Vixens

Look, we’re all human. Even the most moral of us are flawed. I’m sure, at some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced an internal struggle with choosing between the right thing to do, as opposed to the more fun/less mature course of action.

But then there are some people who take being a shit-lord up a notch. These are the types of characters in fiction who we love to hate, and whose terrible personalities/life decisions tend to be the root of the whole plot.

Here are three of my favourite female antagonists from literature who were just the worst.

 Cathy Ames (East of Eden, 1952)

I actually finished reading East of Eden two days ago. It had been a few years since I’d read anything by John Steinbeck, I forgot how much I loved his writing.

Anyway, the reason I read this book really fast was because every time I tried to put it down, Cathy would manage to do or say something, that completely topped the last previous shitty thing she did.

Who can leave a book for the night when Cathy goes and drops this line, ‘I wasn’t too tired for your brother’ – holy shit Cathy you actually said that to his face!!!!

East of Eden is beautiful and so much more than the awful things Cathy does, I’m even willing to forgive Steinbeck for calling one of the minor characters ‘Cotton Eye’ (NO! WHY! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GET THAT BLOODY SONG STUCK IN MY HEAD!!!).

But Cathy’s storyline is what kept me so enthralled; and you know you’re dealing with a truly terrible character when this is how the introduction of her character begins,

‘I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents’

Cathy has a talent for manipulation and is easily able to make herself the object of mad obsession. I don’t want to give too much away, but she takes what she needs and gets a perverse kind of pleasure in bringing out the worst in people. She’s also really crap at hiding her true evil nature anytime she has some alcohol.

Abigail Williams (The Crucible, 1953)

The Crucible was one of my year 12 books, and it has the honour of being the only assigned reading I had in High School, that I didn’t think sucked.

My English teacher gave what is possibly the best summary of its plot when she said, ‘Abigail really shits on her own doorstep’. Yes, yes she does.

The Crucible is a fictional play of the 1692 Salem witch-trials, based loosely on historical accounts. Like the actual events, what starts the allegations is Reverend Samuel Parris catches young girls – including his daughter Betty and adopted niece Abigail, dancing in the forest around a fire with his Barbados slave, Tituba.

The girls initially deny their actions were witchcraft, yet out of fear they begin accusing their neighbours of conspiring with the Devil.

In the play, Abigail is a bit of a ring leader, and the accusations quickly become less about self preservation and driven more by revenge and hate.

Lady Macbeth (Macbeth, 1606)

Macbeth is another set text I had for High School English. I was definitely too young to get something out of it (there was a lot of immature snickering on my part, when Lady Macbeth says ‘unsex me here’).

I remember we all had to watch the Roman Polanski film adaption from the 70s. There was this scene with a whole gang of really old naked witches hanging out in a cave. I really don’t understand what anybody got out of making that scene, there’s no mention of them being naked in the original play and I had to go wash my eyes out with turps.

Anyway, Lady Macbeth is the wife of Scottish nobleman Macbeth, in the classic Shakespeare tale of why you probably shouldn’t kill a king. Lady Macbeth’s ambition is the driving force behind Macbeth stabbing the king so that he could gain the throne.

 

Who’s the Existentialist that’s a sex machine to all the chicks? CAMUS! You’re damn Right!

I haven’t had a lot of sleep over the last two night as I’ve been watching quite a lot of old Twin Peaks episodes. And because I’m sleep deprived while simultaneously trying to follow this beautifully bizarre plot, it got me thinking about Camus’ concept of ‘absurdity’ in comparison.

There’s an automatic presumption around the word ‘absurd’, that it’s a word used to describe that which is odd or strange. But for French-Algerian existentialist, Albert Camus (1913-1960), absurdity is found in the mundane and surrounds all aspects of our existence, ‘the Absurd is not in man…nor in the world, but in their presence together’.

Camus dedicated threes texts to contemplating absurdity; which included a novel (The Outsider), an essay (The Myth of Sisyphus*) and a play (Caligula).

Of these, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) is the more obvious exploration (which ironically makes it the text that is the harder to fully unpack) and through its attempt to understand the deeply complicated ‘relationship between the absurd and suicide’ it suggests that absurdity is our only absolute, and that seeking clarity or rationality in our existence is futile, ‘the absurd becomes god…and that inability to understand becomes the existence that illuminates everything’.

Camus compares existence to the mythical tale of Sisyphus who was condemned by the gods to endlessly roll a stone up a hill only to have it continually roll back down.

Now initially this sounds really grim, but what makes this a surprisingly optimistic essay is Camus’ contention that ‘absence of hope (which is not the same as despair)’ and acceptance of the absurd nature of everything, means life is more fully lived,

‘Men who have given up all hope are endowed with a lucid indifference’

It’s quite beautiful, the idea that life has meaning and is worth living precisely because it has no meaning and full clarity alludes us. There is meaning and depth in ‘the world’s lack of meaning’.

