Friday!

Somehow, I lost all sense of the date and only realized it's a long weekend yesterday, but hooray for happy surprises.

I want to thank everybody for the shop orders. It's been ticking along all week and I'm starting to get excited about reclaiming some space in my apartment, not to mention that lovely sense of something put to rest. The sale continues and you can shop here.

My week was full of that feeling as I also cancelled by cable and home phone. It's almost as if I'm enacting a move on the cards with that lovely feeling of lightening a load, looking around and thinking, what else can I get rid of!?


On the back of my Cloud Atlas post, I've been browsing The Composites. I love what creator Brian Joseph Davis wrote (here) in this blog post about the important aspect of disappointment in the project:

"The New Yorker’s book blog reports on The Composites with an honest and funny take. I’m quite glad they gleaned that disappointment is an integral part of the project. Let me add that disappointment may be an important part of literary pleasure in general, what with that gulf between thought and representation."

And also a link from Jessica's Read. Look. Think. about what we see when we read:

"Most authors (wittingly, unwittingly), provide us, readers, with more behavior for their characters than character description. Even if an author excels at physical description, we are left with shambling concoctions of stray body parts and random detail (author’s can’t tell us everything). We fill in lacunae. We shade them. We gloss over them. We elide. . . . Anna: her hair, her weight: These are facets only, and do not make up a true image of a person. They make up a body type, a hair color … But what does she look like? We don’t know. (Our mental sketches of characters are worse than police composites.)"

I've been buying lots of books lately. Some from Melville House Books and from Miel too. I'm trying to eke out new things, new ideas. I've also been writing a lot and feel some kind of fire in my belly about all of it.

Speaking of books: Dream home. And the paintings too.

Happy long weekend!

P.S. It's a blue moon tonight, do something worthy... there isn't another until 2015!

Rereading Cloud Atlas

I started rereading Cloud Atlas, as many of you already know, in anticipation of the upcoming movie. I wanted one last "pure" reread before the imagery in my head got supplanted by famous actors, overwhelming visuals, an epic and soaring soundtrack.

I've touched on this before. And I really need to read Hila's book because I'm sure it will add to my understanding and thoughts in this area. In many ways, I think one movie is more destructive than ten. There are so many Jane Eyres floating around, I feel perfectly free of a single paradigm when I read the book. I imagine what I will.


But one movie emerges as a sort of single embodiment of a book, threatening to displace what was there already. It's like trying to think of a deity as something other than a bearded white guy after that's the single image you're presented with over and over.

I'm resentful of my mind's eye being subverted by this process, of losing permanently and totally that personal, unshared visualization I had. Now, the movie could be a wonderful thing, a work of art in its own right. But, still, I will have lost something.

What that something is, is delightfully non-specific. I don't know what other people imagine when they read (it's something we seldom talk about when we talk about reading). I know we all imagine. But is it detailed? Are faces filled in? Do the voices intone a certain way, lisp, stutter? For me, not so much.

I don't hold maps in my mind, nor dwell much even on dress, unless it's described in detail. I only see colours too when they're called out. My focus is felt rather than perceived. Only when the writer calls out some visual or aural detail, my senses sharpen and I envision that specific detail, but then I revert to a hazier, more felt kind of imagining.

I find myself more apt to imagine vivid scenes when books are set in either familiar or iconic settings, when the story is rooted in place. But most of the books I read are not so ostensibly written. The sets in my head are often characterized by a Beckettan sort of sparseness. Unless I'm lead to do otherwise, I'm more apt to embellish the interior life of the characters than the external ones.

And faces are always hazy. I never pick a face for a character. Their lips, eyes, neck or hair may come into focus, again when called out, but I never piece it all together, making a brand new face for Jane Eyre or Elizabeth Bennett. So, it's not a matter really of a movie "living up" to what I imagined. Because what I imagine is not movie-like.

A movie concretizes and fills in details that my mind omits. It sharpens the visual and numbs the ineffable, for me. In doing so, it sometimes kills some of the magic, the parts left unimagined, wholly vague and unrepresented. It also creates logic and order in visual sequences that as a reader I do not always demand. I don't need to lay down maps and floorplans in my mind's eye. But a movie does all that as it endeavors to build a physical world. Of course, a good movie also creates its own new form of magic and that can be truly wonderful as well.

