I spent this morning writing a 3000 word memoir piece for Knot Journal in the USA. Here is a small excerpt.
““I’m Jen,” said Jen. “I’m one of the strippers here.” No mincing words. No ‘exotic dancer’, or ‘entertainment officer’. Stripper. “I was doing admin for a bit, but it’s easier to just take my clothes off for money.” She was in mighty shape for forty. I envied her, until she outlined her gym workouts, her rehearsal time, her spray tans, facials, the body hair electrolysis, the manicures and pedicures, the hair appointments, the make up, and the time spent trawling costume shops and thrift stores for costumes and props. Not to mention taking sewing courses so she could create her own outfits. I thought of me handing my costumes to a seamstress for tailoring, and making repairs using dental floss. I once sewed a bra hook back on with the household’s floss(cotton breaks too easily), and being the only mint-scented belly dancer in Melbourne.”
Yes, I went to Stripper School in the noughties. Why not?
This afternoon, I’ll spend reading. I am happily getting rid of all my self-help, renovate-yourself, and personal development books. It’s very freeing. More room for fiction.
My husband is interstate, visiting our daughter and her family. I’m home with TwentiesPerson, who lurks about upstairs mostly, and comes downstairs occasionally to burp at me, or fetch food. I’m not used to PizzaBoy being away. It’s usually me away, and him home holding the fort. However, this isn’t a fair deal, so I made him to visit.
Which means extra chores for me, but nothing dramatic. Feeding the animals, and walking the dog. And now that the dishwasher’s empty, it probably won’t get full again for a couple of days. So I can pretty much please myself how I spend my time.
I decided to declutter my personal development books. I kid myself that I’ll just have a quick flip through unread books, but I never do. I end up speed-reading one book at a time, having a brief flirtation with ‘this is the method that fixes everything’, until I wake up to myself that nothing outside of me is going to change my habits. I’m reading AWAKENED WOMAN by Dr Tererai Trent. I bought it, along with other books, from kikki.k. Oh, it’s a tempting store, full of ‘this will solve your life beautifully’ file systems, calendars, pens, pencils, planners, notebooks, and stickers. It’s heaven, and all in Scandi minimalist design. But honestly, I ain’t gonna go bury my dreams in a tin can in the back yard, and tend to it like an altar. I no longer have an all-encompassing mission, drive, or desire.
Interestingly, with PizzaBoy away, I can think more clearly. Usually, it takes 3 days of me on holiday in Byron Bay to wind down enough to start seeing clearly sections of my life. Today, I didn’t need a single Post-It note, and ambled my way through my day, with plenty of time and room for anything I might want to do. The only thing missing is chocolate. I know, I know, my naturopath has taken me off chocolate for a while, to see if one of my antibody levels come down, one that’s known to be affected by theobromine. I’m succeeding about 2/3 of the week. Yesterday, I not only had caffeine, but chocolate as well, and didn’t sleep well. So, today, neither.
It’s raining solidly for the first time in weeks, thank the gods. The sound of it is lovely, and I hope it’s still raining when I go to bed tonight. If I can tear myself way from the audio book of THE DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis (5th reread, and 1st listen) for long enough, I might be able to hear it.
4pm – time to feed the ravening hordes.
Now that I’ve written about yesterday, and I can write about today, as is my intention to write every day, or nearly every day from now on. So what if it’s me talking to myself? I have no problem with that.
Following yesterday’s Lady Date with UnicornLass, today needed to be quiet. I did an experimental art card to send as happy mail, and then swore black and blue as I tried to prise cri-cut stickers off their plastic backing. If stickers are individually cri-cut with no overhanging edge, I can spend up to five minutes on each sticker, trying and trying to separate the plastic backing from the sticker. I fold a tiny corner back and forth, back and forth, trying to wear it enough that the two surfaces will separate enough for me to get a thumbnail in there. The stickers are often so thin that they roll up upon themselves, rather than peel away. I threw away a whole autumn leaf sticker today, because I managed to peel it off the backing, and it rolled itself up like a cocoon. WORDS were said. Many words. None of them were what small children should hear. Fortunately, there are none in the house.
