Status report: Today, I’m working on revising Chapter 1 and the introduction. I took four long paragraphs out of Chapter 1. They were paragraphs about the history of gothic literature, as I see it, and they really should go in the introduction, so that’s where I put them. And then I added notes for several paragraphs on Krao, a freak show performer from what was then Indonesia who was advertised as a Darwinian “missing link.” (She probably had a mild case of hypertrichosis? It’s difficult to tell from the advertising material, which of course is as sensational as possible.) The information on freak shows is fascinating, and it reminds me why scholarship is important: we need to understand what happened in the past, so we can learn from it in the present. But I’m trying to stay focused on the task at hand, which is of course making revisions to Chapter 1 and drafting the introduction. I’d like to keep the introduction to 20 pages, but we’ll see. At any rate, it’s going fairly well, although I get so tired of the work. Physically tired of sitting and reading and typing. It’s exhausting.
And before I forget, I should tell you that my short story “The Rapid Advance of Sorrow” has been reprinted on the Apex Magazine website, here. It’s a story I wrote at the Clarion writing workshop, many years ago. If you haven’t read it before, take a look!
In the afternoon, I took a break and went to my favorite antiques store, where I looked at a necklace I’ve had my eye on. Should I get it? I’m not sure. I’ll probably decide tomorrow.
But that reminds me, I promised to post pictures of the dresses I found yesterday. One of them is actually a coat rather than a dress, sort of a coat dress. Here is the first one, an April Cornell:
It fits perfectly, and it’s light and long and floaty. I love the way it feels on. And here is the coat dress, a J.Jill:
The only problem with the coat dress is that it’s a small, and you can tell it’s actually too large for me. But I loved it too much not to buy it. (I mean, it was $7.) I haven’t ironed it, so it’s all wrinkly. But it has the nicest back detail:
I tried to take full-length pictures of both, but the pictures didn’t come out right, I’m not sure why. They come down to just above my ankles. And they inspired the title to this post, which refers to finding the romance in life.
The word “romance” can mean so many things. It can refer to romantic love, of course. It can also refer to a certain kind of story, a story with adventure in it. Maybe even magic, like the old Arthurian romances. And it can refer to a style, an attitude, a way of looking at life. I suppose by the word “romance” I mean all those things. I’ve said before that the stories we tell about our lives create our reality. Of course, our lives have an underlying reality that we might not be able to change: we might get sick, for example. But we can tell different stories about our sickness.
And we can tell different types of stories. I think the type of story I prefer to tell is a romance, and perhaps that’s why I like buying long, floaty dresses with roses all over them. (Although the photograph readers have clicked on most often, on this blog, is one of me in a mini-skirt. Which makes me smile in a wry sort of way.) It may also be why I think of my dissertation as a battle, with me as Leonidas (in a long, floaty, rosy dress, which is a strange image, isn’t it?).
I like beautiful things for their own sake, but I also like to create the appropriate setting for the story I’m telling myself, about my life. For example, I never posted a picture of the magazine stand I bought, several weeks ago:
Isn’t it pretty? At the moment it’s holding my copies of Locus and the notebook in which I’m writing the YA novel. You could call it my writing stand. (I think it was $28).
I know this probably sounds silly, but why not make your life romantic? Why not surround yourself with things that make you feel like a heroine? Such as a long linen coat or a pottery bowl full of pine cones? You have to have furniture, you have to buy clothes. Why not make them part of the adventure?
Even writing a dissertation can be an adventure, but it takes a lot of work to make a dissertation adventurous: quoting poetry, comparing yourself to Spartan leaders, all that stuff.
Honestly, this is the dull, difficult part: revising, revising, revising. To get myself through it, I have to tell myself stories. I have to feel as though my life is not going to be this dull and difficult, not permanently, not even for all that long. I have to find the romance, even in this. (And just wait! What comes after is going to be so much more interesting. I promise.)