Hi hi, my dear fellows,
Two of my personal heroes are the painters Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. I wrote about their friendship a few years ago for The Awl—they met in Paris, before WWII, and became friends when they were living in Mexico City after the war. They made such peculiar beautiful art, both of them, and I love Carrington for her writing too. (My dog is named Carmella, after the character Carrington based on Varo in The Hearing Trumpet.) I could enthuse a lot more, but for now will just nod you toward the article.
I was thinking about them last night after reading a long thread that the writer Rachel Syme had on Twitter where she was giving people perfume recommendations based on whatever three inspirations they gave her. Such as this one (click Display Images):
I was trying to figure out later what I found so comforting and buoying about it. Part of it was the unexpectedness and specificity of what people were craving; part of it, Syme’s knowledge (I enjoy when people know a lot about things that I don’t); and part of it, too, the descriptions of the perfumes themselves when I clicked over to them. (Related: I wrote about perfume and the fantastic writing in Perfumes: The Guide here.)
Like this one for Kinski:
THEY ADDED DUSTY DIRT CELLAR FLOOR SMELL BECAUSE NOSFERATU.
Or this one:
Oh yes! The Dracaena tree! *portent voice” “The sap changes to the color red when applied to the skin.”
By the time I had gotten to the end of the thread, I had something like eighteen tabs open. I found myself reading a description of one perfume and thinking, “Tuberose… ooh! I need something with tuberose.” I do not, in fact, need something with tuberose. But I did—I realized later—need to be reminded right now about tuberose. I also needed to be reminded of jasmine, cardamom, clove, and carnation, and of pretty Art Deco fonts and labels, and, most importantly, that somewhere out there in the world there are people who are crafting perfumes with cellar notes BECAUSE NOSEFERATU. It made me feel joyous and brain-seeded—the way Carrington and Varo do.
“I like your perfume,”
“Thanks, it was inspired by the feral sensuality of Klaus Kinski and the dirt notes are because NOSFERATU.”
Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo may not be your thing. Perfume descriptions may not be your thing. But if you’re having trouble writing right now, I strongly urge you to spend a little time this weekend thinking about the things that are your thing (or used to be) and spending some immersive time with them. Not because it’s good for you or useful to the community or for any other reason than it gives you dumb happy curious restorative joy to be in touch with that particular current in the world right now.
There are many reasons you may not be writing—or writing meaningfully—since the election. Dread. Fear. Some obscure sense that if you monitor the internet enough you’ll keep the plane from going down, so, even when you’re caught up on the news, and have performed your daily or weekly resistance actions (phone calls, letters, volunteer work), you’re still hanging around Twitter like some sort of agitated, unshowered dread-phantom. I’m scared too, and stunned, every time there’s some new development. (So far everything’s proceeding how I expected it might but also somehow 100% more blatant?) I’m also super snarled looking because I can’t bring myself to care much about appearances. But I keep thinking about what a friend of mine in the Sewing Circle said the other week about how everything that was happening in the world was clearly out of her power, but she liked to “change the vibration where she was at” and so was going to meetings and making phone calls, etc., anyway. A lot of destructive forces are at work in the world. One small thing you can do to counter them right now is create distinct boundary times away from the internet and the news and write. That is: you can create. Record, see, make, draw, write. Pursue your own small imperfect beautiful weird projects that only you can make. It can feel very small but, who knows, it may help vibrate the world a little differently.
“Here is something I made for you. The cellar smells are because of Nosferatu.”
More in two weeks.
Do what you can to stay gold, Ponyboy,
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Black Cardigan Edit