress’. It has enormo-pockets where I could keep useful and creative materials, though in reality I just stash things in my bra as the PATRIARCHAL FASHION INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX has trained me not to expect pockets.

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My best hard femme daywear

Like Moen, I love me some patterned leggings and boots. These boots are MBTs, a type of weird rocking thick-soled orthopaedic brand. Both them and the dress are from eBay. My tank and leggings were thrifted.

Julia Wertz’s cartoon series was called The Fart Party, and hilarious vulgarity is one of her hallmarks. But she has an uncanny ability to pull you in with the dry humour and dark wit to explore life at its messiest. I started on her books after reading this essay (The Fart Party Really Stinks [TW for self-harm -Mia]) about struggling with her strip after chronicling her sobriety. In Drinking at the Movies Wertz covers moving cities (San Francisco to New York), getting herself canned from lousy jobs, and spending a lot of time in bed being sick, hung over, depressed, bored, or thoroughly fed up with the human race.

In this guest post she has a cute panel on her different outfits and how they fit certain moods and New York days. But in Drinking at the Movies her default Julia vs. the World sidewalk warrior ensemble reminds me of what I wear on my days off. Those kind of days off where I’m not likely to talk to anyone else save someone at the shops or the pool. I kind of crawl into my own cave and focus on cooking, or walking, or spinning time out from one end of the internet to the other.

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My photography skills are up there with my mirror cleaning skills

The hoodie was abandoned outside a drycleaner with a tag attached, draped over a rubbish bin. The zip doesn’t work anymore and if I have the hood up I can’t see anything. It’s got hairdye stains and other less verifiable marks. This is a feral bit of clothing, one I would usually keep to myself. The jeans were meant to be wardrobe essentials, skinny leg low-cut and black, I’ve worn them to gigs and on dates, but I’ve finally reconciled myself to the fact that they’re not actually comfortable and slumpy like my platonic ideal of jeans. Instead they insist on defying the basic laws of physics as they simultaneously dig in to my stomach while the Grand Canyon blooms out at the back. I got them at a massive Sainsbury’s supermarket on a street in London called Dog Kennel Hill.

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The top is striped and super soft was originally from Reiss but reached me via eBay. I really should wear a bra with it, but this my day off. The girls can chill. The snood was crocheted for me by the lovely Quince Tart out of luxury German über-wool.

– Margo (@infamy_infamy)