Indisposable | 01

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I’ve taken to carrying disposable cameras with me wherever I go. They stir up nostalgia and hearken back to many an elementary school field trip where I ran around a historic battlefield or state capitol with a green cardboard camera in hand or days I spent at home, using an entire roll of film to snap pictures of my cat. But mostly, these days, they remind me that there are moments in my life that make me feel something so strongly that I’ve decided to remember them forever.

Disposable cameras, unlike cell phones or digital cameras, are intentional and finite. You get 25 shots, so you have to decide which moments to immortalize and which ones to let pass by. Once you do it so many times, it becomes a way of thinking even when you leave the camera at home. Taking photos this way trains you to be aware of beautiful moments where you felt so happy you could burst even if it was just a Tuesday in a small town in Alabama and nothing was going on, but you’re in a car with your two best friends and you’re laughing.

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– Lauren

Read

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At the beginning of the year, I set a goal on Goodreads to read 50 books this year. When I was working on my bachelor’s in English literature, reading 50 books in twelve months was no problem. I can remember one particular semester where I had to read 35 books for all of my classes combined. But since navigating full time employment is a new experience for me, I figured 50 would be a pretty good, low-stakes goal to set for myself. So far, I’ve read 22 of the 50 books and wanted to share a few that I particularly loved.

  1. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. JD Salinger is one of those love him or hate him authors, and personally, I love him. No one does a first person narrator quite like he does. Franny and Zooey is told using multiple perspective narration, and in typical Salinger fashion, these narrative voices are really well done and are the devices that drive the story. Franny and Zooey follows the two youngest siblings in a family of intellectual prodigies as one of them experiences a spiritual and existential crisis and the other attempts to talk to her out of it. The entire novel centers on this one plot point, but because of the distinctness of the voices, it’s a dynamic and fascinating read.
  2. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. As a genre, I adore poetry, but a lot of modern print poetry really frustrates me. I know these are unpopular opinions, but I’m not a fan of poets such as Rupi Kaur or Michael Faudet. I don’t like love poems or those trendy typewritten poems you might reblog on Tumblr. What I do love are poems that are complex and beautiful and ugly and painfully real. And I think Ocean Vuong’s collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds is exactly that. This collection explores the poet’s painful early domestic life, the challenges of coming into his identity, and the wounds inflicted upon his Vietnamese heritage. These poems are the type of poems you want to read out loud so you can hear them as you see them. I loved this collection so much I read every poem twice.
  3. The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Another one of my favorite modern poets is Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib who explores race in modern America through the motif of music and stories of his own life and growing up in Columbus, Ohio. In my degree, I focused on nineteenth century British literature, the canon for which is comprised mainly of wealthy white guys. The result is that, while I read an insane number of books and poems in college, the selection of authors was not incredibly diverse. Now that I have a few months when I’m not constantly reading for school, I’m trying to read more works from writers of different races, ethnicities, genders, etc. I think it’s important to do so. I believe that literature confronts us with different perspectives and experiences that we may not be privy to ourselves and that it’s important – especially now – to listen to those perspectives and experiences, because that’s how we love each other. I highly, highly, highly recommend this collection. For one thing, it’s incredible in terms of poetic merit, but also because it’s brutally honest. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I imagine it’s relatable to many people in a way that much canonized literature isn’t. And for those of us who cannot directly relate, it challenges us to listen – really listen – to a reality other than our own. I would also recommend listening to some of Willis-Abdurraqib’s performances on YouTube so you can hear his inflections and the lyricism of the poems.
  4. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Zadie Smith is so well-known and celebrated that you likely don’t need encouragement from me to read her work. Swing Time is her latest novel and it follows a nameless narrator from childhood to adulthood, the competition between her and her childhood best friend, her employment as a personal assistant to a pop star, and her relationship with her mother. Threaded throughout the nonlinear narrative is the narrator’s evolving understanding of race, and this exploration is rooted by the motif of dance. It seems to me that several of the characters represent distinct types of people that are characterized by their responses to and opinions on race. Zadie Smith is a ridiculously intelligent human and talented writer, and this is one of those novels that stayed on my mind for a while after I read it because I was trying to work out in my mind everything that the novel was saying and doing (which is a lot).
  5. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. I love everything Jonathan Safran Foer writes, because all of his novels leave me with that punch-in-the-gut sad feeling. Just read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and you’ll see what I mean. I picked up Here I Am on principle and was not disappointed. The book follows a Jewish family as they experience domestic tragedy and natural disaster and the narrator explores what it means to be Jewish in modern America versus Jewish in modern Israel versus Jewish in the Holocaust versus Jewish in biblical times. What really moved me about this book was how Foer explored the idea of constructed meanings and inherited narratives and how those things affect the ways in which we grieve tragedies. There’s a scene in the novel where a rabbi deconstructs the story of Moses floating down the river in a basket in order to demonstrate the effects of Jewish history upon modern Jewish identity and grief that left me literally crying at my desk at work. Overall, this book is complex and moving and definitely worth reading despite how heavy it will make your purse or backpack or whatever.