I also read a book about the astrology of the planet Mercury. A very basic, cookie cutter book, but it gave me a few insights that were useful. It reminded me of Linda Goodman’s astrology books, like SUN SIGNS, and LOVE SIGNS. Also cookie cutter astrology for the masses but, back in the day, who didn’t have a copy of LOVE SIGNS on their book shelf, to check a new lover’s sun sign against one’s own?
I walked the dog after lunch, making sure he kept away from all the sports bags, cricket bats, and everything else he might want to wee on. He’s seasoned many a cricket bat during the summer months, much to his own disgrace. The off-leash (dog) park was in full swing, with all the cricket pitches being used for games. Everyone thinks my chihuahua x jack russell is the cutest little boop ever. Until he wees on a a cricket box, stray hat, bat, bag, or someone’s shoe.
This late afternoon, I’ve waded into a kindle book THE GIRL BEHIND THE GATES, which is about an unwed pregnant girl being institutionalised, and her newborn baby being left to freeze to death on a cold table. Grim old situation so far, and based on a true story. The author is a psychologist, and ‘Nora’ was one of her patients.
I’m in that wretched state of nothing much pleasing me as a book to dive into, but I’m making do with this one until something good comes along. Why are so many books about girls? THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, GONE GIRL, GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Then there’s THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS. Not to mention all the wife books. Add that to the horde of cook books in every shop, and even more in every thrift shop, and the current trend for crime, thrillers, and untrustworthy narrators, I shall have to write THE DODGY GIRL WHO COOKED ALL THE THINGS.
In 2020, I read 96 books, and started but abandoned even more. It’s been a weird year, and for a lot of the year, even though I forced concentration when it came to writing, I could not summon it for reading.
Here are my top reads for 2020. I rated each book out of 5.
The Grace Year – Kim Liggitt
In The Clearing – J.P. Pomare
Indexing – Seanan Maguire
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee (reread)
Journey To The Edge of the World – Billy Connelly
The Animals In That Country – Laura Jean Mackay
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson
Dragonsbane – Barbara Hambly (reread)
A Wild Winter Swan – Gregory Maguire
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Upright Women Wanted – Sarah Gailey
Spinning Silver- Naomi Novik
Magic Lessons – Alice Hoffman
Take A Look At The Five and Ten – Connie Willis
Soulless – Gail Carriger (reread)
Timeless – Gail Carriger
The Distant Hours – Kate Morton
Bell, Book and Murder – Rosemary Edghill (reread)
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert (reread)
Goddess of Spring – P.C. Cast (reread)
The Secret World of Wombats – Jackie French
This Other Eden – Ben Elton (reread)
Ridiculous – D.L. Carter
My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell
Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C.S. Lewis (reread)
Journeys To The Other Side of the World – David Attenborough
When We Were Vikings – Andrew David MacDonald
How To Marry A Werewolf – Gail Carriger
The Henna Artist – Alka Joshi
Your Own Kind of Girl – Clare Bowditch
Lilian Boxfish Takes A Walk – Kathleen Rooney
The Girl in the Mirror – Jennie Blackford
The Sunday Story Club – Doris Brett and Kerry Cue
Tarot Tells The Tale – James Riklef
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
Opium and Absinthe – Lydia King
Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
Sushi For Beginners – Marian Keyes (reread)
Men At Arms – Terry Pratchett
Guards Guards – Terry Pratchett
The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party – Robert Silverberg (reread)
The Magic of Art – Taylor Ellwood
Mort – Terry Pratchett (reread)
Lockdown – Peter May
Zombies of the Gene Pool – Sharyn McCrumb (reread)
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
Migrations – Charlotte McConaghy
The Dark is Rising series (5 books, of which GREENWITCH stands out for me) – Susan Cooper
The books that have stayed with me this year:
Even though upon reflection, UNTAMED by Glennon Doyle did not hold up well, while I was reading it, I thought ‘holy cow, this is IT’. MY DARK VANESSA has stayed with me not only as a work of fiction, but the author’s story behind the book. Gail Carriger cannot be beaten for world-building, and wonderful characters.
