also, you guys, i keep an ~affirmations~ folder where i screenshot anything nice people have said about me/my writing & i love you all, you are too kind to me
Tags:abusing italics like a victorian lady, kai ta loipa, kai ta loipa
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It goes without saying that there is music beyond the Pagan label that feels quite comfortable in a Pagan setting. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails, and on and on, have always appealed to Pagans in that kind of way, though most of the members of those bands have never come out as being Pagan themselves. There is a deeper discussion to be had about that subject. But, it is one for another time. Today, I’m going to focus just on one of those type bands – one that affected me in that very way: Soundgarden.
Lead by Chris Cornell and his snarling, howling, and quite beautiful singing that ranged four octaves, some songs felt more akin to ritual than rock ’n roll. The following article, a letter to Chris Cornell, was written shortly after hearing about his death May 18 of an apparent suicide.Dear Chris:
I know what you’re going to say already. I hear you echoing across the emptiness of the void between us. We never had much anyways; it was a tryst at best. You’re going to say something like that the moment passed you by; that you were stuck in the past like a paper doll, cut into a sloppy relief with safety scissors and left forgotten in a drawer. That you were never creative, that you were never creative enough, that is, to escape the you-ness of you.
It’s 1991, and I’m wearing husky jeans. I’ve got glasses on that look like they were created by a shop teacher for what he thought was the shop teacher look. I’m wearing a frumpy purple sweatshirt with a green triangle on it. I’m walking in a department store. K Mart? Venture? Definitely wasn’t Shopko; those were years later in Wisconsin when my life was already halfway into the violent spiral that it became.
There sat a display full of CDs just below eye level. This was the time when music was still bought in stores. In my periphery are blue jeans; giant red letters span the top of the album in an exaggerated, elongated font.
SOUNDGARDEN, it says.
A gold wheel that looks like a saw blade spins in front of an oily purple background; a triangle in the center borders an esoteric symbol.
Looking more closely, I see white letters that fill the border of the triangle. BADMOTORFINGER.
At a young age I had started listening to metal music. I had all of Metallica’s tapes, some Megadeath, Slayer, Motorhead, AC/DC, and Judas Priest. I was a tween metal head. And, while Soundgarden had been around for a while, this was the first time they had made it to the Midwest. It was early grunge days then. Pearl Jam’s Ten had just been released, but I hadn’t really gotten into it yet. Later that fall, Badmotorfinger followed its lead.
The latter was the bridge for me from my metal phase to my grunge phase. It was a terrible term, grunge, one that even the bands so-labeled recoiled from. But it’s how we know it now.
This album, your album, opened up the maws of change, transformation, of life, of witchcraft, and of drugs. It forced me to learn how to process the music, to read through the lyrics, to experience empathy, and to be introduced to the idea of the shadow self.
Just three years later, June 30, 1994, am 15 years old and going to my first rock concert with friends – no adult supervision. Soundgarden is touring to support Superunknown, Kurt Cobain is already more than two months dead.
Like you decades later, also a victim of suicide.
I’m nervous and excited. Tad and Eleven are the openers. For some reason my friends and I brought action figures with us, Batman is the only one I can remember. We throw them on stage in some hope that if one of the band members touch it, they’d be touching something that we held, transferring some of their rock god status to us.This was sympathetic magic before I even knew what to call it.
You come onstage with the rest of the band, open with “4th of July,” appropriate this close to the holiday. It’s hot, I jump into my first moshpit and get thrown around, but not hurt. People pick me up quickly when I fall. Guitars and drums create a primal rhythm, and you’re screaming on top to them. Smoke machines are pouring into the crowd and lights are strobing a staccato. It’s like the witches sabbat brought to the physical world. I’m in a trance and feel like each cell in my being is screaming alive for the first time. Little nuclear reactors firing up with the energy of the universe pulsing through and out.
A couple songs in, after “Slaves and Bulldozers,” I throw the last action figure, I had saved Batman for this moment. Arcing through the air, I quickly lose sight of it, but I soon discover that it hit you because you’re suddenly yelling at the crowd to stop throwing shit at the stage. Then you take the microphone stand and bring it down hard, ending the last mission of the caped crusader.
I am terrified but simultaneously elated. My friends are screaming and high-fiving me and in some way, some of that rock god status has been momentarily conferred to me.