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What have you been reading lately?

– Lauren

1.30.17

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A word. A picture. A sound.

Lay your palms upward and gently crepe-ing upon these static spaces between us, and I’ll show you wonderment in fingertips stained blue. Our bodies wear and tarnish as even facades of magnificent cathedrals must. Another day, another rain shower eroding the stone pillars. Another day, another layer of grime. Invisible from one day to the next until one day becomes a hundred days becomes ten years. One Alabama January, I looked down at my hands on a steering wheel and realized I was moving much faster than I thought. “We’re getting old,” you said in the last letter you sent to me, and I imagined that it was snowing when you wrote it and that you were wearing the sweater with the moose on it. “We’re only twenty,” I replied in the last letter I sent you, and I put on three sweaters to write it because I wanted to feel close to you and also because you scare me. The Alabama winter did not demand such armor, but I left them on until I fell asleep and woke sweating in the early hours of morning, when I removed them one by one. I thought this an appropriate metaphor. In the lamplight, indigo ink gathered and settled in deepening skin canyons, and I started to cry.

Future People – The Alabama Shakes

– Lauren

5.31.16

6.16.16

A Checklist for 22

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Breathe. Eat the fries. Choose optimism even when it’s hard. Live a life that feels good, not one that just looks good in photographs. Achieve. Aspire. Become. Be spontaneous. Decide there are things worth doing even if you have to do them alone, even if you do them badly. Be better at forgiving yourself. Stop letting people take advantage you, but don’t ever stop being compassionate. Still, be kinder to people than you think they deserve. Make the most of transition seasons. Read more nonfiction. Write more poems. Finish knitting that sweater. Get better at the mandolin. Don’t hide from people so much. Let them know you, but don’t give away bits of yourself to people who don’t deserve them. Stretch. Don’t try to quit coffee again. You like it too much. You’re allowed to like things, even things that are kind of bad for you. But cut back to one cup a day. Save up for a fun vacation. Spend time with family. Remember that as you get older, they’re getting older too. Remember to cherish this time. Things will continue to change. They will never be this way again. Think positively of yourself. Surround yourself with people who won’t invalidate your feelings. Serve others. Take care of yourself. Ask for help if you need it. Doctors are not a waste of your money. Go to the doctor. Get to know people who are different than you. Explore new ways of seeing. Never stop learning. Grow.

A New Name

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It seems like lately, every time I’ve written a new blog post, I start off by saying I’ve been so busy that writing has fallen by the wayside and been buried beneath a pile of school work and my job, and that would not be untrue. But there are some other things at play here, too.

Three and half years ago, after I graduated high school, I started this blog as a way to document the upcoming changes in my life. I had the idea around midnight one night, Googled “free blogs,” made a blog, and wrote my first post all within about an hour. The whole thing was really exciting, but I had no idea about the direction I wanted to take with it. Since then, I’ve written about all sorts of things from clothes to food to books.

Now, three and half years down the line and with a better conception of what I want to say on this blog, I want to create better content. I considered switching blog platforms and quickly realized that I can’t currently afford to do that. Then, I tried to redesign this blog, but couldn’t find the time to really commit to it, and so I still haven’t found an aesthetic I’m thrilled with. And for all of these reasons, I haven’t posted in about a month.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’re a regular reader of my blog, my blog has undergone a little bit of re-branding in the form of a name change. Until I have the financial means to buy my domain name, that will have to do.