A lot of rereads this year, as I sought comfort reads to ease lockdown and covid fears.
I hope you find something in this list that will also bring you joy.
Yesterday, I felt like I’d explode, or implode, or choose to sink into deep depression if I didn’t get out. I thought it would require a trip up into the mountains for a long walk, which would have been a wet affair, because of the rain.
Instead, a quick trip to Kmart for a pair of house pyjama pants (yes, I’ve already descended that far), and a hoodie, a browse through Dymocks and QBD books, and then off to Wholefood Merchants to get some organic food.
I broke quarantine.
And spent on things not terribly necessary. And apparently, that’s just what I needed. Because after I came home, walked the dog(called halfway through because of pelting rain), and a bath, I felt okay again, like the pressure gauge was back down. Does shopping really have that function for me? Alas, it may be true.
Today, it’s pretty much rained all day. I see cars going back and forth on the road outside, and this morning there were a few walkers, but honestly, the Pupika hasn’t barked nearly as much as he usually does at dogs being walked past our house. Only twice.
I think everyone is opting to be home, out of the cold and wet. At some stage today, Pupika will have to go outside, and I really should walk at some point, or perhaps I can once again justify a restorative yoga practice as a walk.
I can feel Jittery Self underneath, in my belly, at the thought of forcing myself out the door. Okay, I’ll listen to my body, and stay inside, stretch out on my yoga mat, do a restorative practice, and maybe some shoulder releases.
You would think that at a time like this, I’d want nothing but Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Gail Carriger, Mary Roach, and other authors who make me laugh, but no. Instead, I’m deep into a new book called MY DARK VANESSA, which is about an affair between a 15 year old girl, and her professor, in his 50’s. The book blatantly references LOLITA. It’s a riveting but uncomfortable read, especially when I look back at moments when I was young, and guys older than me were perhaps attempting some pretty lame grooming that never went anywhere, because I was young, brash, sarcastic, and hoping against hope that my childhood sweetheart would mature enough before the end of high school and step up to the ‘boyfriend’ plate.
There was an uncle who tickled me until I cried. Another uncle who suggested a ‘walk’ one Xmas. A high school teacher who, I think, tried it on with just about every Year 9 girl, many of whom were already having sex with boys from Brighton Grammar School.
Part of me is luridly fascinated, another part wants to scream at her ‘are you utterly blind?’. Young girls are naive, romantic, curious, open to flattery, to seduction. It is not their fault. She is not blind, I was not blind. She is young, I was young.
Throughout my 56 years, I have been largely oblivious to flirtation because I assume guys just want to be friends. Some part of me, still that young teenager, thinks “No guy would find me attractive anyway. That’s for the tall, blonde, blue-eyed mean girls. I’m the short, dumpy, redheaded brainiac weirdo”.
Despite evidence to the contrary. 2 husbands. 5 fiances. Boyfriends numbering past 20. I went on blind dates, did the internet dating thing. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea – many men found me too smart, too motivated, too much.
I’m 56, and still naive. Still missing conversation cues, happily married to my big, lanky husband.
Dark Vanessa – run, honey, run. It’s not love. Run like the young deer you are.
Every year, I keep a running total of books read, and at the end of the year, I compile a list. I rate each book out of 5, and post my 5/5, 4.5/5, and 4/5’s. This year I’ve read, so far, 103 books. I have no doubt that total will be closer to 110 by December 31st. If there are any last-minute books that make the grade, I’ll update my lists.
My reading tastes range widely: fiction, non-fiction, genre, self-help, inspirational, and some old favourites thrown in as comfort reads.