If you are going to try and read all of The Myth of Sisyphus though, be warned it is possibly more hard to follow than Twin Peaks.

[*which dead set I thought was pronounced ‘syphilis’ until I was recently corrected]

Book Fate

Look, I don’t believe things happen for a predetermined cosmic reason. What’s the point in trying and living in this moment if it’s all already planned? But I do believe in book fate – I know it sounds strange, but let me explain.

I used to have a to-read list; but its length was getting more and more intimating, until it dawned on me that even if I ran away from all of my commitments and started living in a cave and drinking my own piss, there’s no way known I’d be done with that list in no less than thirty years.

So now I just let whatever I’m going to read next find me instead, and scarily what I’m reading tends to find me at exactly the right time and when I’m able to take the most out of it.

There are certain quotes and snippets of narrative, that I still love partly because of the solace they were able to give me at a certain point in my life when I first read them.

I needed to read Stephen Fry’s first two autobiographies – Moab is my Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, as an anxiety-ridden eighteen year old. This one line in particular made me feel like I wasn’t alone,

“I would always be the same maddening, monstrous, mixture of pedantry, egoism, politeness, selfishness, kindliness, sneakiness, larkiness, sociability, loneliness, ambition, ordered calmness & hidden intensity”

There’s the Fig Tree Analogy from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which at the time I remember thinking, it perfectly summed up that underlying fear of inadequacy when you’re surrounded by endless choice.

“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

And then there are certain books which I probably would’ve quit if I had started reading them at any other time. For instance, Confederacy of Dunces: if I hadn’t have gone into reading it knowing that it was on Bowie’s list of top 100 books I would’ve quit it at the start (IF IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR DAVID IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU ELLEN YOU SCUM).

I just love letting some scungy looking second-hand book walk into my life and suddenly it’s changed me a little, for the better. It also gets bonus points if it has one of those old library stamp cards taped on the inside.

Brilliant future book club ideas

So I was listening to ‘Anonymous Club’ on the long drive back from Ballarat to Melbourne. When I’m left on my own too long – especially in the car, I’ll suddenly decide to have this big formal meeting between myself and my brain, and together we’ll come up with some diamond plans.

Anyway, whenever I hear this song it tends to spur a brainstorm on potential clubs I could start. Here is the fruit of my labour from this last trip: I give you my brilliant future book club ideas.

  1. If I were the leader of a book club, all the meetings would begin with me doing a heart warming interpretive dance to either Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ (possibly involving a ribbon) or Elvis Costello’s ‘Everyday I Write the Book’.
  2. Wookie Booky – where we all have to dress as Chewbacca and speak in shyriiwook while having a deep and meaningful about the romantic poets. (Side note, apparently all the wookie suits from the movie were made from human hair!)
  3. Books, Bikes & Bitches – a part book club, part biker gang. Where we all dress massively rebelliously, and we pick a nice place to cycle.
  4. Grapes of Wrath – Where we all discuss books and simultaneously attempt to make homemade wine in the bathtub by stomping on grapes.
  5. 1984 – Where every meeting finishes with a half an hour dance party to songs from the year 1984
  6. I’m not sure yet what this would be called, but a book club where the members attempt to make a pair of pants out of the heaviest book they own.
  7. Clockwork Orange – where if a member has forgotten to read the book, everyone gets to throw oranges at them. Or it could be darker, if they’ve forgotten to read the book they have to wear the device from Clockwork Orange which stops you from blinking and they’re forced to watch something really shit – like an hour of Escape to the Country
  8. Robert Frost Book Club – where you have to read Robert Frost’s The Road Less Travelled  as fast as you can out-loud. Every member is timed, and everyone gets to throw snowballs at whoever was the slowest.

 

Using Neruda to crack onto people

At the moment I’m hearing the song ‘Treat you Better’ all the time, and its really shitting me to tears. I hate those kinds of songs where the basis is, a persons significant other is shit and they should really consider chucking them because in my (the singer’s) humble, and completely unbiased*, opinion I’m way better to date. 

I’d love to hear a response song to ‘Treat you Better’ called ‘I still stand by my decision Shawn Mendes! I’m a grown woman who can make my own choices. Fuck off’** . 

Anyway, the reason I’m bringing this song up is because its clearly an attempt to entice this woman using the medium of song – and therefore poetry, and frankly it sucks. It instantly made me think of Pablo Neruda’s beautiful poem If you Forget Me in comparison.

If you want to win somebody’s heart with words, my advice is to seek Pablo Neruda for inspiration. In If you Forget Me, Neruda writes that he will respect her feelings if she does not love him – ‘I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land’.