Bluestocking: an intellectual and literary woman. But of course, with a name like Bluestocking, there is the connotation of clothes. Denotation and connotation combine to encompass the brand I want to promote: a stylish and intelligent and compassionate woman.

So what exactly does that mean for this blog? Stick around and find out.

– Lauren

Objects of Beauty

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I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, which is something I used to complain about a lot when I was growing up. I was bored of small towns and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started to appreciate the place where I live, its history, and the interesting and worthwhile things it has to offer. Like this furnace built after the Civil War for the production of pig iron that’s been made into a historic landmark and is perfect for an afternoon adventure. It’s hard to explain this change of heart. Maybe it has to do with the traveling I’ve done lately. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realized that every place I go has something to teach and offer me. Or maybe it’s that, after high school, I figured myself out a little more and found meaningful friendships that have tied me here, emotionally if not physically.

My best guess, though, is that I’ve come to understand better the beauty in collecting small moments, the unassuming afternoons in small-town Alabama, that time my best friend and I decided to climb trees on campus and got reprimanded by campus police, taking the cat to get donuts at 1 am. I’m constructing my narrative out of bits and pieces I collect along the way and are small enough to fit in my pocket.

Now, I keep a running list of places in my state that I want to see and day trips I want to take, and one of my favorite things to do these days is check places off of my list with lovely and creative friends, find the best places to get coffee, and write it all down in my journal.

I like the idea of museums, that they are essentially the constructed narratives of human experience, but that they are perpetually incomplete. No matter how many objects are collected, they will never encompass the vastness and breadth of human experience, but curators continue to curate and buyers continue to buy. I think life is like that too. We go along collecting these bite-sized memories, these objects of beauty that construct the narratives of our lives and we discard others. We snap photos and write poems and tell stories and decide how to remember them. I guess what I’m saying is that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as curator in a narrative that has the potential to be worthwhile regardless of place. I think the whole idea is pretty perfect.

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Like my last post, my entire outfit sans shoes was stolen from my roommate who stole the flannel from her brother and the dress from her cousin. It’s like a nesting doll of ethical fashion. I like it.

– Lauren

 

Read

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Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I read two of Joan Didion’s memoirs earlier this summer and couldn’t put them down, so when I saw Play It As It Lays, one of her fictions, on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, I had to pick it up. The novel is set in 1960s Hollywood and explores the position of women in society and mental illness, among other themes. It’s very poignantly written, and the reading experience was disturbing and affective despite the fact that the plot isn’t overly momentous or action-driven. Didion is one of my all-time favorite writers, and I highly, highly recommend this novel.

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch. Though I’ve only read two of his books, Herman Koch is another one of my favorite writers. I read The Dinner last summer and adored it, so I picked up Summer House with Swimming Pool to read on a recent trip to the beach. The novel follows a doctor and his family as they spend their summer vacation at the beach house of one of his clients, a famous but sleazy actor who we know from the outset will die by the narrator’s hands before the novel’s conclusion. Koch is really great at using nonlinear narratives, unreliable narrators, and unlikeable and controversial characters to create his engrossing psychological thrillers. Koch says in interviews that one of his goals in writing his novels is to be controversial, push boundaries, and make readers question societal values and judgments, and this novel definitely does all of those things. Koch plays with the idea of moral absolutism, the boundaries of sexual behaviors, misogyny, and the absurdity of fame and privilege.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. My Brilliant Friend is, hands down, my favorite read of the summer so far. Lately, I’ve been trying to read a more diverse selection of writers, including those whose works have been translated into English. My Brilliant Friend falls into this category (along with Summer House with Swimming Pool), as it was originally published in Italian. I’ve heard so many intriguing things about Elena Ferrante and her writing and was not let down my My Brilliant Friend. My Brilliant Friend is part of a series by Ferrante and tells the story of friendship between two girls, the unspoken competition within their friendship, and their struggles to feel worthwhile and follow dreams that are different than what is expected of them given the social politics of their poor Italian neighborhood. Definitely read this novel.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. In a moment of nostalgia for last summer when I studied abroad in England, I decided to read some Shakespeare so I could annotate a play or two while I drank tea and pretended I was in Oxford and not spending the summer working at home in Alabama. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is hilarious and tackles some real-life concerns under the guise of lightheartedness. It has magic, fairies, star-crossed lovers, a man with the head of a donkey, love triangles, and it reads with the ease and flow that is typical of Shakespeare’s other plays. References to this play are so pervasive in popular culture, which, combined with the merits of the play itself, makes A Midsummer Night’s Dream a must-read.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin. I started reading this book back in high school and abandoned it about halfway through. An Object of Beauty is a novel based in the New York City art world and follows a recent college graduate for a period of several years as she manipulates, schemes, and uses her sexuality to get ahead in the art world. After taking several classes in art history and becoming more familiar with renowned artists, their work, and the nature of the art market, I decided to give An Object of Beauty another try. I did not love this novel. I found the characters to be flat, uninteresting, and cliche, and I thought the ending wrapped up a little too neatly for all the characters involved, but Martin, who is an art lover himself, offers some interesting opinions on the nature and value of art. My advice for you if you decide to read this book is to read it for Martin’s insights about the art market and not for the plot, which I found rather lackluster and contrived. I wouldn’t go so far as to not recommend this book, but I think it’s very much geared toward people who have a better-than-average knowledge of art and artists.