The Books that rated 6/5
The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo
The Power of Vulnerability – Brene Brown
Books that rated 5/5
The Fragments – Toni Jordan
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Blue Salt Road – Joanne Harris
The Roya Art of Poison – Eleanor Herman
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night -Mark Haddon
Minor Mage – T.Kingfisher
The Crane Wife – Patrick Ness
E-squared – Pam Grout
Books That Rated 4.5/5
Nevermoor – Jessica Townsend
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K.Rowling
Snow White Learns Witchcraft – Theodora Goss
Ink – Alice Broadway
Beneath The World, A River – Chris Beckett
Year Of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
Burning Water – Mercedes Lackey
Books That Rated 4/5
Werewolves and Shapeshifters – John Skipp(ed.)
The Little Book of Saturn – Aliza Eirhorn
Fatal Throne – anthology
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine -Gail Honeyman
Gaslight Gothic- Campbell and Preponic (ed.)
Lupin Leaps In – Georgia Dunn
The Book of M – Peng Shepherd
Four Seasons With a Grumpy Goat – Carol Altman
My Mother, My Writing, and Me – Iola Matthews
Beyond The Woods – Paula Guarneri
Odd Girl Out – Laura James
The State of Grace – Rachael Lucas
The Fifth Gender – G.L. Carriger
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle
A Wind In The Door – Madeline L’Engle
Space Unicorn Blues – T.J. Berry
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
The Other Half of Augusta Hope -Joanna Glen
Black Swan – Eileen Harrison
The Woman In The Window – A.J.Finn
Waking The Witch – Pam Grossman
Tea With The Black Dragon – R.A. MacAvoy
The Emerald Circus – Jane Yolen
The Journal Keeper – Phyllis Theroux
Lucy and Andy Neaderthal
Tarot Life Planner – Lady Lorelei
To The Sea – Christine Dibley
Girl With Dove – Sally Bayley
Silver In The Wood – Emily Tesh
The Lost Girls of Paris – Pam Jenoff
The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl – Theodora Goss
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzi Lee
Dear Fahrenheit 451 – Annie Spence
The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett
The Vine Witch – Luanne G. Smith
Trio of Sorcery – Mercedes Lackey
Jinx High – Mercedes Lackey
Children of the Night – Mercedes Lackey
Bourke Street, My View From Here – Tony Brooks and Jen Hutchinson
I hope you find some new books to read amongst this lot.
This from Biddy Tarot.
I’ve gotten my knickers in a knot about bullet journals, planners, planning my 2020, and doing All The Things. My latest distraction from myself is finding the perfect planner pages.
Now, get this, I don’t like anyone or anything telling me what to do. No sooner do I draw up plans, small or grand, than I run from them.
So why the Franken-planner(travel, weekly menu plans, gardening, tarot, study, writing, exercise, flea treatments for pets, NDIS planning, appointments, moon phases, sabbats, etc, etc, etc. Insert your own pic here of Yul Brynner as the King of Siam saying ‘et cet-er-a!’)
Caught myself out yesterday when I confessed I hate a structured life, yet seem to impose dreadful rigidities upon myself. Capricorn Sun, Mercury, and Mars bossing around Scorpio Moon, and Aquarius Venus. With Aries Jupiter to get shitty about it all, and Scorpio Neptune away with the dark fairies.
I’ll ask my Light Seer’s Tarot.
Option 1 – the Franken-planner. Option 2 – no planner at all. Option 3 – somewhere in between.
The Devil, 10 of Wands, 9 of Wands.
Definitely not the giant planner with all the bells and whistles. What a tempting, handsome, pretty, seductive way to fill in my time and distract me from whatever it is that I’m meant to be doing.
No planner at all means the year, with its responsibilities, duties, and dreams, will come rushing at me, pushing me into overwhelm. The girl looks up at the mountain she has to cross, and us suddenly done with the burdens she is carrying. I have things I have to deal with a while yet. Lightening the load is in progress, due to an NDIS plan to find my offspring their own suitable accommodation, but it takes time. Without some planning, I’ll crumble in confusion and overwhelm, despite the steady support of the Excellent Husband. Streamline, get help, organise, prioritise.
