Author Spotlight // Edith Wharton

I have a strange fascination with Edith Wharton, as I have with anyone who can both adore and eviscerate New York City. Growing up in the shadow of the metropolis, I always felt like it was home even though it was always intimidating and strangely, always just out of reach. But if anything can top the allure of contemporary New York City, it’s 19th century New York City, a city dominated by a High Society populated by old-world Americans. Americans whose recent ancestors founded the country. It’s almost magical, historically. And Wharton dissects and criticizes it with the same brand of poison pen that Jane Austen so deftly wielded. Yep, I love Edith Wharton. Let’s explore.

6165890_1071303709Edith Wharton was born into the New York society she would later write about so carefully. Born wealthy and privileged among Fifth Avenue Society, she started writing at the young age of 11, featuring many of the real-life characters she knew in her life. Even though she was quite a prolific young writer, she was not officially published until she was 41 years old. She won a Pulitzer for The Age of Innocence, and published 37 other books, including the one featuring one of my favorite characters in literature, Lily Bart: The House of Mirth. 

In high school, I knew Edith Wharton as the author of Ethan Frome, a novel which I hated down to my very core. It wasn’t until later that I discovered her most popular, Pulitzer-winning novel The Age of Innocence and my personal favorite, The House of Mirth. I love reading about society, about the particular eccentricities and hypocrisies of people, and yes, I do love reading about ballrooms and nosegays and big dresses. And I love, love reading about what New York used to be, even if it was filled with terrible people doing terrible things. That’s mankind, innit?

Right now I’m reading The Age of Innocence for the first time since I was 16 or so, and there is so much I don’t remember that it may as well be the first time I’m reading it!

Staying Connected // Lumsing Power Bank Review

Working from home obviously requires a lot of power and constant connectivity. That’s why I was so happy when Lumsing approached me to review a product for them. I chose a mobile power bank, which allows me to keep my devices charged and working while I am. I chose the Lumsing® 10400mAh Harmonica Style Portable Power Bank in champagne gold.

Working from my desk at home gets tiring, so like a lot of other writers/those who work from home, I frequent Starbuckses, cafes, Barnes & Nobles, to get my work done. I love my little Lumsing power bank because I can keep my iPhone, Kindle, and sometimes my mom’s iPad fully charged and working perfectly.

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IMG_8276The Lumsing packaging was very careful and cute! I loved the sturdiness and quality of the unit itself, and the fact that it came with a little drawstring carrying case was an extra bonus. The unit came almost fully charged, but I plugged it into my laptop to give it a boost before I started using it, just to make sure. The four blue dots told me the unit was fully charged and ready to use. Continue reading…

Her name is Liesel and she is a book thief…

I’m not crazy about reading about World War II. I hate reading about concentration camps (I hate Night for this reason) because it literally makes me want to cry and break things. So reading about World War II in the voice of Death really wasn’t high on my list of literary priorities. My sister first introduced me to the book, raving about it and positively begging me to read it. I scoffed and put it off. Then, one night, she persuaded me to see the movie. “To cheer us up” after the disastrous and still traumatic How I Met Your Mother finale. That’s right: we watched a Holocaust film to cheer us up after the finale, but I digress. I am so happy I read The Book Thief  (and saw the film, which was instrumental in persuading me). This is not your typical WWII novel.

19063It takes a deft hand to capture life in Hitler Germany. It’s a point of view not commonly shown, paling in comparison to the plight of the six million Jews who lost their lives, or to those who had to hide, wasting away, in basements and attics over Europe, or even to the heroic, watered-down story of American soldiers come to liberate Dachau, for instance. There are many artistic renditions of World War II, and there should be. Writing about tragedy, about war and evil, makes certain that we’ll never forget it and hopefully never repeat it. And that’s why I’m so glad this novel, written for young adults, is such a well-written gem. The war is told through the eyes of a young German girl, Liesel Meminger, and she’s a heroine for the ages.

She’s the novel’s book thief. In the beginning of the novel, Liesel is sent to a foster home on the outskirts of Munich. On the way there, her six-year-old brother dies. At his impromptu train-side funeral, Liesel, consumed with grief, hazily picks up a book the gravedigger’s apprentice accidentally drops. The Grave-Digger’s Handbook becomes Liesel’s souvenir of that awful day, and the link between her old life and her new.

She arrives in Munich on Himmel Street, meaning “heaven” in German. She meets her new mother and father, Rosa and Hans Hubermann. The first is a foul-mouthed, “wardrobe-shaped” woman who, despite her roughness, loves Liesel dearly. And the other is Hans, Liesel’s kind, accordion-playing new father who teaches her to read by night. Continue reading…

Fashion // All the stars come out

I’m gravitating so much more toward long, flowy pieces lately, and strangely, to my least favorite color, blue. It is kind of soothing. I also love having things trail behind me, like I’ve got wings. I wore this oversize shirt over my favorite Forever 21 romper and the shoes I cannot pry from my feet: these boots from Nasty Gal. Autumn is approaching, but I still love dressing for this hot weather we’re getting in New York! But I can’t wait for browns and oranges, for cozy sweaters and stockings.

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Kimono from Charade, romper from Forever 21, boots from Nasty Gal (Shoe Cult), leaf necklace from Aldo

Join the “Truth in Fashion” Revolution!

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article about how Modcloth had signed a pledge promising not to Photoshop their ads. The “Truth in Advertising Heroes Pledge,” organized by the Brave Girls’ Alliance, sets out terms and conditions limiting the Photoshop practices of those who sign the pledge. By signing, Modcloth has agreed to “do [their] best not to change the shape, size, proportion, color and/or remove/enhance the physical features, of the people in [their] ads in post-production.” ModCloth also agrees to label any photoshopped images with a “Truth in Advertising” label to ensure that “children and teens do not confuse an advertising ‘ideal’ with what’s real.”