What have you read this summer?

– Lauren

6.16.16

IMG_3860A word. A picture. A sound.

And it was unbearably hot. The best part of the day was the end, when the sun had just begun to descend but was still lingering. The temperature dropped to 80, and everything was brilliant. Lying on a blanket spread over a grassy spot in a new city, watching the sun dip down behind the Parthenon as the lightning bugs came out more abundantly than I had ever seen before, I felt the quintessence of summer, and it was yellow. Yellow until the very end.

Time of the Blue – The Tallest Man on Earth

– Lauren

5.31.16

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A word. A picture. A sound.

I’ve found I like to collect places the same way I would collect seashells on a beach – not unlike this one – on the coast of Florida when I was seven years old. I have this place that once was mine where five o’clock settles in slow, that built much of me out of cricket songs and Dogwood trees, and I didn’t realize it until I left it behind for someone else. I keep coming back, though I’m made of more places now. I’m looking for something worthwhile and always find it in the heart of a saltwater cure.

Upswing – Prinze George

– Lauren

 

Read

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The Pocketknife Bible by Anis Mojgani. The Pocketknife Bible is Mojgani’s self-illustrated memoir in verse that talks about his experiences growing up down South. It has the really mystical and swampy feeling of his poetry collections, and I highly recommend it.

Crush by Richard Siken. I knew of Richard Siken solely because of his poem “You Are Jeff,” which is one of my favorites. I had this collection in my “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads and finally picked it up when I stumbled across it at Barnes & Noble. I loved it so much that I read every poem twice. If you’re someone who wants to read poetry but is intimidated by the “classics,” check out Richard Siken. Personally, I find his work to be very beautiful, but also very accessible. And even when I have no idea what he’s talking about, I’m strangely okay with it.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I don’t think I have adequate words to describe my love for Joan Didion. I will seriously read anything that she writes. The Year of Magical Thinking is her memoir of the year following the unexpected death of her husband, and it absolutely destroyed me.

Bark by Lorrie Moore. Like Joan Didion, Lorrie Moore can do no wrong in my eyes. She writes incredible short stories, and this collection did not disappoint. Moore has this knack for writing these stories that are simultaneously the most hilarious and most devastating things I’ve ever read. And she does it all within the span of about 30 pages. From this collection, my favorite is “Paper Losses.”

Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know I absolutely rave over Kristopher Jansma’s novel The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. When I found out he was writing another book, I preordered it on principle. The story follows a friend group of twenty-somethings after one of them is diagnosed with cancer. I’m very hesitant when it comes to books about people with cancer, because 1.) they make me sad and 2.) they’re often full of annoying tropes. But I read it anyway. It did make me sad, but I didn’t find it frustratingly contrived. I really enjoyed how it was structured and the multiple perspective narration.

What have you read recently?

– Lauren