Years pass and I get into drugs, mostly psychedelics and marijuana, as well as occultism. I’m trapped in a town of 700 people and feel like I’m in that room, a thousand years wide that you wrote about on Badmotorfinger. That spinning golden disc keeps opening up the world of possibilities though: some good, some bad.
I find Buckland’s big blue book and the Satanic bible; I get bored with the latter but find a kernel of something that I’m looking for in the Complete Book of Witchcraft. But again, I’m on my own with this stuff – no coven within 100 miles of where I live. And if there is, they aren’t taking on kids. So I get into Cunningham, who gives me some hope by contradicting Buckland, saying that I can initiate myself.
So I do, in the woods, like I imagine real witches do.
In hindsight, it’s more of an initiation into adulthood than anything else. At that moment, I made the choice to step into something larger. I stepped into the Craft and into a world of personal responsibility, though it would take a lot longer to begin to actualize it.
I stepped away from that town, away from the crushing mental prison, a metaphorical rusty cage, and the institutionalized apathy and fear that ruled it.
Now, we’re in the present. It’s twenty-some years later, and you’re gone, Chris. You were one of the earliest sentinels in my life, a guiding spirit who sang about the darkness that tormented you. It wasn’t emo though; it was authentic. I found a kindred spirit who helped guide me out of my own dark places.Toward self-discovery, toward a life far away from the claustrophobic home I had known, toward a new identity, toward my Craft and my own realization of the natural world.
What I believed about you was that your lyrics were a way of processing the shadow self. You struggled with drug addiction; you were well versed in the benighted, harrowing realms through which a soul struggles. In reading and singing along with your words, I was able to process some of those elements of my shadow, as well.
At some point, I moved on. Your music stuck with me, but I didn’t stay in touch like I did before. I enjoyed your acoustic, solo stuff, but even that faded into the background of everything else that was happening in my life.
Now that you’ve moved on to the Superunknown, it’s hard to accept that you died of suicide. I’ve struggled with lifelong depression and occasional suicidal ideation. But for all the help and strength, solace and transformation you provided me you still succumbed. It was written through so many of your songs, most of the time right out in the open.
But I always felt, hoped, it was part of the processing of your shadow self.
Matt Cameron, drummer of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, was one of the first to respond after your passing, saying, “my dark knight is gone.” In the darkness of life, I learned to find the paths that were not away from it, but by growing comfortable with it. In more ways than one, you lead me toward witchcraft and the occult and through them, a sense of ownership of my own choices.
That spinning disc on the cover of Badmotorfinger helped me to find that which is hidden, to not recoil from the unfamiliar but to bring it close and learn from it.
Hail to the dark knight, may you live forever in song.
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by MiddleClassManhattan. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.
Love takes the stage…
Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.
Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.
Here is MiddleClassManhattan's review:
A plucky heroine that can shoot a rat from a bazillion yards away and a duke who disappeared from society at age ten. What is not to love about this book?
I’m embarrassed to admit that this is my first book by Kelly Bowen. I pride myself on knowing what historical romance authors are out there, and somehow, until now, Ms. Bowen slipped by me. A Duke to Remember is a great reminder that Amazon reviews mean squat and should not be used to curate a reading list. I’ll step off my soapbox now.
Years ago, our hero, Noah Ellery (the Duke of Ashland), was ridiculed as a child for a speech impediment and, out of embarrassment, his parents kept him hidden away. Noah mysteriously vanished from society completely at age ten and was assumed dead. Fast forward to present day, August 1819.
Our heroine, Elise Devries, works for the mysterious Chegarre & Associates, a company dedicated to solving the elite ton’s problems with discretion. Elise survived the War of 1812 in Canada, and it’s clear that the war taught our heroine how to deal with London’s criminal underworld—how to shoot a gun, how to track a person who wishes to remain hidden, and how to thoroughly disguise herself.
Chegarre & Associates is hired by Abigail Ellery (our hero’s sister) whose father, the Duke of Ashland, has passed away, and whose mother has been committed to Bedlam. Now an evil first cousin is threatening to take control of the Duchy. Abigail has a secret. Her younger brother is actually alive, and she hires Chegarre & Associates to find him and bring him back, thus restoring order to her family. This is where Elise comes in. As an experienced tracker for the British army, she’s the perfect person to assign to the case and find the missing duke. And, spoiler alert, she’s finds him, and he’s not only not mentally incapacitated, but he’s everything Elise would ever hope to find in a partner.