I was a third of the way through rereading Cloud Atlas when the trailer came out. It looks swashbuckling and Hollywood-esque, the thematic threads it weaves are already more staunchly defined and concluded than the ones I drew from my own reading of the book. And for the rest of my rereading, that 11-minute trailer stayed with me. I saw Halle Berry as Luisa Rey. I heard Tom Hanks voiceover when a more philosophical line was delivered.

It didn't ruin it. I want to be clear here. I'm not giving the movie or trailer a thumb's down. But the book is already changed for me. And I think, as a reader, it's worth paying attention to the reading experience and how it alters through time and the cues it takes from external sources. It all intrigues me really. But I also admit to feeling a sense of loss. Cloud Atlas, the one that was just mine, has changed into something else now. I hope it will be as good.

Coterie - CLEARANCE SALE!

While in Ireland, I made the decision to close my shop. My writing workload has grown over the last year and the shop ended up, by default, taking a back-seat.


There's very little stock left in the store, only one left of most things, as I've been letting it coast along. But I need things firmly off my list and so I'm giving everything a final push to clear out the shop and close her down. Everything is reduced in price, so... happy shopping!

Finally, I want to thank everybody in the blog world who was supportive of my shop. When I launched, many of you wrote lovely, supportive posts. I'm also very grateful for all the orders I've received and the sweet meetings I've made through the shop, with talented makers and artists, as well as customers.


Some of my personal favourites include:
- Jennifer Graham's three-vessel set
- Kosoy & Bouchard's arabesque vase
- The Roundcross blanket from Welsh mill, Melin Tregwynt
- And, the marble paper handbound Irish notebooks - my favourite thing to write Very Deep Thoughts in!

Visit the shop here
.

Friday!

I take a long time to recover from home; I ingest it wholly and am left with a hole in my stomach when I return. And it all takes time and in that time I wonder whether what I'm feeling is more real than the settled days I'm slipping back into.

Thank you for comments this week, they meant a lot to me.


And some links you might like:
Low, sad murmur

The tablecloth in the last image. Perfection

"I want to have something important and revelatory to say about something but I don’t, not right now. Now I just want to go home."

- read here, found here

Hila's It's the Dusty Hour, reminds me of my friend Jen. Jen's a friend whose style I examined and coveted when we were undergraduates together. Now, she is just wholly is herself and I myself and when I look at her, I don't feel that anymore, just our friendship.

I ate fish when I was at home. It seemed right to, sitting there in Howth, moving down the pier every day to photograph the trawlers and watch men sew nets. Smoked salmon with brown bread. Monkfish. Hake. Dublin Bay Prawns. One day while there, I saw Alaska Part 2 and felt the same way I was feeling about eating fish in Dublin, hitting pause on vegetarianism. Not being hardcore about everything all the time.

And:
"I think if we didn't contradict ourselves, it would be awfully boring. It would be tedious to be alive. Changing your mind is probably one of the most beautiful things people can do. And I've changed my mind about a lot of things over the years."
- Mr. Auster, heard here.

Have a lovely weekend!

What we naturally want

I'm reading Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies. In a chapter called "Mom", she writes about shopping with her mother at Barneys, trying to get her to spend money they had on a gift card, though the price-tags were making her feel uncomfortable. She writes:

"My mother looks around at the hats and gloves as though she's lost something. It's a state of mild confusion and panic I recognize; I've felt it too. It's about looking for something you don't naturally want, for fear of missing out on what you think you do. Taken on, it's a heavy, absurd confusion—the feeling of not knowing yourself."
- p.234

I find this description beautiful and resonating. The feeling, I too recognize. I recognize it when shopping, though less so of late. I recognize it in blog reading as well. I've asked myself recently why I've subscribed and unsubscribed and resubscribed to so many of the big blogs, over and over.

They have that same power over me, the power to make me feel, in a panicked way, that I want things I don't, that I'm missing out on something even though I know I don't want that thing. And that I'm not quite sure of myself.

I do not like this feeling.

I don't think consumption of anything (clothes or food, blogs or books) that comes from this place can be good, inspiring, constructive. That's not to say clothes and food, blogs and books are bad, but our responses and reactions can be.