Modcloth is the first official clothing retailer to sign the pledge! When I heard the news, I was happy, but it also seemed to me kind of a no-brainer. I think the time for Photoshopping women’s bodies has passed, honestly. Society has changed to the point where so many women would rather see diversity in their ads, diversity that shows their different types of bodies represented in a positive light. This brings me to Modcloth’s “Truth in Fashion” campaign.

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Modcloth’s campaign is built on the results of a study proving just how much “the fashion industry is out of step with what women are looking for.” Modcloth has a point, as big-name fashion retailers and magazines continue to Photoshop their models to fit into an ideal that so many women are learning to reject. There is no ideal body type for women. And Modcloth has not only embraced that, but they have been promoting it since the establishment of their company.

The Modcloth “Truth in Fashion” campaign gives power back to women, to the consumers of fashion, to set the standards for what they see in their ads and magazines. This is a huge shift in perspective from the fashion industry, because we’re all so used to seeing one type of woman represented in our magazines. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with being skinny (I’ve been rail-thin all my life and have sometimes been mocked for it, so that shows you no one is immune from body-shaming) but obviously, all women are beautiful just the way they are. Modcloth celebrates this.

So I will be participating in their “Truth in Fashion” campaign, and so should you! To join the “movement,” take an outfit photo or selfie and post it to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag “#fashiontruth.” Your photo will be posted on the Modcloth blog! I’ll be participating as a Featured Blogger, and I hope that the little I’ve done to promote healthy body image will make a difference.

Photo from Modcloth blog, links to source.

My Favorite Books: “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”

This may seem like an odd choice for a “My Favorite Books” entry, but hear me out. It’s not your typical murder story (what is a typical murder story, anyway?). Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is not your average serial killer. And that’s the sheer brilliance of this uncomfortable novel.

Never was there ever such a pretty book about such a gross topic. This is a book about a Victorian man who kills virgins, shaves their heads, and bottles their scents. Could anything be grosser? Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is our “man,” a murderer and perfume apprentice in search of the perfect scent, and he finds it in London’s untouched women.

8497492Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a gross, horrible character. His mother gave birth to him while working at a fish stall, and she leaves him there to die among the fish offal. Grenouille cries out and is rescued, but his childhood is marked with the unnatural revulsion of his protectors and peers. A priest who holds baby Grenouille calls him the devil when he realizes that little Jean-Baptiste has no scent at all. Despite his conspicuous and somehow sinister lack of scent, Grenouille grows up with a superhuman sense of smell. He can distinguish individual scents from miles away, using his sense of smell to memorize the streets of Paris.

One day, when he is exploring Paris as a young apprentice, he catches a whiff of smell he hasn’t ever experienced before, something quite unlike the dirty, mucky smells of Paris. He follows his nose and happens upon a fourteen-year-old girl, a virgin, slicing plums. Grenouille is entranced with her smell, beholden to it, obsessed with it. It is the beginning of a calculated mania.

Completely devoid of knowledge of good and evil, cold and unfeeling as he is, Grenouille smothers the girl and smells her corpse until the scent dies with her. Grenouille is now wholly obsessed with finding “good” smells: finding them and bottling them. He apprentices himself to a perfumer, and with his unnatural skills, makes his master the most popular perfumer in Paris. But Grenouille leaves his master shortly after to pursue his perfect scent, and to find out more efficient ways to capture the smells of things only he can discern. Continue reading…

The Purge Is Real, Tales of a Closet

Last week I was going out to dinner and couldn’t find a thing to wear. Specifically, I couldn’t find a top that I didn’t hate, one that was the right length, color, cut, et cetera. I tore my wardrobe out of my closet in frustration, and was then faced with the daunting task of putting everything back in some semblance of order. The solution? Purging. 

Every few months or so I try to clean out my closet and really scrutinize what I wear and what I’m just holding onto. So many articles of clothing have been in my closet for years, simply because I’m too sentimental to part with them. I always think I’ll wear them again, even around the house in the case of old Abercrombie tops, or that I’ll find a way to incorporate them into some fabulous new outfit. But as the weeks go by and I keep eschewing the old stuff and buying new stuff, I know I’ll never wear them. Enter the purge. Guys, the purge is real. And it happened to my wardrobe.

Photo Aug 29, 10 23 33 AMThis time, the purge didn’t come in the form of careful choosing and tearful goodbyes; no, this time, I just ripped things out of drawers and threw them dramatically on the floor, as if each piece of clothing had wronged me somehow. I was so annoyed that I didn’t want to wear any of these things, that none of them matched the outfit I had in mind, that I threw them in a pile and walked away, perhaps to an explosion happening behind me, leaving my abandoned clothing in cinders. (At least that’s how I imagined it.)

So now I have gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. It’s always the simple things that stump me: the plain white top, the black tee, the simple skirts. I can never find good staples for my wardrobe. I have such weird items, but I never have the simple ones that tie an outfit together.

I left my clothing in a pile in front of my wardrobe, so it may be time to fold them all up and donate them, or save the good-quality clothes to sell for a few bucks on Poshmark. Has anyone used Poshmark? I can never seem to sell anything.

So, yeah the purge is real. It’s a good thing to clean out your closet every season. It helps pare down the things you don’t need and it keeps your style fresh and interesting. How often do you guys clean out your wardrobe? Do you get absurdly attached to things you’ve worn on first dates, like me? (But it’s special, I swear. I’ll keep this polka-dot tank top for just another year.)