However if she feels that they are destined for each other ‘ah my love, ah my own, in me all that fire is repeated’ – now that’s a man.

Neruda is my favourite poet, and he is hands down the smoothest mother-fucker in poetry! When he wrote about romantic love he wrote with a burning passion.

He described his subjects in intrinsic detail, and as though the whole universe conspired for them to be together. In Your Feethe writes ‘I love your feet only because they walked upon the earth and upon the wind and upon the waters, until they found me.’

When Neruda described their beauty or their body, he would do so with nature metaphors and in way that suggested complete adoration -‘Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace. My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road’.

So I guess my point is if you’re planning on writing a song and/or poem to a love interest that details how much you fancy them and outlines what a fabulous catch you are, read some Neruda. Here’s a few more quotes to get you started:

‘I have gone marking the atlas of your body with crosses of fire’ – I Have Gone Marking 

‘In you the rivers sing and my soul flees in them’ – Ah Vastness of Pines

‘Naked, you are simple as a hand, minimal, supple, earthy, transparent, round. The lunar markings, the pathway through the apple, are yours; naked, you are slender as the wheat.’  – Morning

‘I waken and widen my eyes, and you plant in my flesh the darkening stars that rise in my soul’ – Girl Gardening

‘I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees’ – Everyday you Play

How could one not love her great still eyes’ – Tonight I can Write 

 

 

(*its just such a shit song! of course you think she’s in ‘the wrong situation’ if you’re also trying to tap in)

(** also while we’re on the topic, in Taylor Swift’s song ‘You Belong With Me’ I really would love to know the joke Taylor refers to at the start that she found amusing but this boy’s girlfriend didn’t. Was the joke concerning the girlfriends physical appearance? Did he give her an unflattering nickname like Chewbacca?)

The doing uni readings experience

For somebody who really loves reading, I’m surprisingly terrible at keeping up with uni set readings.

There’s always the best of intentions in week one: the reader is all nice and shiny, and I’m convinced that despite previous instances where I’ve been a lazy dropkick, this will be the semester where I’ll just be a beacon of productivity.

But then out of nowhere it’s suddenly week four, and the reader is somehow reflecting my motivation levels – pages are falling out, its covered in little drawings from times I’ve zoned out, and its a bit dirty cause it did fall in a puddle. I don’t know how this happened, I highlighted the shit out of those first readings, things were going splendidly.

And its not that the topics aren’t interesting….well for the most part. I’ve narrowed it down three things that may be the issue:

  1. I’m just not gripped. Sometimes they really can go on and on, to the point where I genuinely start to believe that by the time I finish reading it I’ll be dead.
  2. The semester goes ridiculously fast and I have other things on
  3. Eventually time gets taken up with reading for assessments and/or panic writing an essay

But it’s still early days into semester and all is not lost. Thankfully its still in that beautiful little period that doesn’t last very long, where the amount I have to get done hasn’t actually dawned on me yet, and the gnawing sense that I’m about to be up shit creek hasn’t arrived.

So the big plan I have to be an adult for once and do these readings on time is the same as when it comes time to writing my essay; I’m going to pretend I’m the guy from the movie Misery. My heart may not be in this reading/writing I’m doing, but I value one day being able to leave the room I’m currently trapped in, so I carry on writing.

To finish off here’s a picture of me essay time semester two 2015; as you can tell, at that point I was loving life, getting loads of sleep and not dead inside at all.

IMG_3253

 

Bernard Black is my spirit animal

My last job interview I was asked what my spirit animal was. I’m a huge disappointment and I did not answer that question truthfully – my spirit animal is hands down Bernard Black from Black Books. 

This beautiful Irish chain smoking filth wizard, who very nearly brought the world the classic children’s book The Elephant and His Balloon, is living the dream – he gets to be all witty and grumpy while surrounded by books with a red wine in his hand.

I strive to one day have my sense of shame that dead, and to be able to come up with insults that creative. If I had to narrow down my favourite Bernard moment it would be a draw between when he attempted to get himself beaten up to avoid doing his taxes, and the wicker chair incident.

He’s unsocial, childish, drunk, quite mad, slightly evil, always flailing his arms in the air dramatically, and he’s drops pearls of wisdom like ‘pineapples grow in space’ and ‘no one’s prepared to admit wine doesn’t really have a taste’.

He’s a legend, and I love his thing against children and how he does secretly care about Manny.

Coming up with your Nom de Plume

There are various reasons why a writer might decide to go by a pen-name or nom de plume. Numerous female writers wrote under male-pseudonyms because their narratives did not fit the gender norms of their time, such as George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans.