Hila and I wrote our post about the manner of content creation. Arjun recently wrote about that too. But, of course, we're also talking about how content is consumed—the speed, the voracity, the sense of panic, the more-is-more proposition. It flies in the face of the noise we all make about slowness and quality, integrity and authenticity, hand-made and careful appreciation, saving up before spending.

And I feel responsible too. Should my posts be less frequent and more measured? Am I giving too much away for nothing? When I blog about a designer I find inspiring, or a Sunday best outfit, am I inciting that very same panicked sense of shoulded wanting? There are, of course, no guarantees that my intention as a creator matches up with yours as a reader...

I think about all of this.

Loot, Eire edition

I hadn't intended to shop much at home—I was more interested in consuming Mammy's brown bread and sea-swimming than trawling the shops. But...

I found COS in BT2 and went a little nutty.


And I found a UK first edition of Ill Seen Ill Said in Cathach Books. I already own a first US edition, so now I have a set. Cathach also had a signed first edition, which I sadly could not afford... Secret admirers, take note.

One of my favourite discoveries of the trip was photography magazine, Blow. It is beautifully produced and I was in thrall to its pages.


After a mandatory stop at Bow Boutique to pick up some cashmere by my friend Eilis Boyle for a gift, I discovered a charming jewelry shop in Westbury Mall called Stonechat Jewellers and met jeweler Ann Chapman there. I bought two pairs of earrings, one gift and one self-gift. My self-gifting expertise knows now bounds - I chose silver knot earrings by Jessica Poole. The image below is the gold ring of the same design series.


And, naturally, I fancied some Tom Ford scarlet nail polish, Laduree macarons and a Chanel compact that we can't get here. Brown Thomas used to be one of my favourite places and sadly is no longer, but it does have its uses. Leave it to me to find them.


You'll be happy to know there was plenty of Mammy's brown bread and sea-swimming too.

Back from Dublin

I'm back in Canada! Full to the brim with clarity and hope, ideas and resolutions. It was a wonderful trip. It may turn out to be one of those hinge moments in my life, but it's too soon to tell and often these things fade, replaced with regular routines, frustrations and a more solemn state of normalcy. For now, I feel transformed.


Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter will have seen many of these images already (sorry for the repeat). But I've yet to sort the photographs I took with my proper camera, so these are just some snapshots. I look at these photographs and feel most what wasn't seen from behind a lens. Faces smiling at me through taxi windows, that feeling of familiarity with friends, the sound of the sea booming and the quieter sound of saltwater cupped in my hands as I pulled it behind me.


I want to thank all of you for your comments on the post Hila and I wrote. It was another transformative thing, for me at least. And it led to many "what next?" questions that I also pondered while I was away.

I have lots to tell you, but I may be slow in the telling. This transition back is always hard for me.

The craft of writing and our community

This post is written collaboratively by Jane Flanagan and Hila Shachar about something that is close to our hearts: Writing for independent magazines and blogs. The post developed out of conversations we’ve been having privately. It got to a point where it felt hypocritical to talk about these things ‘behind the scenes’, rather than publicly on our blogs. We think this topic is ultimately bigger than the both of us.

Established and successful media brands receive their fair share of criticism, much of it well-deserved. However, blogs and indie magazines (supported and created by bloggers) feel like a ‘no go’ zone for even the most constructive criticism. The (erroneous) underlying premise seems to be that we must not criticise our own community. We’ve seen the blog-world unite to defend artists against alleged Anthropologie rip-offs, for example, but nary a bad word said about something created within our community. It’s a laudable sense of loyalty, but it is also misplaced.

As writers, we both know the value of constructive criticism and critical feedback. Quite simply, the publishing world doesn’t exist without it, and it’s a marker of content quality. We both believe that output from the blog community (both online and in print) is deteriorating in part because there isn’t much constructive criticism. Much feedback is a fast reaction to the visual impact, rather than a slower, more studied reaction to the complete offering; the combination of words, images and presentation.

Because there’s no real way to voice constructive criticism without it sounding like a betrayal from within, these conversations are driven behind closed doors (real or virtual). And we both worry that this will have a long-term damaging effect on the community. If we can’t kindly and constructively voice our criticism, we’ll become jaded and ultimately abandon things that we believe could be worked on and improved if feedback could be voiced and incorporated. And that’s a sad option.

