On finances & friendship

IMG_1396It so happened that the other night  I went to listen to Hanya Yanagihara have a  conversation,on stage, with a Swedish journalist (Björn af Kleen to be exact).

On my way there I was reading A room of one’s own by Virgina Woolf, a reread that seemed fitting during #readwomenmarch. As I listened to the conversation on stage, in my head I kept comparing  and contrasting what was said with what I had just read(and not just because Jude in ALL is obsessed with his apartment).

Woolf,in her classic essay, points out that very little art would be achieved if there was a lack of means and that women, back then, rarely had any financial independence. Yanagihara told the story about how her editor, who she in every way loves and admires, wanted to cut 300 pages from A little life. “Which 300 pages?” she asked to which he responded “I don’t know, just cut 300 pages”. The fact that he couldn’t specify the pages or give any artistic reason made her dig in her heels for her vision. She had a “actual” job so could afford the integrity. Suffering for your art is one thing, but if your art should suffer for your life? I’m not sure that’s a good strategy.

In a passage Woolf writes that women so rarely write about men, or from the man’s perspective as opposed to men who frequently wrote female protagonists. Luckily, that has changed since 1929. A little life is the story of four men and their interconnected lives. One of the statements that Yanagihara wanted to make with the book is that friendship is gift but also a work in progress. The reason for choosing men is that was more interesting as we live in a gendered society where one half of the populations is never taught to speak about emotions despite having just as many of them; when so much must be left unsaid how do you communicate?

A writer that both Woolf and Yanagihara mentions is Jane Austen; many of us come back to her again and again. Woolf retells the story of an Austen that never traveled and lived a lonely life where nobody ever knew about her writing. A great story, but as someone how has read “Jane Austen-a life in small things”  and books with her collected letters, I must point out that it’s just a story. Which doesn’t take away from Austen’s oeuvres one bit. That she had support from her family, traveled around visting relatives, enjoyed nice dresses and the odd glass of orange wine doesn’t make her less of an artist, and her struggle was still uphill for most of the way as a female artist in that time.  Yanagihara spoke of Austen’s lovely descriptions of furniture and finery because they do say so much about a character; saying that things tell a story isn’t materialistic. I always think of it as setting the scene(and frankly I always thought Balzac the master of it). Yanagihara spends a lot of time on interior and art; things she loves and as an editor for a magazine  has seen a lot of. Write what you know is a classic piece of advice to authors,no?

But the interiors of successful and creativ New Yorkers isn’t the point with A little life, nor the part anyone ever has a problem with. It’s the darkness, the self-harming and the abuse that bothers many. I’ve always defended, or sided with, Yanigahara on that point, These things happen in the world and therefore they have a place in art. If you wanted to read something to feel better then you should have realized just a few pages in that this wasn’t gonna be it. What warmed my heart, and made me sad at the same time, was to hear about many people having gotten in touch with her and telling their own similar stories, how what happened to Jude has happened to them.  She does also give some insight into Jude’s refusal to talk about it; his secrets are his own, they are like the only family he has and as corrosive as they are he cannot let go.

What always did wonder about was how she could do so without judgement and in such detail. She did do research and her very professional attitude towards the human body, she says, comes from her father who is an oncologist. She has spent time in hospitals with him growing up and always taken an interest in his work. When you spend time close to sickness and death you feel differently about it, approach with less fear and more calmness.

And what about the length? Why didn’t she just cut those 300 pages? Well, then it wouldn’t have been size of a life, or had space to talk about the little things. We would not have stayed with Jude for all that time, just like his friends do. Those  720-ish pages are a gift and a work in progress.

Things mentioned in this post;

A room of one’s own by Virginia Woolf

A little life by  Hanya Yanagihara

Björn af Kleen

The Real Jane Austen-a life in small things by Paula Byrne

Also worth checking out;

Yanigahara’s instagram

@alittlelifebook

-Suss

 

 

Sleeves and second opinions

So dramatic sleeves are on point. If Life in a cold climate says it is so, it is so. If there is anyone that personifies the italian word Sprezzatura it is our darling Annikky.

I feel differently however,which is both predictable(never conforming to popular opinion) and rather surprising (I love a dramatic sleeve; my collection of kimonojackets really tells you all you need to know). However if you don’t go down the dramatic sleeve look you have only one option; sleeveless. Sleeves are dead. D.E.A.D. Only republican wives wear a normal sleeve now and is that something you want to be mistaken for? No, I thought not.