George Orwell created his for Down & Out in Paris & London because it described him living in poverty and he didn’t want to embarrass his family, and Neruda’s father disapproved of his poetry.

But another main reason is simply that a writer wants a name that stands out more than their given name does – like a stage name. They may even want to take it up a notch and create a second persona, comparable to when my Dad drinks, puts on a mullet wig and insists we all call him Uncle Neil.

So if you’re currently struggling to come up with a nom de plume that will create a buzz I’ve devised a method you’re welcome to use (unless you’re writing a book on hardware, in which case you have an obligation to make your pen-name ‘Hammertime’).

1. The first letter of your name

A = Pope
B = Josiah
C = Horace
D = Elijah
E = Saint
F = Valter
G = Vector
H = Erasmus
I = Phineas
J = Falk
K = Hercules
L = Anton
M = Cassius
N = Calvin
O = Thaddeus
P = Sven
Q = Chad
R = Ludvig
S = Sage
T = Virgil
U = Axel
V = Chester
W = Augustus
X = Luna
Y = Roger
Z = Dorian

2. Your month of birth (optional: this is to add a bit of a cool reputation to your second persona)

January = ‘wants no scrub’
February = ‘dolphin tramp stamp’
March = ‘squirrel army’
April = ‘hooks for hands’
May = ‘hips don’t lie’
June = ‘boycotting pants’
July = ‘the mud wrestler’
August = ‘power-ranger’
September = ‘duck-face’
October = ‘ghostbuster’
November = ‘Bond Villain’
December = ‘the booty shaker’

3. Your Middle Name

A = Cursive
B = Hawk
C= Latin
D = Potter
E = Beret
F = Absinthe
G = Existential
H = Grammar
I = Dante
J = Beowulf
K = Leather-bound
L = Finch
M = Codex
N = Font
O = Big-Words
P = Vermouth
Q = Index
R = Page
S = Seuss
T = Wilde
U = Sartre
V = Copperplate
W = Rat-king
X = Turtle-neck
Y = Speedo
Z = Sans Script

(So for instance mine is Saint ‘power-ranger’ Beowulf)

Or alternatively you can use some of these Simpson themed ones
• Dr. Colossus
• Joey Jo Junior Shabadoo
• Guy Incognito
• Zombie Shakespeare
• Any of the Moe prank call names

 

Heathcliff

There’s going to be a mass dance to Wuthering Heights in a few weeks and I’m a bit over-excited about it. Anyway in between attempting to sew Kate Bush’s exact outfit from that music video, I found out a bit of trivia* – apparently its a true fact that the final part of casting the role of Heathcliff for adaptions of Wuthering Heights is you must do a perfect rendition of the Wuthering Heights’ dance in full costume! Here’s photographic evidence of actors throughout the years who have played Heathcliff nailing the choreography  (apologies for my terrible photoshop ability here)

complete 6.pngLaurence Oliver 1939

complete 1.pngTimothy Dalton 1970

complete 3Ralph Fiennes 1992

complete 5Robert Cavanah 1998

complete 2Tom Hardy, 2009

complete 4James Howson 2011

[*I am making shit up just for the record]

[header image via proxy music]

Simpson Quotes that would make good autobiography titles

  • My mom says I’m cool
  • If somethings hard to do than it’s not worth doing
  • Well excuse me for having enormous flaws that I don’t work on
  • Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand
  • I do what I feel like
  • Lord help me I’m just not that bright
  • I tried my best, and I failed miserably. The lesson is, never try
  • I wash myself with a rag on a stick
  • Everyone is stupid except me
  • Why, why must life be so hard?
  • I’m not popular enough to be different
  • I’m just going to die lonely and ugly and dead
  • Why am I such a loser? Why?
  • Grease me up woman
  • Everything looks bad if you remember it
  • If you need me I’ll be in the refrigerator
  • Alcohol is a way of life, alcohol is my way of life
  • It takes two to lie – one to lie and one to listen
  • The legend of the dog faced woman
  • A thousand monkeys working on a thousand typewriters
  • The man you trusted isn’t wavy gravy at all
  • Feeling stupid? I know I am
  • I’m a stupid moron, with an ugly face and a big butt and my butt smells and I like to kiss my own butt
  • The magical man from happy land! In a gum drop house on lollipop lane
  • Can I borrow a feeling?
  • Can I come too?
  • One trick is to tell them stories that don’t go anywhere
  • I am so great! I am so great! Everybody loves me. I am so great!
  • Past instances where I professed to like you were fraudulent
  • Stupid risks make life worth living
  • Sexy Results

 

Seriously though if your name is Bart you do have an obligation to name your autobiography ‘Give it up for Bang, Bang Bart’

Also I call dibs on ‘Legend of the Dog Faced Woman’