We’ve noticed two responses to those who attempt to constructively criticize:

(1) If you don’t like it, don’t buy it (or ‘unfollow’)

Well, yes: if you consistently don’t like something, you should unfollow or not support it. But, when we disagree with real-life friends, we don’t walk away from them. The idea that support is an all-or-nothing proposition is troubling and immature, promoting the most fanatical kind of support. This recent post on A Cup of Jo and the responses on both sides show how polarised criticism can become, even when it’s a justified qualm about editorial content and integrity.

We should be able to register criticism and argument without being deemed unsupportive. One of us, for example, has purchased every issue of Kinfolk magazine to date. And we both admire the aesthetic, the premise and the hard work that goes into such a magazine. But we also have serious problems with the quality of the writing, and the way the publication deals with professional writers. Ironically, we’ve both found bigger magazines more receptive to pitches and commissioning professional writers than indie magazines. Saying all this is not a betrayal of indie magazines or the people who work behind them. The fact that we want to raise this issue shows that we believe and care about the endeavour of independent blogs and publications.

(2) It’s small and independent, you should support it!

This is misguided, if admirable, thinking. The rules for conduct and professionalism shouldn’t differ because a business is small, or a magazine is independent. If you would criticise businesses such as Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Condé Nast, et al, for some practice or execution, you should hold yourself accountable to the same standards. This applies to advertising, sourcing contributors, promotion and - particularly in the case of this post - editorial quality and integrity.

The main problem we both see with certain blogs and independent publications is precisely a lack of knowledge and professionalism. There have long been editorial standards followed by journalists and publications (and it’s on the basis of a breach of those standards that they are often critiqued). But independent publications make up their own rules of submission, publication, and advertising guidelines. This can be liberating in many ways, helping a publication innovate and ‘stand apart’, but its flip side is often unprofessionalism. We find this particularly true with regard to sourcing quality content, allowing diversity and handling submission processes.

We get the sense that some indie magazines are run like blogging cliques, which undermines their creativity, hard work and loftier ideals. Editing a magazine properly is neither a hobby nor an exercise in nepotism – you either invest a certain level of professionalism into it, or not. It’s also not about running a high school clique of the ‘cool kids’. If indie magazines really want to provide serious counter publications to the mainstream, they must be willing to cultivate a professional attitude towards content acquisition and quality.

Blogs got going, in no small part, as a result of dissatisfaction with mainstream, traditional media. But now blog and indie publication content often has significantly less editorial integrity, with content often sourced from a limited pool of popular contributors, many of whom have little interest in writing as a profession or an art. Fair enough, some people’s talent lies in photography, illustration, design and style. And both of us admire (and frequently gasp over) their obvious talent. But the writing does count for something too, and it’s disappointing that equal energy is not devoted to it in such publications and that serious writers are turned away and discouraged.

If photographers don’t like their work being devalued and uncredited online, writers don’t like constantly playing second fiddle to visual content. Turning away writers who publish and successfully practice their art in favour of bloggers who confess to not even like writing is insulting. And it makes us feel jaded about the role we can play in both the creation and consumption of this content, much as we might admire and support the underlying philosophy.

Ultimately, we’re raising this topic because we both care passionately about independent creative work and outlets. We’re both struggling because this community we once felt part of feels increasingly like a place with little respect for the craft of writing, and that’s an alienating feeling. And if we’re feeling it, we imagine others are too, both as writers and readers. We want indie magazines and blogs to be taken seriously, and to be the best, because we have faith in them. We care as both writers and readers/consumers. And we hope you care enough to read this post with an open mind.

July on Instagram & away...

My July on Instagram: It was a lovely month; the last of peonies, the first of peaches. And, tomorrow, I go on holidays for two weeks. I'm not making firm plans to blog while I'm away, but may pop in if the mood strikes. However, I will be instagramming and tweeting if you want to follow along. I'm "seenandsaid" on both.

Have a great few weeks!

Comrags

Reliable sources have told me that it's cold at home and I ought to come armed with waterproof woollens and wellies. This gives me complete license to blog about the F/W collection from Comrags a little bit earlier than I would normally. I know I'm not really known for colour, but I feel like this autumn, I'm especially in the mood for lots of dark layers.