Stacked April 2020 | Haute Macabre

Stacked April 2020


Last month I mentioned the trials and troubles that I was experiencing while trying to read; lack of focus, constant distraction, and maybe even (and I hate to admit this) complete and total absence of interest. I wish I could say differently, but not much has changed over the past thirty(ish) days and I remain just as feeble, fogged, and befuddled when it comes to the words on the pages that I am either skimming or straight-up avoiding.

I know my situation is not unique in this frustrating disinterest with regard to our stacks and stories–and this makes me terribly sad for all of us who derive great joy and pleasure from our books. Ugh. Anyway. Enough of my mopes and gripes. I did read a handful of things and I suppose for that I am grateful.

The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I didn’t think I could possibly love this mythic story more than Madeline Miller’s gorgeous retelling of the sorceress Circe’s tale…but I don’t mind being wrong. In The Song Of Achilles, the awkward and exiled Patroclus develops a hesitant friendship with the achingly beautiful Achilles, the glory-fated half-mortal prince. Miller’s heart-rendingly gorgeous account of their somewhat mismatched but intensely passionate companionship just utterly rips you in two, because you already know where their story is headed, and it’s nowhere good. Oooof. 10/10 tortured princes; I would read this story a thousand times over again, and cry myself sick, each and every time.

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. The second in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, this book was pure, dumb escapism. I love reading about unimaginably rich people spending their money in staggeringly stupid ways and the inanities and absurdities that ensue. This is especially good stuff if you enjoy haute couture-designer label-name dropping + head-to-toe outfit descriptions as part of that foolishness. Which I do!

Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis by Ada Calhoun. This book about Gen X existential angst was a real bummer, but there were so many relatable bits, not the least of which is that it’s always comforting, I guess, to read about people’s thoughts on my so-called disaffected and directionless generation–and yet, we’re the generation of women that was raised “have it all.” Calhoun has conducted over 200 interviews for the book and looks into data such as housing costs, HR trends, credit card debt averages, and divorce data and finds that most of us are exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed.

Some of the conversation in the book makes me feel like an outsider, looking in: I am not and have never been married, I do not have children, and I am not struggling to get ahead in a corporate career. I am not experiencing the same difficulties that these groups of people experience, although there are some similarities and overlap. In spite of that, there were some insights that deeply resonated with me. The author posits that we have been raised to believe that if we don’t care about everything, we are squandering opportunity, and this leads to a lot of pressure and potentially a lot of shame. We take basically good ideas and turn them into something with which to self-flagellate. (OMG do I relate to this.) She also discusses how we were set up to be in denial about what we go through as women; in entering the workplace fighting to be equal, we have had to quell what makes us different and how that affects us on such a level that we can’t even talk about it. And these silent anxieties? They are exacerbated by what we see on the internet, and we can’t look away. She notes that nothing seems to stimulate the economy like women feeling bad about themselves. She doesn’t remember our mothers looking like a million bucks when they were 40, so what the hell are we making ourselves nuts for?

I don’t think there are any real solutions offered within these pages, though. And while I am not sure that you’ll feel better after having read this book, I guarantee that you will feel seen.

Keepsakes, a series of short horror stories/comics about the strange and horrifying artifacts found by two siblings their late father’s creepy basement was something I read early this year (though I think I Kickstarted it last year) and which is exactly the sort of thing that is right up my alley. I fell in love with horror comics when I was six or seven years old, and discovered an old stash of Creepy magazines belonging to one of my super weird uncles. This sparked in me that bizarre and conflicted feeling of fascination/repulsion that is the hallmark of so many of my obsessions and enthusiasms, to this very day! Keepsakes, written by G.A. Alexander, is actually the creation of our dear Sonya’s husband, and I’m too shy to tell him how much I enjoyed it– so I am hoping that he will stumble upon my review here, and know this to be true.

The art and stories within the lurid pages of Keepsakes took me right back to that moment in time, frozen indelibly in my memory because it is just that formative for me: sitting cross-legged on my uncle’s dusty childhood bedroom floor, idly playing with monstrous rubber toy dinosaurs, when I questingly reached into what I thought was another toybox… and discovered within something else, altogether. My grandmother–my father’s mother–was an odd bird and kept her son’s rooms in the same state they grew up in, long after they moved out. Toys and everything! But what I found in that box, in those brittle, crinkly pages, were neither toys nor typical remnants of childhood playtime. Wracked with shivers and shakes which mystifyingly morphed into chills and thrills, I wrapped myself in a musty afghan, crawled into a corner with my back facing the wall (naturally, so that I could see anything that might have tried to creep up behind me) and utterly devoured scores of Creepy magazines that rainy, eerie afternoon. Keepsakes conjured in me those same shivers and thrills, that same sense of I can’t look/TELL ME MORE!

Many years later, I confessed this story to that particular uncle. To this day, every time we see each other, he presents me with an old Creepy magazine.

Featured image: Alla Nazimova in her library holding a copy of Stanislavski’s memoir

2 Comment

  1. Just wanted to give a shoutout to Sarah for being real and sharing her feelings. I definitely will NOT read that “why we can’t sleep” book because all those things you mentioned…I literally practice gratitude about every single day, esp since the global pandemic. I am a Gen-X goth-punk weirdo and I’m super fucking proud of that. Just last night, my husband and I high-fived over our frozen pizza dinner because we do NOT have kids (never wanted them) and we are not corporate zombies. We high-five about this a lot, actually, because we know we made the right decision for our lives and IDGAF what anyone thinks! I understand you feel like an outsider when reading about other people’s lives, but consider celebrating that outsider-ness. Women like you and me are fierce outsiders because we chose not to be mothers and it was a fabulous decision and I say BRAVA to us! Fuck the herd mentality! xoxo

    1. Yeah, there was definitely a lot of kids and career stuff in there…which isn’t to say the author didn’t talk with child-free freelancers and other oddballs, but there was definitely more of the former as opposed to the latter. I mean, I don’t know that I would ever say no to a corporate career (?) it’s just that in my day job capacity I’ve always worked for small businesses and now in my 40s I feel like…I don’t even have the skill sets or aptitudes/attitudes or background that a bigger corporation might want? Ah, well. I am not sure I am missing out. Probably missing out on that sweet, sweet insurance and retirement plan, though.

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