Somewhere in between. Stability and hard work, resilience. Put in some hours on a planner, ignore the sticker, stamps, and washi tape brigade. Do schedule in whole days of down time. You are making things harder than you have to. Overly defensive about not working, so invent an ‘important busy life’ via a planner. Plan the things that will make life easier. Meal plans, etc. Everything else can happen in its own good time. Get enough rest.
From tonight!s idle reading comes this story title: The Woman Who Mistook A Dyke For A Dybbuk.
True story. I wondered what the hell I was reading. TULIP FEVER contained, I thought, the sentence ‘our country ringed by dybbuks’. A much different book than what it is.
With only a few days before the end of the year, and NEVERMOOR by Jessica Townsend only 1/4 read, I can safely say that I read 120 books to completion this year, with many more started, but not finished.
Here are my ratings for 2018, mentioning only the books that came in 3.9 stars, or above. No need to badmouth inadequate books, unless they really shitted me.
Scales of Empire – Kylie Chan
The Seven Per Cent Solution – Nicholas Meyer (reread)
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert (reread)
Cat Pictures Please and other stories – Naomi Kritzer
Dragonsbane – Barbara Hambly (reread)
American Hippo – Sarah Gailey
The Outrun – Amy Liptrott
Rushing Woman Syndrome – Libby Weaver
The Local Wildlife – Robert Drewe
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Mammoth – Jill Baguchinsky
Worse Things Happen At Sea – William McInnes and Sarah Watt
The RavenMaster – Christopher Skaife
Educated – Tara Westover
History of Wolves – Emily Fridlund
Chalk – Paul Cornell
Norse Gods – Neil Gaiman
M Is for Magic – Neil Gaiman
Unnatural Creatures – Neil Gaiman
Withering-By-Sea – Judith Russell
Good Me, Bad Me – Ali Land
The Witches – Roald Dahl
Galatea – Madeline Miller
Poe: New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe – ed. Ellen Datlow
White Cat – Holly Black
Pre-Raphaelites – Heather Birchall
Little Big Lies – Liane Moriarty
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman – Theodora Goss
Puberty Blues – Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey (reread)
Death of a She-Devil – Fay Weldon
First We Make The Beast Beautiful – Sarah Wilson
Buddhism for Unbelievably Busy People – Meshel Laurie
Cinder – Marissa Meyer (reread)
Birds Art Life Death – Kyo Maclear
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar
Sigil Magic – T. Thorn Coyle (reread)
Book Worm – Lucy Mangan
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach – Kelly Robson
Come And See The Living Dryad – Theodora Goss
Melt – Lisa Walker
Electric Woman – Tessa Fontaine
Rotherweird – Andrew Caldecott
High Sobriety – Jill Stark
The Dry – Jane Harper
Let The Whole Thundering World Come Home – Natalie Goldberg
The Strange Affair of Spring-heeled Jack – Mark Hodder
Black House – Peter May
A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab
The Stolen Child – Lisa May
A Month of Sundays -Liz Byrski
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson (reread)
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson (reread)
Unforgiveable Love – Sophronia Scott
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter – Theodora Goss
21st Century Yokel – Tom Cox
The Lewis Man – Peter May
Little Moments of Love – Catana Chetwynd
Swimming To the Moon – Robert Drewe
The Doomsday Book – Connie Willis (reread)
Jane Bites Back – Michael Thomas Ford
How to Marry A Werewolf – Gail Carriger
Sea Witch – Sara Henning
Moab Is My Washpot – Stephen Fry
Fell just short of 4/5 stars:
Hell’s Belles – Paul Magrs
100 Great Science Fiction Short Stories – ed. Asimov, Greenberg, Olander (reread)
The 19th Wife – David Ebershoff
Under Your Wings – Tiffany Tsao
The Witch of Wayside Cross – 3.9/5
Crosstalk – Connie Willis
Weirdest Book of 2018:
Convenience Store Woman – Sayuka Marata