When I wore my “beauty is terror” t-shirt, made in honour of The Secret history, the other day it didn’t feel right. In fact when I came home I chopped of the sleeves. Much better and a nice clash with everything else in my closet.

I blame two things for this urge of mine; partly it’s following the hilarious account @everyoutfitonsatc which often features sleeveless options. The women of that show live in a pretend world and only ever wear outerwear because it’s stylish, like to cry in restaurants wear a big ol’ fur coat. People in a TV-series don’t actually have to deal with weather.

The second thing is pure nostalgia; as a feminist I think back to the halcyon days of 2015 when one of the things that I was legit annoyed about was the constant talk about Michelle Obamas “guns”. Talking about her fashion I have no problem with what so ever; it’s choices she made, she used it to her advantage etc. How someone chooses to dress, or not dress, is a reasonable topic of discussion. But so so tired of the commenting on women bodies all the time. Well as a feminist I have bigger fish to fry right now.

And the thing with sleeves, regular or dramatic, is that they “cover up” not so nice looking arms the magazines always point out.  Fuck that. With arms, like with everything, most women feel bad. There is no perfect arm; it’s a game that is rigged. So yes; a dramatic sleeve could be a “get out of feeling bad for yourself-card” but it makes life difficult; I knock things over, can’t put on coats yada yada. And right now I have stuff to deal with and it’s not just “roll my shirt sleeves up a bit”(and that’s a look I love love love); I’m going sleeveless and getting busy. Dior’s New Look was all about making a women a doll again after the war. Don’t let the dramatic sleeves fool you into living a life with restricted movement. Run free, get stuff done and don’t bother about sleeves.

NB: This post is written very tongue in check. I had a brain fart and I’ve had a crazy week and needed to ventilate. The obvious solution to this style conundrum is to were one of those dresses or tops with one dramatic sleeve and a bare shoulder.

Things mentioned in this post;

Life in a Cold climate

The Secret History

@Everyoutfitonsatc

Dior’s New Look

 

-Suss

Advice in Spade’s

IMG_1351And again we found ourselves in the category “big sisters and aunties I never had”. Although I do in fact have an auntie, and I love her, just that her advice never really seems to be the kind of thing that’s applicable when living in the big city. Her advice is more like what to do if you encounter a badger late at night or about all things weaving.

These little jewel colored books was something I picked up when a clothing store closed; everything was half off. I don’t know if these had been for sale or just been used for decoration. I can’t remember that store ever selling Kate Spade clothes or accessorizes though, which is a shame. However I saw that another shop has started selling her bags her in Stockholm so hopefully well get more stuff soon. The tableware I can live without but I’m a huge fan of the stationary and the accessories. I mean come on, I once saw a set of bracelets with the words “no sleep” on one and “’til Brooklyn” on the other on their website. That’s so funny. And there was a necklace with the words “spike the punch” that I tried to buy a few years back, so much that someone I know went out and bought one of those necklaces with a lot of letters so you can put together your own message, and made one for me.

That’s now though,when Kate Spade herself has pretty much left the company if I understand correctly. They do seem to embody her spirit though as these books on Style,Manners and Occasions from around 2004 can attest to.

Basically they are lovely little collections of advice on different themes to do with the title on the cover. Very simple but done in an elegant way and with the most wonderful illustrations. I’ve had them a few years and, I just love browsing them, to look at the colours and patterns. When I’ve had a little peek in them I feel like I am a bit more sophisticated and capable of handling what life throws at me. But as always with self-appointed lifestyle gurus you must find one that is telling you what you want to hear basically. I’m in the Kate&Konig bracket apparently; I love a good coat, take cocktails seriously and will never give up on gallery walls and bright colours(In your face Stockholm trend with empty walls,In your face!!).

Sadly I just have to accept that everyone doesn’t have these books and even if they do, they are not necessarily gonna follow the advice in them. There are several mentions on how to behave when using a mobile phone. 12 years after these were published  there are still people screaming about there personal life, into their phones, while on the commute. And considering that the average time to get your first phone seems to have dropped to those who literally were born yesterday I don’t understand why people who have had them for 20 years still behave like that. Oh well; that is the plague of our time.

