When I was writing my recent review of LUSH’s Tender is the Night massage bar (scented with jasmine, ylang ylang, and vanilla!) I looked up John Keats’s poem “Ode to a Nightingale” in order to refresh my memory about the phrase that gives this product its name. Well, LUSH actually names F. Scott Fitzgerald as the source, but he was borrowing from Keats!
From the ages of ten to thirteen, I was fanatical about Ellen Conford’s fiction. Throughout junior high school, I read and re-read every book that she had written for young adults, reveling in her writing style as much as her stories about the everyday ups and downs of teen life.
Some of my favorites in the Conford oeuvre were Seven Days to a Brand New Me and We Interrupt This Semester for an Important Bulletin—I even presented an oral book report on the latter title to my sixth-grade language arts class. One Conford novel that has been on my mind over the past few weeks, as I’ve watched the local children and pre-teens return from summer camp, is Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood (1978).
I can’t really think of anything to say about Andy Warhol that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just state that I do think he was a cultural prophet of our times, and I enjoy his art and his words (including The Andy Warhol Diaries, which took me months and months, just a few pages every night before bed, but was completely worth the time). I recently came across this quotation about fragrance in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), which I hadn’t flipped through in ages.
“I really love wearing perfume. I’m not exactly a snob about the bottle a cologne comes in, but I am impressed with a good-looking presentation. It gives you confidence when you’re picking up a well-designed bottle. I switch perfumes all the time. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection.”
In 2003 I moved back to New York after living in other states for graduate school and work. Things had changed during the decade I was away. I’m nearing the ten-year anniversary of that return, and I’m remembering how surprised I was by certain things that women my age were suddenly saying and doing. They had made manicures a weekly routine, rather than a luxury for special occasions. They teetered through their daily commutes in stiletto heels. They freely discussed their Brazilian waxes on their cell phones in public. They wore 3-carat engagement rings. And they were reading novels from a sub-genre nicknamed “chick lit.”
It’s almost Spring (really! soon!) and the green leaf-tips and purple-edged buds of crocus flowers have been peeping up from the dirt in front-yard garden patches along my street.
For me, no writer conveys the anticipation of each changing season as well as Emily Dickinson. I love Dickinson’s poem beginning with the line “I tend my flowers for thee —,” especially this flower-filled stanza, which evokes the fragrance of a garden in bloom:
Carnations — tip their spice —
And Bees — pick up —
A Hyacinth — I hid —
Puts out a ruffled head —
And odors fall —
From flasks — so small —
You wonder how they held —
The past week-and-a-half have been draining for me: I caught the flu, my husband caught the flu from me, and our sweet cat M. was suddenly ill (but not with the flu). We’re all on the mend now, I’m happy to say.
“Escapism” and “Cormac McCarthy” aren’t words that you usually see in the same sentence, but McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses gave me something to focus on last week when I needed an emotional break from our various illnesses.
I started reading Evelyn Waugh’s fiction when I was in high school and Brideshead Revisited had just been re-aired, in all its glory, on public television. One of Waugh’s funniest novels (which is saying something) is The Loved One, a black comedy written after Waugh had traveled to Los Angeles. Short and sharp, it skewers the funeral industry, life in Hollywood, romantic courtship and, in passing, beauty products.