That’s the general novel in a nutshell, and here’s my breakdown:
This story doesn’t follow the standard format that many Regency romance novels adhere to as Elise is not a virgin. Ms. Bowen makes it clear early on that Elise has had previous lovers. Maybe one or two, maybe many, it’s left for the reader to imagine. As someone who likes the trope “virgin reforms the rake,” and “unhappy widow saves recluse hero,” this was a red flag for me, a little “eh, that’s weird.” I was pleasantly surprised to find that Elise’s multiple-lover status didn’t detract from the “HEA land of make believe” I adore. The steamy scenes were just as readable as all the other Regency novels I like and recommend. Elise’s bedroom expertise wasn’t really addressed by either hero or heroine, and that omission was obvious to me, but again, I was fine with it. Elise’s bedroom prowess was a refreshing addition to the scenes and it added to her character. Elise’s ultra-confidence helps Noah decide to reclaim his title, and helps create a relationship built on mutual respect.
Overall Elise’s self-assurance is charming, but at times I did wonder if Elise wasn’t a little too perfect. She’s beautiful, a genius at both of her occupations, a rescuer of the old and young, and our hero essentially falls for her at first sight. I wish that Elise had a more significant flaw than being wistful for a simpler life with less acting and less interaction with spoiled aristocrats. Elise is not necessarily a heroine who sticks with you.
Although the story has snappy dialogue and beautiful descriptions (creating a vivid countryside so it is sharp and lush in a reader’s mind is something Ms. Bowen truly excels at), for me there needed to be more sexual tension between the two main characters. When the situation became even a little morose or will-he-won’t-she, the reader was not left angsty long enough.
I enjoyed the added mystery subplot in the story. I love romance novels, but I am also a sucker for detective novels, and this story had just enough suspense to keep me looking forward to putting the kids into bed so I could get back to it.
Ms. Bowen also does a fantastic job of introducing side characters like Miss Ivory More, The Duke of Alderidge, and even Elise’s brother. All of these characters already have their own novels (which are now waiting in my queue), and I can’t wait to devour them. On the flip side, Ms. Bowen does such a great job with the subplots and supporting characters that I would have liked more resolution on a few of the secondary storylines, especially the one involving Noah’s mother.
Overall, this book gets a solid B+ from me. I will happily await new books from Kelly Bowen each year just as I count down the days for new releases from all-time favorites Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas, Johanna Lindsey, Sarah MacLean, and Julia Quinn. What a great new author find!
(My local museum has a refurbished antique carousel patrons can ride on, which is manned by volunteers. Before admitting any riders, the volunteer has a small speech they have to give — a short summary of the carousel’s history, followed by a warning that, because it’s an antique, there are several horses that no longer “jump,” and then moving on to the rules and whatnot. My friends and I are there and decide to take a ride, so we go to the carousel pavilion. The volunteer begins to speak, and it is obvious she is on the verge of losing her voice. My friends, and several other museum patrons, are trying to listen to her talking about the history of the carousel when a four-to-five-year-old boy runs over, grabs at the rope divider, and begins shaking it while loudly jabbering about the horse he is going to ride. I get his attention, put my finger to my lips, and point to the volunteer, who has started to explain the safety procedures as loud as she can, which, again, isn’t very loud at all. All of a sudden I feel a hand grab my arm. I turn and there is an irate woman glaring daggers at me.)
Mother: “Did you just tell my son to shut up? How dare you try to parent my child!”
Me: “I’m sorry; I just figured that letting this poor girl tell us the carousel rules, so that we can ride the carousel, was really important, and I didn’t want her to have to strain her voice doing it.”
(The operator thanked me afterwards; I gave her a couple of throat lozenges and told her to hang in there.)
Americans had never established a political foothold in the Middle East. They were regarded as guests, sometimes annoying but not threatening. England bestrode the region like a colossus – one foot in India, one in Egypt, its influence stretching into large parts of Africa. England imposed her own laws and controlled every aspect of government, from education to trade.[loc. 1479]
(Our choir director has lost most of her accent, but English isn’t her first language and sometimes it shows. We have an “Earth Day”-themed concert coming up.)
Director: “I still haven’t decided on the name for next month’s concert yet. Something about the Earth. ‘Earth Music,’ maybe? Send me your ideas if you have any. Oh, how about ‘The Call of Nature?’ That could work…”
(Finally someone managed to stop giggling long enough to explain why we wouldn’t want that particular title — although it would probably get more people to look at our flyers!)
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