These books are very American obviously in a charming and preppy way, but I’m not bothered by that. Everything I don’t like I probably just wave of as “american culture, not applicable in these parts” (said in my most BBC-like voice ever) and I must say they have aged rather well(or maybe I was just born a little old lady). It’s come so far that the chapter about fax-etiquette is rather sweet as no one uses them anymore(I think they will make a huge comeback soon. They are impossible to hack you know; if I ever send nudes it will  be by fax I assure you).

IMG_1380

My point is;if you come across these in a second hand books shop or so, do consider buying them. Even if I don’t live up to the standards she has set, it still nice to know there are some standards out there.

Things mentioned in this post;

Kate Spade Stationary

Also; take a look at her home. #goals

No sleep ’til Brooklyn

Rita Konig

-Suss

 

Sunday&Saturnus

IMG_1198 (1)I’m really trying to stop drinking coffee in paper cups; take-away style is bad for the environment and really; if I don’t have time to sit down and drink coffee I probably shouldn’t drink coffee at all. That whole thing with stress levels.

So where to go for good coffee? Obviously it depends on where in Stockholm, you’ll get very few recommendations about Södermalm on this blog (#sorrynotsorry).

Just of out of the city center there is a classic cafe called Saturnus. When I was younger it said something else on the sign although everyone called it Saturnus. Apparently that was for legal reasons; the current owners got that bit sorted and it says Saturnus on the sign and also on the cups and saucers. The biggest, and some of the best, cinnamon buns in town has remained over the years. They are big enough to share for two,three or maybe four people. Well the price matches that nowadays but still worth it.

The coffee is excellent and the surroundings very cosy in a “somewhere on the french riviera” kind of way. That’s what they are going for and I do appreciate that they have several international magazines and newspapers to read.

But it is really a great place to meet a friend for a refreshment and some coffee, and making big plans.

Things mentioned in this post;

Café Saturnus

-Suss

 

 

 

A post of two Otsukas

IMG_1067 (1)When the emperor was divine  is the second of Otsuka’s books that I’ve read and I’ll start out by saying that I prefer The Buddha in the attic.

Not that this book is bad, it is similar in many ways; her style can be described as intense outburst of feeling, letting fragments of stories build up. With The Buddha in the attic though she let some of those fragments be made up of many voices, like a choir singing the chorus and it made a huge impression on me and added to the story.

As much as I feel for the characters in this story, and it’s a part of history that must be remembered; how people of Japanese origin were stripped of their rights and interned in the US during WW2, I doesn’t extend to a bigger group. My sympathy is for the three of them, deeply, but the rest of the people at the camp remain invisible.

Maybe that’s the point. At a mere 200 pages, and in a small format, there is no excuse not to read this book; it will be done in one setting. But the same can be said of The Buddha in the attic and that one leaves a bigger impression.

Books mentioned in this post;

When the emperor was divine

The Buddha in the attic

-Suss

Weekend and a watchful eye

IMG_1231Under the heading of “things I don’t actually collect but have a lot of anyways” we have come to The evil eye.

I’m fascinated and have quite a few; some are of the kind to be placed somewhere in the home to protect it from djinns and other evil spirits.

However of late I have rummaged  in my drawers and sported them on my person. I have more then these two around my neck; I’ve also been wearing a bracelet. I have a few more and I just might add them. Three is the magic number(and that’s what I’m wearing on a day to day basis now, pretty solidly for a few weeks) but seven is also a number with magical connotations. I do wonder if I have that many laying around? I’m not superstitious by the way, I just like the look of them, especially the more almond shaped eye. And turquoise is such a great could to just have a dash of. Shamelessly mixing gold and silver I might add( my experience; in the middle east it’s all about the evil eye and gold while the Greeks and in Turkey they like to mix it with silver. Just anecdotal evidence but it’s an observation). I do hope they become trendy around these parts because I would love some rings, that would really work for me. And one of the necklaces and my bracelet is looking a bit knackered.

IMG_1233 Maybe they have been beset by evil and taken all the bad juju, but probably just low quality to begin with; souvenirs rarely are top-notch. The company from which I bought my glasses, Divides, has a very nice looking eye as a logotype. Makes sense since they are in the business of selling things that make people see better. But as lovely as it is I can’t really walk around carrying that box. I wear the glasses thougo. I must say I really enjoying seeing clearly and not having tired eyes and headaches. Hmmm; maybe that’s why I started wearing the eye-symbols again? It’s all very Freudian somehow(not necessarily in a bad way).

Have a great weekend!

Things referred to in this post:

The evil eye

Nividas

-Suss

 

7 reflections while reading The Secret History

IMG_1227

 

1.But this facial cast om mine(that’s what I think it is,really, a way my mouth has of turning down at the corners, it has little to do with my actual moods) has worked as often to my favor as to my disadvantage.

-p.80

Huh. So Richard Papen has “resting bitchface”. The term wasn’t invented then but it seems evident to me. I don’t know if it changes anything, maybe I just feel closer to him as I also suffer from that sort of facial cast.

2. Most startling of all, a splendid dark cartoon of a black eye was  stamped in a ring on my eye socket, in the richest ink of Tyrian, chartreuse and, and plum

-p.350

Yeah, I know we are talking about Richard’s bruise but still such a wonderful combination of  colors, especially the last two. So that’s what I want for summer; a dress in the colour of a bruise. And a t-shirt with the words “Beauty is terror”. Will probably reach a new “all time high” when it comes to  weird outfits.

 

3. “Have some champagne”, quick Bunny said. “It’s going flat.” “Where is it?” “In the teapot”

-p.82

This is not where I got the idea to serve cocktails in teapots but now, as I was rereading it, I did notice it and approve wholeheartedly. I’m not surprised though; that old speak-easy trick has a lot of charm to it and probably has been used as by people all along. Do your own thing and now and again you will be trendy.

4. It was beautiful room, not an office at all, and much bigger than it looked from outside.-airy and white, with a high ceiling and a breeze fluttering the starched curtains. In the corner, near a low bookshelf, was a big round table littered with teapots and Greek books, and there were flowers everywhere, roses and carnations and anemones, on his desk, on the table, on the windowsill. The roses were especially fragrant; their smell hung rich and heavy in the air, mingled with the smell of bergamot,and China black tea, and a faint inky scent of camphor. Breathing  deep, I felt intoxicated. Everywhere I looked was something beautiful-oriental rugs,porcelains,tiny paintings like jewels- a dazzle of fractured color that struck me as if I had stepped into one of those little Byzantine churches that are so plain on the outside; inside , the most paradisal painted eggshell of gilt and tesserae.

-p.27

Interior design goals. Still. Always. I don’t know if my love of many of these things made me connect with the book or the other way around. I was 17 when I read it the first time, utterly lost and frustrated. Anyone who has been to my home knows I love oriental rugs,flowers,teapots(full of earl grey preferable),stacks of books and little knick-knacks. I’m also pretty confident that Julian would have excellent taste in scented candles say a Diptyque “Baies” or something from Cire Trudon.

5. ..and spent the summer drowsing on his rooftop deck,smoking cigarettes, reading Proust, dreaming about death and indolence and beauty and time.

I can mention many a passage on this subject; the literary references are many and not far apart. There is no problem reading this without having read classic literature ; I did the first few times. Now that I have though? I’m covered in in just a thin layer of intellectual smugness. Very briefly at least; then I look at my shelves and realize that some of what I read would horrify Julian. However it is pointed out that Orwell, in this made up story, didn’t feel that Julian was trustworthy. And if I have to choose I’m siding with Orwell. Brilliant man and someone who alos had some terrific ideas about interior design(we’ll get to that at some point). Orwell also understood the point of pulp and other besmirched genres.

6.  “I’ll be thinking of you while I’m drinking Campari and riding the gondolas”he said winking.

Campari is red

Violets are blue

Bunny is an idiot

and if you think gondolas are a thing in Rome

then so are you.

(Show a little respect for Italian culture. Gondolas are a thing in Venice which is in the other end of the country. And for reference; “O sole mio” is a song from Naples and shouldn’t be sung by Gondolieri. Have a Campari soda though, Bunny got that right. And I understand his swooning over luxurious hotel stationary. A broken clock shows the right time twice a day and all that.)

7. For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow,unhesitating,relentless. It’s not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I’m nothing in my soul if not obsessive.

Case closed.

-Suss